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Terminated employee claims bias against intelligent design
NASA's Cassini space probe snapped this photo of jets spewing from Saturn's moons.
March 13th, 2012
10:08 PM ET

Terminated employee claims bias against intelligent design

By Stan Wilson, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - A former veteran systems administrator for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory claimed during opening arguments in a civil lawsuit Tuesday that he was wrongfully terminated for expressing his views on intelligent design.

David Coppedge, who spent 15 years on the Cassini Mission, one of NASA and JPL's most ambitious planetary space explorations, asserts that he was unlawfully fired under his employer's anti-harassment and ethics policies. JPL contends Coppedge created a hostile workplace while expressing his religious views with co-workers.

His suit also claims that supervisors wrongly admonished him for distributing DVD documentary films titled "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" and "The Privileged Planet," which present biological and cosmological explanations for intelligent design, according to the complaint.

Coppedge claims he never forcibly compelled colleagues to accept his idea of intelligent design in the workplace. Intelligent design is a conviction that life is too complex to have developed solely through evolution and that the universe was designed by an intelligent entity.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

JPL, based in Pasadena, California, is one of the world's most prestigious institutions for scientific research and development institutions. In Coppedge's civil lawsuit, he describes JPL's space missions as designed, in part, to explore the origin of the universe, uncover whether life exists elsewhere in the universe - or is improbably confined to earth - and whether conditions necessary for life to exist reside elsewhere in the universe.

Launched in October 1997, the Cassini mission to Saturn included a sophisticated robotic spacecraft that orbited the ringed planet and provided streams of data about its rings, magnetosphere, moon Titan and icy satellites. Cassini was the largest interplanetary mission ever launched, with the largest technical staff and participation of 18 countries.

In his role, Coppedge was responsible for making technical and scientific recommendations to management and developing presentations about various technical capabilities of new systems and upgrades, his attorney William Becker Jr. said during opening arguments. During his tenure, Coppedge developed a "sincere interest in the scientific evidence behind life's origin," which led to his conviction about "intelligent design."

Coppedge shared the view that life and the existence of the universe derived not from "undirected material processes," but from "intelligent cause," said attorney Becker.

In March 2009, Coppedge claims that his supervisor advised him that co-workers had complained that he was harassing them over debates about his religious views and coercing them in the workplace into watching DVD programs about intelligent design. During his opening statements Tuesday, attorney Becker Jr. told a judge hearing the case that Coppedge's supervisor threatened him with termination if he "pushed his religion" and ordered Coppedge to refrain from discussing politics or religion with anyone in the office.

During that 2009 meeting, Coppedge alleges, his supervisor became angry and belligerent asserting that "intelligent design is religion" and ordered him to stop. "The tone of the meeting and conduct were abusive and constituted harassment," his attorney said in court.

JPL spokeswoman Veronica McGregor said the lawsuit "is completely without merit, and we intend to vigorously fight the allegations raised by Mr. Coppedge."

In their response to the civil suit, attorneys for JPL stated in court documents that one of Coppedge's co-workers complained to his supervisor that Coppedge made her feel so uncomfortable in discussing "non work related topics" that it bordered on harassment. The supervisor encouraged Coppedge to limit his discussions about topics like religion and politics to periods like lunch breaks, according to the response.

The documents state that other co-workers complained they also felt harassed when Coppedge expressed views in favor of California Proposition 8, the ballot initiative in 2010 that defined marriage between and man and woman.

"David Coppedge alienated his co-workers by the way he acted with them, and blamed anyone who complained about those interactions," according to JPL in their response. "He accuses his former project supervisor and line manager of making discriminatory and retaliatory employment decision, when they had in fact protected him for years."

JPL alleged that Coppedge "was seen as stubborn, unwilling to listen and always having to do things his way, which frustrated project members and resulted in errors."

Coppedge was demoted after eight years as lead systems administrator and terminated last year. He cited those actions as a factor in basis for his suit claiming religious discrimination, retaliation, harassment and wrongful demotion.

JPL has denied Coppedge's termination complaint, contending he was among 246 employees laid off as part of a downsizing plan that affected 300 staffers.

"JPL complies with all applicable state and federal employment laws including laws governing freedom of expression," said JPL spokeswoman McGregor.

California Institute of Technology operates JPL, which is federally funded under a contract with NASA. Scientists are employed by the Caltech.

