AiG, inoculation, statistics and jargon
As with ICR media, Answers in Genesis communications also include expressions of Social Consensus in the form of Multiple Sources, Social Proof, and Underdog Effects; though these appear far less frequently than in other antievolutionist broadcasts. Answers magazine’s few cases of Multiple Sources are found in each magazine’s “Readers Respond” section, which provide cognate statements from different audience members. These response letters are often arranged to supply analogous messages that praise AiG’s efforts and communicate the extent to which the organization’s materials are appreciated. Such testimonials also serve as Social Proof, which constitutes the majority of AiG’s Social Consensus cases. The snippets of such letters appearing in Answers include endorsements from people around the world who have been impacted by the magazine, and who have also rejected evolution owing to the influence of Answers in Genesis’ mass communications. As a letter from Syed H. of Pakistan relates:
Your whole magazine sings the glory of God. It explains science in light of Scripture, rejects evolution, and shows the goodness of our Creator. I am now starting to believe that the Bible truly is the Word of God. I used to be convinced by evolution and the big bang theory, too. But after reading about the Word of God [in your magazine], I feel that I was wrong. The research you have done is marvelous, and it touches the heart. God bless you in your work so that you are able to help many other people open their hearts and minds to the Bible.58
In most cases, however, these letters simply express how much readers are enjoying Answers, and the degree to which they are pleased with their paid subscriptions:
- • “As a teenager in a world that loves to dish out lies, I enjoy reading a mag that is full of truth!”59
- • “I loved it enough that I bought extra copies for others.”60
- • “Super issue! Jam-packed with amazing, truthful articles! A must for every home!”61
Such testimonials socially confirm the potency of Answers in Genesis’ Darwin-skeptic message and its global impact. “I once believed in an old earth,” explains an American soldier stationed in Afghanistan. “Now that I’ve been reading Answers magazine it is more clear to me how the earth truly is young. I love when the Bible can be scientifically explained to me.”62 Interestingly, unlike testimonials appearing in ICR materials, several issues of Answers magazine include some negative feedback from audience members. For instance, one reader from Scotland comments on an article by Mohler concerning homosexuality, stating unreservedly, “I am absolutely horrified at what has been published.” He continues angrily, “I’d always thought AiG aimed to be scientifically accurate, but this article suggests that the author isn’t even remotely familiar with the current literature, leaving me no conclusion but that he’s writing what he wants to be true.”63 The inclusion of negative feedback provides a strategic mechanism for Answers in Genesis to respond to complaints, while reiterating the organization’s tenets and reinforcing the credibility of its writers. For instance, following the reader’s criticism of Mohler’s work, Answers' editor explains to audiences that Mohler was in fact “most suited to speak from a biblical perspective on this central cultural issue,” because he is the “president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has worked for years with his best faculty and others to refine a biblical understanding of many high-profile cultural issues, such as homosexuality.” Notably, this incorporation of unfavorable reader responses amongst Multiple Sources incidences coincides with the advertising device known as Two-Sided Persuasion.
Two-sided Persuasion has been succinctly described as the communication of “both positive and negative attributes of a product or service, with the negative information included voluntarily.”64 This technique was a device systematically analyzed by Hovland’s Yale research group (Chapter 2), and ensuing studies have since indicated that intentionally presenting negative information can have viable persuasion effects. Such negative reports can act as a type of message cue, enhancing the perceived honesty and overall credibility of the communicator, which thereupon improve audience opinions of the wares or ideas being marketed. Employing such a strategy is often far more persuasive than if merely positive information supporting the communicator’s own claims are provided. Such bilateral argumentation tends to only be convincing, however, if the message goes on to clearly repudiate the negative contentions raised. In terms of persuasion, the efficacy of such messaging has been said to lie in its inoculation effects. This means that communications purposively containing negative statements are thought to proactively immunize audiences against argument rebuttals because, when a communicator exhibits counterarguments and then refutes them, it builds up a “resistance in the audience so they will not sway from the desired opinion.”65 Interestingly, Petty and Cacioppo have suggested that individuals who are “intelligent or well-educated” could be particularly susceptible to Two-Sided Persuasion, because “these subjects may be more likely to reason that a source that is aware of both sides is more credible (intelligent or knowledgeable) than a source that presents only one side.”66
Though Two-Sided Persuasion is not especially prominent in Evolution Wars mass media, AiG materials are unique in exhibiting the highest rate of this cue. As has been divulged above, AiG’s most conspicuous cases are nestled amongst Multiple Sources incidences of Social Consensus detailing reader responses. These feature negative comments from audience members scattered throughout repeated, and otherwise unanimously positive, feedback. Such unfavorable letter writers complain that certain ideas should “not be touted as fact,” and bemoan how articles convey “bad research,” while even asking of the editor, “What were you thinking?”67 Noticeably, each of these critical comments are followed immediately by refutations that make certain the Answers in Genesis’ position is the correct one.
