David Coppedge had a job most computer experts would kill for. He worked for NASA as a computer specialist, as a team leader on the Cassini mission, oriented towards the exploration of Saturn. Coppedge is also a Creationist, though, and he claims that this got him fired after 15 years on the job.
Of course, NASA and Caltech have a very different version of the story. They say Coppedge was confrontational, aggressive, and refused suggestions for retraining when it became apparent his position was in danger due to reductions in the project. There is also the matter of just how his Creationism manifested itself. It appears Coppedge frequently advocated so-called “Intelligent Design” to his co-workers, and even handed out free DVDs (produced by a company on whose board he sits) discussing the scientific evidence for Creationism which, if the DVDs were accurate, is at least a nice gesture, since you can always use another blank DVD.
This matter will be resolved in court. I know where my suspicions lie in the matter of Creation Safari Master Coppedge. However this does beg the question: Is it ever appropriate to fire someone due to his Creationism?
My tentative instinct is to say no, it’s not, even in cases where evolution is a central aspect of the subject matter, like a biology research lab. As long as a person is carrying out their responsibilities, being productive and cooperative and causing no strife with co-workers, there should be almost no belief that warrants dismissal on it’s own. I do think that Creationism, insofar as it shows an ignorance or disdain of the methods of science, can and should be used as a negative factor when considering hiring, promotion, and extension of a scientist. I don’t think you should hire a physicist who doesn’t accept gravity, either.
What would you do, if you worked for a scientific institution and learned that a prospective hire was a Creationist? Would you hire that person?