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NASA The Courts Science

Lawsuit Claims NASA Specialist Was Fired Over Intelligent Design Belief 743

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-the-beginning dept.
New submitter period3 writes "The latest mission of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is defending itself in a workplace lawsuit filed by a former computer specialist. The man claims he was demoted and then let go for promoting his views on intelligent design, the belief that a higher power must have had a hand in creation because life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone."
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Lawsuit Claims NASA Specialist Was Fired Over Intelligent Design Belief

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:11PM (#39327887)
    Why not? Albert Einstein was an agnostic [wikipedia.org], and to the best of my knowledge never espoused any support for Intelligent Design.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:18PM (#39327993)

    Hopefully NASA relies more on physics and mathematics than it does on evolution.

    However, he wasn't fired for his flawed understanding of evolution - he was fired for being disruptive in the workplace. He would, hopefully, have been fired if he had been ranting on about how great natural selection was and passing around DVDs of pro-Darwin materials.

  • Promoting (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:18PM (#39328005)

    "The man claims he was demoted and then let go for promoting his views on intelligent design,"

    "alleges that 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."

    Notice that he doesn't claim he was fired for having the belief. He claims he was fired for promoting it. His version of 'promoting' might be everyone else's version of 'harassment'.

    "In the lawsuit, Coppedge says he believes other things also led to his demotion, including his support for a state ballot measure that sought to define marriage as limited to heterosexual couples and his request to rename the annual holiday party a "Christmas party."" ... So it wasn't just ID. He also spouted hate and political correctness.

    ""The question is whether the plaintiff was fired simply because he was wasting people's time and bothering them in ways that would have led him to being fired regardless of whether it was about religion or whether he was treated worse based on the religiosity of his beliefs," said Volokh." ... And wasting people's time at work.

    "He sued in April 2010 alleging religious discrimination, retaliation and harassment and amended his suit to include wrongful termination after losing his job last year."

    And he was already suing before he was fired, so this is an on-going thing. I think with a lawsuit in progress, they'd have to be pretty ballsy to fire him over the thing he was suing about, unless they had really, really good reason for it. A court will have to make that determination, though, as we don't have all the evidence. What evidence I've seen isn't pointing in a direction he'd like, though.

  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:28PM (#39328199)

    the idea of GOD is not scientifically ridiculous

    No, it's just irrelevant since it's non-testable, non-replicable, and non-falsifiable.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:30PM (#39328241) Journal

    Actually ID is more insidious than even that. The core argument is so vacuous and devoid of anything approaching a prediction or explanation that it can't even really be disproven. Yes, guys like Behe and Dembski will come up with some example, like say, the vertebrate immune system, but really, they're not in fact invoking any particular of aspect of ID to make the claim, they're just saying "ooh, it's too complex!". Worst of all is Behe, who is a molecular biologist, so should know the literature enough to know there are decades worth of studies showing how things like "irreducible complexity" can in fact evolve, and that the very examples he so often invokes were long before his time demonstrated to be evidence FOR biological evolution.

    Of course the leaders of the ID movement are a very shifty lot. If they're talking to a crowd of people who tend towards accepting evolution, ID is all about that missing link needed to create life from non-life. If they're giving a speech in a church basement, they basically turn into all-out Creationists.

    But I remember many years ago someone on talk,origins summed up ID best when he said ID says nothing more than "somehow something somewhere is wrong with evolution." That's about as much meat as you'll ever got on the beast. It's nothing more than an appeal to incredulity, built up with lots of pseudo-scientific (in particular irreducible complexity) and pseudo-mathematical (Dembski's information filter) fluff. You'll get more content from a 30 second detergent advertisement.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:38PM (#39328409)

    They didn't fire him for his tin foil hat. They fired him because of complaints lodged by his fellow workers about harassment. You hire people to do a job, not to preach about their religious views and generally waste others time with your vapid fairy tales.

    In the lawsuit, Coppedge says he believes other things also led to his demotion, including his support for a state ballot measure that sought to define marriage as limited to heterosexual couples and his request to rename the annual holiday party a "Christmas party."

    In an emailed statement, JPL dismissed Coppedge's claims. In court papers, lawyers for the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA, said Coppedge received a written warning because his co-workers complained of harassment. They also said Coppedge lost his "team lead" status because of ongoing conflicts with others.

