Tag: intelligent design

The Martin Gaskell Case: Not an Isolated Incident

In his January Diary, John Derbyshire comes down on the side of the University of Kentucky for refusing to hire Martin Gaskell, a superbly qualified astronomer, for the sole reason that he expressed sympathy for intelligent design. The case of Professor Gaskell, who sued UK for religious discrimination, needs to be understood in the context of widespread anti-Christian discrimination in academic science. I thought readers might be interested in some background on the story and many others like it to which Brother John did not draw our attention.

The University of Kentucky chose to pay a $125,000 settlement to Gaskell, now at the University of Texas, after Gaskell’s attorneys released records of e-mail traffic among the faculty hiring committee. Seeking a scientist to head UK’s observatory, professors complained that Gaskell was “potentially Evangelical,” while a lone astrophysicist on the committee protested that Gaskell stood to be rejected “despite his qualifications that stand far above those of any other applicant.”

This is no isolated incident. An enormous, largely hidden transformation has taken place in what we mean when we speak of “science.” For centuries, the free and unfettered scientific enterprise was fueled by a desire to know the mind of God. “The success of the West,” writes historian Rodney Stark in his important book The Victory of Reason, “including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians.” Now, increasingly, voicing such a desire is likely to get you excluded from the guild of professional scientists.

For years, I’ve tracked the stories that come out regularly about scientists of impeccable credentials whose religion-friendly beliefs proved injurious to their career. In some fields, notably biology and cosmology, Christians who voice doubts about Darwinian theory pay a particularly high price.

Last month, a top-level computer specialist on the NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn, David Coppedge, got fired after he sued JPL for religious discrimination. Coppedge had occasionally chatted with interested colleagues about the scientific case for intelligent design, which made good sense since JPL’s officially defined mission includes the exploration of questions relating to the origin and development of life on Earth and elsewhere. For this, his supervisor severely chastised him for “pushing religion” and humiliated and demoted him.

At Iowa State University, astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez was refused tenure, despite a spectacular research publication record, because of a book he co-authored arguing that life is no cosmic accident.

At the Smithsonian Institution, supervisors harshly penalized evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg for editing a pro–intelligent design essay in a peer-reviewed technical-biology journal. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel examined the 2005 case, finding that Smithsonian colleagues investigated his religious beliefs and created a “hostile work environment” aimed at “forcing [him] out.”

Similar incidents have occurred at the University of Idaho, George Mason University, and Baylor University.

There is, in fact, an underground of Darwin-doubting scientists, fearful for their livelihoods, who believe that evidence from cell biology, cosmology, and paleontology tells an increasingly complicated and contradictory story about life’s evolution.

In every such instance I’m aware of, the suppressed scientist is a Christian, whether Protestant or Catholic. Meanwhile, among members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, 95 percent of biologists identify as atheists or agnostics. The fact of their religious (or irreligious) beliefs doesn’t invalidate their scientific opinions. Nor should the religious belief of Christians cast their otherwise sterling scientific training and acumen into doubt. However, in academia, it is understood to do just that.

It’s bad enough when private universities clamp down on the free exchange of ideas. But government-run institutions have often seemed to be the worst offenders of all, something the First Amendment cannot permit. The public is poorly served by a system of scientific research and funding that seems locked into reaching predetermined conclusions.

Science has become a business like many others, unfortunately, and a largely nationalized one at that. Workers must toe a company line. With the government’s $7 billion National Science Foundation and $31 billion National Institutes of Health heavily supporting research, localized pressures easily take on the form of a universal compulsion to conform.

The search for truth should be unimpeded by such orthodoxies, whether religious or anti-religious. The scientists who initiated the scientific revolution itself, all Christians, knew that better than scientists, or John Derbyshire, do today.