The case has generated interest among advocates of intelligent design. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian civil rights group, and the Discovery Institute, a proponent of intelligent design, are supporting Coppedge's lawsuit. The National Center for Science Education, which supports the teaching of evolution in public education, is closely monitoring the case.

Coppedge is seeking damages for wrongful termination, including attorney fees. The nonjury trial is expected to last four weeks.

*An earlier headline for this article identified David Coppedge as a scientist. His attorney later said that despite his technical work with computers, he is not a scientist.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Culture & Science • Science

soundoff (2,244 Responses)
  1. layne arnold

    i don't think the purpose of the article was the validity or otherwise of ID, rather whether the individual in question was treated differently as a function of belief. If this comment forum is any indication, there is a strong current of bile towards people with a professed interest in ID. I don't have any belief system, but if i did I would probably expect these to be protected. The question realistically becomes whether there was any provable bias. If so, irrespective of the nature of these beliefs, it may have been evidence of prejudice.
    To reiterate, the article is not really about questions regarding the scientific validity of intelligent design.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      From the information in the article, it states that there were multiple complaints against him throughout much of his time there. So with a history of complaints, the company needs to downsize. Pretty easy to see what happened.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • GetReal

      Um, Layne? Did you read the article? The man is accused of harassing coworkers and creating a hostile work environment. Others complained about him. This is why he was fired. He can, and likely does, also believe in santa claus and the tooth fairy, but forcing by way of continued conversations and arguments about such drivel upon coworkers is grounds for termination. It just so happens this scientist was delusional with regards to some imaginary sky person other than santa.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • layne arnold

      re: GetReal
      I was observing that people seem unable to detach from their tendencies to cast judgement on his belief system. The belief in question is not really an input to the discussion of workplace harrassment, but people seem to be placing it at the core of their arguments.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Jadugara

      There are just as many respnses, directly related to the article, DEFENDING ID as if it is the subject of the article... As a result, there are many proponents of it who respond as well.... Does this surprise you?

      March 15, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  2. Hello

    he was terminated by pushing his mythic belief on his co-workers. as a TEAM leader he may have put his team mates in situations that violated their own rights. Work is not the place to push your mythic dogma. to do so is a violation of the others rights.... it would not matter what he was pushing even if it was atheist views.. Employees need to focus on the work, not the mythic dogma of the other co-workers. to cross that limit you put yourself on the line for termination.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • layne arnold

      there has to be a delineation between pushing one's views and normal behavior. Some people are so antagonistic as to regard any expression of some other belief as an aggressive attack. America seems to be full of people attempting to litigate away undesirable speech (or behavior) rather than tolerate it. Getting rid of someone where the difference that their belief system represents is a factor would seem to be an expression of this.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Jadugara

      Sorry Layne...

      In a workplace environment majority rules... Numerous complains from different employees concerning one employee points to either a problem with that one employee, or it points to the possibility that, regardless of opinions, that one employee is a poor fit within the company's "culture".... It happens, and both are valid reasons to let someone go...

      March 15, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • nerdse

      In an area where the majority claims a belief in dialectic materialism (which is a philosophy, not a theory) – & no, what "evolutionists" claim to believe is not pure Darwinism – & where they refuse any spirit of scientific inquiry when what they believe isn't a theory, even, but a philosophy (of Marx & Engels, BTW), a hostile environment exists AT THE OUTSET for anyone who believes in intelligent design. So, why not fight back? Maybe he got tired of rolling over & playing dead while people ran roughshod over HIS theory of the origin of the universe. Maybe he figured he'd be as strident as "evolutionists" for a change.
      I'm sorry, the guy is right. For anyone who believes in ID, ESPECIALLY someone like him who "came to believe" in ID vs. "evolution," they walk into an EXTREMELY hostile work environment. Watch your step. Don't dare breathe any opposition, or your job is on the line. HE was the first victim of a hostile work environment.
      If there were any REAL scientists in JPL, they'd have some tolerance for ID & would not ridicule anyone who disagreed with them.
      If there were any REAL scientists, they wouldn't be afraid of someone who disagreed, nor would they shut them out. They'd admit that evolution is a theory, & today's version (dialectic materialism) is a philosophy, thus they are no more fact than they believe ID to be.
      If all of you "evolutionists" out there believe you're right & those who believe in ID or aren't sure yet are wrong, WHAT DO YOU FEAR? You should be able to work with someone who believes a divine being had a divine animal pull their finger to create the Big Bang! Christianity should be no problem for you, nor should you be afraid of anyone who asks questions of those who believe in ID. Your very fear makes it look like you are wrong & very afraid someone will find out.

