Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Discovery Institute's Attack on Evolution

In the heart of Seattle, the biggest progressive city in the Northwest, a shadow is lurking. It's the shadow of the Discovery Institute, an unsound conservative think tank with a mission to sabotage science.


Several bloggers have been talking about Discovery in recent days and it's involvement in what's going on in Kansas (keep reading down to see what that's all about), including the authors of WashBlog, ColumbianWatch, and Red State Rabble from Kansas.

The Discovery Institute has been active on other fronts: it backed the Iraq war, favors deregulation, and apparently wants to privatize transit systems. But Discovery's true goal is to see the fulfillment of a strategy it designed to slowly question and then destroy evolution.

First, a backgrounder on DI, courtesy of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
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.
Discovery sees evolution as an evil truth that must be weeded out from educational curriculum. Unlike other fanatics or extremists, though, Discovery is dangerous because its people realize they can't accomplish their goals overnight.

If you watch the upcoming Star Wars movie Revenge of the Sith, you'll see how "Chancellor Palpatine" uses his influence as leader of the Senate to slowly destroy the Republic along with democracy. The analogy of George Lucas' latest adventure to what Discovery is doing is really no joke.

The religious right's ultimate goal is a theocracy: surprisingly similar to the ones we are trying to dismantle in the Middle East. Getting rid of evolution and sound science is the first step towards slowly subverting the population and bringing religious teachings into public schools.

Maybe you're in disbelief that this is really the Discovery Institute's agenda. Well, then take this quote from founder Bruce Chapman:

"The foremost thing is to demolish the Darwinist superstition. All our people can get along on that. What they don't agree on are the alternatives, such as the theory of design."

The paper produced by Discovery's CRSC division even outlines three phases for how to take down evolution. An excerpt from the paper:
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.
That is the so called "wedge" strategy. The three phases themselves are: Scientific Research, Writing, and Publicity (Phase I), Publicity and Opinion-Making (Phase II), Cultural Confrontation and Renewal (Phase III).

Phase III is divided into three parts itself: (1) Academic and Scientific Challenge Conferences; (2) Potential Legal Action for Teacher Training; and (3) Research Fellowship Program: shift to social sciences and humanities.

Of course, readers might be asking, why are we bringing this up right now? It's true that this secret, this so-called "wedge" strategy, has been out since 1999. What many people might not know is that a Kansas Board of Education subcommittee has been holding hearings on how evolution should be taught in public schools. The entire board plans to consider proposed changes by August in standards that determine how students are tested on science.

The Board is unfortunately dominated by theocrats, and the hearings are a way of basically putting evolution on trial and allowing the Discovery Institute to test out its wedge strategy.

In fact, some of the "experts" from DI are there now. The hearings, which are being dubbed the Scopes II Kansas Monkey Trial, or The Kansas Kangaroo Court, were purposely set up and rigged against evolution. The board seems to have plans to introduce "intelligent design" into Kansas schools soon:
The board asked a committee of educators last year to draft recommendations for changes in the science standards. Board members received two proposal, one with evolution-friendly standards and the other with intelligent design advocates' language, designed to expose students to more criticism of evolution.
Intelligent design is a threat to evolution because it's something that, unlike creationism, can be sold to dubious school board members who secretly wish creationism was taught in schools.

But make no mistake about it: intelligent design is just a slick repackaging of creationism. It's not science, it's a religious belief.

The United States Constitution makes clear that there must be a seperation of church and state. That seperation is what allows us all to freely practice whatever religion we choose, or to practice nothing at all. But to those who want a theocracy, the Constitution is in the way.

They'll ignore it for now, but sooner or later, our most important founding document will be under attack. It is already is, in many respects, with the proposed anti-gay marriage amendment.

We've never allowed theocrats and people like them to take over this country before. Each time there has been a threat like this, a huge coalition of people have united together to stand behind our finest traditional progressive values. We must continue to do so or risk losing America as we know it now.

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