Discovery Institute — A Religious Ministry

Buffoon Award

Everyone knows that the Discovery Institute began as an attempt to get around court decisions that prevented creationism from being taught in public schools. Their scheme was to jazz up creationism, present it in “scientific” terms, and to carefully avoid references to scripture. This strategy, they hoped, would fool the entire world, and they could slide into academia as the promoters of a scientific theory — see Intelligent Design, the Great Incongruity.

They never fooled anyone — except those who were already fools. The first (and only) time the scientific status of their “theory” was tested in court was ten years ago, and it failed spectacularly — see Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Despite the Discoveroids’ carefully scripted scientific charade, they’ve all but admitted that their magic designer is Yahweh — see Casey Admits the Designer Is the First Cause. Before that they had already emerged out of their closet, pranced around wearing ecclesiastical garb, and confessed that their “scientific” designer — blessed be he! — is transcendent. That means their designer exists beyond time and space, in that inaccessible and incomprehensible realm known only to the gods. Jeepers — who could it be?

Now — as if we needed any more evidence — the Discoveroids have once again demonstrated their fixation on the supernatural in a post written by John West, whom we affectionately call “Westie.” He was an early winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award, thus the jolly logo above this post. Westie is now President (or maybe vice President) of the Discovery Institute, which makes him one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy.

Westie’s post at the Discoveroids’ website is Are Young People Losing Their Faith Because of Science? It doesn’t have a byline, but a press release from something called Religion News Service, which is also titled Are young people losing their faith because of science?, attributes it to Westie. His Discoveroid article says, with bold font added by us:

Earlier this year, Harvard evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson declared that “for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths.” According to noted biologist Richard Dawkins, Darwinian evolution makes it possible to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Why would a “scientific” outfit like the Discoveroids care? They shouldn’t, of course, because religion is outside the scope of science. But Westie cares. He says:

Many people, especially young people, think science contradicts their faith. This view can have a devastating impact on their belief in God. In reality, the genuine discoveries of science have been friendly to faith, not hostile to it.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, science has an unbroken record of verifying everything in the bible. Let’s read on:

Download this free report from Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture for information and resources to equip yourself, your family, and your congregation on issues of faith and science.

Westie sounds almost like Hambo, doesn’t he? We continue:

Here are some of the important questions the free report will address:

Pay attention, dear reader — these are important scientific questions:

• What percentage of young people now enter college believing that “the universe arose by chance”?
• What percentage of college faculty identify themselves as atheists or agnostics?
• How many young adults with a Christian background think “Christianity is anti-science”?
• What five big truths can help you counter the myth that belief in God is anti-science?
• What resources are available to help you engage young people and others who think faith is anti-science?

Here’s the rest of it — and again, Westie seems to be channeling ol’ Hambo:

Fortunately, there are a growing number of practical resources available to enable churches, Christian schools, and parents to address the relationship between science and faith in a constructive manner. Fill out this form to download the free report “Are Young People Losing Their Faith Because of Science?”

Impressive, huh? It’s just what you’d expect from a science outfit. And here’s something extra — an excerpt from that press release we mentioned:

West’s report presents research on faith among young adults raised in Christian homes, college students, and university faculty. He recommends ways that churches can engage young people on these issues and outlines video and curriculum resources available for parents, youth leaders, and pastors.

So there you are. Now there can be no doubt about the nature of the Discoveroids’ work. There never was any, really, but now it seems that they’ve given up even pretending to be anything but a creationist ministry.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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28 responses to “Discovery Institute — A Religious Ministry

  1. “Westie sounds almost like Hambo, doesn’t he? ”
    IDiot + Holy Scripture + 6000 years ago = YEC.

  2. News flash for Westie: I gave up on Xianism long before I became a scientist. What convinced me was reading the bible end to end, and noticing all the contradictions and utter nonsense in it. Later, when I took a required religion course in my undergraduate Lutheran college, I found that most of the stuff alleged to be “history” in the bible never happened. So, no, I don’t consider myself an atheist because sciences proves there is no sky fairy. I’m an atheist because the evidence that there is a sky fairy is equivalent to the evidence that there are leprechauns.

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    Just typos, I am sure. It should read “outlines video and curriculum resources available for parents, youth leaders science teachers, and pastors scientists.”

