Yesterday, David Klinghoffer, a fellow at the creationist “think tank” the Discovery Institute and the author of the absurdly titled book How Would God Vote?: Why the Bible Commands You to Be a Conservative,forcefully demonstrated the ways in which he and the Discovery Institute engage in blatant intellectual dishonesty. Shortly after Zack Kopplin routed Klinghoffer’s colleague Casey Luskin on a national radio show, Klinghoffer took to the Discovery Institute’s website and published an article titled “Zack Kopplin Thinks Louisianans Are Stupid,” an argument he based, entirely, by lifting and grossly mischaracterizing a single sentence from a story Zack told about his experience as a thirteen-year-old kid at summer camp in Connecticut.
For those familiar with the tactics of the Discovery Institute, it’s probably unsurprising that Klinghoffer “quote-mined” from Zack’s speech in order to advance a lie. After all, manipulating other people’s words is one of the Discovery Institute’s hallmarks. Still, this seemed different: Klinghoffer wasn’t simply cherry-picking a couple of sentences from an academic journal to criticize evolution; he was distorting a personal story about being a thirteen-year-old at summer camp to level a spurious and, in my opinion, defamatory personal attack, all in attempt to discredit Zack’s character, not his arguments. And of course, it is laughable and pathetic and obviously mean-spirited. The real issue, however, is not David Klinghoffer’s dishonesty; it’s that David Klinghoffer published his attack under the masthead of a tax-exempt, tax-deductible organization.
And it got me thinking: What, exactly, is the Discovery Institute? Why are they tax-exempt? Why does the United States allow them to operate as a charitable organization? And when people donate to the Discovery Institute, what, exactly, are they getting in return, aside from a tax deduction?