Proevolutionist communications, statistics, jargon and social consensus
Figure 6.5 showcases the ways in which Statistics and Technical Jargon cases are manifested throughout National Center for Science Education and BioLogos proevolutionist media. It is of note that, in contrast with antievolutionist media, NCSE and BioLogos incidences of this cue are primarily associated with numerical data rather than cases of specialized jargon. Additionally, both NCSE and BioLogos Foundation materials exhibit, on average, numerous cases of Messenger Credibility for every occurrence of Statistics and Technical Jargon. In fact, the NCSE’s frequency rate for Source Cues is more than three times the organization’s occurrence value for Statistics and Technical Jargon, while the BLF’s rates are more than double. As a result, there exist ample descriptions of communicator expertise, which audiences can make reference to when encountering statistics or jargon. This observation is of further import when considering Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science media, which demonstrate a recurrence value for Statistics and Technical Jargon that is just below the 0.400 threshold of analysis used in this book. It is vital to take note that while statistics and jargon are less apparent in RDFRS materials, these New Atheist articles further demonstrate an even smaller rate of recurrence for Source Cues. Consequently, and unlike all other Evolution Wars communications, throughout New Atheist media there does not exist a commensurate number of credibility claims to persuasively function in tandem with cases of Statistics and Technical Jargon.
Figure 6.5 Proevolutionist Statistics and Technical Jargon
Numbers, jargon, and consensus in BioLogos and NCSE articles
Statistics in National Center for Science Education messages are most commonly associated with reports on sociological surveys, including those conveying data about the number of US school teachers who bypass evolution in their high school courses, or who actively include creationism in science curricula.106 As one NCSE article reports, an American study found teachers reluctant to instruct students on evolutionary theory, with only “28% of teachers deemed effective educators with respect to evolution -and with as many as 13% of teachers explicitly advocating creationism.”107 Survey statistics are also provided in descriptions of the global acceptance or rejection of biological evolution.108 Often such communiqués contrast worldwide poll results with survey data tallied in the United States; frequently revealing greater support for Darwin-skepticism in America than can be observed in many other nations.109 NCSE broadcasts also include survey findings related to popular perceptions of climate change. These too relate concerns over climate change education in the US, and inform readers that among respondents to a National Science Teachers Association poll, “82% reported having faced skepticism about climate change and climate change education from students, 54% reported having faced such skepticism from parents, and 26% reported having faced such skepticism from administrators.”110 Finally, statistics are also presented in NCSE explanations of scientific data, along with criticisms of the government tax breaks that Answers in Genesis received while building its Ark Encounter theme park.111
BioLogos media also contain statistics in the form of opinion poll results. These provide survey data about the reception of evolutionary science in various communities, and indicate to audiences that “there is work to be done” in promoting science-religion harmony.112 BioLogos Foundation writers further include statistics associated with scientific data, including numerical values demonstrating the genetic similarities existing between humans and other animals, which antievolutionists so stridently disdain. Using information gathered from comparative genomics, Venema thus explains that a comparison of humans and chimpanzees “reveals that at a whole-genome level, we are over 95% identical.”113 The use of scientific statistics in this way also frequently coincides with the use of technical jargon. Within BLF communications such specialized lexis is most often related to the biological sciences, and it occurs within critical evaluations of Darwin-skeptic notions. This jargon includes terminology associated with DNA transposon and the biological mechanisms of immune systems, as well as complex visual images presenting diagrams of the human blood-clotting cascade, and elaborate figures illustrating the E. coli pan-genome.114 Added to cases of scientific jargon are incidents of complex theological language. These occurrences include the use of ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek vocabulary while addressing issues of Christian theology, hermeneutics, science, and antievolutionist contentions.115 Such cases of theological jargon reflect BioLogos’ religious foundations, and predictably they simply do not occur within either RDFRS or National Centre for Science Education materials.
Among the proevolutionists, one persuasion characteristic that is unique to the NCSE includes numerous cases of Social Consensus, which are cataloged in Figure 6.6. Along with Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis Evolution Wars communications, NCSE media also feature recurrent appeals to popular agreement. Consequently, Social Proof, with a flecking of Multiple Sources, express popular consensus across National Center for Science Education articles. Unlike Darwin-skeptic cases, however, NCSE occurrences of Social Proof are not primarily enunciated as reader testimonials. Instead, NCSE media most commonly refer to the many individuals who support the organization’s proevolutionist stances and disagree with Darwin-skeptic initiatives.116 For example, articles highlight the diversity of support that the organization has garnered, including “178 statements supporting the teaching of evolution from scientific, educational, civil liberties, and religious organizations.”117 Readers are also told of the 800 scientists in the US states surrounding Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum, who “signed a statement sponsored by NCSE expressing concern about the effect of the scientific inaccuracies of its exhibits on local students.”118 Such remarks coincide with Source Cues, as they reference the sheer number of scientists sanctioning the organization’s enterprises.
NCSE articles also frequently include the same reiterated postscript, identifying the organization’s thousands of members, which include “scientists, teachers, clergy, and citizens with diverse religious affiliations.”119 Furthermore, many pieces contain the statement, “The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues,” and this repeated announcement is then followed by some reference to those backing science education, including
Figure 6.6 Proevolutionist Social Consensus
“80,000 educational professionals.”120 NCSE contributors likewise underscore the vast number of religious adherents who endorse evolution. This is characterized by notices of the hundreds of church communities across the US that have participated in ‘Evolution Weekend’ celebrations, featuring “sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science.”121 As a result, NCSE media formulate a Social Proof portrait that consists of active members and thousands of supporters traversing multiple academic disciplines and religious perspectives. This image is accompanied by statistics that relate a need to press on in defending science as the Evolution Wars continue.