  4. abeastwood, that did it for me too. After a relatively intellectually lazy youth, I read the Bible through as a college sophomore and gave up on Christianity. If there were a God, the Bible could not be an account of said being.

  5. Here are the five “big truths” from the report:

    • Christianity is not anti-science. Indeed, the Judeo-Christian worldview helped nurture the scientific revolution.
    • Even many secular scientists affirm the incredible fine-tuning of the laws of physics that make life possible. We live on a “privileged planet” designed in a multitude of ways for life and for scientific discovery.
    • Inside our cells are molecular machines of exquisite beauty and complexity that point powerfully to purposeful design.
    • Human beings are special and unique in a multitude of ways.
    • Science is a wonderful human enterprise, but it is fallible and can be abused. It is therefore rational (and not “anti-science”) to explore competing scientific explanations, and to scrutinize cultural claims made in the name of science.

    Makes you want to believe in ID, doesn’t it?

  6. I have a different viewpoint about God than those who commented in response to the letter to the editor I sent my local newspaper several months ago. However, I found the commentary to be respectful and educational. Therefore, I am very interested in your response to the following beliefs I still hold:
    A) All scientific conclusions about evolution are based on assumptions.
    B) “Adaptation” is a natural process that every species experiences. This is different from Darwin’s “Evolution” which had one species changing to another.
    Thank you.

  7. @Jack


    A) Statement is false.

    B) Statement is false.

    Get your nose out of creationist websites and learn some actual science. Your “beliefs” bear no relation to reality.

  8. michaelfugate

    Everything anyone believes is based on assumptions. Science is tentative and changeable. Science makes predictions that are testable and shareable.

    “Micro” and “macro” – evolution are part and parcel of the same process.
    Local adaptation can lead to changes (directly or indirectly) that inhibit interbreeding. This puts populations on independent evolution trajectories and produces new species. Darwin thought that natural selection would be the main driver of speciation, but many subsequent studies show that isolation – temporal or spatial – is a more common driver.
    There is no fundamental differences between changes within species and changes between species – they both demonstrate a genetic continuum.

  9. michaelfugate

    I have a copy of Westie’s buffoonery if anyone desires it without going through the download process. I looked first at his five “truths”, but it is worse than that. He begins with a anecdote that links reading Dawkins’ God Delusion with youth suicide…. If there is no God, why would anyone want to live?

  10. For those who may be curious, I think this is the post about Jack‘s letter-to-the-editor: Creationist Wisdom #612: What Is Truth?

  11. @Jack It may be true that “Everything anyone believes is based on assumptions. Science is tentative and changeable.” as someone else posted above. That’s not the same as saying that Darwin’s theory is all wooly conjecture and for the birds. It’s had spectacular vindication from another 150 years of science in many different disciplines, and its status as a theory (in the actual sense of the word, not the colloquial one) has never been stronger. What “changeable” means is it can grow and adapt to new data. No killer fact like a single case of scientific fraud or seemingly human footprints next to dinosaur prints is going to destroy it. That’s not how theories are displaced. Any new theory has to account for ALL relevant observations, not just a couple of easy ones. Flood Geology is a perfect example of a non-theory, because there are myriad observations that it doesn’t begin to explain.

  12. If the Discovery Institute were merely a “Religious Ministry”, then they would trouble me no more than the occasional JW who knocks on my door to try and sell me a copy of The Watchtower, or the less-frequent Mormon who rings my bell in hopes of winning a convert. Such folks are given an entirely courteous “No, thank you” and bid farewell without further ado.

    But the Discoveroids–as is manifest from their infamous Wedge Strategy document–are in pursuit of a political/theocratic agenda which is the antithesis of the humane values of the Enlightenment.

    It really is worth while, from time to time, to remind ourselves of the opening words of the declaration of war on rationality: these are the unquestioned (and unargued) axioms of the DI:

    The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West’s greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

    Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art

    The cultural consequences of this triumph of materialism were devastating. Materialists denied the existence of objective moral standards, claiming that environment dictates our behavior and beliefs. Such moral relativism was uncritically adopted by much of the social sciences, and it still undergirds much of modern economics, political science, psychology and sociology.

