The Discovery Institute is a conservative Christian think tank, structured as a non-profit educational foundation, founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, USA. Its areas of interest, social and political action include intelligent design, public school education, and transportation and bi-national cooperation in the international Cascadia region. Financially, the institute is a non-profit organization funded by philanthropic foundation grants, corporate and individual contributions and the dues of Institute members.

History[edit | edit source]

The Discovery Institute was founded in 1990 by Bruce Chapman, George Gilder, and Stephen C. Meyer as a non-profit educational foundation and think tank based upon the Christian apologetics of C.S. Lewis. It was founded as a branch of the Hudson Institute, an Indianapolis-based, conservative think tank. It is named for the H.M.S. Discovery, which explored Puget Sound in 1792.

The institutes's founder and president, Bruce Chapman, co-authored a 1966 critique of Barry M. Goldwater's anti-civil-rights campaign, "The Party That Lost Its Head," had been a liberal Republican on the Seattle City Council and candidate for governor. He moved to the right in the Reagan administration, where he served as director of the Census Bureau and worked for Edwin Meese III.

In 1993, having formed a plan for a think tank opposed to materialism with Stephen C. Meyer and George Gilder (Chapman's former Harvard roommate and his writing partner), Chapman secured seed money in the form of a grant from Howard Ahmanson, Jr. and $450,000 from the MacLellan Foundation. These underwrote the earliest nucleus of intelligent design authors who titled themselves "The Wedge" [1]. Meyer had previously tutored Ahmanson's son in science and Meyer recalls being asked by Ahmanson "What could you do if you had some financial backing?"

By 1995 Chapman and Meyer received a promise of $750,000 over three years from the Ahmansons and a smaller grant from the conservative Christian MacLellan Foundation. This was used to fund the institutes's Center for Science and Culture, then called the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, which went on to form the motive force behind the intelligent design movement. "I was one of the early beneficiaries of Discovery largess," says William A. Dembski, who, during the three years after completing graduate school in 1996 could not secure a university position, receives what he calls "a standard academic salary" of $40,000 a year through the institute.

Organization[edit | edit source]

The institute is headed by Bruce Chapman, president. Vice presidents are Steven J. Buri, Stephen C. Meyer (who also serves as an institute senior fellow and the program director of the Center for Science and Culture), and Mark Ryland.

Its directing board includes many notable social and religious conservatives, including Howard Ahmanson, Jr..

Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture[edit | edit source]

Template:Main article The Center for Science and Culture (CSC), formerly known as the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC), is a division of the Discovery Institute. The Institute’s most important subsidiary is the CSC, established in 1996 with the assistance of Phillip E. Johnson in order to advance the Wedge strategy. Chapman calls the CSC "our No. 1 project."

The CSC offers lucrative fellowships of up to $60,000 a year for "support of significant and original research in the natural sciences, the history and philosophy of science, cognitive science and related fields." Since its founding in 1996, the institute's CSC has spent 39 percent of its $9.3 million on research according to Meyer, underwriting books or papers, or often just paying universities to release professors from some teaching responsibilities so that they can ponder intelligent design. Over those nine years, $792,585 financed laboratory or field research in biology, paleontology or biophysics, while $93,828 helped graduate students in paleontology, linguistics, history and philosophy. The CSC lobbies aggressively to policymakers for wider acceptance of intelligent design and against the theory of evolution and what it terms "scientific materialism." To that end the CSC works to advance a policy it terms the Wedge Strategy, of which the "Teach the Controversy" campaign is a major component. The "Teach the Controversy" strategy was announced by Meyer in 2002 [2]. It seeks to portray evolution as a "theory in crisis" and leave the scientific community looking closed-minded, opening the public school science curriculum to creation-based alternatives to evolution such as intelligent design, and thereby undermining "scientific materialism."

Discovery Institute causes[edit | edit source]

The Discovery Institute through the Center for Science and Culture has been advancing the agenda set forth in its mission statements in both the political and social spheres. That agenda includes the intelligent design movement; transportation in the American and Canadian northwest (Cascadia); a bioethics program opposed to assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human genetic manipulation, human cloning, and the animal rights movement. Its economics and legal programs advocate tort reform, lower taxation, and reduced economic regulation of individuals and groups as the best economic policy. Discovery Institute also maintains a foreign policy program currently focused on Russia and East Asia.

The Institute's primary thrust in terms of funding and resources dedicated are those political and cultural campaigns centering around intelligent design. These include the:

Intelligent design and Teach the Controversy[edit | edit source]

The Discovery Institute's main thrust has been to promote intelligent design politically to the public, education officials and public policymakers, and to represent evolution as a "theory in crisis" and advocating teachers to "Teach the Controversy" through the CSC. It has employed a number of specific political strategies and tactics in the furtherance of its goals. These range from attempts at the state level to undermine or remove altogether the presence of evolutionary theory from the public school classroom, to having the federal government mandate the teaching of intelligent design, to 'stacking' municipal, county and state school boards with ID proponents. The Discovery Institute has been a significant player in many of these cases, through the CSC providing a range of support from material assistance to federal, state and regional elected representatives in the drafting of bills to supporting and advising individual parents confronting their school boards.

