Here in Los Angeles, ex-NASA/JPL computer specialist Coppedge testified for a second day, held up by his suffering from a severe headache as the court session was supposed to commence. The headaches are something he’s had a problem with going back to 2008. They’re also one small indication of a big problem that JPL’s legal defense team will have, if Judge Hiroshige is the least bit sensitive to personalities.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory has the burden of showing that Coppedge engaged in “harassment,” that he “targeted” co-workers for pro-ID proselytization with a “secret list of people with whom he spoke” about “his religion” (variously identified as intelligent design or Evangelical Christianity,” that in pressing his views on colleagues he was “so persistent, and he was so judgmental,” as to make fellow employees “uncomfortable.”
There’s no question that intelligent design and Evangelical Christianity, while very different in just about every way, share the quality of making many people squirm. The very existence of the two can drive some folks crazy, even if they’ve never met an ID advocate or an Evangelical.
But beyond his merely existing, it’s impossible to imagine how the David Coppedge we’ve seen in the courtroom and the court building is remotely the type to harass or push, to be persistent in personal interactions, to target anyone. The debilitating headaches are stress-related, he explained on the stand, and they give just one indication of what a basically harmless personality Coppedge is.
He’s so far faced only the questioning of his own attorney, William Becker, who sometimes shows impatience in the court with Coppedge’s manner of speaking, which mixes a certain careful hesitancy with a tendency to digress.
Every time we come back from a break and Coppedge gets back up on the stand, Becker has to ask him if he feels well enough to proceed. He asks him in private too. In this morning’s testimony, Becker solicited the information that Coppedge considers himself an Evangelical, which theoretically means that he takes opportunities to evangelize. He said that he does so, when the occasion is appropriate and the listener is willing. But asked what he actually says in such situations, Coppedge drew a blank.
This frustrated Becker, as he couldn’t seem to hide, which again made you fear that Coppedge would break under the pressure. It made me wonder if Coppedge isn’t too bashful to offer a proper evangelical pitch for anything. Think about it. “Pushing” your ideas on anyone, as distinct from diffidently offering them a DVD and making a note in your diary if they liked it or not (as Coppedge did), requires a fearless nerve, a certain cheekiness. In Jewish terms, chutzpah.
Coppedge doesn’t have chutzpah in his DNA. Over lunch I asked him if he feels that he is shy. “Well, not when I’m with friends, then I feel more comfortable,” he explained and gestured to Becker and to me (which was nice of him).
But even when he’s among friends you have to lean in close to hear what he says. Becker, who’s a Type A personality with a confrontational manner, dominates a conversation while Coppedge sits quietly.
I bring this up only to point out that David Coppedge is the absolute polar opposite type of personality from Becker. When this is all over I hope they’ll be able to laugh about that. Imagining that Coppedge could “push” a person or an idea, as JPL claims, is simply preposterous.