[NWPT62]Rather than relaxing with a pot of coffee and a copy of the Sunday Times (the New York Times, not the Seattle Times… the latter wouldn’t last me longer than a thimbleful of joe)… I am seething. Literally seething. Torrents of cartoon steam are shooting out of my ears, as my eyes spin round like an old time slot machine.
(Okay, maybe I’m metaphorically seething, but you get the point.)
Splashed across the front page is a lengthy piece on the driving force behind so-called intelligent design: Seattle’s very own Discovery Institute… which apparently draws the name “Discovery” from its concerted efforts to squash it. That the institute should get well-deserved scrutiny in the NY Times, rather than its home town paper, is another story for another day. But what really pissed me off was the following little tidbit of information about another Seattle area connection to Discovery’s zealous efforts to dumb down the nation’s science curriculum — for in addition to such well known right-wing patrons as Richard Mellon Scaife….
A closer look shows a multidimensional organization, financed by missionary and mainstream groups – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides $1 million a year, including $50,000 of Mr. Chapman’s $141,000 annual salary…
The institute also has support from secular groups like the Verizon Foundation and the Gates Foundation, which gave $1 million in 2000 and pledged $9.35 million over 10 years in 2003.
I do not care that this particular grant pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of dollars the Gates Foundation gives to eminently worthy causes, or that it is supposedly targeted exclusively towards the institute’s Cascadia project on regional transportation. In giving money to Discovery, Bill Gates not only provides financial support, but lends credibility and respectability to an organization whose primary activities are antithetical to the principles of scientific discovery on which Microsoft — and Gates’ unparalleled personal fortune — was built.
Gates would do better to follow the lead of more experienced Seattle area philanthropists, such as Bullitt Foundation director Denis Hayes, who describes Discovery as “the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell,” saying, “I can think of no circumstances in which the Bullitt Foundation would fund anything at Discovery today.” Indeed, that the world’s most powerful technologist should provide any support, financial or otherwise, to an organization that describes its goal as “nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies” in favor of a “broadly theistic understanding of nature,” is absolutely unacceptable.
There is no dispute that Gates is a brilliant man and that his foundation achieves great social good. But as has been proven by Microsoft’s missteps over its flip-flopping support for the gay civil rights measure, HB 1515, both he and his subordinates can make mistakes. And has also been proven by that PR fiasco, the full force of the progressive blogosphere can be successfully applied to convince Gates to correct his errors.
Gates’ support of the Discovery Institute — a vital cog in the right-wing propaganda machine… and an enemy of science — is an outrage and a scandal. And I call on my fellow members of the blogosphere to hammer this issue, and make clear to Gates that the only acceptable remedy is to instruct his foundation to pull its funding immediately.
The US has built its economic and military prowess on our scientific and technological leadership, and if organizations like Discovery are permitted to continue their Talibanization of our once proud educational system, the consequences for the American people and our standard of living will be catastrophic. A generation from now, when the economies of Europe and China are kicking our devoutly unscientific butts, we will have only ourselves to blame. And when the next Microsoft arises not in Silicon Valley or in Redmond, but in Paris or Beijing, it would be sadly ironic if the seeds of our own technological collapse were unwittingly nurtured by Bill Gates himself.