Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute (D.I.)


The Discovery Institute (D.I.) was founded in 1990 by Bruce Chapman, a former Reagan administration official, and by George Gilder as a branch of the Hudson Institute. The Institute was named after the H.M.S. Discovery, which explored Puget Sound in 1792. In its early days, the Institute was heavily funded by religious organizations and foundations including the MacLellan Foundation, which supported “organizations 'committed to furthering the Kingdom of Christ'.”  [1

The Discovery Institute opened the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in 1996, with the purpose of providing “an institutional home for researchers and scientists challenging Neo-Darwinism and working on the theory of intelligent design.” [2]

The Discovery Institute describes itself as “inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued. Discovery Institute has a special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West.” It is based in Seattle, Washington, and has scholars and fellows across the country and internationally. D.I. spreads its work through books, papers, reports, conferences, lectures, seminars, and though various media. [3]

The Discovery Institute's philosophy is that “Mind, not matter, is the source and crown of creation, the wellspring of human achievement.” It promotes the “Judea-Christian culture” as having been the primary force behind science, technology, and development, and contrasts the “contemporary materialistic worldview” as weakening science. [4]

Discovery breaks its operations into different arms:

Science and Culture — Promotes Intelligent design and its includes “Teach The Controversy” and the “Academic Freedom Bills.”

Technology and Democracy — Studies technology as an engine of growth, and calls for  the elimination of government regulation.

Cascadia — Voice for creative solutions to metropolitan, state, regional, and national transportation problems.

Human Exceptionalism” (Bioethics) — Studies issues relating to assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human genetic manipulation, human cloning, and the animal rights movement.

The Real Russia Project — Commentary on the future of democracy in Russia.

Center on Wealth, Poverty & Morality

The Discovery Institute has argued that American schools should “teach the controversy” and present the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution,” reports the Huffington Post. [5]

Stance on Climate Change

In October 2013, Michael Medved, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, went on a live broadcast to talk about this book “Darwin’s Doubt,” which argues for intelligent design and debates the existence of climate change.  
According to Medved, who cites Matt Ridley as a source: 
“You have this period of time where you've had no appreciable global warming, but the world economy has roughly doubled in that 17 year period. And so there is an increase of human-produced carbon dioxide, and yet here's been no appreciable warming which is contrary to all of the models that are predicting the huge increase in warming over the next century. And so, if the models don't explain the effects we already have well, how can we count on them to accurately predict the future?” [6]

In a 2009 article, Michael Egnor at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views, describes global warming as a “fraud.” He quotes Australian journalist Andrew Bolt to support this view:

“[T]here will be an accounting for this [global warming] fraud. People are very very angry, and while the skeptics whose darkest doubts have been vindicated don’t pull the levers of organized science (the frauds do that), there are some financial and political resources available to the skeptics who have been demanding integrity in science, and they understand now that this is war.

“A cabal of leading scientists, politicians, and media concubines have conspired to lie about global warming. The reasons are obvious: power and money. […]” [7]

In 2006, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow David Klinhoffer wrote in The Forward:

“As a new report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee makes clear, statisticians doubt the work of those climate researchers who seek to show that the climate for the past 1,000 years was stable until recent times when it suddenly rose sharply. On the contrary, the climate has always varied, up and down over centuries and millennia.” [8]


According to data the Conservative Transparency Project compiled from publicly-available tax records, the Discovery Institute has received funding from the following sources (1993 - 2013). Note that not all funding entries have been verified by DeSmogBlog for accuracy. View attached .xls spreadsheet for more information. 

Note that DonorsTrust is the Discovery Institute's single largest donor. DonorsTrust and its sister organization Donors Capital Fund have been described as the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement,” allowing for the anonymous distribution of funds through “donor-advised funds.” [9]

Donor Contribution
DonorsTrust $3,069,500
National Christian Foundation $597,250
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $195,000
Searle Freedom Trust $80,000
William H. Donner Foundation $50,000
The Carthage Foundation $40,000
John Templeton Foundation $28,750
Barney Family Foundation $25,000
Castle Rock Foundation $25,000
Aequus Institute $2,000
Gilder Foundation $1,000
Grand Total $4,113,500

According to a 2005 New York Times Article, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation once provided D.I. $1 million a year, including $50,000 of Mr. Chapman's $141,000 annual salary.  [1]

Key People

Board of Directors

  • Howard Ahmanson
  • Dave Barber
  • Charles K Barbo
  • Bruce Chapman
  • Kathy Connors
  • Skip Gilliland
  • Slade Gorton
  • Richard R. Greiling
  • Bob Kelly
  • Bryan Mistele
  • Byron Nutley
  • Mariana Parks
  • James Spady
  • Raymond J Waldmann

Senior Fellows

As of November, 2015: [11]


As of November, 2015: [11]

  • Bruce Agnew
  • Erik J Larson

Center for Science and Culture

As of November, 2015: [11]

