Free Speech Icon Free Speech

Submit Nominations for 2018 Censor of the Year Now!

Censor of the Year

We’re about a month away from Darwin Day, February 12. It’s the great man’s birthday, celebrated by Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture as Academic Freedom Day. We prefer this alternative framing of the occasion because the freedom to debate Charles Darwin’s scientific legacy is continually endangered by intimidation, threats to careers and livelihoods, fake news and fake science, and subtle and totally unsubtle forms of censorship.

With that background, it’s time to solicit your nominations for the 2018 Censor of the Year. This “award” recognizes particularly egregious Darwinist efforts to block discussion, research, and reporting about weaknesses in evolutionary theory and about evidence for intelligent design. Past winners include biologist Jerry Coyne (2014) and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (2015).

We’ll announce this year’s top censor in plenty of time before Darwin Day. Want to get in touch with us and share your thoughts? Go to the Contact tab above, or click here to reach the nominations committee. Were you yourself censored and intimidated? If you choose to tell us your own story, we will share only as much as you feel comfortable with, to protect you and your identity. For other nominations, we may publish your comments and, unless you specify otherwise, you are giving us permission to do so. Of course, we will respect all requests for confidentiality.

Darwinists do not go so far as to burn books by proponents of intelligent design. However, their actual tactics in suppressing open debate are far more effective because, for the most part, they are practiced behind a veil of secrecy.

Remember, as Sarah Chaffee pointed out last week, most Darwinist censorship works via self-censorship. In academic and other contexts, the intimidation need not be explicit. It is practiced quietly, without drawing attention to itself. The victims, the censored, understandably don’t want to imperil their work, their income, or their reputation. So they keep quiet both about their doubts on Darwinian evolution and about the power structure in their institutions that maintains the informal speech code.

Be aware, too, that while the idea of picking out the most noxious censors for public recognition may sound facetious, the underlying point is very serious. Censors in academia and the media use power to silence open-minded scholars. Fear is one of their main tools. They are, in many cases, contemptible bullies. I first started thinking about this issue in 2005 when I wrote about the Richard Sternberg case for the Wall Street Journal. I regret that the bullies in that case, Dr. Sternberg’s supervisors at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, could not be censured appropriately because Discovery Institute hadn’t yet come up with the idea of a Censor of the Year.

Even more serious, the impact of what the censors do is felt not only by scientists who are open to rethinking Darwinism, but by the widest public, from whom the best information about an ultimate issue — the origins of life and of the cosmos — is withheld. This is no joke.

So go to it. For stories of censorship that are known to the public, through reporting here at Evolution News or otherwise, let me stimulate your thinking by directing you to our coverage from the past 12 months or so under the heading of Free Speech. It’s been a rich year, as you can confirm for yourself.

In submitting nominations, please feel encouraged to think creatively. Our past winners have not always been obvious. In 2016, for example, we recognized the Commission on the General Conference of the United Methodist Church as Censor of the Year. That one was unexpected. Remember them?

We are also fishing for an appropriate nickname on the model of the Emmys, Grammys, and Oscars. Perhaps the Censys? Our longtime in-house abbreviation, COTY, could perhaps be rendered as the Cotys. Except that we only recognize one Censor of the Year, per year. As yet we haven’t advanced to including a range of categories for winners (“Most Disingenuous Proclamation of Concern for Academic Freedom by an Evolutionary Biologist,” “Most Misleading Mentions of ‘Teaching Creationism in the Schools’ by a Journalist,” etc.). In any event, do take a moment or two to consider your own best of the worst and submit your nomination now for 2018 Censy, Coty, or what have you.

Photo: Book burning, by mikael altemark from STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.