Some of the political battles which have involved the Discovery Institute include:

In 2004 the institute opened an office in Washington D.C and in 2005 hired the same Washington public relations firm that promoted the Contract With America in 1994.

Cascadia[edit | edit source]

Discovery's Cascadia project [3] focuses on regional transportation. It is funded in part by a large grant from the Gates Foundation. It recently created its own Web site to ensure an individual identity and distance itself from the institute's controversial role in promoting intelligent design.

Criticisms of the institute[edit | edit source]

At the foundation of most criticism of the Discovery Institute is the charge that the institute and its Center for Science and Culture intentionally misrepresent or omit many important facts in promoting their agenda. Intellectual dishonesty, in the form of misleading impressions created by the use of rhetoric, intentional ambiguity, and misrepresented evidence, form the foundation of most of the criticisms of the institute. It is alleged that its goal is to lead an unwary public to reach certain conclusions, and that many have been deceived as a result. Its critics, such as Eugenie Scott, Robert Pennock and Barbara Forrest, claim that the Discovery Institute knowingly misquotes scientists and other experts, deceptively omits contextual text through ellipsis, and makes unsupported amplifications of relationships and credentials.A wide spectrum of critics level this charge; from educators, scientists and the Smithsonian Institute to individuals who oppose the teaching of creationism along science on ideological grounds. Specific objections with examples are listed at the Center for Science and Culture article.

This criticism is not limited to those in the scientific community that oppose the teaching of intelligent design and the suppression of evolution, but also includes former Discovery Institute donors. The Bullitt Foundation, which gave $10,000 in 2001 for transportation causes, withdrew all funding of the institute; its director, Denis Hayes, called the institute "the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell," and said, "I can think of no circumstances in which the Bullitt Foundation would fund anything at Discovery today."

The Templeton Foundation, who provided grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, later asked intelligent design proponents to submit proposals for actual research, "They never came in," said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned. "From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review," he said. [4]

The Templeton Foundation has since rejected the Discovery Institute's entreaties for more funding, Harper states. "They're political - that for us is problematic," and that while Discovery has "always claimed to be focused on the science," "what I see is much more focused on public policy, on public persuasion, on educational advocacy and so forth." [5]

Philip Gold, a former fellow who left in 2002, has criticized the institute for growing increasingly religious. "It evolved from a policy institute that had a religious focus to an organization whose primary mission is Christian conservatism," he has said.

Funding[edit | edit source]

The institute is a non-profit educational foundation funded by philanthropic foundation grants, corporate and individual contributions and the dues of Institute members. Contributions made to it are tax deductible, as provided by law.

The institute does not provide details about its backers, out of "harassment" fears according to Chapman. A review of tax documents on [6], a Web site that collects data on foundations, showed grants and gifts totalling $4.1 million in 2003, the most recent year available. This is in contrast to $1.4 million in 1997, the oldest year available. The records show financial support from 22 foundations, at least two-thirds of which state explicitly religious missions. The Discovery Institute's CSC director, Stephen C. Meyer, admits much of the institutes's money comes from such wealthy Christian fundamentalist conservatives as Howard Ahmanson Jr., who once said his goal is "the total integration of biblical law into our lives," Philip F. Anschutz, Richard Mellon Scaife, and the MacLellan Foundation, which commits itself to "the infallibility of the Scripture." [7] Most Discovery Institute donors have also contributed significantly to the Bush campaign.

Though in the minority, funding also comes from non-conservative sources: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave $1 million in 2000 and pledged $9.35 million over 10 years in 2003, including $50,000 of Bruce Chapman's $141,000 annual salary. The money of the Gates Foundation grant is "exclusive to the Cascadia project" on regional transportation, according to a Gates Foundation grant maker.

Published reports state that the institute has awarded $3.6 million in fellowships of $5,000 to $60,000 per year to 50 researchers since the CSC's founding in 1996 [8].

Discovery Institute officers and directors[edit | edit source]


Vice Presidents

Board of Directors

Senior Fellows

Adjunct Fellows

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Reference notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Template:Note Patricia O’Connell Killen, a religion professor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma whose work centers around the regional religious identity of the Pacific Northwest, recently wrote that "religiously inspired think tanks such as the conservative evangelical Discovery Institute" are part of the "religious landscape" of that area. [11]
  2. Template:Note "So the question is: "How to win?" That’s when I began to develop what you now see full-fledged in the "wedge" strategy: "Stick with the most important thing"—the mechanism and the building up of information. Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters. That means concentrating on, "Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?" and refusing to get sidetracked onto other issues, which people are always trying to do." Phillip E. Johnson. Touchstone Magazine interview, June 2002.

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