Along with Source Cues in the form of reader testimonials, Answers writers also explain that the world is teeming with creationists worldwide, and that Young Earth Creationism is increasingly accepted wherever it is being disseminated. In this vein, an Answers contributor notes, “Creationists are seeing increasing success in convincing the public that dinosaurs did not die out 65 million years ago and were actually contemporaneous with humans.”6x Relatedly, readers are told that AiG’s ministry is flourishing and that demand for the organization’s materials is increasing. “When we launched Answers magazine in 2006, we started with about 33,000 subscribers,” explains Dale Mason. “There are now over 75,000, and growing! That’s amazing, because most magazines have fewer subscribers today than they did five years ago.”69 Not only are Answers subscriptions on the rise, but so are attendances at AiG’s Creation Museum: “The dream of the Creation Museum has been realized - with over 1.3 million guests so far.”70 Numerous articles also report on successful creationist endeavors in countries around the world, where the majority of these efforts involve the distribution of mass media.71 The implication of these reports is that, thanks to Answers in Genesis, the YEC message is swiftly radiating out to every area of the globe, and thousands upon thousands of people are hearing it, accepting it, and further aiding in its distribution.
Added to descriptions of Young Earth Creationism’s popular support are claims that there are also many Darwin-skeptic protagonists in the scientific community. Answers writers assert that there are new groups of scientists who champion recent creation emerging all over globe, while also taking offense to any suggestion that creationists are not scientifically educated.72 For example, Dawkins is criticized for insinuating that “creationists are ‘a baying pack of ignoramuses’” when apparently “he knows full well that creationists are as educated as evolutionists, including several hundred PhD scientists.”73 Another article reprimands the executive editor of the New York Times, protesting that his “comments ignore the many scientists worldwide who are creationists and hold PhD degrees from respected schools.”74 Though such comments are less frequent in Answers than in ICR materials,
Three kinds of lies 193 they still make it known that there are apparently considerable numbers of brave, underdog creationists in the scientific community.75
Intermixed with such examples of Social Consensus can be found the energetic use of statistics. As a matter of fact, Answers magazine exhibits the highest relative occurrence rate of Statistics and Technical Jargon when compared to all other Evolution Wars communications. While the bulk of these cases relates to the use of technical jargon, AiG writers also intermittently employ numerical data to reinforce the contention that people across the globe support Young Earth Creationism. Answers writers are less likely than ICR’s Acts&Facts contributors to provide data concerning the number of creationist allies, but still put forward statistics about the worldwide following creationism enjoys from Australia to the United Kingdom.76 More frequently, however, poll results are used by AiG writers to convey the atrocious state of Christianity, including the church’s global failure in upholding creationism, respecting biblical authority, and adhering to moral values. For example, significant attention is given to the apparent number of Christian youths rejecting important Christian doctrines and leaving the church. “Only 9% of ‘born again’ Christian teenagers believe that there are unchangeable, absolute principles of right and wrong,” laments Farris. “Only 7% of these same teens say that they make their moral decisions based on the Bible.”77 Another author announces how statistical research has “pointed to serious problems in Sunday school,” such that, “Young people are not taking their lessons to heart and are leaving the church in droves.” As he then warns, nearly “70% leave before they turn twenty.”78 Similar reports can be found scattered throughout other articles, which indicate that “for Americans ages 18-25, only 30% believe the Bible is ‘totally accurate,’ and for ages 26-44, the percentage is less than 40%.” The problem in the end is one of skepticism ultimately derived from non-creationist theologies, which spark the questioning of the “Bible’s history as well as its relevance to their lives.”79
The articles “Many Christian Colleges Receive a Failing Grade” and “Going, Going . .. Gone: Why Are Young People Walking Away From Our Churches?” represent quintessential examples of how AiG writers incorporate numerical data into such arguments.80 In the first of these articles the author explains that new research “paints a troubling picture of the Christian higher education system,” in which Christian educators communicate varied beliefs about Young Earth Creationism and evolution. “The good news?” asks the writer before delineating: “Most respondents (98-99%) believe that the Bible is ‘inspired by God’ and that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, died a substitutionary death on the Cross, and rose bodily from the grave.” However, readers are then told that things get much worse, as “only 74% of respondents believe that Scripture is without error (‘inerrant’).” Disappointingly, even “fewer (60%) accept the Genesis creation account of six literal 24-hour days.”81 Likewise, in the second article Ham explains that AiG has been trying to identify why so many young Christiansare apparently leaving churches. He tells readers, Answers in Genesis “contracted with Britt Beemer, from America’s Research Group, to formulate questions and survey one thousand twenty-somethings (ages 20-29) who had gone to church regularly as children but no longer attend.”82 In the rest of the piece Ham provides a flurry of statistics, and in each of these articles such data are employed to support the view that Christianity desperately needs to readopt a God-honoring respect for scripture, which is exemplified in AiG’s hermeneutical approach and its unyielding antievolutionism.
