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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 interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:26PM (#39328177)

    Insightful? Dude was a computer scientist, not a xenobiologist

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that Dude was fired for being an idiot, not for his beliefs on biology.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:32PM (#39328277)

    Intelligent design answers more the 'why' than the 'how' that Evolution does.

    This is a bit like saying Religion is more about how you conduct yourself than about judging other people or justifying wars. Sure, theoretically that could be true, but it's not actually true. ID proponents in practice focus more on casting FUD against science than they do working scientific findings into a belief system.

    Put another way, it's fine to say "Evolution is the how, my religion is they why" but that's not what they're doing. What they're actually doing is saying "Science is wrong because my holy book says so!" Religious people who don't reject science, whose understanding of evolutionary theory doesn't contradict their beliefs about higher powers, they don't call themselves "intelligent design."

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

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:38PM (#39328389) Homepage Journal

    FWIW, I am a Christian and thusly believe in a Creator. But I don't care for that logic of proving a Creator. I don't think complexity is at all relevant. However, if I were to play devil's advocate, I assume the theory is that a Creator exists outside our known limitations.

    Similarly you can ask if an omnipotent God can create a rock so heavy that he cannot himself lift it. Either answer suggests that omnipotence is impossible in and of itself, but it assumes limitations that may not apply. If a Creator can create the Cosmos, are they bound by the laws of physics, or are the laws of physics also simply part of their creation?

    Conversely you could ask what existed before the beginning of time, or where did all mass in the universe come from originally, or what exists beyond the boundary of finite space. Ultimately, you realize that these are utterly unanswerable questions. Any answer we accept is one of faith and we should not judge others for their conclusions to unanswerable questions without clear answers.

  • No. That is wrong. (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:41PM (#39328465)

    Intelligent design answers more the 'why' than the 'how' that Evolution does. It's entirely possible to believe both at the same time, in fact.

    The trouble is that the "other side" doesn't see it that way. They believe that the book of Genesis is a historical document and anything that contradicts it is wrong. They're attitude is "who knows" - science can't disprove it (I know, I know!) or, here's the best I've heard from an A&M trained engineer no less: "That theory is based upon their current knowledge and available data. Data may show up that changes everything!"

    Yeah, a little knowledge .... yadda yadda yadda ...

    Oh! What's my "insider" view of Fundy Christians? They're my family.

    It amazes me that such intelligent people will refuse to accept facts. And I have to wonder about myself. Am I that stupid too?

    With my militant (fundy) atheism, am I blinding myself to something more?

    Carl Sagan once wrote, "It's important to have an open mind but not so open that your brains fall out."

    Yeah, great. When your brains are on the floor, it's too late.

  • Re:Down-modded (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:42PM (#39328479) Homepage Journal

    I didn't make such statements at the time. I merely stated that I simultaneously believe in a Creator and that evolution occurs. I said the two weren't necessary in direct opposition and then was attacked repeatedly.

    In fact, any time I've ever admitted to believing in God on /, I've been down-modded. I personally really like the democratic moderation system of /., but it shows that many people incorrectly use down-modding to disagree with something rather than offering a counter-point. There is no -1 disagree.

    In the end, I state what I believe. I don't cater to moderation.

  • by canadiangoose (606308) <djgraham@ g m a i l . c om> on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:52PM (#39328651)
    I'm agnostic, while the rest of my family are devout Mormons. I've noticed over the past few years that my family has begun to support the teching of Intelligent Design in science class. I've asked them why they believe that their matters of faith be taught in science class, and whether it would stand to reason that the scientific method be tought in sunday school? They keep responding with one of two disappointing answers:

    1. If Intelligent Design does not fit under the definition of "science", then it is obviously time to expand the definition. -- This seems to be the result of ignorance and the fact that both science and religeon use the same words for subtly different purposes. The first example that comes to mind is the word "evidence", which has a very scrict definition under the scientific method. Religeous folks hear that science requires evidence, and become frustrated when their "evidences" for the existence of God are brushed off as incomplete or incorrect. We can probably blame a poor education system for this misunderstanding, though the condition does seem to be self-reinforcing at this point. Not good.
    2. The one sister I have who actually has a decent understanding of the scientific method thinks that perhaps I.D. should not be tought in science classes (Thank God!!), but believes that the recent push by religeous folks to influence scientific discourse is the natural reaction to the "war on faith" that religeous leaders have been talking about for as long as there have been religeous leaders. If us un-enlightened would only see the light and conform to their supersticious beliefs, this entire dispute would go away. -- This is the more troubling problem, because the solution requires that we train people to think more critically, both about scientific and spiritual issues. There is room for God and science to co-exist, but very little room for the litteral interpretation of scriptures or the blind acceptance of religeous dogma when one learns to think critically. Unfortunately, I don't think people are generally smart enough to make this leap. Religeon is to comfortable, and offers easy answers to the complex questions that life presents.

