How Should We Describe the Discovery Institute?

This being a slow news day, we can spend a bit of time on some background chores. Today we’d like to re-visit the way we describe the neo-Luddite, neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

To do that, we need to take the foregoing mess apart and look at each element. The first part — “neo-Luddite” — is something we recently added after we posted this: Creationists — the New Luddites. A few of you didn’t think it was appropriate, but we decided to use it.

Next: “neo-theocrats”: There’s no doubt that the Discoveroids are theocrats, as that’s virtually explicit in their manifesto known as the Wedge Document. That’s a link to the Wikipedia article which describes it. You can read the actual document at the Discoveroids’ website here: The Wedge (pdf file), and you can read it in text form here: The Wedge Strategy. Another copy is at the NCSE website: The Wedge Document.

The Wedge Document states in its “Five Year Strategic Plan Summary” that the intelligent design movement’s goal is to replace science as currently practiced with “theistic and Christian science.” Also, among the intelligent design movement’s “Governing Goals” are 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.”

Further, Phase II explains that alongside a focus on influential opinion-makers, “we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars. We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence that support the faith, as well as to ‘popularize’ our ideas in the broader culture.”

Listed among their “Twenty Year Goals” is: “To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.”

So there’s no doubt that the Discoveroids are theocrats. As for our calling them “neo-theocrats,” that’s our way of mimicking their continuous use of the term “neo-Darwinism,” an expression which literally means something (referring to the synthesis of Darwin’s theory with genetics), but it seems to be employed by the Discoveroids only to give the theory of evolution some kind of creepy-sounding label. We intend to keep using “neo-theocrats.”

Next, “creationist public relations and lobbying operation”: That’s self-explanatory, and because it’s exactly what they are (rather then a “think tank,” which is how they describe themselves) we’re going to keep it.

Finally, we call them cdesign proponentsists. That’s a link, and as most of you know, it refers to a key piece of evidence that was presented in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which Wikipedia explains here: Pandas and “cdesign proponentsists”.

But we’re not satisfied. A while ago we wrote What Is the Discovery Institute?, in which we concluded that the Discovery Institute is properly understood as a creationist ministry that should be called the Church of the Intelligent Designer.

In that same post we said they were concern trolls, specifically science concern trolls — because they profess to be so “concerned” about good science education, “critical thinking,” academic freedom, viewpoint discrimination, and teaching the “strengths and [alleged] weakness” of evolution. We concluded by saying that the Discoveroids are properly described as the Church of the Intelligent Designer, and concern trolling is their principal method of evangelizing.

We like that, but it never found its way into our customary descriptive paragraph. So perhaps it’s time for some revision. We’re now thinking of referring to them as the Evangelical Church of the Unnamed Designer, a creationist ministry — but that requires some explanation.

“Evangelical” is because of their obsession with spreading the word and attracting converts (technically that’s proselytism, but evangelical somehow sounds better and it’s close enough). Also, we’re thinking of using “Unnamed” Designer rather than “Intelligent” Designer. He’s not “Nameless,” just Unnamed. As you know the Discoveroids are privately unanimous that their magical designer is Yahweh, but they never acknowledge that publicly because they think that if they keep the designer’s identity a secret — as if they could — they can then deny being creationists and somehow sneak their scrubbed version of creationism past the courts and into the public schools.

Okay, this is what our new description of the Discoveroids will look like: they’re the neo-Luddite, neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists), a/k/a the Evangelical Church of the Unnamed Designer, a creationist ministry.

It’s long, it’s clumsy, and it’s virtually impossible to memorize. Nevertheless, we like it because it’s accurate. But we could use some input from you, dear reader, so let us know what you think.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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30 responses to “How Should We Describe the Discovery Institute?

  1. Charley Horse

    Science Haters’ Institute of Theocracy comes to mind.

  2. Charley Horse

    On further reflection…Science Haters’ Institute of Theocracy
    Thanks, SC

  3. My feeling is that it’s annoying to scroll through the whole blurb every time they are mentioned, which is about every other post here. Also your intros to Ken Ham, et al. I’d recommend making separate pages with the explicit descriptions, and link that to their names, so if someone is unclear on who they are, they can find out easily, but those of us who already know can read your post without having to wade through the dreck.