      March 15, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  3. Mark Yelka

    An obviously lawsuit crazy guy with delusions of his own importance seeks to make the world more miserable.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  4. Menthu

    You guys can mental m-a-s-t-e-r-b-a-t-e all you want. If I see it I'll know and so will you. It's not magic.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  5. Gadflie

    If you got rid of all the atheists in this country, we would lose over 70% of the National Academy of Sciences and less than 1% of the prison population.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Niva

      You would also get rid of 100% of the idiots who look for God in everything around them.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Niva, actually, by definition, Atheists tend to not look for God period.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Hello

      there is no need to look.. there are no gods......only fools who BELIEVE they exist.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  6. Meathead (of the Word)

    Horse:

    It takes..."intelligent ability of abstract thought". Hmmm, I wonder where that comes from, the cosmic explosion?? NOT. "And He gave them over to strong delusions to believe a lie"... because what was evident of God, they would not.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You can tell yourself that. If you believe it, fine. I cannot. It's not a choice. I simply cannot see any reason to believe there's some invisible being who sees all and knows all, yet does nothing whatsoever to alleviate suffering.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Snippets from a book that has been changed more times than my clothes mean nothing.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Meat, To quote one of your previous posts .. "..Try as you may to figure that one out. You never will.." Your own words seem an appropriate response to your comment.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  7. Chuck Darwin

    ROFL

    Evolution and id do not in the basic sense contradict each other.

    Evolution is an explanation for the changes seen in species over time. This occurs usually due to enviromental changes that require a specific species to adapt or die. There is eveidence of this everywhere. It doesnt on the otherhand explain how it all started. it is possible (however unlikely) that some intelligence kick started the whole thing. The problem occurs with those that think everything that was is and ever will be is on the earth now. that is a very narrow view of the way things work and I pity those that think this way

    March 14, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      Tom:

      He took care of all of that, nailed on a tree; in His body.... Your sin and mine; all the murderers & rapists, liars & theives, evildoers, abusers of themselves w/mankind, etc., etc., (you know the list) past present & future.

      And so now YOU want to tell Him exactly when to come back and and end it all?? The question is, what will you do with His sacrifice.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nope. I see no evidence of any such thing. You can claim there is proof, but there simply isn't.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Snow

      So, since he took on all the sins made by people like 2000 yrs into future than his time (ha ha!!), wouldn't that mean men are free to sin away as much as they want? he already too em all.. whats the point of living well and doing good?

      March 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Bishop Samuel WIlberforce

      On the contrary, evolution is a blatantly pseudoscientific idea. Even the captain of the Beagle Robert Fitzroy denounced The Origin of Species as a falsehood. I'd challenge you to more thorough debate, but after the last time I'd rather not.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Jadugara

      Actually Bishop Samuel WIlberforce, the very existance of the legendary Jesus Christ is also highly suspect, since prior to the writing of the various sections of the Bible long, long after the supposed time of his life, there are no contemporary accounts of him that can be trusted... They're all fabrications and "he said she said's ...and the writings of Josephus can't be trusted not to have been changed to include accountings of Jesus long after they were first written...

      March 15, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  8. gager

    I believe in a supreme creator. Oh wait, I don't believe yet but I will believe as soon as some evidence of his existence and a need for his existence is shown. Until then I really like all the comfort and relief from suffering brought by science.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • hah

      sarcasm fail.. try harder next time

      March 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  9. Meathead (of the Word)

    Horse Hoof: And "the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God". lol.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Ira Radnick

      And the real fool believes there is truth in that little saying, whereas the truly wise and enlightened person allows the true fool to go on believing in fables – knowing all along there truly is no more a god than what foolish men have created for their own self-comfort.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I agree, Meathead. That is a laughable statement. Of course the very book that claims the existence of god will also claim that those who don't believe what that book says are fools. That's how propaganda works. Questions aren't welcome. Only blind faith.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:33 am |
  10. dudley0415

