Our Mission

The mission of Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism is to affirm and uphold the intrinsic nature of human dignity, liberty, and equality. In resistance to a growing movement against unique human personhood, we aim to revitalize a commitment to the traditional Western view of human rights and responsibilities — both of which are summed up by the term “human exceptionalism.”

What We Do

We examine a constellation of related issues–including assisted suicide and euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human genetic manipulation, human cloning, radical environmentalism, the evil of human trafficking, and the animal rights movement — in order to educate policy and thought with an intellectual defense of the importance of being human as the predicate to universal human rights.

We aim to serve as a valuable resource to the media, opinion-leaders, the intellectual community, decision-makers, and the general public on the many challenges and opportunities in the bioethics debate. We reach a broad audience through the publication of books, articles, and op-eds, in addition to frequent public lectures, debates, and interviews.

As part of a targeted outreach to policymakers, we inform state and national lawmakers on related issues, draft sample legislation, and provide testimony before elected bodies in order to inspire policies that reflect the unique and intrinsic moral worth of human life.

Our Team

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.

Tom Shakely

Research Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Tom Shakely is a Research Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism where he focuses on human dignity, human rights, and law and policy. Tom has spoken on human rights issues at the United Nations, testified to the District of Columbia City Council on conscience rights, and advised on testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and U.S. House of Representatives.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.

Michael Denton

Senior Fellow, Centers for Science & Culture and on Human Exceptionalism
Michael Denton holds an M.D. from Bristol University, as well as a Ph.D. in biochemistry from King’s College in London. A Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, Denton has had a critical impact on the debate over Darwinian evolution.

Arina Grossu Agnew

Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Arina Grossu Agnew is a Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Arina focuses on human dignity, human rights, and the sanctity of human life from fertilization to natural death. Arina's areas of expertise include abortion, women’s health, bioethics, conscience, pornography, sex trafficking, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Arina is the founder and principal at Areté Global Consulting where she works on policy, bioethics, communications, and strategic partnerships.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

About Us

The Center on Human Exceptionalism is a program of Discovery Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit and non-partisan educational and research organization based in Seattle. We are supported entirely by the generosity of individual donors and grant making foundations.