  4. Artor says: “I’d recommend making separate pages with the explicit descriptions, and link that to their names”

    I tried that briefly, but I wasn’t happy with it. This way, each post stands on its own. I assume regular readers just scroll through that stuff.

  5. Again, what is the reason they claim themselves as a tax-exempt organization? They seem to be very religious, and certainly they aren’t science based.

  6. Less is more, methinks. “Creationist Theocratic Ministry” hits all the important bases, for my money.

  7. Ceteris Paribus

    Hmm. The long name “Evangelical Church of the Unnamed Designer” telescopes easily down to “e-ChUD”.

    The reference to the old Sci-Fi movie “C.H.U.D” (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) probably escapes many current blog readers, but for me e-ChUD is a convenient way to frame the DI personages who put their screeds in to the e-space we now live in.

    By the way, no problem with the boiler plate intros to posts. It not only provides context for new readers, but for the already initiated the boiler plate becomes a mantra that binds a new post to earlier ones we have already enjoyed.

  8. Ceteris Paribus says: “It not only provides context for new readers …”

    But each time it’s posted, it also annoys those whom it describes.

  9. I dunno, Curmy. All that boilerplate might make you look like some kind of crank to new readers, and they’d click off before they took the time to see what you’re really about.

    My advice would be to keep it simple and straightforward. Just refer to them as the “cdesign proponentsists at the Discovery Institute”, and leave all the “neo-this & neo-that and a/k/a” stuff out.

    Intelligent new readers will soon determine what the DI is all about, and will become regular readers of your blog. And the unintelligent new readers? Well, you don’t seem to be tailoring your blog to them anyway, so who cares?

  10. retiredsciguy says: “My advice would be to keep it simple and straightforward.”

    I’m mulling it over.

  11. I like it a lot.

  12. I agree with sciguy. If you want to give them a little nickname, I say go with something simple and easily transportable: Sciencewankers, or Johnny Prays-a-lot. The boilerplate is getting to the point where I start to wonder whether or not this offer is void in Puerto Rico.

  13. I say mock them the same way the mock us: Darwinists, Evolutionism, etc..

    Instead of Neo-Theocrats, Neo-Theocratists.
    Intelligent Design becomes Belligerent Designerism. and so on.

    Discoveroid stays, it’s got wonderful synergy with Hemorrhoid.

  14. What TA said. Only louder.

  15. Gary says: “What TA said. Only louder.”

    I’m always working on refining the sarcasm. Meanwhile, I’ve added a Cast of Characters section to the Intro page, which has descriptions of the usual suspects. I’ll see how it works as a reference in some future posts.

  16. TA & Gary, being regular readers, certainly carry a lot of weight. So if you decide to keep all that boilerplate, how about a compromise? Make it interesting. Keep it fresh each time rather than simply pasting in the same paragraph. Give us long-term readers a few laughs and a reason to read the intro paragraph each time.

    That said, I still believe restraint is a more effective strategy. TA is right, though, about “Discoveroid”, and I’d also add “IDiots”, but use them judiciously. You’re a damned good writer, Curmy. Relying on the same old boilerplate isn’t up to your capabilities.

  17. RSG:”TA & Gary, being regular readers, certainly carry a lot of weight. “

    @RSG: We are just big boned.

    I sort of like the boilerplate, and it does make a nice introduction. Mixing things up a bit never hurt though.

  18. Janice in Toronto

    What about “A**holes”

    Hey it fits…

  19. Okay, okay. Between TA’s and my off-the-cuff remarks, and RSG’s actually thoughtful responses, I’d have to actually go with RSG. Name calling doesn’t help (though Doc Bill does have a way to do so in such a… colorful… manner) if the purpose here is to reach the undecideds. Being a discriminating reader myself, if I go to a blog and the first thing I see is a bunch of “You’re a poopyhead!” remarks, I tend to click off without another thought. Frankly, you could lose all of the boilerplate and simply state who you’re discussing (World Net Daily, Discovery Institute, whomever) and the rest of the post would stand just fine. You’re hitting them with some powerful logic and searing wit. That stands just fine without having to lead off with neo-whatever.
    And I’m not fat, I’m getting in shape!

  20. I’ve been out of town and away from the Intertubes (gasp, I’m dying!) but color is coming. Mostly blue. Brought to you by the letter XXX and the number 666.