    So he has a cruddy personality and talked too much about his opinions. If that were grounds for dismissal there would be scarcely a business open in America, because nearly every executive I've met pontificates about what they think.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  11. Lillith

    If this guy kept ranting that there was a Stegasaurus orbiting Neptune .. do you think JPL would fund his search for it? Probably not and for the same reasons they stopped funding his employment.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  12. Meathead (of the Word)

    Drew: Your answer is in the person of Jesus Christ. In the end, it's not about religion; nor philosophy, nor scientists' calculation. It's really not even about 'christianity'. But a person. Either He is who he says he is or the biggest fraud that ever walked the earth. The latter He is not.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Jadugara

      Um,...actually,... the very existance of the legendary Jesus Christ is highly suspect, since prior to the writing of the various sections of the Bible long, long after the supposed time of his life, there are no contemporary accounts of him that can be trusted... They're all fabrications and "he said she said's ...and the writings of Josephus can't be trusted not to have been changed to include accountings of Jesus long after they were first written...

      March 15, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  13. Meathead (of the Word)

    Jake: God is not accountable to you Mr. Simpleton. He is God. Period. Alpha and Omega. No Beginning and no end. Try as you may to figure that one out. You never will. And you never were meant to. God made it to be that way. So people like you gets no glory.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      How convenient it is for your God to provide you with circular logic to prove that lack of evidence is evidence.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "So people like you gets no glory." Huh? That doesn't even make sense.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • GetReal

      Metahead, nevermind the heathens commenting here. They have not experienced the grace of god. And like you, I have a close, personal relationship with my savior. In fact, just today, he told me to tell you he hates you and your family. Sorry.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Too bad there isn't a shred of proof for your god. Or any god, really. It sort of puts pompous religious declarations into perspective when you realize that there is more proof for Sasquatch than there is for god.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  14. penguin

    You can't stop stupid

    March 14, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Lillith

      But you CAN fire stupid!

      March 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      Drew: Actually, "no one comes to God accept they come as a little child". (J.C. ) This results in being Born Again, by the Spirit of God. Then and only then will you see.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hmmm. Will it help YOU see that the word is "except", dumbazz? Oh, and learn to spell "pomposity", bozo. It should be your middle name.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  15. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    Humans assign God as the answer to all things we don't yet understand .. so that pretty much makes God the anthropomorphized sum total of all human ignorance.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • GetReal

      Perfect post Horses.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  16. MennoKnight

    Oh masses of the religion of Atheism Speaks Again.
    Their call to faith is "Nobody can believe in both Science and God"
    And their "Sermon on the Mount" states that the world would be better off without faith. To bad that history shows that the greatest butchers that history has ever known sacrificed more lives at the alter of Atheism. They are Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, their great holy trinity of error and terror.

    To bad many of the greatest scientists to ever live were believers in God.
    Galileo, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasture, Francis Collins.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Jake

      Atheism is not a religion. Everything after that is equally ridiculous.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Jake

      Hitler was a Christian you moron. Do some research.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      You lack of knowledge does not serve you well. Hitler was a staunch Catholic, Stalin was raised and educated an Orthodox Christian .. I'd say that their religious backgrounds is the cause of their insane behavior. Also, most scientists throughout history were religious by threat and needed the churches financial backing. Study harder and deeper and you will come to the realization that Atheism is not a religion and is the only reasonable conclusion.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Dav

      Athiests are just a lower form of monkey drooppings

      March 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      I hate being a lower form of monkey drooppings ..

      March 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • gil

      hitler , mao ,stalin ,might have been atheist but their crimes were not commited in the name of atheism.
      that is not the case of the crusaders ,the inquisition ,the talibans and the suicid bombers who blow themselves in the name of god

      March 14, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Mennoknight

      Jake said: Hitler was a Christian you moron...
      He was a neo-Darwinist who believed the white people evolved above the rest of the other people. He only wore the trappings of Christianity to win power. As soon as he was in power he persecuted the church. He was the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing who hated all true believers in Jesus.
      Ever heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the Evangelical Born Again Christian?
      It is one more of the New Atheist Religion's Myths that Hitler was a Christian.

      And simply put the "New" Atheism sure looks like a religion, whether you like it or not.

      Now Mark Sherman, the Atheist doesn't look like you guys. He looks like a Skeptic. I can accept that. .