    Hitchens was right, religeon poisons everything.

  • by gameboyhippo (827141) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:54PM (#39328693) Journal

    I'm a creationist and a Christian and I agree. At work, I do not hide my beliefs. Heck, I have a framed image of a C.S. Lewis quote on my desk. Sometime I come to work wearing a shirt that says "Prays well with others" and has a quote from James on it. And if someone wants to engage me in a conversation on philosophy or religion, I'm game. But I don't go around passing DVDs and trying to convert my non-believing coworkers to believe in creationism. It's about the same as me trying to convince them that baptism by immersion is the true baptism. It's nonsensical to do. Now with my Christian friends, I would engage in deeper conversations about the various beliefs of Christianity, but that's a different story.

    Here's the deal, as Christians, we should be trying to spread the Good News. That is, that we don't have to pay for our transgressions because they were paid for by God Himself. And we shouldn't do this by being disruptive, but through our works. At our jobs, we should strive to do our best. I should strive to be the best programmer I can be. I should let my actions be proof of my faith. Then my faith has merit.

  • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:56PM (#39328729) Homepage

    This argument, which you got from the "New Atheists" and specifically Dawkins, is just awful philosophy and theology.

    If you want to read a complete take down of this, read Alvin Plantinga: Here there is much to say, but I'll say only a bit of it. First, suppose we land on an alien planet orbiting a distant star and discover machine-like objects that look and work just like tractors; our leader says "there must be intelligent beings on this planet who built those tractors." A first-year philosophy student on our expedition objects: "Hey, hold on a minute! You have explained nothing at all! Any intelligent life that designed those tractors would have to be at least as complex as they are." No doubt we'd tell him that a little learning is a dangerous thing and advise him to take the next rocket ship home and enroll in another philosophy course or two. For of course it is perfectly sensible, in that context, to explain the existence of those tractors in terms of intelligent life, even though (as we can concede for the moment) that intelligent life would have to be at least as complex as the tractors. The point is we aren't trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity, and we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general; we are only trying to explain one particular manifestation of it (those tractors). And (unless you are trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity) it is perfectly proper to explain one manifestation of organized complexity in terms of another. Similarly, in invoking God as the original creator of life, we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general, but only a particular kind of it, i.e., terrestrial life. So even if (contrary to fact, as I see it) God himself displays organized complexity, we would be perfectly sensible in explaining the existence of terrestrial life in terms of divine activity.

  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:57PM (#39328751)
    I have known some people who are regarded, and rightly so, as leaders in their profession who when approached about religion/politics become raving lunatics. Especially if they think you have an opposing belief. I have chosen to believe there is in fact an omnipotent/omniscient/omnipresent being who created everything and loves everybody equally despite the stupid things we do. I don't care what anybody else thinks because I made this choice for me. I also don't think it is up to me to get everybody to choose the same thing. Unfortunately there is a large contingent of people who believe they are in fact tasked with beating Jesus into everybody else. IMHO Jesus does not approve of their tactics any more than he does of Iran sentencing a Christian man to death...for being a Christian. As to ID IMNSHO it is an attempt to explain something God told us not to try and understand in the first place. If you choose to believe in God then you do so on FAITH!!! You do not get explanations if you are believing on faith. To try and explain what you say you believe on faith is to admit you do not in fact believe so much as you want it to be true but you need more proof.
  • Re:Down-modded (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:06PM (#39328919) Homepage Journal

    Without a doubt, there are some common sentiments amongst most /. readers. Making a statement that goes against those common beliefs will be unpopular. If I argued that Bill Gates was a better human that Steve Jobs because Gates is giving to charity where as Jobs rarely/never did, I'd probably be down-modded by those who disagree. Apple is popular on Slashdot, where as Microsoft is hated.

    But that's my point. People should offer counter points rather than use the moderation system.

  • by fredrated (639554) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:17PM (#39329143) Journal

    Here are some interesting answers to the interesting questions you did not pose:

    The Colorado Plateau slopes north to south, so a rush of water appearing in north east Arizona that might have formed the Grand Canyon would rush south into Mexico and not west to the Gulf of California.

    If the speed of the water was enough to carry it west to cut the Grand Canyon, the canyon would be straight since momentum carries water in a straight line, but the Grand Canyon is sinuous like a normal river canyon.

    The Grand Canyon has very many side canyons tending north-south that are cut all the way down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. A high speed rush of water to the west could not cut north-south side canyons.

    Just say'n.

