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At Pro-Darwin Blogs, Knee-Jerk Responses to the David Coppedge Intelligent Design Case Validate Discrimination Claims

At pro-Darwinian evolution blogs like Ars Technica and Panda's Thumb, we see Darwin activists rejoicing over the tentative verdict in the Coppedge case. The judge has expressed his intent to rule in favor of Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). One comment at Panda's Thumb simply says, "Rejoice."

Actually, many of the comments at these websites express contradictory views. On one hand, they praise the court for its tentative finding that JPL was justified in demoting and then terminating David Coppedge. On the other hand, they say that Coppedge should have been let go because of his pro-ID views. In other words, the comments themselves demonstrate the kind of intolerance that is directed against ID proponents in academic settings. Even if you were you unfamiliar with all the rest of the evidence we have documented here, this by itself would seem to confirm that a basic and crucial claim of Coppedge's case -- that there is intolerance towards ID proponents in the scientific community -- is correct. Consider these comments that nicely illustrate the sort of intolerant attitudes Coppedge likely faced at JPL:

  • "I would honestly be disappointed with NASA if they didn't fire him for being a creationist. That ought to be grounds enough for termination." (link)
  • "Why yes, I am strongly biased against someone who espouses these sorts of views. I am also pretty biased against Klan members too." (link)
  • "I would argue that a believer in 'intelligent design' is already displaying that they do not have the skills necessary to operate effectively in a science-based role." (link)
  • "The fact that idiot and jerk and ID proponent line up is probably not too surprising, but its kind of like how being sick makes you cough, rather than the other way around -- the ID pushing was a symptom of the actual problem. Not to mention, you know, the fact that he was working for a scientific organization when he did not have a scientific mindset PROBABLY doesn't help anything, especially not his competency." (link)

  • "I finish Scientific American's article about the anti-science movement in the U.S., then see this. At least NASA fired their idiot." (link)
  • Other commenters are similarly biased against and intolerant of Coppedge's Christian faith. Here's a prime example, also from Ars Technica: "Went through the 'I hate Christians' phase a long, long time ago. Nowadays I just keep religion out of my life and move on. The only time I have for it is in sci-fi fantasy novels/games/comic books just like a proper geek." And of course we see numerous harsh personal attacks against Coppedge, showing further animus, calling him things like "jerk," "a**hat," "d**ch," "idiot," as well as "really stupid," "lying/delusional" ("or both"), or that he might be a "dangerous, immoral idiot," and more.

    If the irony isn't already obvious to you, here's what it is: These folks are rejoicing and claiming that justice was served because Coppedge lost both his job and his lawsuit. Meanwhile they claim that Coppedge deserved to be fired simply because he was a "creationist," or supported intelligent design, or perhaps even because of his Christian religious views. But if this sort of animus is why Coppedge was demoted and forced out of JPL, then it shows Coppedge deserves to win, and should never have been terminated in the first place.

    Now obviously we're not speculating that these specific commenters had anything to do the punishment of David Coppedge at JPL. But the prevalence of the kind of intolerance they express certainly makes it easy to understand why Coppedge's case has merit. Indeed, we already know their views are similar to those expressed by key decisionmakers and complainers against Coppedge at JPL, who harbored intense hostility towards ID.

    Premature Conclusions

    Even though the final ruling has not been issued, these Darwin-activists are already drawing their own conclusions about what the evidence has shown, claiming Coppedge "badger[ed] coworkers" or "aggressively promote[d]" ID. But what evidence was admitted in the case that shows any such thing? Coppedge's critics don't reference any. We already know some of the complainers at JPL "felt" that David Coppedge was aggressive -- that's old news and that's part of why he was demoted and punished at JPL in the first place. But what was the actual evidence that, beyond anyone's subjective "feelings," he actually was aggressive? JPL's policies make it clear that harassment charges cannot be justified by referencing mere feelings, as they state: "Harassment must be distinguished from behavior which, even though unpleasant or disconcerting, is appropriate to the carrying out of certain supervisory responsibilities or is objectively reasonable under the circumstances." It remains to be seen if JPL can present any objective evidence that Coppedge created "a hostile work environment." We certainly haven't seen any yet.

    Along these lines, a major problem with JPL's defense was the incompetent investigation of Coppedge performed by its human resources department. We extensively documented deficiencies of JPL's HR investigation previously (see Into the Bureaucratic Nightmare of 'Human Resources': How JPL's Investigation Denied Fairness and Due Process to David Coppedge). We explained that the HR investigator, Jhertaune Huntley, failed to properly investigate Coppedge's case:

    Her failures were fourfold:

  • (1) Huntley failed to adequately investigate David Coppedge's complaints.
  • (2) Huntley failed to follow JPL procedures designed to protect those facing harassment charges when investigating complaints made against David Coppedge.
  • (3) Huntley failed to critically examine complaints made against Coppedge and fact-check the complaints that were being made.
  • (4) Huntley's investigation drew inaccurate conclusions. This led to false claims being included in the warning letter she wrote that was ultimately given to David Coppedge.
  • This makes it all the more ironic that one commenter says, "This looks like a good example for human resource departments on how to document individuals who disrupt the work environment to the detriment of the other workers and the company as a whole." The problem is that JPL's HR investigator did not objectively document that Coppedge disrupted the work environment. She merely rubber-stamped whatever Coppedge's complainers said, never inquiring into or investigating his side of the story and/or never citing objective evidence that backed up her findings. If anything, the HR's treatment of David Coppedge is a good example of how not to investigate a case.

    The Inconvenient First Amendment

    Finally, we see commenters who clearly do not understand, or support, the First Amendment. One commenter at Ars Techinca says "Religious beliefs are a personal choice. As such, they do not belong in a professional workplace." Actually, we have this thing in the United States called the First Amendment, which protects something called free speech and freedom of religion. Grounded in these principles, California law protects religious expression in the workplace under the Fair Employment and Housing Act -- and this law formed the legal basis for Coppedge's case.

    So long as speech does not create a hostile work environment or become disruptive, JPL's official policies recognize First Amendment rights to talk about these kinds of topics in the workplace. Prior to Coppedge's troubles, JPL had no policy restricting speech on political or religious topics, nor on ID. Evidence presented in the case showed that Coppedge's colleagues freely expressed anti-ID views in the workplace. And guess what? They weren't demoted or terminated. Only Coppedge was.

    Thus, when commenters say Coppedge was "whining for a special privilege," that's not true. Coppedge wasn't asking for any privilege. He was simply asking for the same privileges he saw granted to ID-critics and others at JPL. And he never complained when Darwinian evolutionists promoted their views and/or attacked ID while at work. He never objected to their exercising their freedom of speech.

    But when Coppedge advocated ID, he was shut down. That's the logical, legal, and moral inconsistency at the heart of this case, and JPL never cited objective evidence that could satisfactorily explain it.