      March 14, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Jadugara

      As a firm spiritualist, I can honestly say that I believe spirituality and religion are meant to be VERY personal things, and as a result have absolutely no place in secular business, in schools, or in politics...

      March 15, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • tallulah13

      It doesn't matter what Hitler believed. Without the support of the heavily catholic and lutheran German citizens, Hitler would have been just another psycho with a bad mustache. The slaughter of millions in Nazi Germany came as a consequence of the actions of christians.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  17. Phil

    There is overwhelming evidence to support Darwinian evolution. ID backers say there is no evidence, they are li-ars to their core. Their attempt to out-maneuver scientists is kind of a sad spectacle of deceit covering gullibility.

    March 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      They are deceiving themselves .. id is one of the last sparks of a dying flame trying in vain to re-ignite.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Mark

      Phil...

      I would ask you to present your "overwhelming" evidence, but I know you won't. I've asked individuals who hold to the theory of Darwinian evolution many many times to point me to the "overwhelming" evidence that you speak of, but alas, they never do.....sigh.

      Jumping up and down, like a 3 year old having a tantrum, screaming...."Evolution is real....Evolution is real"...is not enough evidence for me. Sorry.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Mark .. Evolution's overwhelming evidence is .. overwhelming. Since you're looking for an answer as simple as "God did it" it won't happen, it takes the intelligent ability for abstract thought to understand in terms of the time frames required. Study up on natural selection to find your answers, that would be a good start anyway.
      The only "tantrum" I see here is in your post .. literally.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Mark, first let's see just what kind of evidence you would accept as definitive. How about this. If I could give you a complete record verifiable by you or anyone else using whatever tests you like, of every single step between two different species (defined by the strictest scientific standards, they do not interbreed), would you then admit that this was sufficient evidence to show that evolution, including "macro evolution" is indeed a fact?

      March 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "...they never do. sigh."

      What a feeb.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Jadugara

      Mark what makes the evidence you ask for "overwhelming" is that it overflows the shelves of world's libraries... What makes the "evidence" for the existance of your particular "truth" underwhelming, is that it pretty much only fits in a single book...

      March 15, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • tallulah13

      Mark, the evolution of bacteria is observable in laboratories. Because of their short life spans, it is possible to watch generations of bacteria change to suit their environment in a matter of days. Combine that with the fossil record, and with genetic data, and you have evidence that only the most desperate and obtuse can deny.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  18. Jake

    There's a lot of atheism vs. religion discussion here, but I'd like to discuss the question I think this article raises:

    If this guy believes in Intellectual Design, is it OK for JPL to fire him based on that alone? I realize JPL claims that's not what happened, but let's just say it did. Is that OK?

    I would say yes, it is OK to fire someone if his religion directly conflicts with the intention of your company. Religious freedom means you can believe what you want, but it doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't be judged for your views. To many of us, certain religious views are a clear sign of insane thinking – why shouldn't a company be able to fire someone who they believe to be insane?

    March 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      Although it seems it's pretty evident that he was just a bad employee and made a stressful work environment, let's say that he was fired just for his beliefs.

      If that was the case, then I'd say the company was in the wrong if it was only for his beliefs. I used to live in the south and used to work for a company that was mostly comprised of very religious people. Although they were constantly making hate filled remarks, I never said a word about my beliefs because I knew that I would absolutely be fired if they knew I was an Atheist. I don't wish that type of stress upon anyone. Needless to say, as soon as I could I left the south altogether and I have to say I will NEVER live in the bible belt again. So much hate.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • cbinal

      In your line of thinking some of the greatest scientists would have been fired. One for example would have been Werhner Von Braun as I said in a previous post. If you don't know who he is, he basically designed the rocket engine. He designed the Saturn V Rocket that sent men to the Moon. Not to mention Skylab and a major role in the Space Shuttle. Well known to be a Christian, even wrote on his beliefs in it. I drive by the Saturn V every day on my way to work. Science totally encapsulated in an Evolutionary point of view is ridiculous. We can design a satellite that orbits the Earth and tracks your every step without Evolution ever being involved. Evolution is a Scientific Theory, it is NOT the culmination of Science itself. Men are free to believe what they want to believe. It's called Freedom "OF" Religion not Freedom "FROM" Religion. It just so happens that my religion is Christianity and yours Evolution.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Scientist

      cbinal– Yes a rocket can be designed without knowing anything about evolution, but anything that involves biological sciences is based on evolution. Indeed you could say that biology is totally encapsulated in evolution–or maybe it's evolution is totally encapsulated in biology?