David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

Courtesy of http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/258892/martin-gaskell-case-not-isolated-incident-david-klinghoffer

National Legal Organization Backs Coppedge Lawsuit Over Jet Propulsion Lab Discrimination Against Intelligent Design

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a national legal organization whose allied attorneys have logged over 100 million dollars worth of pro bono hours of legal work, has issued a statement backing David Coppedge’s lawsuit against Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A recent article in the Christian Post reporting on the ADF news release summarizes Coppedge’s plight:

Last March [2009], Coppedge was accused of “pushing religion” on his co-workers after he began engaging colleagues in conversations about intelligent design – a theory that life and the existence of the universe derive not from undirected material processes but from an intelligent cause – and offering DVDs on the subject when the co-worker expressed interest.His supervisor, Gregory Chin, allegedly received complaints from employees and threatened the long-time employee with termination if he persisted with his intelligent design discussions.

Coppedge said he would comply with the orders not to discuss the theory, politics or religion in the office but felt his constitutional rights were violated.

He later received a “written warning” which stated that his actions were harassing in nature and created a disruption in the workplace. Thereafter, he was removed from the team lead position in order to “lessen the strife” in the work area. His demotion was announced on a memo that was distributed on April 20, 2009.

According to the amended complaint, Coppedge said he was never told by a co-worker that his discussion of intelligent design was unwelcome or disruptive to their work. He was offered no specific details of the charges allegedly made by other co-workers.

 As noted in the article, an amended complaint was recently filed in Coppedge’s case by his attorney, William J. Becker Jr., a First Amendment attorney based in Los Angeles. In California, plaintiffs are generally entitled to amend the complaint once without leave before the defendant answers the original complaint. This is commonly done, often for procedural reasons or to make sure that causes of action are properly alleged so as to avoid any prospect of dismissal on a demurrer. The amended complaint now becomes the operative complaint in the case, and it can be downloaded here.

We have previously defended Coppedge’s lawsuit against various misguided attacks and criticisms at the following posts:

  • Correcting Myths About Coppedge’s Intelligent Design Discrimination Lawsuit“”At BioLogos, a Disregard for Truth”  
  • ACLU Lawyer and ScienceBloggers Make Off-Base Arguments Against Coppedge Case“”Is Pro-Intelligent Design Speech During Work Hours ‘Not Included’ in Protections Against Discrimination?”  
  • The ACLU Has a History of Advocating Disparate Treatment for Intelligent Design
  • Christian Biochemist: First ‘Synthetic Cell’ Strengthens Case for Design

    A biochemistry expert at the science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe is among those hailing the recent creation of the first-ever “synthetic cell,” though not for the same reasons as most.

    • bacterial cell with a synthetic genome
      These are images of M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 and WT M. mycoides.
    “From an apologetics standpoint, this is exciting work that I’m happy to see pursued and would like to see even more effort devoted toward this because it’s giving us a very powerful case for [Intelligent] Design,” said Dr. Fazle Rana on Friday, referring to the idea that holds certain aspects of nature are so complex that they could not have come about by evolution alone but instead point to an intelligent designer.

    “In fact, I even would go so far as to say that this is even a brand new class of arguments for Design,” he added during RTB’s flagship podcast.

    On Thursday, a group of scientists announced that it had successfully replaced all of the natural DNA inside a cell with laboratory-synthesized DNA, creating the first-ever “synthetic cell.”

    The team, led by Craig Venter of the J. Craig Venter Institute, presented its findings in an article published on the website of the journal Science, run by the non-profit American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    In the study, the scientists explained how they synthesized the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasm mycoides with four bottles of chemicals and transplanted it into another type of bacteria, Mycoplasm capricolum, which is closely related to M. mycoides.

    “This is the first synthetic cell that’s been made,” said Venter, calling the cell synthetic because it was completely derived from a synthetic chromosome created on a chemical synthesizer with information in a computer.

    “This becomes a very powerful tool for trying to design what we want biology to do,” Venter added. “We have a wide range of applications [in mind].”

    In his comments Friday, Rana similarly noted that the applications are “limitless” as is “the potential for good.”

    But the Christian biochemist seemed more excited about the new set of arguments that have been made available to Design proponents through advances such Venter’s.

    “This is a third approach that says, ‘We think that life is the work of a designer because we know from empirical experience now that to make life requires ingenuity, careful planning, careful manipulation of chemicals in the lab under exacting conditions in order to generate lifeforms,'” Rana said.

