The Discovery Institute has completely lost its mind

Ho boy...

There were signs of distress, early on. First, there was the loss of longtime Disco Tute “fellow” William Dembski, who is best-known for proposing the scientific sounding but actually useless concept of “specified complexity.”

Then, barely a month later, the venerable outfit ā€” whose description of itself as a “think tank” is an insult to both tanks and thinking ā€” announced the resignation of Casey Luskin, another very long-serving promoter of the Discovery Institute … who was best (and only) known for being a long-serving promoter of the Discovery Institute.

Those blows, coupled with the stunning failure of every one of the lofty (and sort of hilarious) goals laid out almost 20 years ago in the Disco Tute’s subversive and patronizing Wedge strategy, seem to have instigated a final and irrevocable break with reality, leaving the organization’s remaining constituents on a barren cliff, teetering above a free fall into full-on insanity.

All that was needed was a gentle push, and it apparently came in the form of the United Methodist Church’s refusal to allow the Disco Tute members to peddle their nonsense at its annual private conference.

ChristianToday had a good write-up out yesterday about the kerfuffle, and even main-line evangelical outlets such as that were concluding that the UMC’s decision was perfectly reasonable and justifiable. (World Magazine was sympathetic to the ID crowd, of course, but their idea of quality science journalism begins and ends with Chick tracts.)

None of that has slowed down the Discovery Institute, which has been churning out a chaotic manifesto about the UMC’s “BAN” over the past four days. Either the Disco Tute has finally lost it completely (which would mean the continuation of a disturbing trend among anti-evolutionists), or they’re just throwing a temper tantrum. Although, my 2-year-old saw them and was all like, “Seriously, guys? Get over it.” And she threw a tantrum yesterday because I wouldn’t let her wear four pairs of pants at the same time.

Anyway, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see as to what’s really going on up there in Seattle. In the meantime, let’s give the Methodists a well-deserved attaboy for taking a bold stand against any groups that try to muddle the gospel message by denying scientific truth in favor of a reductionist and ultimately nonsensical reading of God’s word.

Also, we have a new meme. Check it out:

hieroglyphs meme

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at

  • Where did that cave drawing come from? (And be careful how you mock. Poe’s Law cuts both ways)

    • The Internet. Also, if anyone sees this meme and thinks it means I really believe dog/human monsters roamed ancient Egypt, I would be perfectly OK with that.

  • The claim by the DI ID folks is that the UMC is “stifling discussion,” which is a claim that might seem compelling at first until one realizes that the UMC not allowing every crackpot with any theory about anything is also “stifling discussion.”

    • Teach the controversy.

      • The Neo-Platonist Institute was denied a table at the national United Methodist Conference.

        “They say they have open hearts and open minds, but obviously they’re about censorship. They don’t even want to consider the possibility that a Demiurge is forging particular instances of objects from an ideal realm. That’s stifling discussion before it even happens.”

  • Joshua Steiner

    I’m confused.. How do ID folks apply a reductionist and nonsensical reading to the Biblical text? I thought the folks at Discovery Institute had no position on the meaning of Genesis..?

    Just to be clear I am a theistic evolutionist, but I did enjoy reading Michael Behe’s book and that’s what sorta got me interesting in ID. I’m just confused as to why it’s associated with creationism when groups like AiG have denounced them in the past.

    • Hey Joshua, that’s true. I was more referring to the UMC’s long history of opposing intelligent design and young-earth creationism, both in schools and in general.

      It’s hard to say exactly where most of the ID crowd falls in relation to Genesis because they have to pretend like they’re not motivated by religion at all. I do think most of the bigger names with the legitimate science credentials and background would be on board with an old earth and a more enlightened view of Genesis.

      Then again, some of their regular bloggers sound exactly like Ken Ham would if he didn’t say “God’s word” two or three times each sentence, and I have to wonder if that’s just a coincidence.

      • Joshua Steiner

        I do agree that some of them at least have to hide their very obvious theistic beliefs [although I have heard of a few agnostics being involved in the ID debate]… However, it does occur to me that people like Ken Miller and Eugenie Scott have to do the same thing. It’s not obvious that only Christians and creationists have the only theological agenda in this debate. I would strongly argue that all parties in this debate have something theological to bring to the table.

        And I think this is a worthwhile debate; ever since David Hume, the sciences [and the historical disciplines] have acted under the unchallenged assumption that nothing should be said in reference to God, the gods, the supernatural or whatever you want to label this *Something* beyond the natural world. With the advent of postmodernism, everything associated with modernism has fallen under scrutiny. Including the assumption about the role of religion, worldview, presuppositions, etc. in scientific discourse. In reality, it is wrong of people like Eugenie Scott and Ken Miller and others who are critics of the ID movement to remain under the key assumption of modernism; that god or the gods has nothing to do with the world we study.

        This might seriously alter our worldview, but I do think it is a debate topic to consider. I just don’t believe that this debate should be conducted in the public school system. Wouldn’t you agree?

