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NASA The Courts Science

JPL Employee's Firing Wasn't Due To Intelligent Design Advocacy, Says Judge 477

SternisheFan writes with an update to a story from earlier this year about a lawsuit in which David Coppedge alleged he was fired from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for his advocacy of Intelligent Design. Now, a judge has ruled that Coppedge was legitimately dismissed for performance reasons. From the article: "n 2009, he apparently got a bit aggressive about promoting these ideas at work, leading one employee to complain. The resulting investigation found that he had also aggressively promoted his opinion on California's gay marriage ban, and had attempted to get JPL's holiday party renamed to 'Christmas party.' ... Coppedge was warned about his behavior at work, but he felt it was an infringement of his religious freedom, so he sued. Shortly after, as part of a set of cutbacks on the Cassini staff, he was fired. In court, Coppedge and his lawyer portrayed him as being targeted for promoting an idea that is, to put it mildly, not popular with scientists. But JPL's legal team introduced evidence that his aggressive promotion of it at work was part of a pattern of bad interactions with his fellow employees that dated back at least five years earlier."
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JPL Employee's Firing Wasn't Due To Intelligent Design Advocacy, Says Judge

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  • Re:First (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:30PM (#41865067)
    Yes, I completely agree.

    -- Ethanol-fueled
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:31PM (#41865075)

    In other words, he had been acting like an asshole at work for years, and when cuts came around, they decided to get rid of an asshole. Guess what? If you act like an asshole at work, you MIGHT GET FIRED.

  • Re:First (Score:5, Informative)

    by ranton ( 36917 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:40PM (#41865163)

    There are still people out there who believe Einstein was religious?

  • Re:First (Score:4, Informative)

    by Keith Mickunas ( 460655 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:45PM (#41865199) Homepage

    Einstein wasn't religious. In fact he did not believe in a god. Religious people like to pull select quotes from him to make him appear to be religious, to use as an argument from authority against atheists, but there is a detailed letter that he wrote in which he categorically denied believing in god.

  • Einstein on Religion (Score:5, Informative)

    by SternisheFan ( 2529412 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:55PM (#41865283)
    Einstien's view on religion (Wikipedia): d Beliefs Albert Einstein, 1921. Albert Einstein's religious views have been studied due to his sometimes apparently ambiguous statements and writings on the subject. He said he believed in the god of Baruch Spinoza, but not in a personal god, a belief he criticized. He also reportedly called himself an agnostic, and criticized atheism, preferring he said "an attitude of humility." [1]

    "In a letter to Beatrice Frohlich, 17 December 1952 Einstein stated, "The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve." [8] Eric Gutkind sent a copy of his book "Choose Life: The Biblical Call To Revolt" [9] to Einstein in 1954. Einstein sent Gutkind a letter in response and wrote, "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text." []

  • by SternisheFan ( 2529412 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:04PM (#41865349)
    Einstein rejected the label atheist, which he associated with certainty regarding God's nonexistence. Einstein stated: "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being." [1]

    According to Prince Hubertus, Einstein said, "In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views." [16]

    Einstein had previously explored the belief that man could not understand the nature of God. In an interview published in 1930 in G. S. Viereck's book Glimpses of the Great, Einstein, in response to a question about whether or not he believed in God, explained: Your question [about God] is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things. [17]

  • Of course you do. (Score:4, Informative)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:07PM (#41865365)

    ... I have experienced offensive pushing of personal beliefs from atheists much more often than from religious colleagues.

    That makes sense because you already share the same beliefs as your "religious colleagues". So why would the "personal beliefs" be "offensive" to you?

    Since you do not share the same beliefs as the "atheists" then their beliefs are more "offensive" to you when they interject them.

    Let's suppose that somebody at JPL was promoting atheism, complained that the Christmas party should be renamed to the Holiday party, and suggested that California allow gay marriage.

    Are they being an asshole about it? Because those don't seem like work-related subjects.

    Would that be offensive as well?

    You don't seem to be understanding the situation.

    It isn't the nature of the beliefs.

    It is the asshole pushing them in an asshole'ish fashion and INSISTING that his "freedom" is more important than anyone else's freedom to NOT have his religious beliefs inflicted upon them AT WORK.