    “I think it shows conclusively in the most compelling way possible that life requires a mind,” he added.

    As for fears that bioterrorists could get a hold of the new methodology and do something damaging with it, Rana said such a possibility “is a long way off.”

    “To get this to work is so non-trivial. I can’t imagine somebody in their garage cooking up a dangerous organism,” he stated.

    Others in the faith community, however, are not so confident.

    While the announcement by Venter’s team raised the prospect of a number of benefits, such as the ability to accelerate vaccine development, it also raised potential societal and ethical concerns.

    “Pretending to be God and parroting His power of creation is an enormous risk that can plunge men into a barbarity,” Bishop Domenico Mogavero told Italian newspaper La Stampa, adding that scientists “should never forget that there is only one creator: God.”

    Monsignor Rino Fisichella, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, meanwhile told The Associated Press that recently revealed work was a “great scientific discovery.”

    “If we ascertain that it is for the good of all, of the environment and man in it, we’ll keep the same judgment,” he said.

    But Fisichella added, “If, on the other hand, the use of this discovery should turn against the dignity of and respect for human life, then our judgment would change.”

    Presently, aside from working on ways to speed up vaccine production, researchers are planning to design algae that can capture carbon dioxide and make new hydrocarbons that could go into refineries. Making new chemicals or food ingredients and cleaning up water are other possible benefits, according to Venter.

    In light of the latest advance, President Obama has called upon his recently-created Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to consider the implications of the advance and report back to him within six months.

    Obama encouraged the commission to consult with a range of constituencies – including scientific and medical communities, faith communities, and business and nonprofit organizations – stating that it is “vital that we as a society consider, in a thoughtful manner, the significance of this kind of scientific development.”

    “With the Commission’s collective expertise in the areas of science, policy, and ethical and religious values, I am confident that it will carry out this responsibility with the care and attention it deserves,” the president concluded in a letter Thursday to commission chair Amy Gutmann.

    Obama had signed an Executive Order creating the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues late last November. The commission was created to advise the president on bioethical issues that may emerge from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.

    Courtesy of  http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100523/christian-biochemist-first-synthetic-cell-strengthens-case-for-design/index.html

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sued for Discriminating Against Intelligent Design Proponent

    Supervisors at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory illegally harassed, demoted and humiliated a computer specialist and high-level system administrator for his beliefs about intelligent design, according to a lawsuit filed in California Superior Court.

    David Coppedge is an information technology specialist and system administrator on JPL’s international Cassini mission to Saturn, the most ambitious interplanetary exploration ever launched. A division of California Institute of Technology, JPL operates under a contract with the federal space agency. Coppedge held the title of “Team Lead” System Administrator on the mission until his supervisors demoted and humiliated him for advancing ideas that superiors labeled “unwelcome” and “disruptive.”

    Intrigued by scientific research that raises questions about Darwinian explanations of life’s history, Coppedge would offer DVDs to coworkers exploring the case for intelligent design in cosmology and biology. Coppedge’s supervisor alleged that he received complaints about the DVDs from colleagues of Coppedge that he refused to identify. In 2009, this supervisor first angrily harassed Coppedge, claiming that “intelligent design is religion” and that Coppedge’s sharing of these DVDs with co-workers amounted to “pushing religion.”   After Coppedge complained about this harassment, the supervisor retaliated by getting JPL to launch an investigation of Coppedge, which resulted in harassment charges against Coppedge and severe limitations upon Coppedge’s free speech rights to talk about intelligent design.  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.  In gross violation of JPL internal procedures and the principles of due process, 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.  Given that Coppedge maintains he was never pushy and never raised the topic of intelligent design if a co-worker indicated they were not interested, this effectively silenced his ability to discuss intelligent design at the workplace.  To this day, Coppedge has yet to be informed of the identities of his alleged accusers or even of the specifics of any of their complaints so that he might have the opportunity to rebut them.

    Coppedge is represented in the action by Los Angeles First Amendment attorney William J. Becker, Jr., of The Becker Law Firm.

    Courtesy of http://www.discovery.org/a/14511