Discovery Institute: Enemies of the Enlightenment

Herewith, gentle reader, we introduce a series of articles which will discuss blog entries posted at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. That’s the outfit we think of as the War Room for creationism’s counter-revolution against the Enlightenment — particularly the Scottish Enlightenment, which (quoting from the linked article) “… asserted the fundamental importance of human reason combined with a rejection of any authority which could not be justified by reason.”

As you can imagine, the Enlightenment’s preference for reason over authority has been a problem for creationism. It is therefore a problem for the Discovery Institute (the “DI” or “Discoveroids”).

The Scottish Enlightenment achieved advances in numerous fields, including, e.g., philosophy (David Hume, one of the greatest philosophers, an empiricist, skeptic, and advocate of separation of powers and decentralized government), economics (Adam Smith, intellectual founding father of the free enterprise system), and geology (James Hutton, father of modern geology, and discoverer of “deep time” which contradicts the brief Genesis chronology of creation). Almost a century later, that continuing outburst of rationality resulted in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Additionally, due to trans-Atlantic travel and correspondence (Benjamin Franklin knew David Hume, for example) the Scottish Enlightenment inspired the American Revolution, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It created an intellectual climate of reason and progress that powers our civilization to this day.

Reason, liberty, science, free enterprise — splendid results for an intellectual movement. Not even Athens at the height of its glory enjoyed such a philosophical foundation. We experience more freedom, health, and prosperity than any age ever dreamed of, and we have more knowledge of the universe than was ever believed possible. But not everyone is delighted with those magnificent accomplishments. Would-be tyrants, theocrats, Grand Inquisitors, Marxists, fascists, and other assorted despots are nostalgic for the pre-Enlightenment days when men lived in ignorance and unthinkingly obeyed authority. They hope for a restoration of those sordid centuries, imagining that in such a nightmare world they would be our masters.

When we say that the Discovery Institute is engaged in a counter-revolution against the Enlightenment, we are not exaggerating. They’ve been scrubbing their website of all blatant statements to that effect, but they’ve been sloppy. Some of the older (and more honest) declarations of purpose can still be found. For example, buried in this article at their website we find a copy of an early, pre-scrubbing statement.

It’ll get scrubbed soon, so enjoy it while it lasts:

What is the Center for Science and Culture?
The Center for Science and Culture is a Discovery Institute program that supports the research and writing of scholars and scientists who are challenging the worldview of scientific materialism. Many of these scientists are also challenging neo-Darwinism and/or are developing the scientific theory of intelligent design. [Emphasis supplied]

The current version appears here, carefully scrubbed, as the Discoveroids struggle to maintain the fiction that they’re a secular think tank engaged in scientific research: Top Questions:

2. What is the Center for Science and Culture?
The Center for Science and Culture is a Discovery Institute program that encourages schools to improve science education by teaching students more fully about the theory of evolution, as well as supporting the work of scholars who challenge various aspects of neo-Darwinian theory and scholars who are working on the scientific theory known as intelligent design. [Emphasis supplied]

The “worldview of scientific materialism” they’re challenging is one of the greatest accomplishments of the Enlightenment. The Discoveroids are literally challenging the scientific method itself. Their explicit goal is to introduce a supernatural worldview into science — which means nothing less than the death of science.

For a more detailed treatment in the Discoveroids’ own words, see the Wedge strategy, which describes their intent to completely transform our society to “… defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies …,” and to “… replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God … .”

Let us be clear — we have no quarrel with religion. But we’re not giving up reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise, not even a tiny bit. They are the hard-won gifts of the Enlightenment, without which our world would be a wretched place. Even in the best of pre-Enlightenment times, it was dangerous to think. Socrates was sentenced to death in classical Athens. During the height of the Renaissance, Galileo was forced to confess heresy, his book was banned, and he lived out his life under house arrest. We won’t be dragged backward. That means we’ll defend the theory of evolution — first, because it’s good science, and also because that’s where the Discoveroids have chosen to make their move.

How do they hope to repeal the Enlightenment? Simple — by re-writing history. Every fanatic, mystic, dogmatist, witch doctor, dictator, and autocrat who ever waved a magic wand, cast a spell, mumbled a chant, or cracked a whip credits his ideas (not the Enlightenment) for our recent progress. They never wonder why those same ideas of theirs — which have been dominant for millennia — failed to produce such results in the past; and they’d certainly never consider that their ideas were in any way responsible for the misery of earlier centuries — or might still be causing problems in our own time. Well then, upon what do they blame society’s persistent defects? Those are because of all that new-fangled Enlightenment stuff — reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise. And Darwin — everything is blamed on Darwin.

What’s their solution? If we give up evolution and return to creationism, and then give up the rest of that “scientific materialism” stuff, and then give up a few more things they plan to get around to, everything will be wonderful, just as it always has been. Simple, right?

Because the Discovery Institute serves as the principal public relations engine for promoting a dandified version of creationism (which they claim is a scientific theory they call Intelligent Design), we feel it’s important to present a rational counterpoint to some of their more outrageous claims. Please bear in mind that we don’t know the people who present the Discovery Institute’s rabidly anti-evolution arguments, and we express no opinions about them as individuals. Our concern is not with the Discoveroids personally, but with their ideas — which will cause a catastrophic retrogression to pre-Enlightenment conditions, correctly named the Dark Ages.

With all their public relations efforts, how’s it going for the Discoveroids? Up to now they’ve impressed a few rural school boards, those who still think William Jennings Bryan had the better argument in the Scopes trial. It remains to be seen if they’ll realize their dark dream of overturning the Enlightenment.

Copyright © 2008. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Discovery Institute: Enemies of the Enlightenment

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