  • by Reverand Dave (1959652) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:17PM (#39329155)
    I would think, that since his job is based on science and he has such a flawed understanding of it to think that a 50,000,000 year old plesiosaur still existed in an isolated loch in Scotland, then yes fire him for his idiotic beliefs or that the earth is only 6000 years old, its 2 sides of the same coin after all. I don't want a doctor working on me that still thinks my humors are out of balance and decides I need a bile infusion, or a pilot that believes in the flat earth theory. However, this isn't about freedom of belief so much though as has been stated previously, it's about some asshat trying to force his asshat point of view on his fellow colleagues.
  • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:33PM (#39329441) Homepage

    ... is demoted for rejecting the whole basis, or showing that he has a severely flawed understanding?

    Who would have thought.

    Intelligent design answers more the 'why' than the 'how' that Evolution does. It's entirely possible to believe both at the same time, in fact.

    No, it deals with an article of faith, one that specifically goes against a scientific principle. ID rejects evolution and brings for a made-up how concotted to justify their version of 'why'. There are articles of faith in other religious movements that explain the 'why' that neither question nor challenge scientific principles (what people call Theistic Evolution). Most religions (Christian churches, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc) either have an explicit separation faith from science as things that are incomparable, or have syncretic views. Intelligent Design is categorically NOT a form of Theistic Evolution.

    Intelligent design is neither one of these, and it is predominant in fundamentalist (Christian and otherwise) views, which thank God are not universal. Intelligent Design (in particular the type found in the States and among Islamic Fundamentalists) purposely states that Evolution as incompatible with their 'why' articles of faith.

    I don't believe Intelligent Design, but calling people who do 'stupid' or saying they 'reject the scientific method' is juvenile

    Might be juvenile in the delivery, but the essence is true. When you have all major religious denominations a)accepting or being agnostic to Evolution as a scientific fact, and b) condemning the forceful entry of Intelligent Design into the classroom as an article of science (as opposed to as an article of religious teaching), then it is stupid.

    We can argue that intelligent people can do stupid things, or that stupid people do stupid things. But in the end, Intelligent Design, in particular as pursued in this country, it is stupid. Almost like believing that the world is flat and that the Ptolemaic system is an accurate description of the Universe.

    and really serves the exact opposite of convincing the 'other side' that they're wrong...

    For the most part, you can't convince them. And it is fine and dandy (and certainly their right) when they want to believe that (or whatever they want to believe). But when they forcefully try to replace Evolution in the classroom with their religious beliefs, then they cross the line into idiocy. Call a spade a spade. Sometimes shame brings a change, at least for the honestly misguided. For the utterly stupid, there is no hope.

  • by networkBoy (774728) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:38PM (#39329529) Homepage Journal

    If he believes in God, Allah, Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or even Scientology, that is his right.
    If he insists on pushing that belief on others when they are 'captive' that is not his right. Termination is acceptable, especially of other methods of behavioral modification (written up, demoted, etc.) have not worked.

    I once frequented a coffee shop run by a pair of brothers who were Jehovah's Witness. They had literature available, and if you asked they would try to convert you, but they understood that people came to get caffeine, not God, and thus kept it very low key. They ended up closing down for tangentially related reasons (a run-in with the Aryan Brotherhood that went very badly), but they got it, that religion is not barred from the workplace, but must be subordinate to it, in that the focus of a business, or office is to work, whereas the focus of a house of worship is, well, to worship.
    -nB

  • by networkBoy (774728) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:42PM (#39329607) Homepage Journal

    Are you willing to use 3.141592653589 in your equations because your employer requires that constant to be used and not 3.00000000? If so, then you may believe Pi == 3 to be true all you want.
    If you insist on using 3.00000000000 where your employer wants you to use 3.14... then you may be terminated.
    IANAL, but this just seems to be common sense.
    -nB

  • by Americano (920576) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:44PM (#39329637)

    Problem is, mockery simply exacerbates the problem: it makes the person being mocked dig their heels in, and gives them a "victimized minority" status to cling to in their irrationality and ignorance.

    If your goal is eliminating ignorance, the only way to do that is by engaging in calm, rational discourse. If your goal is to make yourself feel smugly superior to anybody who holds a view you consider "silly," without actually changing anything about the situation, then yeah, keep mocking.

    My parents are both fairly conservative catholics, I'd consider myself an agnostic - I consider my parents' set of beliefs to be well-meaning, but pretty irrational, and I don't share them. But we still manage to have discussions about religion and belief without me shouting at them, rolling my eyes, and calling them names, and they pay me the same courtesy. And honestly? Those discussion are far more satisfying and interesting than "LOL U LOVE UR SKY DADDY YOU IDIOT SHEEPLES LOL".

    Mockery does nothing to eliminate ignorance, so any argument in support of mockery is simply an argument in favor of divisiveness. As somebody else noted above: STOP. BEING. DICKS.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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