Statistics, jargon and social consensus in antievolutionist media

Throughout Darwin-skeptic media, Statistics and Technical Jargon are most frequently conveyed via the use of complex, specialized language rather than numerical facts and figures. Hence, in the Institute for Creation Research’s Acts and Facts magazine, the majority of cases associated with this persuasive attribute feature the use of technical jargon affiliated with one of the following four broad areas: i) the Biological Sciences; ii) Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; iii) Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy; and, iv) Theology. These, as well as other antievolutionist expressions of Statistics and Technical Jargon, are listed in Figure 6.3.

Recurrence Rates of Social Consensus Cues

Figure 6.2 Recurrence Rates of Social Consensus Cues

Antievolutionist Statistics and Technical Jargon

Figure 6.3 Antievolutionist Statistics and Technical Jargon

ICR media, stats and jargon

Cases relating to the Biological Sciences subcategory often include the Latin binomial nomenclature for species, as well as complex descriptions of physiology. Such jargon is frequently included within explanations of the apparent biological intricacy, and therefore alleged divine design, found in all living organisms. For instance, in the Acts and Facts article “The Wax That Taxes Darwin,” Frank Sherwin explains that any would-be pathogens trying to infect human ears are “subject to a veritable smorgasbord of defensive compounds such as lactoferrin, beta-defensin-1, cathelicidin, beta-defensin-2, lysozyme, MUC1 and secretory component of IgA (a major class of antibody) found in the cerumen.”29 No additional information regarding these substances is provided, and it is doubtful that readers without at least undergraduate training in human physiology as well as biochemistry would be able to recognize these compounds, or quickly understand their operations. In lacking such knowledge, audience members are forced to defer to the communicator’s perceived expertise, who in the case of Sherwin, is described by ICR as an individual who has earned a “master’s degree in zoology” and “published his research in the peer-reviewed Journal of Parasitology."™

Likewise, discussions of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences often include specialized terms requiring a proficiency in geology for proper comprehension. For instance, within an article discussing the “Kingston Peak Formation in California,” J. Morris states, “Enormous deposits of boulder breccias, mega-breccias, diamictites, pudding-stones, and associated slide blocks and gravity flows of Upper Proterozoic strata have been correlated worldwide.”31 Similarly, when ICR’s Larry Vardiman discusses such topics as weather pattern computer modeling, ice ages, and the scientific likelihood of a global flood, he includes detailed charts alongside complex, field-specific observations. The headings of such complicated charts are themselves jargonrich, including such titles as “Total PEX storm precipitation (mm) for SST = 20°C (68°F),” with descriptions of the “Had-CRUT3v compilation of observations” and explanations of how a “curve is obtained by subtracting the best-fit variation of ATn from the mean monthly CET.”32 Technical jargon also permeates articles addressing physics, the speed of light, theories of time-dilation, and various aspects of Young Earth Creationism.33 Moreover, Acts&Facts articles include a handful of jargon associated with theology, which can involve the use of ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek terms that require some proficiency in each language to fully comprehend.34

Along with jargon, statistics also appear across Acts&Facts discussions of scientific data. This is particularly evident in repeated attempts made by ICR members to refute the statistical similarities found between the human and chimpanzee genomes. Tomkins argues against scientific claims that chimps share a 97% or greater genetic likeness with humans, which has been used by evolutionists to demonstrate proof of common ancestry.3' In the process he reports numerous counter-statistics to make his point:

For example, a report in 2007 showed that 23 percent of the human genome shares no immediate genetic ancestry with chimpanzees, mankind’s supposed closest living relative. A more recent study showed extreme dissimilarity (> 30 percent) between human and chimp Y chromosome DNA sequence. Furthermore, when data are provided in research papers that allow the determination of DNA sequence gaps in alignments, actual overall identities are 70 to 87 percent.36

These statistics are implemented in the hope of reinforcing the animalhuman divide mentioned in Chapter 1, which Darwin-skeptics are insistent on preserving lest evolution reduce intrinsic human value and give rise to amoral chaos.

