Monday, April 13, 2009

Someone is threatening the Discovery Institute

Apparently someone at the DI, identified only as an 'employee' received a threatening series of emails including the phrase 'shut up the fu** or die!". The issue is under the investigation by the police. When I first heard about this, I didn't really pay it much mind. I myself have been threatened a number of times on Topix by Creationists full of righteous indignation. I've also been called a number of very unflattering things by self-identified Christians. Others have remarked that they get such threatening letters on a regular basis, including PZ Myers of the Pharyngula blog. Usually the letters are pretty much illiterate rants. But after reading PZ's response a couple of things occurred to me.

The emails were dated the 4th of April, yet the DI waited three days before calling the cops. SO what caused the delay? Did they hold a staff meeting on them? Did they have to spend a lot of time thinking about whether or not the emails were a credible threat? This might sound a a bit callous, but it is one of the thoughts that did occur to me. I have frequently commented on the DI and their spin doctoring. So what I think happened in those three days is that they were looking to see how they could spin this to their advantage. I really didn't see this as a possibility until I read what has been released. The emails were directed toward a specific employee, yet one of the DI's many vice presidents thinks the threat is against the DI as a whole? I sense some spin doctoring going on here.

The other thing that occurred to me was is this a PR stunt by the DI? I really can't see it, but the possibility is there. They haven't exactly been using a moral compass on the tactics they have employed so far, so this wouldn't be a real stretch of the imagination. I hope they are not this monumentally stupid, but that might be wishful thinking on my part. I hope the investigation continues and the source of the email is discovered. In the meantime I expect to laugh at the spin doctoring to come.

In all honestly, I think I agree with PZ and wish no one would utter such threats toward the DI. Their work is best ridiculed and taken apart piece by piece. They are doing more damage to their own position every time Casey Luskin or John G. West open their mouths that I don't want them to shut up. I'm having so much fun and learning so many new things that if they suddenly went quiet, it might mean they were actually trying to do the science they claim to have already accomplished -- no real danger of that!

I am looking forward to how they do respond. I can picture it now one crackpot being held up as the role model for how 'darwinism' turns people toward hate and violence. It will be pure unmitigated 'night soil of a well fed cow', but why would that stop the DI anyway?


  1. I could plausibly see an email directed at a specific individual as being read as a threat to the group as a whole. If for example the email was direct to whomever is in charge of their general PR, or if the email was directed to one of the heads of the institute.
    It seems like it wasn't directed at one of the heads though given the description of the email being directed at an employee. We also don't know what else was in the emails that could make it seem like a threat to the DI as a whole.

    Also, given the wording of the police report whomever the email was direct to, it was presumably not the person who made the phone call, and is described as a "VP." According to
    the DI has only a single VP and that is Steven Buri. I've never heard of him before. A quick google search suggests he might be more involved in the non-ID end of the DI. (Note to police: when redacting documents, don't redact a name and assume that that will guarantee anonymity)

    Also, April 4th was a Saturday, so they contacted the police after one business day or possibly even on Monday if the cop took time to file the report. We don't know if the email was even seen over the weekend or if someone came into their office on Monday and saw it then.

    Without more information, it is hard to see how much the delay was to due to PR management. However, given the facts it isn't implausible that the DI did not substantially delay going to the police.

  2. You are absolutely right, Joshua. I guess my own mistrust of just about anything the DI does was showing!