Expertise claims in ICR media

The majority of Institute for Creation Research’s cases of Messenger Credibility can be categorized as appeals to secular expertise and evidence. As a result, the communicated authority of ICR and its creationist missives are chiefly embedded in credentials and data, and then to a lesser extent within sacred authority claims. Answers in Genesis’ prominent Source Cues’ occurrence rate, on the other hand, is borne from a comparatively uniform distribution of both secularly based and religiously centered appeals to authority, of which a slight majority are instances of the latter. In contrast with AiG communications, the preponderance of the Center for Science and Culture’s Messenger Credibility occurrences are appeals to expertise and evidence, such that there are 38 incidences involving references to scientific/secular expertise for each and every invocation of sacred authority. Though these differences may at first seem inconsequential, the ways in which Source Cues are being expressed reveals the persuasive motifs adopted by various Darwin-skeptic trendsetters.

For instance, Institute for Creation Research appeals to expertise and evidence most commonly occur as descriptions of its members’ academic qualifications and scientific proficiencies. Such references to credentials often appear within ICR member profiles that accompany Acts&Facts articles. These summaries provide an ICR writer’s name and basic educational

Antievolutionist Source Cues

Figure 3.3 Antievolutionist Source Cues

Echoing credibility 75 titles below the article header, followed by a picture and a brief description of the author’s qualifications at the end of each piece. Effectively then, most articles sandwich content between credibility features at the top and bottom of all media. Credentials and academic experience are also listed repeatedly for the same writer, irrespective of the number of times that this individual has contributed to Acts&Facts, even within a single issue of the magazine both on and offline. Also, ICR members are almost always referred to by their academic titles, and their credentials are regularly supplied even when their names are just briefly cited by other ICR writers.30 For instance, Nathaniel Jeanson became an ICR research associate in 2009 after receiving a PhD in cell and developmental biology from Harvard Medical School. He is invariably referred to as “Dr. Jeanson” throughout Acts&Facts articles, and any mention of his name consistently includes descriptions of his elite credentials and research experience.31 This communicative penchant for highlighting academic qualifications is perhaps best demonstrated in the magazine’s brief introduction of Jeanson to audiences: “Don’t forget to read the profile of Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson. ... A recent graduate of Harvard University, Dr. Jeanson comes with great credentials and experience in stem cell research - a wonderful asset to ICR’s science staff. Welcome, Dr. Jeanson!”32 In fact, of the twenty-nine times that he is mentioned in the analyzed Institute for Creation Research materials, either as the author of an article or within another contributor’s work, only once is Jeanson not described as possessing a Harvard education or addressed with his doctoral pre-nominal. Incidentally, this one exception appears in a testimonial letter to the editor not written by ICR staff, which still explained how church members were “all greatly informed and inspired” by Jeanson’s presentations and implied skills.33

In addition to bookending articles with references to author expertise and peppering media with references to ICR member credentials, Acts&Facts magazine issues also occasionally include a profile section dedicated almost exclusively to underscoring the academic qualifications of its contributing writers.34 This steadfast focus on publicizing and reiterating ICR associates’ credentials is exhibited when references to the institute’s founder, Henry M. Morris, are audited. Morris’s name appears a total of 206 times within ninety-four Acts&Facts articles, which represented 21.6% of ICR’s sample. In 167 of these cases he is referred to as “Dr.,” and/or at least some aspect of his credentials and experience is listed. These qualifications include a PhD in hydraulic engineering and serving as a professor at Virginia Tech. Intriguingly, even Morris’s own sons, John and Henry III, refer to him by his academic title.35 Furthermore, out of the thirty-nine occasions when Morris’s title and qualifications are not mentioned directly, twenty-five of these cases are still accompanied by some other reference to his expertise listed elsewhere in the same article. Consequently, as one of the Institute for Creation Research’s most consistently discussed individuals, Morris’s doctorate and academic experience rarely go unmentioned.

