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Congratulations to Bruce Chapman, “Godfather” of Intelligent Design

David Klinghoffer

Bruce Chapman

Last night we had the pleasure of celebrating a new book and its author — Discovery Institute founder and chairman of the board Bruce Chapman’s  Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others. The event at the Rainier Club in Seattle was warm, appreciative, and just lovely.

At Evolution News we strenuously stay away from politics and politicians. But I can’t let the occasion pass by without paying tribute to Bruce.

Intelligent design is a household word today thanks to a band of daring scientists and scholars — and to a prominent and seasoned veteran of a very different art, namely politics. That of course is Bruce Chapman. It’s simple. Without Discovery Institute there would be no modern, sophisticated, and widely circulated theory of intelligent design, no ID movement. And without our friend Bruce Chapman, there would be no Discovery Institute.

A Passion for Controversy

In the new book he discusses some of the overlooked virtues of politicians, and asks, in one chapter, “What Makes a Politician Good?” If we have Bruce to thank for the prominence of ID in scientific and media debates, it’s because of his many virtues. These include a contrarian’s ornery unwillingness to be told what to think, or to let other people be told what to think, a love of argument, a love of ultimate questions, and a passion to nurture others and facilitate their contributions. Last night, he told a little about how he came by his enjoyment of debate, at the family dinner table, with college friends, and how the chilly atmosphere of his adopted hometown, “Seattle Nice,” which frowns on argument, has sometimes been a frustration.

Oh, and let’s not forget the virtue of courage. We’ve all endured abuse for advocating ID, but as the senior statesman of the movement, Bruce has endured more than anyone else. And let me tell you, he couldn’t care less.

One more thing: Bruce is an optimist. To challenge the scientific establishment and expect to get anywhere doing so, you would have to be. In his remarks last night, Bruce replied to (my own) pessimistic instinct that national institutions are in perhaps permanent decline. He pointed out that Americans have democracy in our blood. He does not go along with declinism.

The Godfather

Michael Medved and Steve Buri introduced Bruce at the event, and I think it was Michael who used the term “godfather” to describe Bruce Chapman. That’s a fitting characterization. Neither Bruce nor his Harvard roommate and intellectual co-conspirator George Gilder, who helped him found Discovery, is a PhD scientist. But all the brilliant scientists who have elaborated the case for design and shaken the arrogant confidence of the Darwinists would be living very different lives today if it weren’t for Chapman and Gilder. 

Those lives would no doubt have been consequential, but in other ways, not this way. And brute Darwinist materialism would be without a strong challenger. What a different and poorer world that would be!