As has also been noted previously, statistics can appear in the form of survey results used to support various Social Consensus claims. This occurs throughout Acts&Facts materials, which is exemplified in an article entitled, “The Iron Grip of Darwinism on Education.” The author of this piece attempts to demonstrate how a statistical majority of US citizens support creationist ideas, reporting that, “In a Gallup survey, 66 percent of Americans considered the statement ‘creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years’ as either probably (27 percent) or definitely (39 percent) true.”37 Similar opinion poll findings coincide with both Social Proof and Underdog Effects, either demonstrating creationism’s sizeable following, or reporting on the academy’s proevolutionist sentiments against which YEC’s valiant underdogs must bravely contend.38

Institute for Creation Research articles possess the highest Social Consensus occurrence rate in comparison to any other Evolution Wars organization. Figure 6.4 details the subdivisions of these Social Consensus cases, as they are articulated throughout antievolutionist media. The most ubiquitous

Antievolutionist Social Consensus

Figure 6.4 Antievolutionist Social Consensus

Social Consensus genre in ICR media is comprised of Social Proof pronouncements, which in many cases are delivered as audience testimonials. Such testimonials are concentrated in the “Letters to the Editor” section of every Acts and Facts magazines. These reader comments are unanimously positive, and usually thank ICR for its influential work, encourage its leaders to persevere in upholding creationism, reiterate YEC precepts, describe how readers themselves are using ICR materials, and explain how audience members have chosen to give money to the organization. Whenever a contributor’s nationality is other than American, the letter’s origin is explicitly provided. For instance, feedback is included from ICR’s admirers residing in Australia, Bahrain, Bermuda, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malawi, Nepal, the Philippines, Scotland, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Zambia. As one Canadian audience member writes:39

I am writing to you to say thank you for all that you do and for everyone involved - please don’t stop or give up because what you are doing is so vital to every believer and even more so to those who continue to be blinded by the god of this age. It is so important to have your magazines here to help with revealing God’s truth to my family. We love the work everyone has put in to this ministry and we will be helping financially too! God bless you now and, more importantly, in the future as the devil continues to try to shut your voice up - may our Lord keep you shining like a light on the hill as a beacon of hope and truth!!40

These audience comments serve to substantiate the global reach of ICR’s materials and act as Social Proof for the institute’s efforts.

Other renderings of Social Proof are especially prevalent in the organization’s routine appeals for financial donations. This is evident in an article by Morris IV, in which he first laments that the Internet is awash with deceitful proevolutionist websites. He explains, “Sadly, much of the information being disseminated [online] might better be called ‘disinformation,’ ” in the same way that apparently “much of what is called science is really ‘science falsely so called.’ ” He then encourages potential donors to financially support ICR’s online initiatives, and notes, “Judging by the thousands of personal testimonies and emails we have received, it is clear God has abundantly blessed this vital aspect of ICR’s ministry.”41 The credibility of God’s sacred endorsement, and reference to ICR’s deep social backing, are together webbed to a contrast message weighing up the institute’s fight for scientific truth against the online spread of evolutionary deceit.

The numerous testimonials in Acts&Facts reflect ICR’s recurrent claims that thousands of people are being impacted by the institute’s materials. In a 2009 article Ford tells readers, “ICR’s premier monthly magazine, Acts&Facts, continues to grow, with new subscriptions now reaching 3,000 per month,”42 and almost two years later Morris IV communicated that “countless multitudes” are being impacted by the organization’s media materials and outreach efforts.4' These declarations correspond with assertions that there are millions of creationists worldwide, who are joined by the thousands-strong contingent of authentic scientists who keenly support Young Earth Creationism. “Hundreds of students, pastors, and Bible teachers trained by ICR have taught creation in many venues,” notes J. Morris. Additionally, there are “many thousands of creation scientists, hundreds of creation organizations, and millions of creation believers, a movement all catalyzed by the publication of The Genesis Flood."1'4

ICR’s focus on enumerating creation-supporting scientists intersects with Source Cues, as Acts&Facts writers frequently assure readers that “there are now thousands of scientists who believe in recent six-day creation,” “many fully credentialed professional biologists who are Christian creationists,” while insisting that scores of “scientists do accept the biblical record at face value, and there are now thousands of scientists who have become youngearth creationists, not to mention multitudes of non-scientists.”45 Similar statements are used to counter the conceited allegations of proevolutionists, who are described as venally trying to reinforce that the weight of scientific evidence and the majority of scientists support evolution. “In the absence of either a divine ‘evolution revelation’ or real scientific proof of macroevolution,” stated H. Morris, “it is hard to understand this pervasive attitude of intellectual superiority (even over thousands of fully credentialed creationist scientists) as anything but evolutionary arrogance.”46

