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

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

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

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

The Discovery Institute has argued that American schools should “teach the controversy” and present the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution,” reports the Huffington Post.5Karl Giberson. “Discovery Institute Still Undermining Science,” Huffington Post, November 5, 2015. Archive URL:

Stance on Climate Change

October 25, 2013

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

March 27, 2013

Joshua Youngkin, then the Discovery Institute’s Program Officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs,7Atheist Group Pressures College into Cancelling Intelligent Design Course,” Discovery Institute, December 18, 2013. Archived September 5, 2015. Archive URL: wrote an article to clarify the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) lack of position on climate change:8Joshua Youngkin. “On Climate Change, Sort Of,” Evolution News, March 27, 2013. Archived March 27, 2023. Archive URL:

“Is mankind making the planet hotter in a discernible, catastrophic way? I don’t know. The Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) doesn’t do climate change, not really. But climate change is often covered in state science standards and textbooks, and is therefore a subject about which CSC’s academic freedom program has something to say … In short, CSC has no official position on climate change, but firmly supports increased critical thinking in public schools on the subject, and would see that end furthered by means of academic freedom law.”

November 28, 2009

In a 2009 article, Michael Egnor at the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News and Views, described global warming as a “fraud.” He quoted 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. […]”9Michael Egnor. “Climategate: a Word of Advice to the Scientists,” Evolution News and Views, November 28, 2009. Archived November 10, 2015. Archive URL:

July 21, 2006

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.”10David Klinghoffer. “Of Al Gore, Global Warming and God,” The Forward, July 21, 2006. Republished by the Discovery Institute. Archived November 11, 2015. Archive URL:


The following is combined from data retrieved from the Conservative Transparency project and from publicly-available tax records. Note that not all funding entries have been verified by DeSmog. 

View the attached spreadsheet on the Discovery Institute’s funding by year (.xlsx) for more information.11Discovery Institute,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved June 10, 2016.

Note that DonorsTrust is the Discovery Institute’s second 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.”12Andy Kroll. “Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2003. Archived July 24, 2015.

National Christian Charitable Foundation$7,376,750
Walton Family Foundation$400,000
Schwab Charitable Fund$286,550
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation$260,000
The Seattle Foundation$81,000
Searle Freedom Trust$80,000
John Templeton Foundation$78,750
Barney Family Foundation$50,000
William H. Donner Foundation$50,000
The Carthage Foundation$40,000
Castle Rock Foundation$25,000
Deramus Foundation$15,000
Whatley Foundation$11,000
Peterson Family Foundation$3,670
Richard Seth Staley Educational Foundation$3,000
Aequus Institute$2,000
Gilder Foundation$1,000
Grand Total$18,115,720

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.13Jodi Wilgoren. “Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive,” The New York Times, August 21, 2005. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. Archive URL:

990 Forms

Key People

The following is based on data retrieved from the Discovery Institute website via the Internet Archive. View the attached spreadsheet for additional information on Discovery Institute key people by year (.xlsx).


November 4, 2015

Jay Richards, 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.”14H. Sterling Burnett. “Heartland Daily Podcast – Jay Richards: Why Modern Environmentalism is Unnecessary and Harmful,” Heartland Institute, November 4, 2015. Archive URL: Richards is listed among “policy experts” at the Heartland Institute.15Who We Are,” The Heartland Institute. Archived March 27, 2023. Archive URL:

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.”16Climate Change and the Poor,” Discovery Institute. Archived November 10, 2015. Archive URL:

October 17, 2013

In the Discovery Institute’s website and publication, Evolution News, Donald McLaughlin criticized the U.S. National Center for Science Education (NCSE) for writings that accept the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “unconditionally.” McLaughlin specifically criticized the NCSE for not accepting that “other significant studies contradict the ‘official’ story in the IPCC report.”17Donald McLaughlin. “Where the Denial Really Lies,” Evolution News, October 17, 2013. Archived April 1, 2021. Archive URL:

“The Heartland Institute’s Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, for one, has repeatedly challenged those findings…Does the NCSE mention any of this in their effusive praise of the IPCC report? Not a word!… We see the same pattern of denial when it comes to Darwinism and the scientific challenges to it. I have highlighted some of the recent blogs by Josh Rosenau where he tosses the tag ‘evolution denial’ at anyone who dares to question the official Darwinian story.”

