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". 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 he could not secure a university position received what he calls "a standard academic salary" of $40,000 a year through the institute.


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

It's directing board includes many notable social and religious conservatives, including Howard Ahmanson, Jr..

Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture

Main article: Center for Science and Culture
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. 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

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.
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

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.


Discovery's Cascadia project 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 controversy over the institute's controversial role in promoting intelligent design.

Criticisms of the institute

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 commit 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 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, calling the institute the "the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell," and saying, "I can think of no circumstances in which the Bullitt Foundation would fund anything at Discovery today." And the Templeton Foundation after providing $75,000 in 1999 for a conference in which intelligent design proponents confronted critics has since rejected the institute's entreaties for more funding, a senior vice president of the foundation stating "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."

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.


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 "harrassment" fears according to Chapman. A review of tax documents on www.guidestar.org, 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." 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.

Reference notes

  1. ^  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.
  2. ^  "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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New Yorker

An example of the minds that must critically evaluate the evolution/intelligent design issue in the classroom:

The following questions and answers were collected from SAT tests given in Springdale, Arkansas in 2000 to 16-year-old students.

Q: Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.

Q: How is dew formed?
A: The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

Q: What is a planet?
A: A body of earth surrounded by sky.

Q: In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A: Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election.

Q: What are steroids?
A: Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

Q: What happens to your body as you age?
A: When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

Q: What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A: He says good-bye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.

Q: Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A: Premature death.

Q: How can you delay milk turning sour?
A: Keep it in the cow.

Q: How are the main parts of the body categorized?  (E.g., abdomen.) A: The body is consisted into three parts -- the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels, A, E, I, O, and U.

Q: What is the Fibula?
A: A small lie.

Q: What does "varicose" mean?
A: Nearby.

Q: What is the most common form of birth control?
A: Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium.

Q: Give the meaning of the term "Caesarian Section."
A: The caesarian section is a district in Rome.

Q: What is a seizure?
A: A Roman emperor.

Q: What is a terminal illness?
A: When you are sick at the airport.

Q: Give an example of a fungus. What is a characteristic feature?
A: Mushrooms. They always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas.

Q: What does the word "benign" mean?
A: Benign is what you will be after you be eight.

Q: What is a turbine?
A: Something an Arab wears on his head.

Q: What is a Hindu?
A: It lays eggs.
From: Americans united for separation of church & state- http://www.au.org/site/PageServer 

The Discovery Institute
Genesis Of 'Intelligent Design'

By Steve Benen
While supporters of church-state separation frequently consider groups such as the Christian Coalition and Family Research Council their principal adversaries, the Discovery Institute has quietly positioned itself as the most effective and politically savvy group pushing a religious agenda in America's public school science classes.

Founded in 1991 by former Reagan administration official Bruce Chapman, the Seattle-based Institute has an operating budget of over $2 million. "Intelligent design" creationism has become such a central feature of the organization's work that it created a separate division, the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, to devote all of its time to that cause.

The Institute enthusiastically endorses what law professor and ID champion Philip Johnson calls the "wedge" strategy. (See "Insidious Design," page 8.) The plan is straightforward: use intelligent design as a wedge to undermine evolution with scientific-sounding arguments and thereby advance a conservative religious-political agenda.

To promote the concept, the Institute works with 48 fellows, directors and advisors who are responsible for producing research, publishing texts and hosting conferences. The Institute team includes some of the biggest names in the ID movement. Johnson serves as an advisor, while Michael Behe, David Berlinski, William Dembski and Jonathan Wells are senior fellows. All of them have advanced degrees from respected universities, giving the group a level of credibility generally denied to fundamentalist creationists at the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis Ministry.

Legitimate scientists reject the validity of intelligent design concepts, however, and are unimpressed with Institute activists' credentials.
"They're trying to make it appear like they're scientists who just disagree with other scientists," said Lawrence Krauss, professor at Case Western Reserve University. "A number of them have scientific credentials, which helps, but in no sense are they proceeding as scientists."

Over the last decade, nearly every book used in the intelligent design movement has either been distributed by the Institute or was written directly by one of the group's scholars. Of Pandas And People, Icons Of Evolution and Darwin's Black Box are all staples on the Discovery bookshelf.  Institute representatives are well aware of legal restrictions on religion in public schools, so they rarely use theological criticisms of evolution in their work. Behe, for example, is a Catholic with eight home-schooled children. When asked about creationism in a February interview on National Public Radio, he said it isn't his area of expertise.