Furthermore, ICR writers stress that even if a minority of scientists endorse a young-Earth, Darwin-skeptic perspective, the majority of citizens, especially in the United States, support some form of creationism and are also keen to see non-evolutionist alternatives taught in public schools.47 Poll statistics are utilized to underscore such observations, with the intent of trying to demonstrate how only a small cabal of educated elites are actually true evolutionists. One article informs audiences, “In spite of evolution’s dominance among these educated leaders, over half of respondents in a 2007 USA Today/Gallup poll agreed that it was either ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ true that ‘God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.’” For that matter, “An earlier CNN7USA Today Gallup poll found that ‘fifty-three percent say God created humans in their present form the way the Bible describes it, essentially endorsing a strict creationist explanation.’ ”48 With such information in hand, readers are told, “Interest in creation still flourishes today, spawning thousands of creation scientists, hundreds of creationist organizations, and millions of creation believers.”49

At the same time that Social Proof is being communicated, Acts&Facts articles also exhibit cases of Underdog Effects. Though it may at first seem that these two message variables are incongruous, both varieties of Social Consensus coexist in assorted combinations throughout Darwin-skeptic media. For instance, despite the fact that the bulk of America’s citizenry are apparently creationists, audiences are told that Christian scientists who accept YEC are still outnumbered within a fiercely hostile academic world.

These include the stalwart underdogs who first resisted the scientific authority after reading The Genesis Flood in the 1960s, and who “like God’s loyal ‘seven thousand’ in the days of Elijah, had not yet bowed their knee to the Baal of evolutionary compromise.”30 Through such declarations the Social Proof affiliated with claims of widespread citizen support is affixed to underdog accounts of intrepid creationist scientists, bucking the opinion of their more numerous evolution-supporting colleagues.

Notwithstanding references to the apparent statistical support for Darwinskepticism expressed by non-elites, Acts&Facts writers are still apt to paint Christians, and specifically Christian creationists, as a severely persecuted underdog community. These underdogs live in an increasingly antagonistic secular society that is “pervasively dominated by humanistic unbelief and worldly intimidation.”31 Morris III thus insists, we are “immersed in a secular culture, bombarded with an ever-increasing vitriol and hatred toward Christ and His followers.” He then further elucidates: “Among politicians and pundits, media and entertainment moguls, and academicians pontificating from their tenured naturalism, Christians are blatantly branded as the enemy, a scourge to be banned.”32 In the context of this discrimination, Christians are told to hold fast to their beliefs and to test scientific theories for themselves rather than simply relying upon “‘a majority of authorities’ who write their own world history apart from that given by the highest ranking authority.”53 Additionally, Institute for Creation Research’s members are depicted as steadfast underdogs, who despite their minority position, are guaranteed of an eventual triumph through God’s assistance. As Bible-believing followers of Jesus Christ, those publics supporting the institute also represent maltreated underdogs in a secular world, who will ultimately be found victorious through divine justice. Hence, even though “the adversaries of God and His Word are powerful, we are not intimidated -because the Lord is on our side.”54 Plus, ICR is joined by numerous influential Evangelical leaders in their courageous fight:

Along with ICR, leaders like Dr. Mohler, Dr. Mac Brunson, Dr. John MacArthur, and others are standing, unafraid of the masses, shepherding the Church through the unwavering communication of biblical truth. Throughout our 40 years of ministry, ICR has counted on the friendship of men like these who resist compromise and seek to honor the Creator and His Word.55

Credibility from Source Cues associated with prominent Protestant Christians is, therefore, linked with ICR’s underdog narrative of defying evolutionary compromise in a world portrayed as being increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity.

Finally, numerous incidents of Social Consensus in Acts&Facts are also associated with Multiple Sources. Because these occurrences simply involve three or more separate sources expressing analogous messages, this persuasive variable complements numerous other topics. For example, in Henry

Morris’s article, “The Vanishing Case for Evolution,” a flurry of sources are used to successively echo the claim that no scientific evidence exists in support of evolution.56 In most cases, however, this persuasive cue overlaps with Social Proof and the testimonials found in each magazine’s Letters to the Editor articles. These testimonials represent separate voices that often provide matching statements about the efficacy of ICR’s materials while, also expressing complimentary thankfulness for the organization’s work?7 In this way, Multiple Sources works in concert with ICR’s other Social Consensus incidents to reveal a veritable choir of support for the organization’s efforts.

 
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