  • by SternisheFan ( 2529412 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:11PM (#41865407)
    "I belive in the 11th Commandment. Keep thine own religion to thineself!" - George Carlin
  • by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:26PM (#41865537)

    Let's suppose that somebody at JPL was promoting atheism, complained that the Christmas party should be renamed to the Holiday party, and suggested that California allow gay marriage. Would that be offensive as well? Be careful about piling on with "serves him right" when somebody is fired for what amounts to political incorrectness in the workplace. Without more detail I am skeptical of the accusations that he was "too aggressive" with this stuff or that it was a serious dereliction of his job. In my experience, many atheists are offended even by any public display of personal religious belief and practice, or any religious people engaging in discussion with others about it. They think religious people should be forced to maintain an appearance of secular belief when in public places, which is actually absurd and offensive in its own way.

    Promoting atheism is just as offensive as promoting theism. Religion has no place in the workplace, unless your workplace happens to be devoted to religious study of some sort. As long as you're not hurting anybody, I don't give a flying fuck what you choose to believe. It's not my concern, as long as you recognize that I have a right to believe differently.

    That being said, renaming the Christmas party to the Holiday party is about inclusion... all 3 of the Abrahamic religions have holy festivals around that time of year, not to mention a large number of other festivals associated with the solstice. Almost every religion in the world does something that time of year, and calling it the "Holiday" party instead of the "Christmas" party acknowledges that those other religions have value. It also acknolwedges and includes people who don't follow any specific religion. (though the word "holiday" itself is a bastardization of "holy day", which kind of excludes the atheists)

    Allowing gay marriage, similarly, is about inclusion. I can't believe I even have to make the argument here, but the only consequence of allowing gay marriage is that gay people will get married. The world will not blow up, cats will not start having sex with dogs, it will not suddenly start raining fish, the sun will not turn purple, and you will not hear 7 trumpet blasts. It's about extending the same rights to gay people that heterosexual people enjoy, pure and simple. And if your religion doesn't endorse gay marriage, then don't fucking perform it. Gay people can just as easily have a civil ceremony before a justice of the peace, or go to one of the churches that *does* support gay unions. It is *not* about people with an agenda trying to force their beliefs on others, it's about people wanting to have the same rights as everybody else. Of course, opposition to extending these rights to the queer community is about people forcing their beliefs on others....

    Now... if you'd bothered to read the articles linked, it would be quite clear that this guy was a douche. He had a reputation for being pig-headed, and refusing to negotiate on anything... it always had to be his way that things got done. He had been spoken to as early as 5 years before he was dismissed about his unprofessional behaviour, and even admitted during his own testimony that they had been asking him for years to smarten up. There are plenty of religious people working for JPL who don't have any problems at all, and his religion had nothing to do with his having been laid off. And yes, it was a lay-off... they let 200 people go at the same time as him, because there was a funding cut. This is a complete non-story, and the only reason it's getting any press at all is because a number of zealots are trying to incorrectly paint this as an attack on religion.

  • Re:First (Score:5, Informative)

    by kilodelta ( 843627 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @02:06PM (#41865883) Homepage
    Without a doubt. I lost one job because my boss was a Catholic nut job. He decided once he found out I was gay that I wasn't needed anymore. Of course couched in terms of performance.
  • Re:Of course you do. (Score:2, Informative)

    by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @03:35PM (#41866755)

    ... I have experienced offensive pushing of personal beliefs from atheists much more often than from religious colleagues.

    That makes sense because you already share the same beliefs as your "religious colleagues". So why would the "personal beliefs" be "offensive" to you?

    I'm not the guy you responded to, but do you really think that there's only one religion in the world? Or that people even entirely agree with whatever religion they self-identify as? I'm (mostly) Catholic, and I've been told by Protestants that I'll go to hell if I don't convert. I'm also offended by the bullshit that flows from the upper echelons of the church whenever they get involved in American politics.

    And I have plenty of religious colleagues that never try to push religion on me. They're the Hindus and the Buddhists, and it's quite enjoyable to talk religion with them, because they're always polite about it.

    No, the worst are the atheists who insist I must be a moron, while regurgitating philosophic arguments that have been debunked for centuries (which they would know if they ever picked up a book by someone other than Dawkins). And the atheists who insist on tearing down roadside memorials because apparently the mere sight of a cross offends them. And the atheists that rewrite history to blame the Dark Ages and the Holocaust on Christianity. I suppose when you already know everything, there's no need to pick up a history book.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"