  21. Well, they’re not a church, because they do have a few Jews amongst them. They’re close to a ministry. But I prefer the term “faith tank.” They’re not a think tank; that would require thinking. Any succinct description of the DI should include “a faith tank funded by a fascist billionaire.”

    I have already registered my objection to the term Luddite. The Luddites were anti-technology but not anti-science, and they were anti-plutocratic. The DI is anti-science, but not anti-technology, as long as the technology involves increasing pollution or making the rich richer, or preferably both. The DI is pro-plutocracy as is clear from the political references in the Wedge document and from Johnson’s politics.

    But I strongly object to term “theocracy.” They are funded by a fascist billionaire, Ahmanson, who is a follower of Rushdoony. Rushdoony and his followers are true theocrats, that’s true, However, it does not logically follow that Dembski, Behe etc. are theocrats.

    The DI fellows deny being theocrats, and we should consider that for two reasons.

    First, Reconstructionists admit they want to kill you and get rid of democracy. They enjoy telling you they’re going to kill you, your wife, your kids, Dawkins, etc. and make a totalitarian state. That means that if they deny being Reconstructionist, they’re not really Reconstructionists.

    Second, it’s my opinion that the real threat is not theocracy, but the “Christian Nation.” These are not the same thing. Theocracy means that religious authorities (bishops or priests) make laws. Only reconstructionists are out for the fascist totalitarian state. What most creationists want is the Christian Nation, which is more insidious and thus, more dangerous. Theocracy isn’t a threat because the bishops and priests of different religions can never agree amongst themselves anyway.

    But in the “Christian Nation”, bishops and priests don’t rule directly– rather, they rule indirectly, by requiring that everyone be indoctrinated into what they call “Christian values” and “faith.” That’s worse, because it involves mind control and brain-washing.

    That’s what guys like David Barton and Pat Robertson are all about. They tell you that all of our freedoms and our liberty are based on THEIR religious beliefs. That way, they can flatter themselves that they’re defending liberty and freedom, and anybody who challenges their power is a THREAT to freedom and liberty. At the same time, they can claim credit for America’s liberties and the Constitution, which was written by a bunch of deists and Unitarians who were horrified by religious “enthusiasms.”

    (Strange how a country like Germany, the land of Luther that was 95% Christian, still got Nazism and the conservative Christians supported it.)

    In a real theocracy, bishops may make the laws but for just that reason, they’re not necessarily fixated on mind control. In the “Christian Nation”, everything is about mind control.

    Moreover, if anything goes wrong– if the economy’s not doing well, or there are natural disasters– you’re to blame. All problems are because the people are not sufficiently rabid about “Christian values” or they’ve lost their “faith”.

    Moreover, I would argue that Nazism was a movement analogous to the fundamentalist “Christian Nation.” We all know Nazis were hostile to clerics, especially Catholic priests. But they believed in the total superiority of Christianity over Judaism and atheism, and they stated many times that the Nazi Reich would be built on a foundation of Christian morals. And conservative Christians believed it and supported Nazism for just that reason.

    Curm, you should really read Thomas Lackey’s The Modernist God-state, especially chapter 6 in that book, which is about Nazism. Lackey demolishes the “secularization hypothesis”, the idea that modern Western society is characterized by becoming less and less religious, thus leading to Nazism. On the contrary, Lackey argues, Western society is getting more and more religious– but in a different way– which called “in-depth Christianization.” That means the society may be a democracy or a dictatorship or whatever, but the lawmakers, whoever they are, must be inculcated in “Christian values”; thus religious authorities still rule, but in an indirect way that inoculates them from accountability.

    The Christian Nation is worse than a theocracy, because it requires brainwashing, and because in a theocracy, the religious authorities would be accountable when things go wrong. In the Christian Nation, they brainwash everybody but they’re never held accountable when things go wrong.

    I really recommend all of you read Thomas Lackey’s The Modernist God-state, especially chapter 6 about Nazism. I’ve read many books about Nazism, but that one is radical in its insights.

  22. Diogenes, all the distinctions and fine points you make are excellent, but I don’t think philosophical precision really matters here. I know who funds the Discoveroids, and so do they. They can deny adhering to his beliefs all they want, but why believe them? The end result is that if people like that are in control, the Constitution will be gone and maniacs will rule. Call them what you will. “Theocracy” may not be strictly applicable, but it’ll do. When they come for you and kill you, the precise definition of what they are doesn’t seem very important.

