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For Darwin Day, February 12, Give Us Your Nominations for Censor of the Year!

David Klinghoffer

COTY 2016.jpg

February 12 is almost upon us. It will be Darwin Day, anniversary of the great man’s birth, which we call Academic Freedom Day in homage to Darwin’s wise warning that “a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”

At Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, it is our custom for the occasion to recognize a Censor of the Year, a person or group that has done outstanding work in seeking to silence skepticism on Darwinian evolution (and other scientific matters) by acting to punish skeptics, evade debate, or mislead the public.

Past winners — we’ve only done this for two years — are University of Chicago evolutionist Jerry Coyne (2014) and celebrity TV educator Neil deGrasse Tyson (2015).

You’ve got just two weeks, till February 5, to give us your nominations for censors who did their deeds in the past year. After that we’ll close nominations and make a decision, announcing the winner in time for Darwin Day.

As in the past I’ll offer some food for thought. By way of a preface, we’ve given a lot of attention this week to the United Methodist Church and its ban on intelligent design and Discovery Institute. As John West reports, they have just given another lame excuse for this, on top of the others. That is a rich one. However I don’t want you to let the immediateness of that story — the fact that it is a focus right now — to cause you to give short shrift to other censors.

Looking back primarily at the year 2015, I see several themes in our coverage of intellectual freedom and threats to it. First, and this is really a perennial, there are those Darwinists whose censorship of ideas consists of spreading a cloud of misinformation. Think of the National Center for Science Education, or Bill Nye, or Karl Giberson, or the Smithsonian’s traveling Human Origins exhibit.

Second, there are censors who act deliberately against skeptics to keep us out of earshot of civilians. Think of the United Methodist Church.

Third, there are the hair-raising mutters and mumbles you hear about actually prosecuting skeptics. I don’t expect that to be actualized tomorrow but the fact that you hear about it at all, that it’s even raised as a possibility, with non-trivial public support — typically in the context of climate skepticism — is remarkable. Michael Egnor and I have both written about this at Evolution News.

Fourth, there are those who would remove or block legal protections for teachers who wish to expose public school students to both sides of the evolution debate. Activist Zack Kopplin missed the boat for COTY the past two years, perhaps because he’s been singularly luckless in his unending campaign to repeal his home state of Louisiana’s academic freedom law. Could he get lucky this time?

Finally, there is a Miscellaneous category. You could include Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg of The View who seemed to invite a debate about evolution on the program — that would have been a fine spectacle — but then dropped the idea. Or National Geographic Magazine, which promoted past COTY winners Coyne and Tyson in a single article.

There are many possibilities. Please give us your favorite — not limited at all to those named above — by writing to us here. Just click on the EMAIL US button at the top of this page.

Image credit: © triocean / Dollar Photo Club.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.