      March 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • cbinal

      @DrewNYC May I ask what kind of "Hate filled remarks" these awful Christians were constantly making? As you can probably make out from my name I'm in Alabama.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Jake

      Drew – Of course it would be wrong (and probably illegal) to fire you for being an atheist...unless you worked for a religious organization. In that case, your atheistic views clearly would conflict with the objectives of the organization and (as an atheist) I would support their right to fire you.

      Similarly, this person's religious views clearly conflict with JPLs objectives of scientific discovery. If he believes that Intellectual Design is credible, he clearly isn't thinking at the level required to contribute at JPL, at least in the opinion of those at JPL. Therefore, he should be fired and fired legally.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Scientist

      He was a systems administrator. His belief in ID should have had no impact on his job. Don't fire him for beliefs unless they directly impact job (such as harassing others).

      March 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Jake

      cbinal – I think you're crazy and you me. But the question is, if I think you're crazy and I run a company, should I have to employ you? Especially if I think you're crazy in a way that directly conflicts with what I'm trying to accomplish in my company?

      If you ran a religious organization, should you legally be forced to employ me as an atheist even though I absolutely disagree with religion?

      We can bicker about religion vs. atheism elsewhere – that is not the question I'm asking here.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      @cbinal it won't let me post some of the remarks due to the comment being removed, but it was your standard h_m_phobic remarks (hopefully this will be posted even with the censored version), disturbing talk about harming abortion doctors, anti-islam remarks, an incredible amount of racism, slander towards people they know that didn't go to church, ect. I don't know how it is in Alabama since I have only been there a couple times for work, but in TN the southern hospitality only exists if you're a white christian.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • cbinal

      @Jake "If he believes that Intellectual Design is credible, he clearly isn't thinking at the level required to contribute at JPL"

      OK let's go through this thinking. Others (and the article) said he was a systems administrator, which could mean lots of things (they don't say specifically). But, what if he plugs cables in to computer racks and gets the computers talking to each other (IT like). So, you're telling me he can't do that job because he believes in ID? It didn't say he didn't know his job, he worked there for 15 years, he obviously knew something. Get past your own biases.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Jake

      Scientist – Fair point. I'm not sure what system administrator means at JPL. They deal with incredibly complex mechanical systems, so I'm not sure if system administrator is the usual IT job that it is at many other companies. It may indeed be a scientific position. But, if he is indeed just in charge of their email systems or something and is able to prevent his religious views from affecting his work at a heavily anti-religious organization, then I agree, it would be wrong to fire him. However, 1) he clearly was not able to contain himself and 2) my question here is whether or not it's ok to fire someone when their religious views conflict with their ability to do the job their company pays them to do.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • cbinal

      @Drew – Gotcha – them good 'ol boys in Tennessee. Yeah we love them VOLS in Alabama too. Lots of self-righteousness up there.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Jake

      @cbinal Agreed, we don't know what his actual job was. But, if you were the Pope, would you hire an atheist like me (assuming I'm otherwise qualified) to run the email system at the Vatican? If you didn't want to, I would consider that a reasonable and wise decision.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      @Jake yeah I totally understand what you're saying, but if he didn't say anything about his beliefs, then I don't think he should be fired since he is being respectful of others beliefs and it probably wouldn't effect his work. But, it seems that he did let it affect his work, and his co-workers.

      My company that I worked for wasn't religious, but the owner and other workers, and most clients were religious. If I had harassed my clients, or made them feel uncomfortable to the point where it affects both of our work, then fire me, otherwise I can't say that it's right to fire anyone if the company is not a specific religion. If you have conflicting beliefs and can still do your job, then you can believe in the flying spaghetti monster for all I care!

      I do understand what you're saying as far as it being a conflicting job for his beliefs, but if he could have done his job without letting religion and politics affect his and his co-workers work, he'd still have a job.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      Also, I'm really surprised that a few of us were actually able to have a rational discussion and debate without going completely off topic or resorting to childish insults. TAKE NOTE CNN! Now that I said that, all the trolls will destroy this thread.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Jake

      @Drew Sorry to hear your job situation in TN and glad you got out of it.

