Is the Discovery Institute Dying?

We don’t want to get our hopes too high, but we may be witnessing the slow collapse of the Discovery Institute. Visible signs began early. There were frequent requests for funds in various posts at their blog, followed by a list of their Top Ten accomplishments for the year that had to be extremely disappointing, even to them. And you’ve probably noticed that they have a full-screen pop-up requesting funds, which has greeted visitors to their creationist blog for an entire month.

More substantial indicators were the November departure of William Dembski — see William Dembski Is “Moving On”, and then the year-end departure of our favorite creationist — see Casey Luskin Leaves the Discovery Institute. Aside from those, we have no idea of how many lower-level employees have been let go. An additional sign of collapse is the mysterious activity of a departed and very disgruntled individual — see The Discovery Institute Has a Whistleblower.

But we shouldn’t start celebrating — not yet. It’s far too early for that. Employment opportunities for creationists are limited, and most of those people have nowhere else to go. When Jason Lisle left Hambo’s operation — for reasons never disclosed — he managed to find a job at the Institute for Creation Research, but that outfit can’t absorb all of the Discoveroids. What will they do?

Considering their skills, their only realistic alternatives are bible colleges, and it’s unlikely that they could all find jobs at such places at the same time. That’s why we think the Discoveroids will limp along on reduced funding for quite some time. They’ll reluctantly decide to persevere where they are, with reduced compensation if that becomes necessary.

Even if the Discoveroids do go out of business, it won’t be the end. Many of them will start their own creationist blogs. There must be hundreds of those things already, perhaps thousands; but they don’t have any impact on science or academia. Nevertheless, the Discoveroids have already done a lot of damage.

The Discoveroids’ Academic Freedom bills have been enacted in Louisiana and Tennessee, and an ark-load of idiot legislators keep introducing such things into their state legislatures, year after year. In addition to that, local school boards are loaded creationists, and their minds have already been polluted by the Discoveroids. School board elections are usually low turnout events, and small activist groups of creationists can always elect their favorite idiot to such positions.

So even if the Discovery Institute were to completely shut down, having achieved none of the goals outlined in their Wedge strategy, which we described in What is the “Wedge Document”?, they’ve created a mess, and we’ll be cleaning up after them for years to come. But without the Discoveroids, it won’t be any fun.

As for Casey, whatever he ends up doing, there’s one thing that can never be taken away from him — see Casey Luskin Is Named a Curmudgeon Fellow.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Is the Discovery Institute Dying?

  1. It’s tempting to think so. I’m not that optimistic at least in the short term. In the long run their donors may die off faster than DI can recruit (aka con) new donors, but that’s a couple decades away.

  2. The DI has been among the walking dead for some time. It is hard to guess when they will stop walking.

  3. I don’t expect the Disco’Tute to go away any time soon, and–as our Curmudgeon rightly points out–even if they closed up shop tomorrow, the clean-up from their tsunami of bull [beep-beep-boop] will take years.

    They were never a threat to science–which is an international endeavour and the collective endeavour of mankind–but their contribution to the poisoning of American culture has been real and palpable. And although I think they are more a symptom than a cause of a root malaise in American society, nonetheless when they finally do go away, we could all join Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner in singing, “they’d none of ’em be missed!”

    And–daring to wax just a tad philosophical for a moment — I am not optimistic about the future of American culture, even as I admire so much of my natal land and so desperately hope my pessimism will be proved wrong, and I am generally optimistic about human ingenuity and the resilance of the human spirit — where freedom permits such to flourish. But I do hold thereby that freedom is a means and not an end, a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the realisation of human potential, and that seems rather at odds with much political ideology in the USA–and, contrary to my expectations, more from the right than from the left. But that’s another topic, outside the scope of this blog!

  4. “Realistation”??? ‘Realisation’ intended, of course–or even ‘realization’ in the Colonies.

    Apologies, O Great Hand of Correction!

    [*Voice from above*] Fixed and retrieved from the spam filter.

