Discovery Institute

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The institute was founded in 1990[16] as a non-profit educational foundation and think tank. It was founded as a branch of the Hudson Institute, an Indianapolis-based conservative think tank, and is named after the Royal Navy ship HMS Discovery in which George Vancouver explored Puget Sound in 1792.

In 1966, the institute's founder and president, Bruce Chapman, and Harvard roommate George Gilder, participated in the Ripon Society, a group for Republican liberals, and collaborated on Advance, dubbed "the unofficial Republican magazine," which criticized the party from within for catering to segregationists, John Birchers, and other "extremists". Following their graduation, Chapman and Gilder advanced their "progressive" Republican campaign in their 1966 polemic book The Party That Lost Its Head. The book critiqued Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy and dismissed the GOP’s embrace of rising star Ronald Reagan as the party's hope to "usurp reality with the fading world of the class-B movie." The Party That Lost Its Head denounced Goldwater’s conservative backers for their "rampant" and "paranoid distrust" of intellectuals. The book labeled the Goldwater campaign a "brute assault on the entire intellectual world," and places the blame for this development on what they viewed as a wrong political tactic; "In recent years the Republicans as a party have been alienating intellectuals deliberately, as a matter of taste and strategy." Chapman moved to the right in the Reagan administration,[17] where he served as director of the Census Bureau. Chapman left the Census Bureau to work in the White House under Reagan adviser Edwin Meese III and was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna.

Co-founder and Senior Fellow George Gilder wrote several books addressing culture, technology, and poverty, including, Visible Man, (1978) which criticised American culture for its failure to promote the ideals of the traditional nuclear family.[18] His next work, Wealth and Poverty, (1981), was cited by President Ronald Reagan.[19][20] Gilder’s later books have dealt more with developments in technology, such as Microcosm (1990) and Life After Television (1994).

Chapman had built a political platform, but lacked funding and a defining issue.[21] In December 1993, Chapman noticed an essay in the Wall Street Journal by Stephen C. Meyer about a dispute when biology lecturer Dean H. Kenyon taught intelligent design creationism in introductory classes.[22] Kenyon had co-authored Of Pandas and People, and in 1993 Meyer had contributed to the teacher's notes for the second edition of Pandas. Meyer was an old friend of George Gilder, and over dinner about a year later they formed the idea of a think tank opposed to materialism. In the summer of 1995 Chapman and Meyer met a representative of Howard Ahmanson, Jr.. Meyer, who had previously tutored Ahmanson's son in science, recalls being asked "What could you do if you had some financial backing?" In 1996 the promise of $750,000 over three years from the Ahmansons and a smaller grant from the conservative Christian MacLellan Foundation was used to fund the institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture which went on to form the motive force behind the intelligent design movement.[22] In 2002 the name was changed to the Center for Science and Culture.[23]

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