Exposing PseudoAstronomy

July 10, 2013

Apollo Lunar Landing Sites to Be National Parks?


Um … huh? I’ve seen this article now in at least three different places, so I thought it was worth a quick post. (And here’s one that goes into more detail.)

Basically, two Representatives to the US House, one from Maryland and the other from Texas, have filed a bill that would designate each Apollo landing site (yes, the ones on the moon) to be National Parks, putting the US National Park Service in charge of them. And that the Apollo 11 site be submitted to the UN organization to be designated a World Heritage site. Both representatives are Democrats.

This is stupid.

Okay, I understand the idea, and why the Apollo sites should be preserved. And it’ll happen — after all, it was on an episode of Futurama, though they weren’t exactly sure where the sites were on the moon.

But the US has zero jurisdiction. I’ve covered this a few times, like back in 2008 in my post on why you shouldn’t “buy a star,” or my podcast episode 37 on space law. As far as I can tell, the same thing still applies.

Basically, the US has signed a treaty that states that no nation can claim an extraterrestrial object in ownership. Like, the US planted a flag on the Moon but that doesn’t mean we can now claim it’s US territory. You can probably see where this is going … since we can’t claim the Moon as US territory, how can we possibly designate it a US National Park, and then put it under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service, a part of the US government?

As for the US designating it a “world heritage site,” sure … except it’s not part of Earth, the “world.”

As I said, I understand the intent, and it’s too far away from an election for this to be voter-playing, but I suggest these two reps take a 10-minute course in space law. What they are proposing violates at least one international treaty.

May 21, 2013

Podcast #75: Young-Earth Creationist, David Coppedge, Sues NASA for Discrimination, and He Loses


You’re just a jerk. Don’t
Sue NASA for religious
Discrimination.”

I’ve been wanting to do this episode for three years now, and I finally get to: The case of David Coppedge, who sued NASA for religious discrimination (he was an employee), a case that was trumpeted by the Discovery Institute … and early this year, the judge rejected every single one of his arguments.

The episode is an interview with a legal professional who is going by the name of Harold Ormansky (or “Harry”) – a pseudonym because of various issues with his name being associated with this kind of stuff. But I can vouch for him. And anyone who may recognize his voice due to this person’s other endeavors will agree. But, let’s keep his real name on the “q-t” or “d-l.”

The main interview is about a half hour long, and then I go through a few points of clarification. All of the other normal segments will be back for the next episode.

May 23, 2012

Episode 37 – Follow-up (Interview!) on Space Law


Episode 37 has been posted. It’s a ~45-minute interview with a lawyer pair where we discuss space law for the past and how it may need to change for the future. It is a somewhat unusual episode for me, but I honestly found it fascinating and I hope that you do, too.

February 3, 2011

Follow-Up: David Coppedge Who Sued NASA Is Fired


Introduction

Last April, I wrote about a man named David Coppedge who was suing NASA over religious discrimination. I have tried to keep apprised of what was going on with the suit, but unfortunately, news was lacking.

I was just informed today that he has been fired.

Background

For background, read my previous article. Seriously. It goes through Coppedge’s lawsuit that claimed religious discrimination, went through some of Coppedge’s previous young-Earth creationism work, and my thoughts on the subject. I pointed out there that the only news that was really reporting on the suit was the creationists and intelligent designers.

I also found it quite humorous that Coppedge was claiming religious discrimination – and the Discovery Institute was advocating that, as well – when he was accused of handing out Intelligent Design materials even though the Intelligent Design folks fervently deny that it is religion.

Anyway …

Laid Off

The only new development in this suit, as far as I can tell, is that Coppedge was laid off last week “in a round of routine layoffs related to” the budget cuts on the project for which he was a computer administrator, NASA’s Cassini mission at Saturn (read more here). Coppedge – and by extension, the Discovery Institute – is of course claiming that this is retaliation for the lawsuit.

By the way, I love that article’s characterization of the Discovery Institute: “… The Discovery Institute, a conservative lobbying organization with right-wing Christian ties best known for their promotion of intelligent design.”

