Stats and technical language in CSC media

While Answers in Genesis messages exhibit the most cases of Statistics and Technical Jargon across Evolution Wars communications, Center for Science and Culture articles display the least, aside from New Atheist publications. Nevertheless, as with other antievolutionist broadcasts, the majority of instances in News and Views materials involve jargon rather than enumerated data. In CSC media this jargon is almost exclusively related to the biological sciences. Corresponding with Intelligent Design theory’s aim to prove divine contrivance in nature, such jargon usually occurs within articles contending that various biomolecular processes and aspects of genetics demonstrate irreducible complexity. For example, a number of CSC writers discuss the oft-cited bacterial flagellum and its intracellular workings, said to represent unmistakable “engineering genius” and a “clear incidence of design.”90 Complex details provided regarding the flagellum often necessitate university-level competencies in biochemistry to fully digest, and would likely be cognitively disruptive to audiences. These discussions communicate ideas about the “transfer of phosphoryl groups (autophosphorylation) from ATP to a conserved histidine residue,” and incorporate such overviews as those found in the following statement: “Thus, in order to inhibit the o28, the anti-sigma factor (FlgM) alluded to above inhibits its activity and prohibits it from interacting with the RNA polymerase holoenzyme complex.”91 Ultimately, such jargon-rich complexities are then reframed in straightforward commentaries, which assure audiences that empirical science reveals divine design in nature.

At the same time that irreducible complexity is defended, similar biochemical jargon is employed in articles criticizing the explanatory limitations of Darwinism.92 This includes commentaries on the inability of evolution totruly account for elaborate molecular machinery such as DNA repair mechanisms, because the “Darwinian step-by-step process of natural selection acting on random mutations does not currently have the explanatory capacity for this type of system.”93 Furthermore, jargon peppers articles questioning the substantial genetic similarities found between humans and chimpanzees, as well as the ability of pure chance and materialism to explain the origin of life. These are topics also frequently addressed in ICR and AiG media, though News and Views articles incorporate a greater focus on biochemistry and genomics within such claims. CSC writers tackling this subject matter reference the “10 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and about 1.5 million insertion and deletion polymorphisms (INDELs) in the human genome,” “interstitial telomeric sequences,” and how various researchers have used “pH manipulation, phosphate buffers and irradiation all at the correct times and amounts to achieve their goal, which was to produce ‘activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides.’”94 Similarly, technical jargon pervades criticisms of scientific theories concerned with how new genetic information arises, and appear throughout articles questioning evolutionary junk-DNA hypotheses. For example, one Center for Science and Culture writer addressing junk-DNA tells readers in specialist language how scientists “generated transgenic mice carrying an entire 100-kilobase human globin gene locus with or without the ERV-9 LTR, a class of retrotransposons found in human and chimpanzee globin gene loci, which possess enhancer and promoter activities in embryonic and hematopoetic [sic] progenitor cells.”95

Statistics regularly appear alongside technical jargon when junk-DNA is mentioned, while they also appear in articles attempting to challenge humanchimp genetic similarities. As audiences are told, “A popular Darwinian meme is that humans and chimp genomes are ninety-something percent identical.”96 In response to this, and like Young Earth Creationist advocates, Center for Science and Culture writers use counter-statistics to demonstrate the seeming hollowness of such claims:

  • • “Also, the 99% identity figure is often derived from protein-coding regions that only comprise about 1.5% of the two genomes.”97
  • • “More than 30% of the chimp Y chromosome lacks an alignable counterpart on the human Y chromosome, and vice versa, whereas this is true for less than 2% of the remainder of the genome.”98
  • • “[T]he overall similarity of the human genome will prove to be close to 70% (and very far from 99%).”99

Rather similarly, Sternberg comments on the “false fact” that “90% of all genomic DNA (in eukaryotes) is junk.” He then provides statistics in an effort to falsify this claim: “Instead of 90% of the human or fly genome being junk, it seems that 90% or more of chromosomal DNA has some kind of specific developmental function, given the available data.”100