"To tell you the truth, I'm not real knowledgeable about creationism," Behe said.

The strategy of making ID appear scientific, and not religious, is intentional. The Institute's Stephen Meyer co-authored an article in the Utah Law Review in 2000 critiquing the legal landscape. While Meyer noted that the Supreme Court prohibits traditional creationism from public schools because it is based on biblical literalism, he wrote that excluding intelligent design, with its "scientific" underpinnings, would be tantamount to "viewpoint discrimination."

In order for that scheme to work, ID advocates at the Discovery Institute try desperately to hide a religious agenda. Occasionally, however, one of the Institute's fellows will slip and speak his mind.

Two years ago, at a National Religious Broadcasters meeting, the Discovery Institute's Dembski framed the ID movement in the context of Christian apologetics, a theological defense of the authority of Christianity.

"The job of apologetics is to clear the ground, to clear obstacles that prevent people from coming to the knowledge of Christ," Dembski said. "And if there's anything that I think has blocked the growth of Christ [and] the free reign of the Spirit and people accepting the Scripture and Jesus Christ, it is the Darwinian naturalistic view.... It's important that we understand the world. God has created it; Jesus is incarnate in the world."

The Institute's religious agenda has won it the backing of wealthy financiers and foundations. For example, California multi-millionaire Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., has singled out the Discovery Institute for big contributions. (Ahmanson is aligned with Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme faction of the Religious Right that seeks to replace democracy with a fundamentalist theocracy.)

The Institute also has friends on Capitol Hill. In May 2000 the Institute held a briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building that attracted members of Congress and their staffs. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) spoke at the event.

Though the Discovery Institute describes itself as a think tank "specializing in national and international affairs," the group's real purpose is to undercut church-state separation and turn public schools into religious indoctrination centers. That's unlikely to change anytime soon.
As Institute President Bruce Chapman told The Washington Times, "[Intelligent design is] our number one project."
From- www.infidels.org

Discovery Institute's "Wedge Project" Circulates Online
by James Still
A recently-circulated position paper of The Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture (CRSC) reveals an ambitious plan to replace the current naturalistic methodology of science with a theistic alternative called "intelligent design."

The CRSC, a program launched by the Discovery Institute in 1996, is the major force behind recent advances in the intelligent design movement. The Center is directed by Discovery Senior Fellow Dr. Stephen Meyer, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Whitworth College. Its mission is "to replace materialism and its destructive cultural legacies with a positive scientific alternative." The Discovery Institute hopes that intelligent design will be the usurper that finally dethrones the theory of evolution.

On March 3, 1999, an anonymous person obtained an internal white paper from the CRSC entitled "The Wedge Project," which detailed the Center's ambitious long-term strategy to replace "materialistic science" with intelligent design. The paper describes the CRSC's mission with a sense of urgency:
"The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the wedge," was Phillip Johnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

The white paper created quite a buzz among many skeptics after it was widely circulated on the Internet. However, CRSC Senior Fellow and Director of Program Development Jay Richards said that the mission statement and goals had been posted on the CRSC's web site since 1996.  Richards also said, "the general concept of the 'Wedge' is described in Phillip Johnson's book Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds." Richards neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the document, but he believed that the paper was an "older, summary overview of the 'Wedge' program." Much of the boilerplate content of the paper is posted on the CRSC's web site.

The document in its present form looks to have been written very recently. It sets a target to "accomplish many of the objectives of Phases I and II in the next five years (1999-2003)." If 2003 ends a five-year plan, the paper was probably written or revised in 1998 or 1999. Despite the date of its authorship, however, and even if nothing new is revealed in the paper, proponents of naturalism and science are right to be concerned about its contents.

The paper outlines a "wedge strategy" that has three phases. Phase I, "Scientific Research, Writing, and Publicity" involves the Paleontology Research Program (led by Dr. Paul Chien), the Molecular Biology Research Program (led by Dr. Douglas Axe), and any individual researcher who is given a fellowship by the Institute. Phase I has already begun, the paper argues, with the watershed work of Phillip Johnson, whose Darwinism on Trial sparked the intelligent design movement. The Center hopes that more Christian scientists will step forward and engage in research that would support the intelligent design theory.