Continuing Thoughts

I normally end this with “Final Thoughts.” But, since this is still ongoing and has yet to reach a resolution, they are continuing thoughts. Not the least of which is how long does it take to get something heard in court? This thing is going on 9 months now. Anyway, I still have yet to hear any official NASA view on this matter. It is still completely either directly from the ID or YEC side or through the news but based on quotes and press releases from the plaintiff, his lawyer, or the ID or YEC side. So, as before, I have yet to make up my own mind on this issue.

November 20, 2010

Should I Write an “Astronomy of 2012″ Book?


Introduction

It has been suggested to me by multiple people that I should write a book about the astronomy of 2012 and why nothing’s going to happen – at least not based on any of the proposed physical mechanisms by 2012ers. Both of those people like my blog and think that it’s a niche missing out there amidst the mountains of 2012 apocalypse books. Hence the poll.

Responding

Please vote in the poll. I have never done a poll on WordPress before, and after reading that it was made through PollDaddy and that their free account limits it to 100 votes per month … if you can’t seem to vote, then please put your vote in the comments.

Commenting

If you have any comments that go beyond the simple poll, please feel free to make them. To give you an idea of what I am planning, it would be relatively short, having a first chapter going through a brief intro of the phenomenon, and then right in chapter 2 getting to planet x. Then pole shifts, galactic alignments, and solar storms. All of these topics I have written about on my blog before except for the solar one, though I have lectured about it in public talks.

Advice

I have never written a book before. If you think I should write one on this topic and you have experience doing so, please consider sending me relevant advice or put it in the comments. Especially if you have experience in the modern era of eBooks.

Additionally, in many of my posts, I talk about specific people’s claims, including quoting them. If you have legal experience that may be relevant, please e-mail me (as in, I don’t want to get sued if I put in print what Brent Miller said about the galactic “dark rift” on Coast to Coast).

Pricing

Finally, if you have suggestions on price, let me know. Besides ease of not going through a publishing company, I was thinking eBook because I could set the price low. Like $2.99 or something. I’m not really out here to make money on this (unlike many of the doomsdayers), but I do think that something nominal to cover time should be there.

Contacts

Again, if you happen to have gotten stuff similar to this published before, advice (comments here or e-mail) would be much appreciated. If you happen to be an editor or otherwise affiliated with a publishing company that you think would be interested in this, of course please e-mail me.

Final Thoughts

As always, I do actually read all comments posted, even if I don’t necessarily respond to every single one.

Thanks for the input!

April 25, 2010

In the News: David Coppedge Sues JPL for Religious Discrimination


Introduction

This has been in the news quite a bit lately, even making some normal mainstream news sources. It’s definitely made the rounds of ALL the young-Earth creationist and Intelligent Design sources that I peruse on a near-daily basis.

Since it does somewhat cover the topics that I address on this website, I thought I would weigh in with my own thoughts on the issue.

The Lawsuit – What’s Known

The lawsuit in question is being brought against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of David Coppedge by attorney William Becker, Jr., of The Becker Law Firm, in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, and besides against JPL in general, Coppedge’s direct supervisor, group supervisor, and Manager of IT Resources are all named.

The suit alleges that Coppedge was faced with religious discrimination, harassment and retaliation, general violations of his free speech, and wrongful demotion.

So far, everything about the case has come out of pro-ID or -YEC sources, Coppedge, or the attorney (and related court filings). JPL has yet to comment publicly, and I sincerely doubt they will since they state their policy is not to comment on pending litigation (and they have also stated that, at least as of the end of last week, they have not yet been served with the lawsuit).

The events in question allegedly came as a result of Coppedge handing out pro-ID materials to co-workers who expressed an interest in them. And everything else came as a result of that.

Regress: Some Background on David Coppedge

My run-ins with Coppedge are purely from his writings … on the Institute for Creation Research’s website. Yep, that’s right: Coppedge is a young-Earth creationist, at least based upon his writings. He has written several articles for the ICR, though I have only addressed two in this blog: “Venus and the Battle of Uniformitarianism (A Creationist Argument)” and “Dating Planetary Surfaces with Craters – Why There Is No “Crisis in Crater Count Dating”.” From his writings, he has a very poor grasp of astronomy, despite the attempt of argument from authority by posting at the bottom of them, “David F. Coppedge works in the Cassini program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (The views expressed are his own.)” I address this more below.

Coppedge runs computers at JPL for the Cassini mission to Saturn. His expertise is in computers, not astronomy. And not evolution.