Apart from such cases, statistics are used to demonstrate that most Americans do not accept evolution and want alternatives taught in schools. These

Three kinds of lies 197 numbers are derived from opinion poll results, which are said to “consistently show that the vast majority of Americans reject neo-Darwinian evolution and over 75% are united in believing that ID should be taught in schools.”101 These numbers are affiliated with CSC’s relatively scant articulations of Social Consensus and indicate that the preponderance of US citizenry support the Intelligent Design movement’s struggle for ‘academic freedom.’ As one article reveals: “A large majority of respondents (80%) agree that teachers and students should have academic freedom to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a scientific theory, with more than half (54%) saying they strongly agree. Only 16% disagree.”102 The statistical backing for academic freedom is contrasted with the evolutionary theory’s modest public support. This is demonstrated in Table 6.1, taken from an article that notes, “The Darwin lobby wants only the pro-Darwin-only viewpoint taught. They want to censor any science that challenges neo-Darwinian evolution.”103 Therefore, audiences are informed that a statistical minority of people, composed of an insidious Darwin intelligentsia, is forcing its evolutionist dogma onto a clear majority of citizens. Importantly, this vast majority is composed of individuals from a variety of sociopolitical backgrounds, across a range of varied demographics.104 Luskin concludes of such poll results, “Clearly, support for the freedom to teach the controversy about Darwinian evolution cuts across religion, party affiliation, political ideology, and educational levels.”105

Statistics, jargon and antievolutionist credibility

Taking into consideration the presence of specialized language and enumerated data throughout antievolutionist media, from ICR to the Center of Science and Culture’ articles, it should be reiterated that Statistics and Technical Jargon can prompt audiences to assess a messenger’s proficiencies and qualifications. In this sense, statistics and jargon are indicators of technical authority in an area, which can kindle attentiveness to a communicator’s Messenger Credibility. Therefore, since Statistics and Technical Jargon are complementarily dependent upon expertise, this cue’s persuasive efficacy is affiliated with the presence of Source Cues. With this in mind, it is of note that the prevalence of Messenger Credibility cases in antievolutionist media ensures that instances of Statistics and Technical Jargon are most often accompanied by some reference to the scientific credentials, qualifications, and/or the religious standing of its communicators. In fact, ICR’s Acts&Facts actually manifests more than four occurrences of Source Cues for each appearance of jargon or statistics. This trend is exhibited within Vardiman’s articles containing complex, jargon-saturated language and charts, which persistently include some reference to his educational qualifications and current research responsibilities. Similarly, Ansivers articles contain a greater proportion of credibility-promoting statements to complement the peripheral activity of specialized language and numerical data. On that account, complex scientific terminology associated with

Table 6.1 The Darwin Lobby vs. Darwin Skeptics'

Group

Teach Evidence Supporting Darwin?

Teach Evidence Against Darwin?

Teach Creationism?

Teach Intelligent Design?

Expose Students to Multiple Scientific Viewpoints (including those you disagree with)?

% of Public that Agrees

Darwin Lobby

Yes

No

Ban it

Ban it

No

16%

Darwin Skeptics like

Discovery Institute

Yes

Yes

No (courts have made it clear creationism is religion)

No (but don’t ban it either)

Definitely yes.

80%

1 Casey Luskin, "How the Science Teachers’ Lobby Keeps Its Constituents in the Dark on Evolution,” Center for Science and Culture, http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/03/li ow_the_science_teachers_lobby044471.html.

Three kinds of lies 199 biology, the earth and atmospheric sciences, mathematics, physics, as well as astronomy, are freighted alongside repeated credibility-fostering language. The Darwin-skeptic media produced by the Center for Science and Culture also contain a greater number of credibility-engendering remarks to accompany its rather complicated biochemical vocabulary, and statistics associated with genetics or pro-ID poll results. Likewise, the same is true for counter-creationist materials disseminated by the National Centre for Science Education and the BioLogos Foundation.

 
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