Phase II, "Publicity and Opinion-Making" involves communicating the research of Phase I. The Center plans to do this through book tours, opinion-making conferences, apologetics seminars, a teacher training program, use of opinion-editorials in newspapers, television program productions (either with Public Broadcasting or another broadcaster), and the printing of publications to distribute. Phases I and II are to be implemented over the next five years (1999-2003). Phase II is "to prepare the popular reception of our ideas. The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized. For this reason we seek to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies. Because of his long tenure in politics, journalism and public policy, Discovery President Bruce Chapman brings to the project rare knowledge and acquaintance of key op-ed writers, journalists, and political leaders. This combination of scientific and scholarly expertise and media and political connections makes the Wedge unique, and also prevents it from being 'merely academic.' Other activities include production of a PBS documentary on intelligent design and its implications, and popular op-ed publishing. 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's that support the faith, as well as to "popularize" our ideas in the broader culture."

Phase III, "Cultural Confrontation and Renewal" begins sometime in 2003 and may take as long as twenty years to complete. It involves three things: (1) "Academic and Scientific Challenge Conferences"; (2) "Potential Legal Action for Teacher Training"; and (3) "Research Fellowship Program: shift to social sciences and humanities". The white paper describes Phase III as the renewal phase because it seeks to fill the void left behind by materialistic evolution (attacked in Phase II) with its own intelligent design model: "Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings. We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula. The attention, publicity, and influence of design theory should draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists, and we will be ready. With an added emphasis to the social sciences and humanities, we will begin to address the specific social consequences of materialism and the Darwinist theory that supports it in the sciences."

The Wedge Project white paper ends with a detailed summary of progress-to-date, including goals for the future.
When asked if he worried that Phase II will seem like a heavy-handed spin and that no one will take the work accomplished in Phase I seriously, Richards said that the publicity will not drive the scholarship but that the scholarship will come first and foremost. "There are already too many programs that opt for the former over the latter," he said, "we don't wish to be one of them."

While the goal of putting scholarship ahead of public relations is a noble one, the paper's overall tone and rugged timetable seems to belie that point. The reintroduction of theism into public discourse in Phase III is set to begin sometime in 2003. But before Phase III can begin, Phase II must have already dethroned naturalism through a vigorous public relations and opinion-shaping campaign. This puts the cart before the horse. When will there be time to conduct careful research? Science is supposed to be a vehicle that provides the reason to believe that intelligent design is a better explanation than naturalism. To think that a scientist must reach his or her conclusions within a five-year span of time, running concurrent with a public relations campaign, is hardly good scientific practice. Not only will it put unnecessary pressure on the scientist to reach conclusions before the data warrants it, but it ignores the very nature of the scientific enterprise. Often it takes years before the findings in science are fully understood and many more before the results are applied to real-world problems.
Another problem with the CRSC's plan is that it seeks to replace evolutionary theory at a time when the theory enjoys nearly unanimous support in the scientific community. Thomas Kuhn, in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, describes what has happened historically when one theory comes to replace another. He writes that the anomaly of an insufficient theory will have "lasted so long and penetrated so deep that one can appropriately describe the fields affected by it as in a state of growing crisis . . . the emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity." Kuhn's point is clear. Before a new theory in science is sought, there is usually a growing crisis coupled with mounting skepticism, doubt, and the elucidation of cogent reasons for thinking that the existing theory is inadequate. Where is the growing crisis that casts doubt on evolution and methodological naturalism, the tool that led to the theory of evolution? Aside from a few participants in well-publicized Templeton-funded conferences, scientists experience no insecurity with their current methods. Even if the theory of evolution were inadequate, why should we expect the scientific community to turn to theistic explanations?

Sometimes, scientific discovery is an accidental byproduct of other research. In 1895, Professor Wilhelm Conrad Ršntgen discovered the x-ray quite by accident, when he found that some kind of invisible ray was passing through his cardboard shield. Over the next several weeks he ate and slept in his lab to prepare his paper "On a New Kind of Rays” for the Proceedings of the Physical Medical Society, which was published that year. However, Professor Ršntgen was pursuing science to no particular dogmatic end. He didn't know where his discovery would lead, but rather he understood that the pure pursuit of knowledge was an end in itself. This anecdote is typical of all scientific research from Aristotle's initial forays into zoology, to Galileo's observational astronomy, and most dramatically in the twentieth-century, to the discovery and use of penicillin. The assumption of methodological naturalism and the use of the scientific method has led to an incredible advance in our understanding of the world around us.