References to qualifications and experience are also linked with ICR claims that legions of scientific pioneers were in some way creationist allies, if not outright Darwin-skeptics. Eminent scientists, whose numerous credentials and discoveries are synonymous with their very names, are often cited as having maintained creationist perspectives. The achievements, historical acclaim, and even public esteem of these scientific leaders are then used to enhance creationism’s legitimacy. In Henry Morris’s own words, the “great founding fathers of true science (Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Boyle, Brewster, Faraday, Linnaeus, Ray, Maxwell, Pasteur, Kelvin, etc.) were almost all creationists and believed they were glorifying God as they probed His works.”36 Similarly, Randy J. Guliuzza contends, “Many of the giants in medicine - Edward Jenner, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, Selman Waksman - did pioneering work (including in genetics and antimicrobial resistance) while either rejecting Darwinism or ignoring it altogether.”37 Historical figures such as the Harvard professor Louis Agassiz, as well as Sir John Ambrose Flemming, a “leader in the electronics revolution” who “taught at both Cambridge University and the University of Nottingham,” are enthusiastically added to the tally of amply credentialed creation-supporting scientists.38 At the same time, the academic qualifications of contemporary antievolutionists are correspondingly used, which is exemplified in an article concerning the neurosurgeon, now politician and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Benjamin Carson. The piece underscores Carson’s distinguished education and medical abilities, stressing his public support for creationism.39 ICR’s work as an institution is further depicted as being truly aligned with the opinions and scientific enterprises held by such renowned contemporary scientists, as well as leaders of the Scientific Revolution. “But what a joy to do creationist research,” concludes one article, “when we believe God’s Word and, like Isaac Newton and Johann Kepler from previous generations, think God’s thoughts after Him.”40

Predictably, this concern with reporting the credentials and experience of creationist-friendly individuals usually does not extend to ICR’s opponents. For example, Darwin-skepticism’s arch-villain, Richard Dawkins, is mentioned seventeen times within twelve articles. In contrast with ICR staff, Dawkins is never addressed by his academic title, and only once is there the slightest, though erroneous, mention of Dawkins’ university affiliations: “Researchers would not be pressured by popular evolutionary authorities such as Cambridge’s Richard Dawkins, who insists that ‘biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.’ ”41 While it is not entirely surprising that the credentials of ICR’s adversaries are left unstated, the academic qualifications of noncreationist supporters of evolution are cited when their words are interpreted for readers as validating creationism or are used to expose the apparent weaknesses in the theory. This is characterized by ICR’s list of quotes taken from “leading evolutionary scientists” in an effort to prove that even eminent non-creationist researchers have identified the “Vanishing Case for Evolution.”42

Together with documenting credentials, ICR materials also often include more indirect attempts at deriving credibility by using relatively vague allusions to the integrity of science and data. For instance, an ICR writer may simply claim that “science has clearly validated” the historical events recorded in Genesis, or argue, “Whether the evidence is large or small, related to the physical sciences or the life sciences, recent discoveries shout ‘creation.’”45 Essentially, this involves generating Messenger Credibility by co-opting the authority insinuated by the expansive terms ‘science’ and ‘scientific evidence’. In relation to this, the Institute for Creation Research is repeatedly characterized as a scientifically based establishment, and creationism is presented as the most evidentially grounded perspective. For not only is there a God, but there “is a factual account of His mighty work, and it is believable and backed up by science,”44 such that there is “an excellent scientific basis” for creationist ideas.4' Whenever possible, readers are assured that the reliability of science and the certainty of hard facts unambiguously support Young Earth Creationism.

Creationism is also not simply presented as being supported by the available facts but that all scientific data corresponds more readily with YEC than they do with evolution.46 As Morris contended, the belief that “creation took place in six literal days several thousand years ago” actually fits “all the facts of science much better than the long-age evolutionary scenario does.”47 In this way, creationism is framed as being more scientifically congruent with empirical evidence, and therefore, the most credible option. Plus, it is repeatedly stated that ICR’s work is based on “real,” “sound,” or “true” science and evidence, as opposed to evolutionary theory, which relies upon unverifiable speculations. “All true science points to creation,”48 explained Morris, and “all the real scientific evidence (as distinct from similarities and other circumstantial evidences) strongly favors creation over evolution.”49 In a sense, such statements cultivate Messenger Credibility by differentiating degrees of science, from poor or false science to the genuine science of ICR that is “verified by sound scientific principles,” and which also coincides with the Christian values held by targeted audiences.50 What results is the expression of credibility through the recurrent use of terms cognate with scientific certitude, objective proof, and verified data.

