Contrast cues in BioLogos and NCSE articles

Predictably, incidents of the Contrast Principle and Negativity Effect across the proevolutionist media disseminated by the NCSE and BioLogos do not include the denunciations of Catholicism and Islam found in New Atheist materials. The primarily negative contrast displayed in these communications generally involves comparing the evidence supporting evolution with Darwin-skepticism’s dearth of scientific proof, berating antievolutionist attempts at altering public school curricula, and critiquing the character of antievolutionists. In NCSE communications, for example, the Young Earth Creationist Ray Comfort is described as having “distorted views on evolution,” and using interpretations of the human fossil record that are “painfully superficial, out of date, and erroneous.”178 At the same time, Darwin-skeptic efforts to challenge the teaching of evolution are referred to as the “triumph of ideology and politics over science.”179 The Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter theme park is common quarry in NCSE’s strikes against Young Earth Creationist absurdities. This includes drawing attention to questionable tax incentives that AiG secured from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority, which was said to breach separation of church and state policy, leading to years of public controversy.180

For their part, BioLogos members admit that when fellow Christians express hatred toward each other over evolutionary theory it contradicts Christianity’s central teachings of social harmony. Giberson notes, “Intramural quarreling is a great embarrassment to Christianity,” conceding that, unfortunately, “our love for each other is often set aside as we quarrel about evolution.” Such squabbles appear in contrast claims that set the lucidity of Evolutionary Creationism alongside the folly of Darwin-skepticism. For example, Giberson accentuates the dissimilarities between BioLogos’ proevolution notions and Intelligent Design theory in the following exposition:

BioLogos enthusiastically endorses the idea that the universe is intelligently designed and we certainly believe that the creator of the universe is intelligent. We consider the evidence regarding the fine-tuning of theuniverse to be provocative and compelling. Our reservations about ID certainly do not derive from any rejection of the rationality of the universe. Our concern, repeated quite often on this site, is that ID tends to focus too strongly on what science doesn't know, rather than what it does know. ID appears to lack appropriate confidence in the ability of science to find answers to the many questions currently on the table. But this is not the whole story.

He then complains, “I have been uncharitably maligned by Ken Ham, Al Mohler, William Dembski and other fellow Christians,” while admitting that he too has been “only too eager to leap into the fray and use whatever weapons I have at my disposal against my fellow Christians when I disagree with them.” Conveying remorse over such clashes, Giberson admits that they represent “a sort of civil war pitting brother against brother, and sister against sister.” Among Evolution Wars mass media, such statements of lament appear almost exclusively within BioLogos articles, which may reveal why Christian counter-creationist articles are the least likely to contain cases of the Contrast Principle and Negativity Effect. Hesitancy is frequently expressed regarding engaging in flagrant criticism and contrast related to other Christians, for “there is something sad when Christians at Answers in Genesis and Al Mohler’s seminary, at the Discovery Institute, and even at BioLogos attack each other over the topic of origins.”181 Yet negative comparisons are still present, particularly in Giberson’s own contributions, which often seek to dispute vocal attacks against BioLogos put forward by antievolutionists.

Giberson tells readers that antievolutionists misrepresent scientific data, purposefully spread confusion, fail to comprehend how science actually operates, and senselessly dispute research consensus without valid empirical evidence.182 Prevalent contrast tropes include comparing what Darwinskeptics have said about BioLogos specifically, including diatribes about how theistic evolution is destructive to religious beliefs, with counterclaims that it is in fact “anti-evolution arguments like these from Ham and other young-earth creationists,” which compel “many thoughtful Christians to lose their faith.”183 In employing such contrast, BioLogos media spotlights dissimilarities between antievolutionist declarations and the tenets of Christian proevolutionism.

Along with contrast incorporating antievolutionism, BioLogos media also feature rebuttals of atheist attacks on religion and Christian proevolutionists, with attention paid to Coyne’s vituperations.184 In relation to these messages, BLF writers chide New Atheists for opposing Christian support of evolutionary theory. “Why is it that a group concerned about the advancement of scientific ideals is our most vocal opponent?” asks BLF’s Darrel Falk. He explains to audiences, “We support science, including the science of evolutionary biology,” while the New Atheists “want to use scientific data to justify their own political and philosophical ends.” As Falk

Comparisons and suppression 167 clarifies, in contrast with Christian proevolutionists, New Atheists “are trying to present science as claiming something it does not claim to justify their nontheistic view of the world.” For such atheists “want to rid the world of philosophies grounded in theism.”185 While querying the validity of New Atheist arguments, such contrast also reinforces BioLogos’ commitment to genuine science.

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