  23. I have a question. . . call me dense but how do they derive materialism (the drive or obsession for material goods) out of modern science? ? ? Are they saying that determining the speed of light or figuring out the rate of decay of radio active elements causes us to want material things? Do these people live in caves in the desert and wear clothes made from reeds? Do they walk everywhere so that they can’t be accused of materialism for driving a stylish car?

    While we are on the subject, where is the ‘scientific’ evidence of their beliefs? I see them refer to scientific evidence, is this materialist evidence too? So far, I have seen no scientific evidence.

    Whatever they want to call themselves these people are an ignorant schizophrenic religious group that have trouble with the reality of what we understand about our world and the universe. Like the third world Muslims that justify violence by their rigid interpretation of the Koran, these people want to push us back into the time of crusades because their rigid interpretation of the bible’s primitive description of the where the earth and ourselves come from.

  24. Earl says: “how do they derive materialism (the drive or obsession for material goods) out of modern science?”

    That’s not the kind of “materialism” they’re talking about. They mean materialism as opposed to supernaturalism.

  25. Ah, Earl, there’s materialism and there’s Materialism. Materialism in the social sense is as you describe, the obsession with stuff over charity, I guess.

    The Discoveroids use “materialism” to refer to the notion that physical reality is all there is, that it, there ain’t no ghosts. The Discoveroids believe in ghosts, the Intelligent Designer, and “higher realms” and “other dimensions” or simply Oogity Boogity, ooooooohhhh spoooooky.

    As for a classification for the Disco Tute, faith tank is pretty close but those guys aren’t all that faithful, they just play at it. Social faith, I call it; just pretend religious, a facade.

    I like the term “crank tank” which is what they really are. Hey, you evolutionists, get off my lawn! All they do is gripe about science and scientists, that is, people who actually do something while the Crank Tank sits on the porch and complains. They’re all cranks, just a bunch of ignorant malcontents and poo-flingers. They belong in a zoo.

    They don’t do any work. They have no product. They don’t even make a profit, or aren’t supposed to, because they’re set up as a non-profit organization so they are TAX EXEMPT. Yes, boys and girls, we job creators and workers PAY for the crank tank. Oh, the irony.

    However, because the Disco Tute cranks with a purpose, they turn the crank as hard as they can, to me they are no different than child molesters and I would hope, Dante-wise, that they would occupy the same level in the Inferno. Is that civil enough for you?

  26. @Tom:
    I like it, and I think it just keeps getting better (though I have some reservations about “Neo-Luddite”). I think the long introduction is amusing. Now that I’ve seen it any number of times, I sometimes (though not always) skip through it, but I think it is an excellent thing for new readers to see.


    Points well enough taken, technically, but I think that when most of us use the term “theocrat” we are thinking of what you describe under The Christian Nation. I don’t think that any of us really think of theocracy as a relatively benign state in which bishops happen to make or approve of laws.

    I haven’t read the book you mentioned. Two that I “like” (in the sense that they scared me Science Haters’ Institute of Theocracy-less) are “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” by Chris Hedges, and “Kingdom Coming” by Michelle Goldberg. In fact, about the only thing I’m proud of with respect to the 23 years I wasted as a YEC-fundamentalist is that I never fell into theocratic thinking (and, was frequently vilified as a liberal by my co-religionists).

  27. Earl, SC’s & Doc Bill’s explanations of the DI’s use of “materialism” is my understanding as well — materialism vs. spiritualism.

    I think, too, they use it for the negative connotation — we have been indoctrinated in the idea that it’s bad to be materialistic, so they do a clever play on words.

  28. As for materialism, it is admittedly equivocation to use it in two meanings– as 1.) not believing in spooks and the supernatural and 2.) Wanting money. However, historically, the equation of 1 and 2 goes back very far.

    The history of anti-materialism is intertwined with the history of anti-Semitism. As you know, the Nazis accused the Jews of being “materialist” in both senses of the word– both greedy and also, not believing in the supernatural or an afterlife. To the Nazis, the Jews were closet atheists just pretending to have a religion; thus they were a danger to civilization.

    The accusation that Jews were “worldly” or merely “of this world” had a double meaning, that they were greedy and didn’t believe in the supernatural.