Another article by Morris concludes, “The real bottom line of the entire question of biological origins is that the biblical record fits all the real scientific facts, and evolution does not.”51 In addition to claiming that empirical evidence better supports creationism, this same article also includes a collage of scientific and religious imagery. Such images represent pictorial allusions and associations to science, visually evoking scientific practice and its credibility. Throughout Acts&Facts, similar imagery incorporates pictures of scientific artifacts and science-in-action, including laboratory instruments and images of researchers performing experiments. These types of pictures are often included in the title headers of articles recounting creationist research endeavors, and those reporting on what is claimed to be procreationist scientific evidence. Notably, aside from a handful of comparable cases found in Answers in Genesis articles, such imagery is almost totally exclusive to ICR mass media. With regard to ICR’s use of these visual depictions of science, the most commonly occurring images in Acts&Facts are of DNA strands, other stylized molecules, chemistry glassware, and representations of human anatomy.52 Such images frequently appear in articles whose subject matter is not directly related to the type of research conjured by the pictures themselves. For instance, in “Life Sciences Research: Year One in Review” a partly filled Erlenmeyer flask is depicted beside the title of an article that discusses ICR’s new life sciences initiative. The actual research mentioned, however, is effectively a literature review accompanied by some computer modeling; neither of which requires any sort of laboratory glassware.53

Similar imagery often accompanies articles that also articulate the third major, but least manifested way, in which expertise and evidence are communicated throughout Acts&Facts. This consists of developing Messenger Credibility by indicating that ICR is fervently conducting successful, paradigm-shifting research. Rather than directly appealing to credentials, or stating that data support creationism, this involves demonstrating how earnestly the Institute for Creation Research is occupied with the important task of doing hands-on science. In a sense, this acts as a sort of proof of credibility, validating the organization’s scientifically oriented nature by stating that ICR is credible because it actually does laboratory and academic fieldwork. Such incidents incorporate descriptions of the “impressive slate of research projects underway” at ICR, as well as the notable teams of scientists conducting “incredibly fruitful” studies.54 This research is described as being pioneering, totally “relevant to the nature of science and scientific inquiry,” and involving “original research projects in the lab or field that the secular world is not addressing or is avoiding because of its potential to produce results that go against evolutionary philosophy.”55 The expertisegarnering narrative, therefore, is that ICR is doing unique research that even top-level scientists are declining to consider.

Allusions to secular expertise occur in conjunction with appeals to sacred authority throughout Acts&Facts, which are an important, if less common version of ICR Source Cues. These generally involve appeals to God’s authority, as well as credibility-building references to scripture and significant Christian figures. References to sources of religious credibility often appear en masse-, such that appeals to God, scripture, and well-known Christians are frequently referenced within single statements. Unsurprisingly, both God and the Bible are repeatedly cited in tandem as validating ICR’s mission and message. In particular, Acts&Facts writers often stress that their approach to the Bible, or their method of reading and interpreting scripture, is far more credible in the eyes of God than are the hermeneutical techniques employed by their opponents. This is because, unlike many non-creationist Christians, ICR fully takes “God at his Word” by accepting scripture as it was meant to be read by the creator of the universe.56 This creationist hermeneutical modus operandi is referred to in a similar fashion as are academic credentials. For instance, in the same manner that an article might list a creationist’s prestigious degrees, Acts&Facts writers frequently catalogue ICR’s superior means of interpreting scripture, which stem from an abounding “loyalty to the living Word of God (the Lord Jesus Christ) and to the written Word of God (the Holy Bible).”57 ICR members are trustworthy because they are loyal to God, valuing the Bible and its proper reading?8

