The Discovery Institute was founded in 1990 by Bruce Chapman and George Gilder as a think tank based in Seattle, Washington, USA. Its areas of interest include intelligent design, science, technology, environment and economy, international affairs, culture, defense, legal reform, religion and public life, transportation, and institutions of representative democracy, as well as bi-national cooperation in the international Cascadia region. Financially, the institute is a non-profit educational foundation funded by philanthropic foundation grants, corporate and individual contributions and the dues of Institute members.
The Discovery Institute was founded in 1990 as a think tank based upon the ideas of C.S. Lewis and the concept of Intelligent Design in the creation of life, versus genetic variation and natural selection as posited in the theory of evolution.
The Discovery Institute supports the concept of Intelligent Design. However, it does not support requiring the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools. Rather, it supports an educational policy on evolution that it calls "Teach the Controversy" that entails presenting to students the scientific evidence for and against evolution. It does take the position that teaching the scientific evidence that supports Intelligent Design does not violate the Constitution, and should therefore be permitted. 
Darwin on Trial (ISBN 0830813241) is a controversial 1991 book by the University of California, Berkeley law professor Phillip E. Johnson, in which he first uses the phrase intelligent design in its modern sense.
Darwin on Trial
Johnson, an evangelical Christian, had come to believe that evolutionary theory was based on materialistic assumptions and empty rhetoric, such as that he thought was found in Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker.
Johnson evaluates the evidence for Darwinism using legal principles for assessing its probative value, and examines the philosophical presuppositions of the scientific community.
The book was initially ignored by the scientific community, but then was reviewed by Stephen J. Gould in Scientific American. It became assigned reading in some origins classes at leading universities, including Cornell University. It is now considered a landmark book and the starting point of the current intelligent design movement, of which Johnson is considered "the father." Johnson has even earned the respect of physicist, and outspoken atheist, Steven Weinberg who, in his book Dreams of a Final Theory, calls him “the most respectable academic critic of evolution.” (1992, p. 247)
Johnson makes clear at the outset that he has no interest in discussing the Biblical account of creation in Genesis. Rather, the focus of the book is simply to examine whether evolutionists have proven their case using evidence evaluated with an open mind and impartially, that is, whether there is convincing evidence that the variety of life on earth came about through the purely material processes of natural selection and other unguided evolutionary mechanisms. He suggests that they have not, that there are serious evidentiary holes in the theory, and that their conclusions are driven mainly by their prior assumptions and "faith" that there must be a naturalistic explanation for everything.
Critics would suggest that Johnson is neither impartial nor has an open mind. Proponents suggest that he is more open minded than evolutionary scientists since his reputation and career are not riding on the success of the theory, and because he does not start with a naturalistic a priori philosophy.
The Discovery Institute
A "teach the controversy" strategy was announced by the Discovery Institute’s Stephen C. Meyer  following a presentation to the Ohio State Board of Education in March 2002. The presentation included submission of an annotated bibliography of 44 peer-reviewed scientific articles that were said to raise significant challenges to key tenets of what was referred to as “Darwinian evolution” . In response to this claim the National Center for Science Education, an organisation that works in collaboration with National Academy of Sciences, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the National Science Teachers Association that support the teaching of evolution in public schools , contacted the authors of the papers listed and twenty-six scientists, representing thirty-four of the papers, responded. None of the authors considered that their research provided evidence against evolution .
Critics have alleged that the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC) has a hidden agenda: that of giving the teaching of creationism immunity from First Amendment challenges by adopting the putatively theologically neutral stance of intelligent design. They note that in press releases intended for the general public, the CSC describes itself as "the nation's leading think-tank researching scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution." But in press releases for members only, the CSC assures them that it "seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its damning cultural legacies."
As part of the strategy proponents refer to popular misconceptions on the evidence in favour of evolution by natural selection and alleged factual errors and misrepresentations in current textbooks. The NCSE's extensive review of the main publication to support this claim, Jonathan Wells's Icons of Evolution, found that grave flaws made it "useful at most for those with a certain political and religious agenda, but of little value to educators" . Other analyses have found "that the traditional, mainstream-science-supporting interpretations of these "icons" are correct" . Writing in Nature biologist Jerry Coyne remarked that
- "Wells's book rests entirely on a flawed syllogism: hence, textbooks illustrate evolution with examples; these examples are sometimes presented in incorrect or misleading ways; therefore evolution is a fiction. The second premise is not generally true, and even if it were, the conclusion would not follow. To compound the absurdity, Wells concludes that a cabal of evil scientists, "the Darwinian establishment", uses fraud and distortion to buttress the crumbling edifice of evolution. Wells' final chapter urges his readers to lobby the US government to eliminate research funding for evolutionary biology." 