  5. Curmie writes so eloquently:

    Considering their skills, their only realistic alternatives are bible colleges

    I don’t think so; not bible colleges. Dembski tried that and he’s a lot closer to being a “bible thumper” than Meyer, Luskin, Kracklesnapple or the main politico’s Westie and Croweater. Look what happened to Dembski. Too much babble and not enough bible. He ran afoul of doctrinal requirements.

    Babble Colleges require one to sign a statement of faith and they are all YEC. That’s just too buckle-hatted for the Tooters who are Sunday Calvinists, so to speak.

    I know it’s sad, but none of the Tooters have even as much college experience as Dr. Gonzo who, after failing to achieve tenure at Iowa State cooled his jets at a bible college before scrambling aboard Ball State. He’s been a very good boy and will continue to work hard and maintain a low profile until he gets tenure at which time he’ll go full-metal Behe. Watch for it; you heard it here first.

    I think the only thing the Tooters can do is split up and join various conservative think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation.

    The Wedge has failed. The Tooters met none of their goals. The output on their blog will become more shrill, disjointed and overtly crazy. But, hey, free entertainment – just a click away!

  6. Neil Rickert | 3-January-2016 at 3:48 pm |

    The DI has been among the walking dead for some time. It is hard to guess when they will stop walking.

    They want to eat our brainsssss. . . .
    Figuratively speaking, anyway: they want to stop people from thinking, or even being able to think, where the origins and history of life, the universe and everything (sorry, Douglas Adams) are concerned.

  7. Oh, man lets hope. These people took the disease of creationism and then proceeded to drum up extra revenue by marrying it to climate change denial. I’m not sure what they deserve, but it’s definitely not employed.

  8. @Megalonyx: They might have not been a real threat to science, but I think they knew that going in. I think their real target was science education, which of course could end up having a very negative impact on science. In a way they reminded me of Apple Computer’s early deals with schools. The idea was catch kids when they are young and they will always want Apples. Of course when they took their work home, they tended to find a PC and for a long time they were completely incompatible. Even kids exposed to Creationism in places like Louisiana (Zack Copplin, for example) can still find their way to reality.

  9. I first thought, “Is this really a good thing?” If the DI were to go bye-bye, would this create a vacuum-of-crazy that others might step up to fulfill? And, if so, would they better, smarter, more devious, and more ruthless than the DI? There’s also the analogy of the Cold War. We thought it was great when the Cold War was won, except our One Big Enemy fractured into a thousand smaller ones. PLUS, that One Big Enemy had been keeping many of those smaller ones bottled up.

    Then I realized that there already ARE smarter, better, more ruthless and devious groups out there (Ex: Any group with the name “family” in the title.) And there already are a thousand, other, smaller groups out there creating craziness that having the DI gone would allow us to concentrate on them.

    So, yeah. If they go the way of the dodo bird, it’s a net positive.

  10. Is it too much to hope that Hamster’s AiG and the ICR folks are next? Would be nice. . .

  11. Dave Luckett

    I think it likely that Ham has overreached himself with Ark Park. There’s no possible way that it could be a goer. His lawsuit against the State of Kentucky is going to cost a bomb, and the chances of it prevailing in the courts is risible. His only hope there, really, is that if he makes enough noise, the executive will give him a golden cushion.

    But there’s no way that his “attraction” is going to attract enough revenue to pay for itself, or pay its debts. The for-profit corporation that runs it is going to go down the gurgler. Ham, if he runs true to form, will have gotten out from under by then, but the failure will still be attached to him in the eyes of the faithful, an albatross around his neck, and it won’t half stink.

    So me, I’m willing to bet that in five years or so Ken Ham will be one more screech in a chorus of loons, and the only adherents will be the serious hard-core nutbars. He’ll still be extant, probably still trying to peddle idiocy on the internet, and if I estimate him correctly, will still be paying himself according to the style to which he’s become accustomed, but his family members are going to have to either go out on their own, or find honest work, and his non-profit religious foundation will be worth very little.