    I’m not sure how far back in time the equation, ‘greediness = no belief in the supernatural’, goes. In the Middle Ages it was common to accuse Jews of “worldliness” and to depict them as carrying moneybags. In paintings, Jews get rejected by Jesus while clutching their moneybags, then they get tossed into hell where they are roasted by demons in big pots with moneybags still hanging around their (Jews’) necks. Obviously the Bible story of Judas and his ten pieces of silver figure into this. [Last week I was reading Strickland’s Saracens, Demons and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art which has a lot of pictures of Jews as animals, monsters, roasted in pots, etc.]

    I’m not sure when the equation ‘greediness = no belief in the supernatural’ was introduced. It’s a big part of Nazi H. S. Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1905) but it must predate him; probably going back at least to pastor Adolph Stoecker and the Christian Social Party, late nineteenth century.

    A lot of later Nazi propaganda (Hitler, Eckart, Chamberlain) attacking Jews was based on the assumption that Christians/Aryans were superior to Jews because Christian doctrine was faith-based and its theology was more supernatural– the Jews, not believing in an afterlife (allegedly) or in complicated theological “mysteries” (presumably the Trinity, incarnation of God, etc.) were not just inferior, but dangerous to civilization for just this reason.

    In H. S. Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century he wollops the Jews for not believing in doctrines that are mysterious, secret, “unthinkable”, “inconceivable”, “self-contradictory” etc. Notice that when Chamberlain attacked other religions or philosophers, words like “unthinkable”, “inconceivable”, “self-contradictory” were negatives. But when Chamberlain asserted the superiority of Christianity over Judaism and materialism, words like “unthinkable”, “inconceivable” and self-contradictory were then positives and proof of total superiority. (Chamberlain does not explicitly spell out which Christian dogmas make Christians superior because they are “unthinkable”, “inconceivable” and self-contradictory etc., but he hints that he means the Trinity, and references the incarnation.) Thus Jews are a danger to society because their religion lacks dogmas that are “unthinkable”, “inconceivable” and self-contradictory etc. which are essential to making a person safe for higher civilization.

    I’ve often noticed that virtually all Nazi accusations against Jews have a direct analog in creationist accusations against “Darwinists.” I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why that is– hence my interest in the history of anti-Semitism. I concluded that Christians must destroy the authority of Jews, because Jews were trained in the Law by God himself for 1,000+ years just so they could recognize the Messiah when he appeared. Then Jesus shows up and the Jews say: “This ain’t the guy.” Because Jews are highly educated and trained in the Law, conservative Christians must destroy Jewish authority.

    LIkewise, scientists are highly educated and trained in science– and conservative Christians assert that science itself was invented by Christians– yet scientists disproved literal interpretations of Genesis. Thus, conservative Christians must destroy the authority of scientists. To do this, they just copy over the accusations against Jews and very slightly modify them– accusations that involve turning education, training, knowledge, logic, authority etc. into negatives.

  29. Very interesting analogy, Diogenes. There’s also something similar to be said about their preferring Plato to Aristotle.

  30. As for “theocracy” vs. “Christian Nation”, my most serious objection to calling them “theocrats” is the following.

    People like David Barton, Pat Robertson etc. assert that their religious beliefs are essential to defending American liberty. If you disagree with their religious beliefs, you’re leaving American with no defense against tyranny and dictatorship. If you disagree with their religious beliefs, you’re undermining American liberty and thus, you’re on the side of slavery and dictatorship.

    Moreover, all the Republican presidential candidates in the last GOP primary AGREED with them, and some even cite David Barton as their authority! (Certainly Huckabee is in with Barton, and Palin says the same things.)

    They think this argument is “intellectual”, and they think they’re intellectually superior because they’ve got Barton and Weikart on their side. If you sit there and call them names like “theocrats”, you’re not undermining their huge self-regard, their egomania in considering themselves both intellectually superior and the defenders of liberty and freedom.

    These people say they’re on the side of liberty and freedom, and if you don’t share their religious beliefs, then you’re opposed to freedom, they say. I think it’s not an effective come-back to just call them “theocrats.” It makes us look like all we have is name-calling.

    They think they are intellectually superior and they think they have an intellectual argument based on real history. Does engaging in name-calling, and calling them “theocrats”, undermine their egotism and high self-regard, their grand belief that they are intellectually superior and the only true defenders of liberty? You have to destroy their self-satisfied egomania by proving that they’re intellectually inferior, and that their Bartonian/ Weikartian “history” is a hoax.