Furthermore, credibility educed from the institute’s respect for scripture is also connected to descriptions of God, his divine characteristics, and Young Earth Creationism itself. ICR writers explain that God is omnipotent and perfectly good. As such, God is fully capable of speaking plainly to humankind and would never try to confuse or deceive people about the universe’s origins. Therefore, in accordance with God’s very nature, the most obvious and unambiguous reading of Genesis is the creationist one.59 ICR’s Associate Science Editor makes a point of fostering such knotty credibility connections between God’s divine traits and Young Earth Creationism. “Evolutionary processes are incompatible and inconsistent with the nature of God (holy, perfect, ordered, and good),” he reasons. “God could not have used processes contrary to His nature as He is not the author of death.”60 Only creationism is truly congruent with God’s characteristics, and for that reason creationism alone legitimately possesses biblical and divine endorsement. ICR’s credibility, then, is firmly embedded in God’s very own qualities, and as Larry Vardiman tells readers, Henry Morris was correct to insist that “God is not an evolutionist and His Word does not contain evolutionary ideas like the Big Bang, millions and billions of years, common ancestry, death before sin, etc.”61

Acts&Facts articles further assert that Jesus interpreted Genesis in the same fashion as ICR members. Readers are then told that if this was Jesus’s approach to the biblical creation account, it should certainly be theirs as well. “If Jesus was (and is) both the Creator God and a perfect man, then His pronouncements are always and absolutely trustworthy,” deduces Andrew Snelling. “If He, as the Creator, was actually a witness to the events of Genesis 1-11, then we have no alternative but to regard these opening chapters of the Bible as reliable history.62 Jesus’s reading of Genesis would have been the same, ipsissimis verbis, as ICR’s. Plus, if this source of credibility were not enough, Acts & Facts writers indicate that each and every biblical author adhered to an identical hermeneutic as that endorsed in Young Earth Creationism.63 James J. S. Johnson uses the following question and response to exemplify this point: “How did Jesus treat Genesis? As real history, just like Paul.”64 The credibility-building corollary is that ICR members treat the Bible as real history, in a like manner as Moses, Paul, and Jesus Christ.

Amid numerous references to the Bible, God’s character, and the hermeneutics employed by Jesus and the biblical writers, Acts&Facts articles are also peppered with claims that ICR is experiencing supernatural blessings.65 Accordingly, the Institute for Creation Research’s credibility as an organization is validated through enduring divine succor, and the fact that God has explicitly given ICR a “specialized and a ‘frontline’ assignment” in his spiritual battle for souls.66 Such appeals to sacred authority also bestride Source Attraction, as references to the Bible or God express shared Christian values and religious beliefs about the nature of the divine. Since messenger likability can be promoted by even the most incidental similarities, common Christian beliefs would act as an important persuasive cue in conjunction with advocating credibility, while reinforcing shared culturally cognitive attributes. At the same time, well-defined expressions of Source Attraction are relatively uncommon in ICR materials. Together with a small number of celebrity attraction, audience flattery, and the Plain Folks device cases, there are overt claims that the communicator shares specific moral values with the audience, and the use of important sociocultural symbols.

In ICR materials the expression of shared values is exhibited in two chief ways. The first method includes communicating that the messenger maintains mutual religious beliefs and ethics. For the most part, Acts&Facts writers emphasize that ICR members maintain commonly shared Evangelical Christian values concerning the ontological importance of Jesus Christ and his atonement, as well as doctrines regarding humankind’s divine image and intrinsic worth. The second manifestation includes articulating shared American values and cultural myths. Aimed at American audiences, these statements characterize the US as a country that epitomizes such ideals as liberty and freedom.67 The use of important symbols in Acts&Facts reflects ICR’s communication of these same shared values. For example, several articles display images of the US flag, the American constitution, and the iconic Liberty Bell, which are all nationalistic emblems of the country’s popular mythos and ideals. These symbols are then associated with creationism and Evangelical Christian values.68 Certain religious symbols can also be found throughout Acts&Facts, mainly in the form of bibles.69 On a few occasions these religious images are combined with America’s national emblems; such as overlaying American religio-nationalistic iconography such as the US flag or pictures of the White House with images of the Bible and ICR's antievolutionist messages.70

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