    "The question is whether the plaintiff was fired simply because he was wasting people's time and bothering them in ways that would have led him to being fired regardless of whether it was about religion or whether he was treated worse based on the religiosity of his beliefs," said Volokh. "If he can show that, then he's got a good case."

  • by john82 (68332) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:40PM (#39328435)

    Really? How do you square that with:

  • by Liquidrage (640463) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:42PM (#39328487)
    It might be possible to believe both at the same time, but it's absurd to do so...

    On one side, evolution, you have natural selection leading to the selection of genetic mutations. It's verifiable, testable and the theory fits the available evidence.

    On the other side, ID, you have non-natural selection. You have a designer that creates "changes". It is not verifiable, testable, and stands in the face of available evidence.

    It is not fair to say ID sits in the realm of abiogenesis. It doesn't. It sits firmly in the realm of evolution. And frankly, it is completely unscientific. ID has relied on psuedo-science like Irreducible Complexity to try and look legit. But it sounds "scientific" and so is peddled to the layman to get around the problem that ID does not fit the evidence. ID is nothing but an attempt by certain religious zealots to find a sell-able solution to the phylogenetic tree that *requires* a creator.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:43PM (#39328491)

    I don't think it was firing him for believing in a dead carpenter on a stick.

    I think it was firing him for handing out religious literature at work and demanding his coworkers and subordinates read it.

    Someone was nice and let him ride out the project before they let whoever couldn't be easily reassigned go; instead of seeing it as a favor to him, he thinks his being let go was "discrimination."

  • by KuRa_Scvls (932317) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:46PM (#39328547)

    His use of God is different to your interpretation.

    In this context, God can be interpreted as anthropomorphised nature.

    Just like how everyone says "shit", but not always mean fecal matter

  • Re:Just a thought... (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitig (1056110) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:51PM (#39328643)

    Aquinas answered that in the 13th century. Try to keep up.

    For what it's worth the specific form of the ontological argument he was responding to defined complexity in terms of the number of parts and their internal interactions. Given that God -- as understood by Aquinas -- is not material, he has no parts at all and no internal interactions, and so is trivially simple in that sense. Alvin Plantinga recently restated that argument in response to Dawkins. It doesn't mean the ontological argument is necessarily a good one -- it has a problem with the principle of sufficient reason -- but it does mean that that objection isn't a particularly good one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:58PM (#39328775)

    Einstein believed in God as a concept, more along the lines of Taoism or pantheism (although he denied being either of these). He repeatedly denied and entirely derided the idea of a personal God that most mainstream monotheistic religions espouse, calling it "naive" and "childish".

    This is basically what agnosticism is -- belief that there may or may not be a god, but if there is, it is unknowable to creation. This is the opposite view of monotheistic religions, which states that God is a divine person and can be understood, and has been revealed to creation via $our_holy_book.

    If you'd bothered to RTFL from the parent post, you'd have also seen this Einstein quote:

    "If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:10PM (#39329007) Homepage

    Hell even Einstein believed in it.

    No he didn't. He used the word "God" a lot but he really meant "Nature".

    The quote should really be: 'Nature does not play dice'.

  • by snowgirl (978879) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:15PM (#39329113) Journal

    In America, we're pretty much allowed to believe whatever we want

    Yes, we are.

    the only employers that are allowed to discriminate based upon beliefs are religious institutions.

    The only employers who are allowed to violate the PROTECTED beliefs are religious institutions. Religious beliefs are protected beliefs, but non religious beliefs are not protected beliefs. (The law only protects adverse employment actions against people's "religion", not all beliefs.)

    Employers can fire you because you smoke. They can fire you because you're left-handed. They can fire you because you have green eyes. They can fire you for ANY AND ALL REASONS that are not explicitly protected by law.

    As belief in the Loch Ness Monster is not a religious belief nor is it real or perceived { gender, sex, race, color, disability, age, genetic information } and depending upon the state { sexual orientation, gender identity }, it is not a protected status, and thus is fair game for adverse employment actions.

  • by Pseudonym (62607) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @03:23AM (#39336293)

    As a somewhat informed atheist, I must slightly disagree with this. For (almost) all Christian sects, God is three-in-one: the father, the son, and the holy ghost.

    I think you may have missed the point. Christians who speak Arabic do refer to and address their deity as "Allah", and Muslims who speak English do call their deity "God". The same is, incidentally, true of Hindus.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

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