    Materialists also undermined personal responsibility by asserting that human thoughts and behaviors are dictated by our biology and environment. The results can be seen in modern approaches to criminal justice, product liability, and welfare. In the materialist scheme of things, everyone is a victim and no one can be held accountable for his or her actions.

    Finally, materialism spawned a virulent strain of utopianism. Thinking they could engineer the perfect society through the application of scientific knowledge, materialist reformers advocated coercive government programs that falsely promised to create heaven on earth.

    Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.

    IOW: it is of no consequence that scientific materialism is empirically sound, for the DI maintains (without offering real evidence) that it has social and political consequences which are contrary to the self-appointed Moral Police of the DI–and therefore must be opposed at all costs.

    Their stance is as absolute and ungrounded, as terrifying and repugnant, as the agenda of any other jihadi organisation; the only difference is the non-violent (but deeply dishonest) means by which they pursue their goals.

  13. Humble supplication to the Great Invisible Hand of Correction:

    O Voice From Above, I have omitted the html taggy things that I ought not to have omitted, and there is no health in me.

    And I screwed up spellng of “Institute’s”, and probably a few other typos I haven’t spotted yet….

    Peccavi; mea maxima culpa!. I have donned my hair shirt…

    [*Voice from above*] I am always sympathetic when I see your fumbling efforts to function in a Sapiens world.

  14. Jack, I have a question for you. The very same assumptions that provided you with your computer and internet and thus allow you to spread your ideas all over the world urged evolutionary biologists to accept Evolution Theory. Why do you accept them in one case and reject them in the other?

  15. “The cultural consequences of this triumph of materialism were devastating.” Despite which there have been dramatic declines in social violence and general crime throughout the period in question, and we live in a far more tolerant and compassionate world (at least in the developed west). During the 1990s this trend only accelerated. The rational observer of course doesn’t see ANY direct connection between “evolution in public schools” and social violence, but by fundamentalist logic we need more _EVOLUTION_ not less.

  16. “…the genuine discoveries of science have been friendly to faith…”
    and which ones are non-genuine discoveries? Let me guess?..evilution?? Geology???? Astronomy????

  17. Jack, please explain what you understand the mechanism of “adaptation” to be, and how it differs from the various mechanisms evident in evolutionary change.

  18. Oh, and speaking of questions that aren’t likely to be answered, a while back I posted regarding a questioning letter I sent to a pastor regarding one of his letters to the editor that was discussed here. Some interest was expressed with regard to any response I might get from him. Just to update: **crickets**

  19. Part of something I posted last year (Teaching People to Mistrust Science):
    I think the DI is more of a religious ministry. Think about it, since when does a religious ministry really want you to think for yourself? It’s just another tactic! Think about more open religious ministries and their message. While they give voice to freedom of religion, what they are usually saying is ‘my religious freedom, not yours’. Isn’t that what the DI is doing, their ideas rather than real science!

    Yes, they claim not to be a religious organization, but isn’t that wearing quite thin? Here are some of their Wedge Strategy 5-year goals, those under the heading of Spiritual & cultural renewal:

    Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism
    Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation & repudiate(s)
    Darwinism Seminaries increasingly recognize & repudiate naturalistic presuppositions
    Positive uptake in public opinion polls on issues such as sexuality, abortion and belief in God

    How much of this sounds more like a religious ministry than an organization dedicated to science? Read the whole wedge strategy and you get the impression science is nothing but a tactic, an afterthought. And, again from the document itself, biology is only the first area to be addressed, other scientific disciplines, social sciences, and humanities are also in the target list. I think the DI needs to change their tax status to a religious ministry. At least is would be more honest!

  20. Fill out this form to download the free report “Are Young People Losing Their Faith Because of Science?”
    Is there also the usual request for donations to the DI with this report?

  21. michaelfugate

    Given the “report”, a better title might be “Are Young People Committing Suicide Because They Read the “God Delusion”?”

    The CDC data would belie that.

    Or this one, “Are Young People Losing Their Faith Because Their Churches Lie to Them?” Read the report and find out how to continue lying to them in the hope they will continue to believe your nonsense.

  22. I have the feeling that Jack would not be satisfied with the simple statement that his assertions are false, no matter how justified that statement is. In all fairness, such a denial implies merely that it is itself only another assertion. So it has to be argued. Sigh. Again.