My Thoughts

First, I would like to point out that the Discovery Institute, the “think tank” behind Intelligent Design, has steadfastly maintained over the years that ID is not religion. I find it somewhat ironic that, for allegedly promoting pro-ID materials, he is suing for religious discrimination.

The DI’s claim that one of NASA’s mission statements is to examine the origins of life and so Coppedge was doing something within that is not valid in the objective sciences, in my opinion, because he was taking the religious route. Coppedge, as far as I can tell, is a young-Earth creationist. He was handing out ID materials. ID is religion (despite the protestations of the DI).

I also find it very interesting – and very telling – that no where in ANY of the Intelligent Design stories about this lawsuit do they mention Coppedge’s YEC leanings. Do a word search on their story’s page about the suit for “creation” and you won’t find it. And the DI has continued to exploit this lawsuit, writing near daily articles about it on their blog, Evolution News & Views.

Now that I have that off my chest, I want to look at what has been alleged by Coppedge. Remember that he was a supervisor, in charge as Lead Team System Administrator of ~200 computers involved in NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn. As a supervisor, though even I doubt he tried to use his role as supervisor, it is stated he distributed pro-ID materials.

This is something that I think, at the very least, should not have been done unless (a) he was specifically asked for them, and (b) he did so while he was not “on the clock.”

I bring up the first condition because there can be a very strong implied coercion – even if unintentional – for people to follow what “The Boss” says. I doubt my father remembers this, but when I was very young and spent one school year in the Cub Scouts, I asked him to bring in a sign-up sheet for whatever fundraiser I was doing at the time. At that time, he ran a research lab with several faculty, post-docs, techs, and graduate students. He refused to do so because he didn’t want people to feel obligated to sign up for something from “the boss’s son” even though he in no way would have tried to use his position.

The second condition is that, like it or not, the First Amendment guarantees as much a freedom of religion as a freedom from religion, and the government cannot in any way advocate for or against religion or use its capital in such an endeavor. If Coppedge used time when he was being paid with government money to spread this material, then I would consider that a reprimandable offense. Granted, if it was a “first time” thing, then if I were his boss I would just bring him into the office and mention there are issues here and he needs to do this on his own time and away from NASA buildings so that it doesn’t give the appearance in any way of a government-sponsored event.

Several of the reports on blogs and pro-ID and -YEC sites have emphasized that Coppedge has not been informed of who complained about him handing out material. They make this seem sinister and under-handed, but to me it makes perfect sense. Say you’re working in an office, and your supervisor does something you think is very bad, but you’re afraid that if you tell him about it he’ll fire you. Instead, you go to his boss and complain about it and ask that your identity be kept confidential in order to avoid reprisals. Even if your supervisor wouldn’t have fired you, it could still unconsciously have affected your job evaluations or future promotions if they knew it was you. Keeping your identity secret is the only way to prevent this, though in a lawsuit you would likely necessarily be called as a witness. In this sense, making a big deal about Coppedge not being “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” seems perfectly reasonable, in my opinion. (source for that particular quote)

My next point is, admittedly, perhaps a little more vindictive and has nothing to do with the merits or lack-there-of of this case. I think that Coppedge has used his position as an employee of NASA and position on the Cassini mission as an argument from authority for way too long and this lends an air of undeserved credibility to what he writes. It’s also a complete non sequitur authority because managing computers says nothing about someone’s knowledge of astronomy which also says nothing about that person’s knowledge of evolution.

Finally, I’d like to end with this repetition: All information so far has been from the plaintiff’s side (Coppedge’s). Almost all news articles available on the subject are from pro-ID or -YEC sources. As with any lawsuit, there are almost always two sides to every story, and I suspect that NASA’s is different. I suspect NASA will likely claim Coppedge used his position to push the materials on others. And/Or I suspect NASA will claim Coppedge has done this in the past, was warned, and after continuing to do so he was finally reprimanded pursuant to the Establishment Clause.

On the other hand, it is entirely possible that Coppedge simply did obtain pro-ID materials that another employee requested and JPL over-reacted and did something that legitimately was unwarranted (though I honestly doubt it but that is my own bias). I think that as this case unfolds we will see that Coppedge is not quite the victim he has been made to seem.

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