What is the Discovery Institute

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The Royal Navy’s HMS Discovery sailed the largely uncharted Puget Sound in 1792. 200 years later, the Discovery Institute adopted its namesake as it planted itself in Seattle, Washington.

It was founded in 1990 as a secular, non-profit think tank, and is dedicated to exploring the uncharted waters of Intelligent Design scholarship. Though Intelligent Design involves a largely religious demographic of scholars, the Discovery Institute comprises a number of religious backgrounds and beliefs, resulting in a rich and diverse history of scientific work.

Bruce Chapman, who founded the institute, brought a diverse background of experience as a former American Ambassador to the UN organizations in Vienna, director of the US Census Bureau, Secretary of State for Washington, and member of the Seattle City Council.

In the last 30 years, the Discovery Institute has undertaken research in regional transportation, bioethics, and economic and technological policy. Its outreach is aimed at three demographics:

  • Young students in need of scientific mentorship
  • Persons and organizations in need of intelligent design related resources
  • Private schools and families in need of curriculum.

Beyond supplying these resources and curricula, the Discovery Institute also works on the level of policy, advocating that the problems with evolution as a theory be made more clear to those to whom it is taught, and that its susceptibility to critical scrutiny in the realm of academia be communicated transparently in the Biology curriculum of public schools. 

The Discovery Institute, as a 501(c)3 non-profit, is supported by “the generosity of public spirited private donors who want to make a difference.” Included among these donors is the Ahmanson family, a historic family of philanthropists whose finances largely developed the Los Angeles economy through insurance and business. Upon his father’s passing, Howard Ahmanson Jr. established Fieldstead and Co. as a private avenue for his own generosity, which funds religious liberty endeavors and educational centers such as the Discovery Institute. 

It is this funding which has enabled the Discovery Institute to continue its operations in the COVID era. Instead of slowing, the Institute has continued to produce commentary on modern issues through a multitude of media avenues. These issues have included critical race theory, the 2020 election, the progressivism of Seattle, and the economic toll of the American COVID response.

Senior fellows Jay Richards and Doug Axe, together with statistician William M. Briggs wrote a book titled The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe. In it, they explore questions surrounding the United States’ Coronavirus response, including the economic toll of shutdowns, the resulting mental health crises, and the capability of global health organizations to influence such massive political changes.

The Discovery Institute further pointed out the post-hoc errors that are common in the medical research arena, then posing questions as to if these same errors are factoring into the COVID response we see today: Is the research being done well? Who are the politicians trusting when they make such massive governmental changes? Does the data support these maneuvers?

Recent Discovery Institute articles have also raised questions about critical race theory, claiming it to be “political indoctrination,” and pointing out the problems with “reducing people to racial essence” and “group identity.” In doing so, segregation is increased as the character, behavior, and merit of the individual takes a secondary role in identifying a human being.

Specific to the Seattle area in which the Discovery Institute is based, an article was published pointing out the racial segregation being endorsed by local government officials, who have segregated the diversity training initiatives and destroyed cross-racial conversation. They offer three current examples of this happening in the broader Seattle government.

As a non-profit think tank, the Discovery Institute has undertaken a vast swath of academic endeavors. Centered and founded upon Intelligent Design as nature’s logical implication, the institute has come alongside persons, schools, families, policies, and institutions. It has been aided by the generosity of private donors, such as the Ahmanson family, who have enabled the Discovery Institute to educate and advocate for change from a place of scholarship.

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