Those sneaky creationists

Creationists tend to be very sneaky. For instance, when evolutionary research into fruit flies revealed a difference in allelic fixation between asexual and sexual organisms, creationists jumped at the chance to ignorantly declare that natural selection had failed. And then there is their general argumentation of false equivalence where they pretend that science is really just faith. Or how about that awful movie Expelled? That was that piece of trash that pretended like there was a big conspiracy in the scientific community against creationists intelligent design proponents. In other words, after failing to convince anyone in science of their garbage, and after failing to convince a single court that they aren’t just religious fanatics, creationists went to the public. And, unfortunately, they have had a fair amount of success, especially in a few hickish state legislatures. But notice one common thread here: I’ve been talking about broad trends. Misconstruing scientific research, pretending there is a conspiracy, going to the public instead of the courts – these are all things to which most creationists will adhere. Whether we’re talking about organizations or individuals, these people don’t tend to think for themselves. They haven’t the necessary skills. But that isn’t to say there won’t occasionally be a rogue. Enter former NASA employee David Coppedge:

A computer specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is going to court over allegations that he was wrongfully terminated because of his belief in intelligent design…

Coppedge, who worked as a team lead on the Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its many moons, claims he was discriminated against because he engaged his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handed out DVDs on the idea while at work.

Now hang on one second. If Coppedge believed the Earth was flat, he could have been fired just as easily and few people would say religion played a role at all. Why, he was simply fired for having a kooky belief; without the role of religion, such a firing would have been justified (presuming he was an at-will employee and his contract didn’t have specific stipulations, something he has not apparently claimed). And isn’t that what the creationists intelligent design community wants? Don’t they want their view to be treated, not necessarily as “kooky”, but as a viable scientific position? Coppedge appears to be bucking the trends and undermining the creationist intelligent design movement by going to the courts – a place that has a habit of only setting the creationist intelligent design agenda back.

It isn’t surprising that major creationist intelligent design organizations like the Discovery Institute are supporting Coppedge, but it is a little funny. After all, Coppedge is giving away the game. While all the major groups who support him insist that they are just going where the science leads them – we’re still waiting for a little original research from these guys, by the way – this fired schmuck is practically screaming that intelligent design is religious belief. He must realize what he’s doing, though, right? He preached to his coworkers and gave out DVD’s. He has probably even seen Expelled. He knows what the movement is about, so why would he undermine it by blatantly calling it what it is: religion? Well, here is where that creationist sneakiness comes in:

Coppedge’s attorney, William Becker, contends his client was singled out by his bosses because they perceived his belief in intelligent design to be religious. Coppedge had a reputation around JPL as an evangelical Christian, and interactions with co-workers led some to label him as a Christian conservative, Becker said.

Emphasis added.

No, no, no! It isn’t that intelligent design is religion. Of course not. It’s that other people perceive it to be religion. Those people at NASA probably just don’t understand science very well, is all.

I don’t know how this case will turn out. It could be that Coppedge really was fired for being a Christian, though I doubt it. Even though scientists tend to be agnostics and atheists, there is little question plenty of NASA employees are devote to one religion or another. I bet a few even wear crosses and other religious paraphernalia to work – all without being fired. So it could be that Coppedge loses this one. Who knows? About the only predictable thing here is the creationist intelligent design reaction regardless of the outcome: If Coppedge loses, not only is there a big scientific conspiracy, but we also have to do something about these activist judges. If he wins, then scientists really are the liars the creationists intelligent design proponents have been saying they are all along.