      Let's say that JPLs mission is to disprove religion (obviously, it isn't, but discovering things that continue to make religion look dumber is a result of what they do). If my mission were to disprove religion, would I really trust a religious person, even a janitor, to work for me, much less enter my building? It's like expecting the NAACP to hire David Duke. It should not be legally required to hire or retain someone who's core values are in direct conflict to yours.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • cbinal

      @Jake I agree if it's affecting how you perform or if you are harrassing. But, not defending him, I've had experiences before where someone at work heard me talking to someone else about the Bible and got offended, and I had another incident I told earlier where a lady got offended by me having a Christian Poem on my wall and a Bible (which I read at lunch sometimes) on my desk. The first time I met her she came in, saw my Bible and Poem, got red-faced and said, "Oh you're one of them? One of them people who wants to shove your beliefs down my throat." I smiled (at first I thought she was joking) and said, "Hi, I don't believe we've met I'm ____ and this is my office." She stormed out and told my boss I was harassing her. It went downhill from there and after a few months she got laid off for not doing her job.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • GodPot

      "May I ask what kind of "Hate filled remarks" these awful Christians were constantly making?"

      Most Christians don't understand how others might see it as hate when they make the claim that their heaven & heII exists and that those not invited to heaven are going to go to heII to be tormented and tortured for eternity and the only way to salvation is to accept their God as your Lord and Savior... They think to themselves that they are just trying to help by condemning those they dislike and who don't worship the same way they do, but that doesn't change it from what it is, "hate filled".

      March 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Jake

      @cbinal If I saw you reading the bible at work, I would think of you differently, without a doubt. But if a belief in god or lack thereof has nothing to do with your company, that's your right (although I wouldn't think it would be a wise idea anywhere other than the deep south). If you were to sit around reading the bible at a company like JPL, that is based on type of thinking that is in direct contrast to religious "faith", then I would think it reasonable to seriously question whether or not you were a good fit for that company. I would seriously question whether or not someone who believes in god really can take an objective view about learning about the universe. For that reason, I would see no foul play in JPL firing someone for being religious. It is simply the opposite of what they're there to do.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • cbinal

      @Jake I somewhat agree with you. You shouldn't have to nor would you hire someone whose beliefs conflicts with the goals of your organization, and if they change over the years that would affect their performance without a doubt. Therefore they could be fired. But, I think you guys get the wrong impression about real Christians. Christians aren't afraid of science just the misrepresentation of what is factual and what is theory. For more – just about all Scientific discoveries proves there is "order" not "caos". Which proves to me an intelligent designer (God) is in control. I love Scientific discovery.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Jake

      @cbinal You may believe that science and religion are compatible, but I assure you most scientists at elite scientific organizations like JPL don't agree. It's not that they just don't agree (and I'm not intentionally being offensive, but this is true) – they find it laughable. They find it offensive that people like you discuss their endeavors, which required years of education, research and effort, in the same breath as the wild and baseless allegations of religion (at least as science views it). If you can believe in religion, so be it. But don't think for a second that science is on your side.

      Anyway, it sounds like we agree – if an organization believes (rightly or wrongly) that a person's religious views, or lack thereof, conflict with their objectives, they should be able to fire them. As I'm writing this, I can see all the religious people saying all atheists should be fired because they bring the devil into the place of work....so I feel the need to provide the caveat: conflict with their objectives in a way that is sanely and reasonably shown.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • cbinal

      @Jake I may be wrong but, I think you and others here on several occassions have referred to anyone believing in God and/or the Bible as insane and don't have intellect. Most of the most brilliant people I know and have worked with are Christians. I literally have designed things that have gone on the Space Shuttle, protects our military, and surveillance systems for those 3 letter organizations. So, I get a little offended when people question my intellect. It used to be a positive to be "good Christian man". Every day I drive by the Saturn V Rocket that took men to the Moon. The man who designed that rocket was one of the greatest scientist of our time and he was a Christian. That was Werhner Von Braun.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • cbinal

      From a book on Werhner Von Braun: around 1975 when illness was advancing, “His desire to see the world of science and technology in full harmony with the world of religion, particularly as it is manifested in Christian faith, grew even stronger,” Ordway says (p. 272). Whether a direct quote or a paraphrase is not clear, but Ordway has von Braun saying,