The fruits of science can never be anticipated ahead of time nor can the scientific enterprise be placed on a regimented schedule. Science must be left to operate on its own, unencumbered by the perceived need for public relations, focus groups, talk-shows, and public opinion polls. This is not to say that science should not use modern media outlets to communicate its results. However, the CRSC seems to have placed the public relations work of Phase II ahead of the need for an actual scientific theory worth sharing with the world.  When the medium becomes the message we are right to suspect that the message lacks substance. There is something strange going on, for instance, when the Templeton Foundation stages huge media events to present the illusion that science has found God. As University of Hawaii physicist Victor Stenger commented in the March issue of ii, only smoke and mirrors lay behind last summer's media circus over science and God. Scientists who do real science bracket God out of the enterprise altogether and for good reason: it works. Natural explanations are far more satisfying to us than supernatural conjectures.

The CRSC's plan to bring down the scientific enterprise in favor of "intelligent design" seems motivated by the fear that human meaning is somehow diminished if science continues to flourish. However, human dignity and meaning can be diminished only by ignorance. Goethe's Mephistopheles realized this truth as well when, as translated by Steven Schafersman, he proclaims in Faust:

Despise reason and science,
humanity's greatest strengths,
indulge in illusions and magical practices
that reinforce your self-deception,
and you will be unconditionally lost!

Science need not contradict religious faith, although its findings have sometimes exposed superstitions such as the geocentric theory, a world-wide catastrophic flood, and Tillich's God "up there." The real irony in all of this is that the Discovery Institute's well-laid plans are doomed to failure from the outset. Even if they succeeded brilliantly in manufacturing the consent needed to replace science with theism, it would only be a matter of time before we began to question the world around us and to turn once again to science as a constructive means for finding answers to our questions. If all of our knowledge were wiped away tomorrow and replaced with theistic dogma, another Thales or an Aristotle would come along to begin the process anew. Mephistopheles thinks he holds us tight with religious illusion, but human beings are greater than the gods and devils who would keep us in ignorance. Science is our most reliable tool for understanding the universe in which we live. "And I by the power of thought," Pascal wrote, "may comprehend the universe."
By Richard Dawkins

Orgel's second rule: "Evolution is cleverer than you are."

"Never say, and never take seriously anyone who says, 'I cannot believe that so-and-so could have evolved by gradual selection.' I have dubbed this kind of fallacy 'the Argument from Personal Incredulity.' Time and again, it has proven the prelude to an intellectual banana-skin experience." Richard Dawkins - River out of Eden

'Scientists say...'

Yes, Michael Behe is a scientist, but is "Intelligent Design" science? If so, it will be the first science established without a single technical paper published for peer-review, including zero by Behe himself. For some reason he has decided to completely bypass professional review and go directly to a Darwin-doubting public. But more to the point, what is wrong with this book? Here is a summary of the critiques you will find included on this page and others:

Surprise! The gradual paths to Irreducible Complexity

SPOCK: "He's intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking..."
Kirk looks at him, smiles.   [ Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ]

First, let's be clear about something. Michael Behe has not created a "Theory of Intelligent Design" (ID). He offers no general laws, models, or explanations for how design happens, no testable predictions, and no possible way to falsify his hybrid evolution/ID hypothesis. He is simply claiming that design is a fact that is easily detectable in biochemical systems. The real science of ID is yet to come, and Behe just wants to wedge the door open a bit. So what does this magic Intelligent Design Detection Kit look like? Basically open the box and all it contains is a tweezer. Use it to pluck out any part of a system, and if the system stops functioning properly, it must be the product of design. Why? Because it proves that the system was "Irreducibly Complex" (IC)...

"By irreducible complexity I mean a single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced gradually by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, since any precursor to an irreducibly complex system is by definition nonfunctional." [Behe]