        • I do not know if you are aware that Ken Miller is a very vocal Catholic, and has written a book, Finding Darwin’s God, in which he waxes poetical about the idea that evolution is all part of God’s plan. Regarding the assumption that scientists exclude the supernatural causes, you raise a very interesting question. Some do; some wonder what is meant by “supernatural” when there are observable effects; and some argue that science can and does examine supernaturalist claims (think of all the work done looking for evidence of telepathy, or of the effectiveness of prayers for the sick), but in fact always comes up empty. Technically, this is called the debate between “implicit” and “pragmatic” methodological naturalism. All scientists will agree, however, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and that claims of supernatural intervention come into this category

          • Joshua Steiner

            I was aware that Ken Miller is a devout Catholic; I was not aware that he had written significantly on the issue of God. Thank you for correcting me on that!

          • Joshua Steiner

            On the ‘supernatural’ debate issue, I wonder if the intelligent design debate would *be* the issue where we would test something beyond natural causes. To me, social situations, such as involving prayer or telepathy, are not going to generate good conditions for testing the ‘supernatural’. Since we already know that what we view as ‘supernatural’ is culturally conditioned, it would seem as if testing with prayer is always going to come up with ‘failed’ results, regardless of whether a deity actually acted or not.

            At least in the intelligent design debate, we could actually ascertain where we believe that unguided natural processes could not have done something.

        • Hey Joshua, I certainly agree the debate is important, and in no way do I believe the existence of God or the supernatural should be an “off-limits” topic anywhere in the public sphere. The problem with the Discovery Institute’s approach is not that they (or the very vast majority of them) are theists. The problem is that they are trying to call something “science” that is not, in fact, testable or verifiable by any method or means available to science.

          I would also add, as Paul Braterman has already mentioned, that Kenneth Miller has never been the least bit shy in talking about his devout Catholic faith and strong belief in a personal God.

          • Joshua Steiner

            The problem is that I’m not sure what they are proposing isn’t testable. Surely, since we can ascertain design in daily life we should be able to do something similar in science, right?

          • You mean, because archaeologists can examine a sharp rock and analyze whether a human carved it or it was shaped by erosion, we should be able to do the same thing with bacterial flagella and panda genomes?

            I think you’re comparing apples and oranges. Or more accurately, apples and supernatural, magical apples. We can discern design in arrowheads because we have an understanding and background for how a natural creature could shape another piece of nature, using natural means, and we have natural ways of testing for that.

            When it comes to positing supernatural causes, we have absolutely no idea how a supernatural being could have acted, and no way of testing whether or not it did so using natural means. Because, by definition, a supernatural being exists and acts outside nature.

            Whether or not something is testable isn’t a philosophical question. It either is or it isn’t, and if ID actually were testable, it would have been confirmed or falsified a long time ago.

          • Joshua Steiner

            //Whether or not something is testable isn’t a philosophical question.//

            I would disagree. This is exactly what the philosophy of science concerns itself with.

            But I essentially agree with everything else, although I do believe that God acts within creation. I just think science is limited to its self-imposed standards. If it weren’t, it would be hard to define what exactly science does.

          • I would disagree. This is exactly what the philosophy of science concerns itself with.

            I may not have worded my statement as well as I could have. I concede that it’s certainly possible to discuss the philosophical nature of testability in science.

            However, there is a sort-of rubber-meets-the-road moment with testability. When it comes down to it, the question of whether a particular issue does not hinge on who has the better argument. All that matters is, can you test it, or can’t you?

            It’s like asking whether something is flammable or not. We could spend all day talking about it, or we could just light the thing on fire and see if it catches.

      • Joshua Steiner

        Unfortunately, I dislike the fact that some ID proponents do act like Ken Ham. That’s why I like more of Michael Behe’s writings better. As far as I know, he is an evolutionary creationist, but from what I can glean from his books, he challenges the scientific model that evolutionary theory brings to the table concerning its explanatory scope, which shouldn’t be ignored. We all know that general evolutionary models were proposed long before Darwin and they were powerful after Darwin because of the “myth of progress” that it provided to the ‘charismatics’ and entrepreneurs [and academics] of the industrial and colonial periods. The theory of biological evolution is still being used to wrongly promote these views and *that’s* a problem I find. Especially when we see scientists making such claims under the guise of science even though such narratives are really the products of an implicit ‘theology’ of sorts.

        • I do not know of any present-day scientists who equate biological evolution with progress. Evolution can be degenerative, as in the useless eyes of a blind cave fish, and many features of an organism that evolves into being an obligatory parasite. There is certainly such a thing as technological progress, and arguably, on the whole, social progress, but neither of these are biological, or inevitable, and claims for social progress (Pinker’s Better Angels of our Nature; Diamond’s Until Yesterday) are based on observation

          • Joshua Steiner

            Maybe it’s not so much a thing among scientists as it is in popular culture and pop-atheism.

            I do agree that there is such a thing as technological progress, but I’m critical of the overarching metanarrative that has been developed and used by some people. I do not necessarily believe social progress is a thing and I think the history of the 20th century really challenged the idea of moral progress and evolution as well.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy


    Until an unemployed Anubis immigrated to America to become the Michigan Dogman…