February 27, 2012

In the Discovery Institute’s website and publication, Evolution News, Casey Luskin wrote “A Friendly Letter to the Heartland Institute and Other Advocates of Free Speech on Global Warming,” where he responded to criticisms from the National Center for Science Education.18Casey Luskin. “A Friendly Letter to the Heartland Institute and Other Advocates of Free Speech on Global Warming,” Evolution News, February 27, 2012. Archived March 27, 2023. Archive URL:

“[S]ince the Heartland Institute, Discovery Institute, and other scientific dissenters from the ‘consensus’ are now being jointly misrepresented and attacked by the NCSE, I thought it might be helpful to encourage Heartland and others involved in the fight to protect academic freedom and scientific free speech … Among those who defend Big Science, smears and stereotypes are the rhetorical bread-and-butter. You already know what I’m talking about, the litany of stock libels: ‘anti-science,’ ‘denier,’ ‘ignorant,’ ‘dishonest,’ ‘science-abusers,’ ‘fundamentalist,’ ‘anti-intellectual,’ ‘war on science.’”

November 27, 2009

Michael Egnor wrote an article at Evolution News promoting the false ClimateGate controversy:19Michael Egnor. “At Least The ClimateGate Scientists Didn’t Admit Going to Church,” Evolution News, November 27, 2009. Archived March 29, 2023.

“The ClimateGate e-mails and data sets obtained from the Climate Research Unit in England reveal scientific misconduct and criminal fraud on a massive scale,” Egnor claimed. “This documented pervasive scientific fraud suggests a darker meaning of ‘consensus’ in ‘consensus science’. The Brahmins of climate science are, by their own words, frauds. Data on global temperatures was faked, withheld, and, if sought by skeptics with sufficient vigor, deleted. Climate scientists conspired to undermine peer review and to destroy the careers of other scientists who attempted to replicate their results …”

October 17, 2007

George Gilder, Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute introduced a panel on “The Global Warming Myth,” (PDF) presented at Telecosm 2007.20“Agenda” (PDF), October 17, 2007. Gilder Telecosm Forum. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

See a video of the presentation on the Discovery Institute website.21The Global Warming Myth Discovery Institute, November 10, 2007. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

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.”22Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years,” Discovery Institute, December 5, 2006. Archived November 11, 2015. Archive URL:

December 2006

The Discovery Institute claimed to have a list of 600+ “scientists” who objected to evolution.23Robert Crowther. “Dissent From Darwinism ‘Goes Global’ as Over 600 Scientists Around the World Express Their Doubts About Darwinian Evolution,” Evolution News, June 21, 2006. Archived March 23, 2023.

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.”24Robert Crowther. “Dissent From Darwinism ‘Goes Global’ as Over 600 Scientists Around the World Express Their Doubts About Darwinian Evolution,” Evolution News, June 21, 2006. Archived March 23, 2023.

Discovery Institute Contact & Location

As of June 2016, the Discovery Institute listed the following contact information on its website:25Contact,” The Discovery Institute. Archived June 11, 2016. Archive URL:

Seattle Headquarters
Discovery Institute
208 Columbia Street
Seattle, WA 98104
Voice: (206) 292-0401
Fax: (206) 682-5320

Washington DC
Discovery Institute
3213 Duke Street #812
Alexandria, VA 22314
Voice: (202) 558-7085
Fax: (202) 408-0632

Discovery Institute websites have included:

The Discovery Institute has registered over three hundred website domain names,26Reverse Whois Lookup:[email protected],” Domain Tools. Accessed November, 2015. many registered by D.I. Fellows and associates. SourceWatch lists the following as examples: 27Discovery Institute,” SourceWatch Profile.

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