Statistics also appear in Answers articles together with specialist language, which is most often intimated in complex descriptions of biology, as well as vocabulary from the earth and atmospheric sciences. Technical language related to biology recurrently includes diagrams and descriptions of human or animal physiology, while statistics are incorporated into discussions of human-chimp genetic similarities, greenhouse gas emissions, physiology, and astrophysics. Numerous examples of such statistics-jargon combinations occur in the work of Answers in Genesis’ Jason Lisle. “The earth’s eccentricity is only 1.67%, measured by how far its orbit deviates from a perfect circle,” he states confidently in an article on exoplanets, which further insists that extrasolar spheres point “to the hand of a mighty Creator.” As he goes on to communicate with jargon and statistics adorned language: “But Epsilon Eridani b’s eccentricity - 70% - is over forty times greater than our planet’s. Some other exoplanets have even higher eccentricities!”83 Concise overviews of biological life, intended to demonstrate divine craftsmanship, are also rife with scientific terminology. For instance, one article argues that when “we look more closely at something as outwardly simple as extending a finger to type the letter u, we discover an astoundingly sophisticated design that points unmistakably to the Creator.”84 To reinforce the contention that scientists “who dismiss finger motion as simply the end result of a series of accidents have failed to appreciate the complex physiology involved,” a series of somewhat technical anatomical drawings are delivered to audiences.85 As with Lisle’s explanations of exoplanets, in order to wholly comprehend Jonathan W. Jones’ references to the human hand, and properly gauge their use within this antievolutionist lesson, some training in anatomy is certainly required. The same could be said for Answers in Genesis’ ample usage of binomial nomenclature, as well as references to such things as the “periaqueductal gray,” the “ventromedial prefrontal cortex,” or “cardiac rupture, asphyxiation, cardiac arrhythmia, and hypovolemic shock.”86 It is of note that when AiG materials employ such jargon, which can act as a mechanism of cognitive disruption, Answers communicators also then provide reframing messages. These explanations clarify how such scientific complexities confirm that God has intricately designed the world around us, and reveal the truth of a young-Earth.
Answers magazine articles contain only a small amount of jargon associated with mathematics, physics, and astronomy. For instance, a handful of AiG contributors mention such ideas as the “anisotropic synchrony convention,” and “spiral density wave theory” in their defenses of young-universe
Three kinds of lies 195 astrophysical models.8' However, a sizeable amount of technical language is affiliated with the earth and atmospheric sciences, which appear in explanations of the scientific validity of flood geology that attempt to reconcile known geological phenomena with the global deluge described in Genesis. Occasionally, this simply incorporates listing the chemical makeup of minerals, which are often featured in complex scientific charts and diagrams, along with data on the complexities and apparent problems associated with radiocarbon dating.88 Such scientific jargon is especially prevalent in the works of Snelling, who also contributes to ICR’s Acts&Facts. His refutations of radiometric methods, as well as explanations of other geological features, are replete with technical language requiring at least undergraduate training in the earth sciences. Added to these cases of scientific technical jargon are instances of complex theological language, which include the use of ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek vocabulary. Such occurrences are more common in Answers than in either ICR or Center for Science and Culture materials, and are representative of the amplified religious focus of AiG media in relation to other Darwin-skeptic broadcasts.89