Reexamining source cues and repetition

As Chapter 3 outlined, Source Cues represent one of the most substantial persuasive constituents of Darwin-skeptic mass media and the most readily occurring variable exhibited by both Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis communications. It is also an important feature of proevolutionist materials produced by the National Center for Science Education and the BioLogos Foundation. Indeed, Source Cues boast the highest frequency value of any other persuasion element detected in NCSE articles, and the second highest in the BioLogos sample. These findings reinforce the significance of this message variable in terms of the relative number of times it is expressed across Evolution Wars communications, aside from in New Atheist media. Be that as it may, reevaluating the differing ways that signals of expertise and Source Attraction are being expressed, in terms of culturally cognitive messaging as well as moral foundations, underscores a significant dimension of Evolution Wars suasion associated with this heuristic.

While Source Cues are a hallmark persuasive attribute of NCSE and BioLogos materials, it is evident that Young Earth Creationist media is still far more likely to include references to Messenger Credibility and Source Attraction than either proevolutionist or Intelligent Design broadcasts. Nevertheless, there are further vicissitudes to credibility and attraction claims that ought to be considered, which may overlie the occurrence rates of persuasive cues with another level of media stimuli. For instance, there are degrees to which Darwin-skeptic and proevolutionist materials include, or are absent of, references to specific culturally cognitive premises and morally foundational axes. These variances are highlighted when surveying dissimilarities between how appeals to shared values and sacred authority, as well as religious and cultural identifiers, are expressed throughout Source Cues instances.

Both National Center for Science Education and BioLogos articles feature appeals to expertise and scientific trustworthiness at greater rates to those displayed in Center for Science and Culture’s Intelligent Design-supporting materials. These appeals are articulated almost exclusively as brief mentions of the academic expertise maintained by those who espouse evolutionary science, as well as the academic credentials of proevolutionists. Importantly, however, NCSE expressions of Source Cues exhibit hardly any references to shared values, moral intuitions, or cultural commitments. Meanwhile, BioLogos messages only occasionally reference the sacred authority of scripture and Christian values while invoking scientific credibility. By contrast, these observations differ considerably from what is found in Darwinskeptic media. For instance, Institute for Creation Research members not only present the case that creationism is the basis for paradigm-altering research projects that brandishes support from many highly credentialed researchers, scientists of the past, and an abundance of empirical data. ICR media also persistently describes the creationist cause as being divinely sanctioned, while claiming that the institute’s mission ensues directly from valuing the Bible as holy scripture and conforming to the Word of God. In fact, according to ICR communications, Jesus Christ himself interpreted the Bible in the same fashion as Young Earth Creationists, while the biblical authors employed an identical hermeneutic to the one allied with Young Earth Creationism. In addressing Christian audiences, Acts&Facts spokespersons also stress that ICR’s members maintain commonly shared Evangelical Christian values associated with the importance of Jesus Christ and his atonement, as well as doctrines regarding humankind’s divine image and intrinsic worth. As a matter of fact, creationism is styled as conforming to God’s very nature. Additionally, US publics are told how the Institute for Creation Research upholds such American cultural values as ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty.’

Consequently, while Acts&Facts articles are saturated with Messenger Credibility claims of secular, scientific competencies, ICR media goes beyond proevolutionist communications in validating Evangelical Christian worldviews and affirming key socioreligious mores maintained by targeted American audiences. These statements substantiate the cultural credibility of ICR communicators to publics whose personal identities are associated with likeminded Evangelical group commitments and social values. With reference to these Source Cues articulations, we can also return to the Moral Foundations Theory discussed in Chapter 2. This theory posits five psychological axes of morality, which are thought to produce quick and automatic emotional reactions in people. One such innate, moral base is the authority/ respect foundation that involves respect for hierarchy, obedience to legitimate authority, duty, awe, and admiration for individuals in power, as well as the veneration of traditions. Taking this moral intuition into account, we may further reassess the persuasiveness of Acts&Facts claims about ICR experiencing divine succor, and declarations that the institute is representative of authentic Christianity, deriving credibility from the sovereignty of God and the authority of scripture. For Christian audiences predisposed to respecting the Bible as the infallible Word of God, Institute for Creation Research expressions of Source Cues conceivably tap into another level of persuasion beyond mere claims of academic expertise. This dimension involves the influence of emotionally driven moral sensitives affiliated with weighty sources of Christian authority.

The reflexive sway of the authority/respect moral foundation may also be at work via the enunciation of Source Cues within Answers in Genesis communications. As has been noted in Chapter 3, Answers in Genesis writers use Appeals to Sacred Authority to a greater degree than any other Evolution Wars organization. Throughout such appeals, Answers media makers insist that assenting to creationism equates to trusting in God himself, rather than fallible and immoral human beings. Hence, the authority of AiG’s antievolutionism may be confirmed by academic credentials and scientific data, but ultimately it is endorsed by God’s authoritative voice. Concurrently, Answers in Genesis’ broadcasts also cultivate in-group partisanship by actively designating Young Earth Creationism as the Weltanschauung most congruous with Christian values and genuine religious faith. All other worldviews maintained by both out-group Christians and non-Christians deny, at some level, the trustworthiness of God while rejecting such core Evangelical principles as reverence for scripture. Source Cues in Answers magazine recurrently delimit what is and apparently is not authentic Christianity, with Young Earth Creationism acting as the benchmark of ideal hermeneutics and religious commitment. In this way, Answers in Genesis’ cases of Source Cues can be seen mustering the in-group/loyalty moral foundation, which incorporates our often-impulsive dedication to group membership contra distrust for nongroup individuals and ideas, the notion of self-sacrifice for one’s community, and the expression of patriotic inclinations. Source Cues in AiG materials thus fasten together religious and secular credibility claims with demarcations of Evangelical Christian in-group line items and out-group disloyalty. The integrity of Young Earth Creationists and their hermeneutics are entwined with the credibility of God’s eyewitness testimony, the religious authority of Jesus Christ, and the reliability of the biblical authors. Accordingly, any rejection of Young Earth Creationism is likened to a denunciation of scripture itself, its authors, and the Messiah; stationing both Christian and non-Christian deniers in a camp separated from true in-group Christian devotees.

Assertions linking creationism’s credibility to Christian cultural commitments, including faith in God and esteem for the Bible, could further assist in developing cultural credibility with audiences who accept similar convictions. Other Christian cultural values are tenaciously referenced in AiG’s expressions of Message Repetition, which frequently intersect with Source Cues in Ansivers magazine. This includes reiterating such shared Christian beliefs as the acceptance of humanity’s imago Dei and the intrinsic value of all people. By the same token, the Center for Science and Culture’s Intelligent Design-defending media also occasionally connects Messenger Credibility statements with values culturally consistent to those maintained by many theists. This includes the institute’s concern for the image of God in humanity and the importance of human distinctiveness. As a result, it can be observed that even though CSC communications present fewer cases of Source Cues than either National Center for Science Education or BioLogos counter-creationist media, when they do so, Intelligent Design broadcasts are disposed to mentioning culturally cognitive values. As a matter of fact, all Darwin-skeptic communications express Source Cues together with shared values and defining group commitments that may animate morally foundational axes, in ways that are not observable in proevolutionist materials. Nevertheless, while this may be true of Source Cues and repetition, the circumstances are rather different when it comes to Asking Questions and New Atheist mass communications.

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