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Why the Coppedge Trial Matters


David Coppedge’s case against his former employer, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, goes to trial in Los Angeles on Wednesday. This will open yet another window on the culture of free-speech suppression that exists across academic and para-academic institutions.
David Coppedge, it sure looks like, was denied his free expression rights when he accidentally stepped on a land mine: Darwinian evolution. We’ve documented a variety of other instances where variants of this general scenario have played out: Gonzalez, Sternberg, Sewell, Gaskell. Don’t forget the California Science Center affair. In each instance, a loosely organized Darwinian Guild sought to intimidate internal critics and doubters and chill their freedom to write and speak openly. Then courts and lawyers got involved. Emails were disclosed. The facts came out, all properly documented and vetted. Sometimes, significant sums of money were dislodged from Darwinian coffers. Now it’s set to happen again, with NASA, JPL and CalTech in the hot seat.
The reason that courts and testimony are important is that they add tangible evidence of a phenomenon that otherwise tries to keep a relatively low profile. The Darwin Guild doesn’t advertise its inquisitorial services, though that doesn’t make it any less effective in maintaining the illusion of a “consensus” on evolution. Each Sternberg affair, each Gaskell case, each Coppedge trial is like a tile in a mosaic. Considered by itself, it might not tell you very much. But as each tile is added, the picture of how a culture of intimidation actually works gradually emerges, in greater clarity and enhanced vividness.
Most folks in scientific fields, faced with the fear that Darwinists seek to instill, keep quiet about their Darwin doubts. They know where the land mines are buried and so successfully avoid them by staying silent. Then you get a fellow like Coppedge who, for whatever reason, never got the memo and didn’t realize the danger in merely sharing a few pro-ID DVDs till he already fell under the threatening shadow of a Human Resources investigation. Before he knew it, he was out of a job.
Someday, enough tiles will have accumulated that any fair-minded person will see the image, without ambiguity. For the Darwin Guild, which needs the public to think that scientists are actually free to reach any conclusion on evolution, that will be an unmitigated disaster.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



DarwinDavid CoppedgeDidier Raoultfree speechintelligent designJet Propulsion LaboratoryNASAtrial