I had the privilege of getting to know David Coppedge a few years ago, leading up to the shameful resolution of his 2012 discrimination case against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. His story is among those that remind us intelligent design isn’t only a scientific issue but one with serious civil rights implications as well.
See here for more background on the Coppedge case. In brief, the mild-mannered team lead computer administrator on the Cassini Mission to Saturn was viciously punished by JPL supervisors. His offense? Sharing information about ID, all in the most respectful, appropriate manner. Now his persecution and its aftermath are recounted in a moving article in World Magazine (“After a fiery trial“).
Take a moment and read it. I’m glad to have stayed in touch with Coppedge since the court case in Los Angeles, so I’m familiar with some of what’s related here. To call his experiences dramatic is an understatement. Here’s how it began:
When JPL hired Coppedge in 1996 as a computer system administrator to help with the Cassini mission to Saturn (described by NASA as “the most ambitious effort in planetary space exploration ever mounted”), he was thrilled to land his dream job: Here he was, at the heart of cutting-edge science — probing the heavens, discovering the great unknown, making history. As team lead, he constantly tried to excite his team members with the awareness they were part of something extraordinary.
He also occasionally offered DVDs about intelligent design to co-workers whom he knew. His goal wasn’t to proselytize, he says, but to stir conversations, because “if the Darwinian picture is flawed, people ought to know the facts.” He had one co-worker who would talk frequently about his interest in photography — so why not share his own interest in the origin of life? If anyone expressed disinterest, he says, he immediately backed down. So Coppedge was flabbergasted when his supervisor told him “a number of people” had complained that he was “pushing religion” during work hours. His demotion came a month later.
There ensues the court battle, punctuated by mysterious debilitating headaches, a struggle with cancer, spiritual trial and renewal, even a near-deadly encounter with a flying insect. This is a remarkably resilient man. On top of everything else, his Facebook feed, which I follow, demonstrates his remarkable gifts as a nature photographer and his daring as an outdoorsman and adventurer across the wildernesses of the West.
His story has a happy ending, but then so does the Book of Job.
Photo credit: Greg Schneider/Genesis, via World Magazine.