      “Finite man cannot begin to comprehend an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and infinite God ... I find it best to accept God through faith, as an intelligent will, perfect in goodness and wisdom, revealing Himself through His creation ... ”

      When a reporter asked Von Braun what he was thinking at the moment he gave the OK to launch Apollo 11, Von Braun replied, "I was saying the Lord's Prayer." Thy Will be done.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • cbinal

      @Godpot What's up old buddy. For once I somewhat agree with you. The fear tactic is not the best approach. First it implies that you have to actually believe God exists and second that Heaven and Hell exists. If you don't believe either then you take it as an insult or that the person telling you that is insane. Which honestly, I don't know why you would care at all if you dont believe. Christians use the excuse that Jesus spoke more on Hell than He did on Heaven, but, they seem to forget that Jesus was speaking to people that already believed there is a God.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Of course a person shouldn't be fired for their personal beliefs. However, if actions in support of those beliefs create an environment of conflict that interferes with the person's ability to perform satisfactorily or if it interferes with the ability of others to perform satisfactorily, an employer is absolutely within their rights to terminate employment.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  19. Meathead (of the Word)

    Sorry folks. Scientists are neither infallible nor the last word on anything. Simply man proving to himself in all his pompocity and proud haughtiness that he is his own god and takes no account of The one true God.

    Simply put, God's existence is evident by the creation itself. That's bible, and that's all folks.

    I would much rather CHOOSE to believe that I am an intelligent being created by intelligent God, than some cataclismic explosion; just as they (all unbelievers & athiest and scientist... CHOOSE to try and negate the existence of God.

    March 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Jake

      The fact that you think you can "choose" what you believe shows the weakness of your logic. Intelligent people can't decide what to believe. We don't get to pick the belief that we like the most, we believe what we think makes the most sense. There is zero evidence for the existence in god and the concept of god still requires the answer of, "Where did he come from?"

      March 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      I'll choose to believe in a higher power if evidence of it's existence is found. I grew up Christian, was very religious, but upon doing research, all of the evidence pointed to the absence of a high power. The problem is that the information is available and widely accepted, but the Church preaches against questioning one's belief, it encourages ignorance, it encourages people to look at life through a child's eyes. This results in blind following and corruption once it gets into government.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Jake

      And no one said science is infallible or the last word on anything. That's the point – scientific knowledge evolves as we learn new things. It is never the last word – it is continuous improvement of knowledge. Religion, on the other hand, claims to be the last word on some pretty difficult and major questions that religion has not satisfactorily answered (and its attempts are embarrassingly insane).

      March 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      There is no proof whatsoever that god exists or that a supreme being created this universe. You can yap all you want, Meathead, but you will be lying if you say that there is any such proof or that you've presented it here.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's almost a sure thing that any post that reads "Sorry, folks, but that's the way it is, no ifs, ands, or buts" is usually nothing but crap.

      Meathead's posts prove the rule.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You chose to believe a story that pleases you. I prefer to look at the facts. By doing so, it has become apparent to me that there is no need for a god, no proof of a god and therefore no reason to believe in a god.

      I am okay with not being a special creation of a supernatural being. Believing you're the special creation of a supernatural being (without even a shred of proof!) is a kind of silly and arrogant concept when you think about it.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:54 am |
  20. David

    A 2 hour DVD on Intelligent Design. Really it can't it be summed up in a sentence. God created everything. Period! There is no place in science for that. An assertion that there is a God because you don't understand how something works is called religion and has no place in Science. Geez if that were the case we still be staring at the sun and thinking a God pulled it across the sky in a chariot.

    March 14, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Sojourneerinfo

      Religions based on revelation purport to be something very different – not inductive reasoning from natural phenomenon but deductive reasoning from some higher being telling you propositions etc. There is nothing of god-of-the-gaps here. Instead it's 'did that really happen', 'how can I know what I am told is true', 'shall I trust' etc. and the historical addressing of these is implicit or explicit in most of the bible narrative. From my point of view, ID is just an attempt to detect traces of God in the non-miraculous. It's like a related issue: how did the prophets predict with accuracy unlikely events 100s of years in the future, while the world is running entirely by natural law? How does God eventually get what He wants without seeming to interfere too much?

      March 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.