But read this argument carefully. Behe is not offering a way to detect design, he is offering a way to falsify gradual Darwinian evolution, and by elimination, conclude design. But there is one big problem- his falsifier has been falsified. The conclusion that an "irreducibly complex system cannot be produced gradually by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system" is simply wrong. There are at least three different ways that an IC system can be produced by a series of small modifications: 1) Improvements become necessities, 2) Loss of scaffolding 3) Duplication and divergence. By Behe's definition, many systems we see around us are IC, and yet have developed gradually. Think of the chaotic growth of towns into large cities, the self-organizing forces behind market economies, and the delicate causal webs that define complex ecosystems. Evolutionary algorithms run on computers routinely evolve irreducibly complex designs. So given an IC system, it could either be the product of coordinated design, or of a gradual, cumulative, stochastic (involving chance or probability <a stochastic model of radiation-induced mutation>) process. The truth is, we should expect Darwinian evolution to produce such systems in biology, and not be surprised to find them. The underlying processes are called co-adaptation and co-evolution, and they have been understood for many years. Biochemical structures and pathways are not built up one step at a time in linear assembly-line fashion to meet some static function. They evolve layer upon layer, contingency upon contingency, always in flux, and retooling to serve current functions. The ability of life to evolve in this fashion has itself evolved over time. Detecting IC does not indicate design, and therefore Behe's hypothesis collapses. H. Allen Orr says it best in his perceptive review: "Behe's colossal mistake is that, in rejecting these possibilities, he concludes that no Darwinian solution remains. But one does. It is this: An irreducibly complex system can be built gradually by adding parts that, while initially just advantageous, become-because of later changes-essential. The logic is very simple. Some part (A) initially does some job (and not very well, perhaps). Another part (B) later gets added because it helps A. This new part isn't essential, it merely improves things. But later on, A (or something else) may change in such a way that B now becomes indispensable. This process continues as further parts get folded into the system. And at the end of the day, many parts may all be required."

"The point is there's no guarantee that improvements will remain mere improvements. Indeed because later changes build on previous ones, there's every reason to think that earlier refinements might become necessary. The transformation of air bladders into lungs that allowed animals to breathe atmospheric oxygen was initially just advantageous: such beasts could explore open niches-like dry land-that were unavailable to their lung-less peers. But as evolution built on this adaptation (modifying limbs for walking, for instance), we grew thoroughly terrestrial and lungs, consequently, are no longer luxuries-they are essential. The punch-line is, I think, obvious: although this process is thoroughly Darwinian, we are often left with a system that is irreducibly complex. I'm afraid there's no room for compromise here: Behe's key claim that all the components of an irreducibly complex system 'have to be there from the beginning' is dead wrong." [*]

The Fallacy of Conclusion by Analogy

When it comes to explaining science to the public, analogies and metaphors are essential tools of the trade. We all can better understand something new and unusual, when it is compared to something we already know: a cell is like a factory, the eye is like a camera, an atom is like a billiard ball, a biochemical system is like a mouse trap. An A is like a B, means A shares some conceptual properties with B. It does not mean A has all the properties of B. It does not follow that what is true for B is therefore true for A. Analogies can be used to explain science, but analogies cannot be used to draw conclusions or falsify scientific theories. Yet Behe commits this fallacy throughout his book. For example:

  1. A mousetrap is "irreducibly complex" - it requires all of its parts to work properly.
  2. A mousetrap is a product of design.
  3. The bacterial flagellum  is "irreducibly complex" - it requires all of its parts to work properly.
  4. Therefore the flagellum is like a mouse trap.
  5. Therefore the flagellum is a product of design.

The Psychic Detective

Is it fair to ask for a frame-by-frame instant replay of the evolution of the bacterial flagella or the Krebs cycle? Should Evolutionary Biology perish without it? Of course not. As with any historical science, we arrive on the scene after the fact, as a detective to a crime. We look for evidence and rational explanations to account for that evidence. Even the best detective cannot, and should not, reconstruct every footstep, and every word that took place. But he does not need to in order to solve the crime. Consider the following: The evidence for evolution is overwhelming at all levels of biology. Published attempts have been made to uncover possible historical scenarios. The evidence for intelligent design is simply non-existent.

Designer in the Gaps

I should point out that Behe's hybrid vision of life does accept common descent as reasonable, and does allow for cases of Darwinian natural selection and random genetic drift. So how can we distinguish evolution from design? Simple: To Behe, a system has evolved when he, or others, can imagine how it has evolved, otherwise it was a product of intelligent design. "Irreducible Complexity" has nothing to do with it.

An unnamed designer?

In the last few years Michael Behe has become the new poster boy for certain religious and political groups who are hostile to evolution and Darwinism. Meanwhile, Behe has refused to identify the 'designer' when confronted, even though he professes belief in the Judeo-Christian God, is more than willing to speak at religiously-sponsored events, and get his attacks on evolutionary biology published in conservative magazines. I feel he should not have it both ways.
 From Michael Behe:

Note -- more below the extensive list of links:

"I'm a Roman Catholic, I believe in God, but as far as the scientific evidence, I just say that the -- you know, that these things were designed. I don't claim anything about the personality of the designer..." --Michael Behe
Has Behe identified this unnamed designer by his associations and actions? Aliens? You decide...