Senior Fellows
  • John Bloom
  • Raymond Bohlin
  • Walter Bradley
  • J. Budziszewski
  • Robert Lowry Clinton
  • Jack Collins
  • William Lane Craig
  • Michael Flannery
  • Brian Frederick
  • Mark Hartwig
  • Cornelius G Hunter
  • Robert Kaita
  • Dean Kenyon
  • Forrest M Mims
  • Scott Minnich
  • J.P. Moreland
  • Paul Nelson
  • Nancy Pearcey
  • Pattle Pak-Toe Pun
  • John Mark Reynolds
  • Henry F Schaefer III
  • Geoffrey Simmons
  • Wolfgang Smith
  • Charles Thaxton


November 4, 2015

Jay Richads, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, went on the Heartland Institute's Daily Podcast to discuss “the misanthropic nature of modern environmentalism.” According to the event description, H. Sterling Burnett and Richards “discuss how the policies to fight climate change are both unnecessary and likely to hurt the poor and how we should come to understand the truth about climate change.” [12]

February 24, 2015

The Discovery Institute (D.I.) hosted a free “lunch talk” by a (leading evangelical) climate change skeptic E. Calvin Beisner titled “Climate Change and the Poor.” 

According to the event description, “In this lunch talk and discussion, environmental policy expert E. Calvin Beisner will explore the consequences for the poor of some commonly proposed climate change policies and investigate whether those consequences are consistent with an ethical society.” [13]

October 17, 2007

George Gilder, Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute introduced a panel on “The Global Warming Myth,” (PDF) presented at Telecosm 2007. [14]

See a video of the presentation on the Discovery Institute website. [15]

December 5, 2006

The Discovery Institute hosted a talk by Dennis T. Avery of the Hudson Institute and S. Fred Singer, titled “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years.”

In the event, they would “compile peer-reviewed data from scientists all over the world to dispel the widespread notion that global warming is caused by, and can be controlled by, human beings.” [16]

December, 2006

The Discovery Institute “claimed to have a list of 600+ 'scientists' who objected to evolution.” [17] 

The statement, published at, one of DI's numerous registered domain names, read:

“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” [18]

Related Organizations

Discovery Institute websites include:

The Discovery Institute has registered over three hundred website domain names, many registered by D.I. Fellows and associates. SourceWatch lists the following as examples: [20],[19]


  1. Jodi Wilgoren. “Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive,” The New York Times, August 21, 2005. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog. WebCite URL

  2. Discovery Institute: A Brief History” (PDF), Discovery Institute. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  3. What We Do,” Discovery Institute. Archived November 10, 2015. WebCite URL

  4. Mission,” Discovery Institute. Archived November 10, 2015. WebCite URL

  5. Karl Giberson. “Discovery Institute Still Undermining Science,” Huffington Post, November 5, 2015. WebCite URL

  6. Live Broadcast of the Science & Culture Update with Stephen Meyer and David Klinghoffer,” Discovery Institute, October 25, 2013. Archived .mp3 on file at DeSmogBlog.

  7. Michael Egnor. “Climategate: a Word of Advice to the Scientists,” Evolution News and Views, November 28, 2009. Archived November 10, 2015. WebCite URL

  8. David Klinghoffer. “Of Al Gore, Global Warming and God,” The Forward, July 21, 2006. Republished by the Discovery Institute. Archived November 11, 2015. WebCite URL 

  9. Andy Kroll. “Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2003. Archived July 24, 2015.

  10. Board of Directors,” Discovery Institute. Archived November 11, 2015. WebCite URL 

  11. Fellows,” Discovery Institute. Archived November 11, 2015. WebCite URL

  12. H. Sterling Burnett. “Heartland Daily Podcast – Jay Richards: Why Modern Environmentalism is Unnecessary and Harmful,” Heartland Institute, November 4, 2015.

  13. Climate Change and the Poor,” Discovery Institute. Archived November 10, 2015. WebCite URL

  14. “Agenda” (PDF), October 17, 2007. Gilder Telecosm Forum. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  15. Streaming Media: The Global Warming Myth - Dr Noah Robinson - Telecosm 2007,” Discovery Institute. Accessed November 11, 2015.

  16. Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years,” The Discovery Institute, December 5, 2006. Archived November 11, 2015. WebCite URL

  17. All that needs to be said about Inhofe’s '650 scientists refute man-made global warming!'“ The Way Things Break, December 11, 2008. Archived November 11, 2015. WebCite URL:

  18. Dissent From Darwinism 'Goes Global' as Over 600 Scientists Around the World Express Their Doubts About Darwinian Evolution,” Evolution News and Views, June 21, 2006. Archived November 11, 2015. WebCite URL:

  19. Discovery Institute,” SourceWatch Profile.

  20. Reverse Whois Lookup:[email protected],” Domain Tools. Accessed November, 2015.

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