Although the judge must still rule on whether to exclude media from parts of the trial, the terminated worker told the court Wednesday he was a creationist who believed in intelligent design and loved to teach about both -- and explain how they're different.
From the witness stand, testified about a happy childhood where he grew up in Southern California and participated in family ministry. His father was a Navy chaplain and opened a church in Sun Valley, in which Coppedge later managed the youth ministry.
Coppedge has sued California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA, claiming religious discrimination and retaliation after he was let go in 2011. Coppedge is an .
He believes in intelligent design, the theory that life is too complex to have developed solely through evolution, and that the universe was designed by an intelligent entity. Some of Coppedge's co-workers felt he pestered them about the theory and other religious views, and Coppedge believes those views led to his demotion and termination.
Countering his claims, JPL contends that supervisors received numerous complaints about Coppedge, both about his alleged harassment of co-workers regarding his viewpoints and a lack of flexibility with colleagues on the Cassini mission to Saturn.
Defense attorney Jim Zapp intends to question those JPL employees, but he asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige to . Zapp contends that plaintiff's attorney William Becker will ask probing questions about their faith and politics, and Zapp does not want their lives "dragged out in open court'' so their personal information can be splattered online, on TV and in the newspapers.
Hiroshige is expected to rule at 10 a.m.
Creationism Versus Intelligent Design
Intelligent Design and creation science use different methodologies and assumptions and proffer different objectives, Coppedge explained. Creationism starts with the Bible, the book of Genesis, with God having created the heavens and the earth in six days. From there, creation scientists see how science fits in.
Intelligent design, however, begins with observations of the natural world and uses well-known tools of science to draw the inference to the best explanation or phenomenon, he said. It has no religious presuppositions and makes no religious assumptions.
When Becker asked Coppedge for an example of something intelligently designed in nature, Coppedge said, "DNA.''
He explained that DNA is the genetic code and language of life. It has no meaning unless it's translated - and DNA has a translation mechanism: Molecules translate from the genetic code to the protein code. It takes intelligence to translate, Coppedge added.
Becker asked for further clarification.
The point of intelligent design is to answer one question: is a natural phenomenon designed or not designed? The goal is to observe a natural phenomenon and answer that question -- not to prove the origin story of Genesis (that's creationism).
"I am a creationist...I have taught creation science. I enjoy the outdoors, I have a degree in science education. I love teaching and to share interesting facts of nature with people they maybe never heard,'' Coppedge said.
However, Coppedge reiterated, intelligent design is not religion. It is a theory that explores the theory of origin from a scientific point of view.