Contributed to the "Intelligent Design" issue of Touchstone magazine, A Journal of Mere Christianity.

Creation ex nihilo - Without God (1997)

Mark I. Vuletic

Last updated 2-22-1998.
Few people are aware of the fact that many modern physicists claim that things - perhaps even the entire universe - can indeed arise from nothing via natural processes. This document is an attempt to compile quotes that explain how all of this is supposed to work.
Eventually, I would like to write an article assessing the value of quantum vacuum fluctuations as a means of producing universes, but for the time being, I will just let the scientists speak for themselves and leave evaluation to the reader.
Vacuum Fluctuations and Virtual Particles

In 1953 Willis Lamb measured this excited energy state for a hydrogen atom. This is now called the Lamb shift. The energy difference predicted by the effects of the vacuum on atoms is so small that it is only detectable as a transition at microwave frequencies. The precision of microwave measurements is so great that Lamb was able to measure the shift to five significant figures. He subsequently received the Nobel Prize for his work. No doubt remains that virtual particles are really there. (Barrow & Silk, 1993, 65-66)

Vacuum Fluctuations and the Origin of the Universe

In the gravitational case the situation is still more bizarre, for the gravitational field is only a spacewarp - curved space. The energy locked up in a spacewarp can be converted into particles of matter and antimatter. This occurs, for example, near a black hole, and was probably also the most important source of particles in the big bang. Thus, matter appears spontaneously out of empty space. The question then arises, did the primeval bang possess energy, or is the entire universe a state of zero energy, with the energy of all the material offset by negative energy of gravitational attraction?

It is possible to settle the issue by a simple calculation. Astronomers can measure the masses of galaxies, their average separation, and their speeds of recession. Putting these numbers into a formula yields a quantity which some physicists have interpreted as the total energy of the universe. The answer does indeed come out to be zero within the observational accuracy. The reason for this distinctive result has long been a source of puzzlement to cosmologists. Some have suggested that there is a deep cosmic principle at work which requires the universe to have exactly zero energy. If that is so the cosmos can follow the path of least resistance, coming into existence without requiring any input of matter or energy at all. (Davies, 1983, 31-32)

The bubbles start out with no matter, radiation, or force fields and maximum entropy. They contain energy in their curvature, and so are a "false vacuum." As they expand, the energy within increases exponentially. This does not violate energy conservation since the false vacuum has a negative pressure (believe me, this is all follows from the equations that Einstein wrote down in 1916) so the expanding bubble does work on itself.

As the bubble universe expands, a kind of friction occurs in which energy is converted into particles. The temperature then drops and a series of spontaneous symmetry breaking processes occurs, as in a magnet cooled below the Curie point and a essentially random structure of the particles and forces appears. Inflation stops and we move into the more familiar big bang.

The forces and particles that appear are more-or-less random, governed only by symmetry principles (like the conservation principles of energy and momentum) that are also not the product of design but exactly what one has in the absence of design.

The so-called "anthropic coincidences," in which the particles and forces of physics seem to be "fine-tuned" for the production of Carbon-based life are explained by the fact that the spacetime foam has an infinite number of universes popping off, each different. We just happen to be in the one where the forces and particles lent themselves to the generation of carbon and other atoms with the complexity necessary to evolve living and thinking organisms.  (Stenger, 1996)

Think about the universe immediately after the Big Bang. Space is violently expanding with explosive vigor. Yet, as we have seen, all space is seething with virtual pairs of particles and antiparticles. Normally, a particle and anti-particle have no trouble getting back together in a time interval...short enough so that the conservation of mass is satisfied under the uncertainty principle. During the Big Bang, however, space was expanding so fast that particles were rapidly pulled away from their corresponding antiparticles. Deprived of the opportunity to recombine, these virtual particles had to become real particles in the real world. Where did the energy come from to achieve this materialization?

Recall that the Big Bang was like the center of a black hole. A vast supply of gravitational energy was therefore associated with the intense gravity of this cosmic singularity. This resource provided ample energy to completely fill the universe with all conceivable kinds of particles and antiparticles. Thus, immediately after the Planck time, the universe was flooded with particles and antiparticles created by the violent expansion of space. (Kaufmann, 1985, 529-532)


Discovery Institute- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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