  12. @James St. John:
    I think Ham has too much invested in bricks and mortar with the Creation Museum and now the Ark Park to go away quietly. Furthermore, his website is closely followed by religious fanatics fundamentalists and got lots of exposure thanks to Bill Nye, and he can keep that going with minimal expense.

    So yeah, I think it is too much to hope that AiG fades away. I don’t know much about ICR — does anyone pay any attention to them anyway?

  13. Dave Luckett and I were typing at the same time. True, the Ark Park most likely will not be able to pay its bills with admission fees, but Ham has a large following of the faithful who will see it as their religious duty to pony up when asked for offerings.

  14. There’s always the Astronomy Department at Ball State University.

  15. …or the Janitor Pool.

  16. The DI’s disappearance, if it occurs, will make a significant difference. Unlike bible-based creationism, which is diffused among a large number of bible colleges and independent organizations like ICR and AiG, ID based creationism has been developed and propagated by only one major organization since it was invented.

    The legislation that the DI has sponsored relies on the idea that there is a scientific controversy over the theory of evolution. To sell that idea, the DI has worked hard to create – mostly from scratch – an apparent opposing scientific theory. The illusion that ID is a science depends on extensive pretenses created and maintained by the DI.

    If the DI disappears, what will be left will be a smattering of assorted kooks who might maintain individual blogs advocating ID. There will be no “biologic institute” supposedly doing research, no steady stream of in-house published books for popular audiences, no “conferences,” interviews on conservative radio, summer camps for students, etc. There will be no “fellows” to testify before legislative committees or state school boards. ID textbooks and “supplemental” materials will no longer be produced. The entire support apparatus behind ID will vanish.

    I don’t believe the DI will go away. I think their cost-cutting measure might be to let go of their separate biologic facility, and bring it in-house to their office in Seattle. Biologic was a green-screen operation anyway. They can continue the pretense without incurring the cost of a brick-and-mortar facility. In fact, this might be why they brought Annie GS in to replace the gerbil.

  17. Curmudgeon,

    “Is the Discovery Institute Dying?” My immediate response was no. But then it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen the DI’s latest Form 990. Did I miss your report on it?

    The DI bled profusely in 2013. Total expenses increased by 3 percent, relative to 2012, while total revenue decreased by 20 percent. Total assets went down by 22 percent, leaving the DI with a nest egg of $3,362,951 (67 percent of what it spent in 2013).

    The DI receives designated contributions, and has multiple projects. According to Wikipedia, “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.” If that means $935 thousand per year, 2003-2012, then it accounts almost perfectly for the reduced revenue in 2013.

  18. The Tute’s 2013 990 also reveals that Dembski and Berlinski both got $115,000 – for doing what?

    Some people have commented that the Attack Gerbil got “paid for doing nothing” but actually, compared to the total output of Dembski and Berlinski, the Gerbil was the hardest working slob at the Tute!

    It could also explain why Dembski suddenly “gave up” ID. He was cut off. We may have heard the last from Berlinski, too. One can dream.

  19. Tom English asks: “… I hadn’t seen the DI’s latest Form 990. Did I miss your report on it?”

    2013 is the last one available.

  20. docbill1351: The Tute’s 2013 990 also reveals that Dembski and Berlinski both got $115,000 – for doing what?

    BigBat.com Bill (the “information creating” entrepreneur who attempted to register WIFFBALL as a trademark) says, here and there, that he’s developed online instructional materials. That seems to be what he did for the DI in 2013 and 2014.

    There’s a photo of Berlinski in the latest ENV article on the ID summer camp. It’s possible that the DI is paying him to publish the mysterious Inference: International Review of Science. (Interestingly, the private registry of the domain name is through a firm in Toronto, where O’Leary Editorial Services was based.) See Jeff Shallit’s comments on the first issue.

  21. SC writes “Even if the Discoveroids do go out of business, it won’t be the end”…..
    IMHO, if their funding weakens further, “Westy” alone might be able to keep the dung ball of new “academic freedom” bills rolling in state legislatures.
    I wonder what THAT list of contacts in the little black book looks like?