Intelligent design (ID) is the concept that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."1 Unlike creation science, ID does not acknowledge a particular Designer, but rather holds that scientific observations show clear evidence of design, not random natural processes.
The highly publicized 2005 Dover trial brought the ID movement to the forefront when textbooks critical of Darwinian evolution were proposed for the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district's science classes. Anti-ID proponents often liken intelligent design to religion, though they fail to do the same for Darwinian evolution, and it was ruled that teaching intelligent design in public science classrooms violated the Establishment Clause.
But Dover was just the tip of the iceberg of the larger underlying free speech issue. David F. Coppedge, a contributing writer to ICR's monthly Acts & Facts magazine, came under fire in 2009 when he loaned DVDs that support intelligent design to interested co-workers at NASA's Jet Propulsions Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.
World Net Daily reported that a supervisor harassed Coppedge and alleged that he was "pushing religion" and advancing ideas that some managers deemed "unwelcome" and "disruptive."2 As a result, Coppedge was demoted from a high-level system administrator position on the Cassini mission.
Coppedge filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 14, 2010, against JPL and Caltech. According to the allegations in the 27-page complaint, Coppedge is suing five defendants for a combination of remedies, including compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, declaratory relief, job position reinstatement, and an injunction to restrain the defendants from future harassment or interference with Coppedge's rights of free speech and religious liberty. He is represented by William J. Becker, Jr., of The Becker Law Firm in Los Angeles.
"This isn’t like Dover, where the argument is children are impressionable," said Becker. "These are adults that can make up their own mind, which is why we have free speech to begin with."
Intelligent design, Becker said, has been so demonized and victimized that a response was needed. "This is a very serious effort to bring fairness to the public forum so that intelligent design can have an audience," he said.
Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank located in Seattle, Washington, reported:
Coppedge was targeted for investigation and punishment despite the fact that other JPL employees are allowed to express a wide variety of views in the workplace, and despite the fact that other supervisors eventually admitted they had never received a single complaint regarding Coppedge's conversations about intelligent design prior to their investigation….
Coppedge was kept in the dark about the nature of JPL's investigation, only being informed after the fact of the accusations against him, the investigation procedures, and the verdict at a final meeting in which he was demoted and threatened with losing his job if he persisted in purportedly "unwelcome" and "disruptive" discussions of intelligent design.3
Becker said that what happened to Mr. Coppedge violates freedom of speech in order to protect "holy Darwinism" by bringing religion into the argument. "The First Amendment still protects speech," he said. "Even, and especially, unpopular speech."
- What is the theory of intelligent design? Questions About Intelligent Design. Center for Science and Culture. Discovery Institute. Posted on discovery.org, accessed April 19, 2010.
- Unruh, B. NASA lab accused of crackdown on intelligent design. World Net Daily. Posted on wnd.com April 15, 2010, accessed April 19, 2010.
- Staff report. Background on David Coppedge and the Lawsuit Against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Discovery Institute. Posted on discovery.org April 19, 2010, accessed April 19, 2010.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted April 20, 2010.