    Evolution, like all science, depends ultimately upon assumptions, but I don’t think the basal assumptions of science are what Jack means. We all assume that the consensus of our senses is a reliable indicator of reality. Science assumes that all understanding must follow only from evidence, and that this evidence must be examinable and testable by empirical means.

    Evolutionary theory depends on those assumptions, but on no others. I think Jack thinks that it does depend on others, or else he wouldn’t specify “scientific conclusions about evolution are based on assumptions”. He appears to think that scientific conclusions about evolution require more assumptions than scientific conclusions about gravity, or thermodynamics, or friction.

    What assumptions are those, then? Jack didn’t specify. We have a range of possible suspects. They are all false, but it would be tedious and voluminous to demonstrate it for all of them. So what assumptions does Jack think are peculiar to evolution? What, exactly, are we talking about here?

    Then he says: “Adaptation” is a natural process that every species experiences. This is different from Darwin’s “Evolution” which had one species changing to another.”

    I suppose I could simply say, “no, it isn’t”, but that would be strikingly reminiscent of Monty Python’s argument clinic. I could also quibble that neither Darwin nor any other evolutionary theorist ever thought that one species changed into another, but that isn’t the gist of the misapprehension that Jack labors under, which is this: He concedes adaptation, but thinks that adaptation does not imply speciation, given time.

    Why not? Adaptation is on-going, as Jack concedes by saying that every species experiences it. Correct. Every species adapts to a changing environment. Why should this process not eventually produce large change? What barrier prevents it? None, other than basic physics and chemistry, has ever been found.

    The burden of proof lies on the proposer. Jack proposes that adaptation over time does not produce large changes amounting to speciation. Very well; let him demonstrate it. If he can, the Nobel prize is his.

    But he can’t demonstrate it. It’s only an assertion made without evidence. He accuses evolutionary theorists of making assumptions, and then enunciates a huge assumption that I very much doubt that he has examined at all.

  23. Where creationists go wrong (other than knowing nothing about science) is assuming that assumptions are nothing more than wild-ass-guesses.

    As used in science, assumptions are of no use if they can’t lead to better theories.

    Assumptions are used as follows: If (X assumption) is correct, then Y must occur. And if Y occurs then Z must also occur. Test to see if Z occurs. If it does, then the assumption is supported, otherwise the assumption is likely rejected as inaccurate.

    As used in creation “science” any assumptions which appear to contradict their religious beliefs must be inaccurate, while all assumptions which confirm their religious beliefs must be accurate.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  24. Pay attention, dear reader — these are important scientific questions:

    • What percentage of young people now enter college believing that “the universe arose by chance”?
    • What percentage of college faculty identify themselves as atheists or agnostics?
    • How many young adults with a Christian background think “Christianity is anti-science”?
    • What five big truths can help you counter the myth that belief in God is anti-science?
    • What resources are available to help you engage young people and others who think faith is anti-science?

    In order:

    The important questions are What percentage of young people now enter colleges believing the universe was created by God and leave it not believing that? and Why would they change their views in college?
    Are we now going to ask college faculty, “Are you now, or have you ever been, an unbeliever or a heretic?”
    What do you mean by “Christian”? Do only fundamentalists count?
    What do you mean by “belief in God”? Does only fundamentalism count? What do you mean by “science”?
    How do you counter the chance that “faith,” defined as fundamentalist belief, is anti-science when fundamentalists have to redefine science in order to avoid openly attacking it?

  25. I wonder if this sort of thing is the reason why demski left?
    DI has steadily been going more and more religious. Maybe there was a disagreement over strategy and direction.

    I think this change also happened around the same time they hired the new fundraising coordinator.

  26. It seems the DI is focusing more and more on promoting a “Christian” identity. I wonder how David Klinghoffer and Michael Medved feel about that?

    On to what Jack, and others like Jack, believe. We can assume that Jack acquired his religious beliefs at an early age, most likely from his parents and from the Sunday School at the church that his parents took him to.

    Ideas held since early childhood are very hard to displace, no matter how convincing the evidence to the contrary. All we can hope to do in helping Jack understand how science actually works (as opposed to the false sense of science he may have received from creationists) is to make him curious enough to do his own research so he can see for himself.