Wells thoroughly disagrees with this evaluation and believes that his views and the merits of his assertions have been seriously misrepresented by many who have reviewed his book. He has published a lengthy defense of his book, as well as a defense to the many personal attacks on him. Many scientists have acknowledged the errors in textbooks. Some acknowledge the errors, but believe that they are not a serious problem. Some textbook publishers have recently revised their textbooks to correct the errors.  The response of the single publisher named by Wells has been condemned by Steven Schafersman, President of Texas Citizens for Science, who has explained that to eliminate from textbooks the powerful evidence for evolution supplied by research on peppered moths and on the similarity of human embryos to those of other vertebrates "is irresponsible and not worthy of a distinguished publisher of science textbooks"  .
Wells is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute .
Given the history of the Discovery Institute as an organization committed to opposing any scientific theory inconsistent with "the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God"  and the tactics outlined above many scientists regard the movement as a ploy to introduce creationism into the science curriculum rather than as a serious attempt to discuss scientific evidence.
Proponents point to the actual policy of the Discovery Institute and the specific implementation of the standards and model teaching plan by the state of Ohio, which belie the claim that the policy is a ploy.  They note that critics seem unwilling to recognize that an organization may have certain overarching goals, but adopt an educational policy that does not including requiring that those goals be required of public schools. What is appropriate for publication in books and OpEd articles may not be appropriate for mandatory teaching in public schools. They also contend that such criticisms represent ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments and fail to address the substance of the underlying policy or propose constructive alternatives. However, amidst this political and religious controversy the clear, categorical and oft-repeated advice of senior national and international scientific organizations remains that there is no controversy to teach. This makes it inevitable that in an effort to understand this curious American movement skeptics will examine closely the background, funding and stated motives of those involved.
- The point of view Discovery brings to its work includes a belief in God-given reason and the permanency of human nature; the principles of representative democracy and public service expounded by the American Founders; free market economics domestically and internationally; the social requirement to balance personal liberty with responsibility; the spirit of voluntarism crucial to civil society; the continuing validity of American international leadership; and the potential of science and technology to promote an improved future for individuals, families and communities.
Teaching and controversy
On March 11, 2005, Stephen C. Meyer and John Angus Campbell writing in the The Baltimore Sun stated that:
- ... many educators wish such controversies would simply go away. On the one hand, if science teachers teach only Darwinian evolution, many parents and religious activists will protest. On the other, if teachers present religiously-based creationism, they run afoul of Supreme Court rulings. Either way, it seems educators face a no-win situation.
It is in this area of controversy that the Discovery Institute has decided to not only establish its think tank, but to create further controversy by advocating that an inclusive approach is used in educational matters. Their critics maintain that the theory of evolution is consistent with the empirical evidence and does not invalidate belief in a creator. The Discovery Institute disagrees: hence the controversy.
This controversy is discussed in a book written by Stephen C. Meyer, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute with a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge advocating creationism, and John Angus Campbell, who is a Professor of Communications at the University of Memphis, holding forth for Darwin’s Origin of Species. Their book is Darwinism, Design and Public Education published by Michigan State University Press. In response to the movement developmental biologist Paul Gross and philosopher Barbara Forrest have recently published Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004). This work claims to reveal the movement's "pervasively sham methods of inquiry" and its political, cultural, and religious ambitions. 
The Discovery Institute advocates the position that teaching evidence that supports Intelligent Design does not violate the Constitution, and should therefore be permitted. Their opponents argue that the Discovery Institute is advocating poor scholarship contrary to the consensus within the scientific community.
Substitution of ideologies
The goals of the Discovery Institute have been set forth in a document called The Wedge Strategy, which was widely circulated via the Internet in 1999:
- To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
- To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God.
Five Year Goals
- To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.
- To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
- To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.
Twenty Year Goals
- To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
- To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its innuence in the fine arts.
- To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.
In March 2004 the Institute published a more specific and controversial statement of conviction in which it denied that all of reality can be reduced to, or derived from, matter and energy alone. It sought to challenge "false scientific theories" that support scientific materialism. Amongst the theories and ideas that the Discovery Institute seeks to refute are:
- Darwinism, neo-Darwinism, chemical evolutionary theory, 'many worlds' cosmologies, behaviorism, strong artificial intelligence and 'other physicalist conceptions of mind', Marxism, and Freudian psychology,
Inclusionism or exclusionism?
Critics have responded by stating that the "real" objectives of the Discovery Institute are those stated in its 'Wedge Document' which seeks to "defeat materialistic science", and not those in its public profile of "Teach the Controversy" which claims that it is inclusionist.
At the heart of the Discovery Instutute are the teachings of C.S. Lewis and his interpretation of Western society from a Christian perspective. From this nucleus flow various projects concerned with technology and democracy; transportation in the American and Canadian northwest; a bioethics program opposed to assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human genetic manipulation, human cloning, and the animal rights movement.
Its economics and legal programs advocate tort reform, lower taxation, and reduced economic regulation of individuals and groups as the best economic policy.