    As I see it, the biggest danger posed by religion is that it can lead to fanaticism. And not just Islamic — look what happened at Colorado Springs, is happening now in Israel by Ultra-Conservatives against Palestinians, and happened in the past with the Crusades.

    Religion can impart into the mind a sense of righteousness that can lead an individual to feel exonerated while committing heinous crimes. He did it to “Defend the Faith.” How often it is that we hear that phrase!

  27. My thoughts on their questions:

    What percentage of young people now enter college believing that “the universe arose by chance”? 
    I would hope that young people entering college wouldn’t believe that at all — since Science doesn’t teach it.  Theists with a grudge against science try and paint science in this way, but actual science doesn’t teach this.

    What percentage of college faculty identify themselves as atheists or agnostics? 
    Why aren’t they asking what percentage identify themselves as Christian or other theist?  The real question is should their religious identification make a difference?  If it does, then the school needs to take action!  Right now if a Christian biology teacher in a public school teaches their religion instead of actual science, they should be fired (John Freshwater for example).  That’s how it should be!  Religious, or non-religious affiliation should not matter!  Imagine the hue and cry is a Islamic teacher made disparaging comments about Christian Creationism.  So the fact some of the teachers might be atheists or agnostics is an automatic problem?  It should be immaterial, and when it’s not, action needs to be taken.

    How many young adults with a Christian background think “Christianity is anti-science”?
    Since the Discovery Institute is one of the organizations that teach the distrust of science, anyone who follows their rhetoric and actually believes it could certainly believe Christianity is anti-science.  But the reality is the DI, and groups like Answers in Genesis (AiG) and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) do not represent the vast majority of Christians nor Christianity as a whole.  Many Christians are scientists and many theists in the past have made many scientific breakthroughs.  Christianity is not anti-science, a small sect, notably Evangelical Christians, exhibit behaviors that are certainly anti-science.

    What five big truths can help you counter the myth that belief in God is anti-science? 
    Not sure what five truths they are talking about, but if you go by the DI’s history, they will attempt to paint many historical scientific figures by their religious beliefs and yet will, once again, fail to connect their science to their belief set.  Even in modern times, for example, one of the developers of the technology behind MRIs identifies himself as a Creation Scientist . . . and yet at no point in his actual scientific work does his religious beliefs appear.  Why is that?  It’s not that Creation ‘Scientists’ are anti-science, it’s that some of them do not let their religious beliefs get in the way of performing science.  On the other hand, what breakthroughs in various sciences are claimed by Creation ‘Scientists’ affiliated with religious organizations like the DI, AiG, or ICR?  Can anyone actually name any?  And if you can, can you point to where their religious beliefs enter into those breakthrough?  Not even the one-time golden boy of the DI, Michael Behe, has used his belief in ID in his work, only in his philosophical musings.

    They will also push their particular religious belief, intelligent design, as if it was actual science, but again forgetting to support it or demonstrate their scientific methodology.  If you read material by actual scientists rather than DI apologists, you see real science, you see the evidence laid out, you see the methodology used, you see scientists around the world dissecting and replicating their work.  When do you see anything of this for Intelligent Design?  Even Wikipedia describes it as psuedo-science, as much as someone keeps trying to edit that part out.

    They will continue to claim the use of human intelligence is an example of the ‘theory of Intelligent Design’, again forgetting to support the connection.  It would be a difficult connection for even them to make because they have yet to describe a theory of ID.

    They will more than likely keep twisting terminology, like ‘Theory‘ and ‘Academic Freedom‘ as ways of justifying their mistrust of science and scientific/educational institutions. 

    They might also continue to portray folks like David Coppedge, Richard Von Sternberg, and Guillermo Gonzales as ‘victims’ of religious persecution rather than the more accurate people who allowed their belief set to interfere with them performing a job and were held accountable. 

    Not sure what ‘Truths’ they will be marketing, but it might be entertaining.

    What resources are available to help you engage young people and others who think faith is anti-science? 
    Instead of downloading the DI’s marketing material, I would recommend a real education more than anything else and that would include actual science, not pseudo-science like Creationism/Intelligent Design.

  28. michaelfugate

    Ted, I list their 5 “truths” in the 5th comment from the top.