Rhetoricals and values discourses
Chapter 3’s analysis revealed that Asking Questions boasts the second highest frequency rate of any message variable detected in the media produced by all three antievolutionist organizations. It is also the most ubiquitous persuasion heuristic appearing in both RDFRS and BioLogos Foundation communications, while being the third most common element identified in National Center for Science Education materials. Altogether, Evolution Wars media from all sides of the fray are suffused with erotema, hypophora, and anacoenosis. Once again, however, variations in how this persuasion device is conveyed with respect to culturally cognitive values discourse and moral framing reveals further insights into the communicative nuances of Evolution Wars broadcasts. To illustrate some of these distinctions, a réévaluation of Asking Questions cases in NCSE and BioLogos divulges how both plural and possessive media are unlikely to refer to cultural values or moral ideals when posing rhetorical questions. Darwin-skeptic and New Atheist utilization of rhetoricals, on the other hand, trend in quite the opposite direction.
Throughout Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science media, rhetorical queries largely appear within denouncements of ideas or individuals that do not conform with New Atheist perspectives on religion and science. By iteratively questioning the rationality of religious believers, and why some individuals would insist that science and religion are not necessarily in perennial conflict, these rhetoricals fortify central New Atheist tenets. These include the value of irreligious reason contra religious illogicality, and the inevitability of science-religion antagonism. Effectively, many instances of Asking Questions serve to convey fundamental atheist stances, which would also have cultural credibility for likeminded audiences. RDFRS rhetorical queries also provoke moral considerations, as New Atheist writers challenge the ethics of the Roman Catholic Church’s response to its clergy’s sexual abuse crimes, interrogate the origins of morality, and also indict Islam for causing terrorism. What can be identified are a series of valueladen, worldview-ratifying questions, which may also generate in-group/ loyalty moral foundational responses. In using rhetorical questions to castigate individuals and ideas that do not comport with New Atheist principles,
RDFRS media establish what people and viewpoints belong to the rationally, and often ethically confused outgroup, versus atheism’s sensible and scientifically minded company of nonbelievers.
In-group/loyalty prompts are also embedded in Darwin-skeptic rhe-toricals, including Institute for Creation Research erotema that repeatedly inquire how Christians could, in good conscience, accept both scripture and non-creationist assumptions. These rhetorical queries call into question whether individuals who do not fully adopt Young Earth Creationism can truly be deemed faithful Christians at all. Similar cases of Asking Questions in Answers in Genesis media likewise distinguish Christian creationist ingroup confederates from non-Young Earth outsiders. AiG questions also call upon the devotion of audience members by asking whether they, as true believers, will trust God in the face of antibiblical scientific threats. Such queries may further elicit authority/respect moral sentiments, as they rhetorically inquire as to what source of truth is considered more authoritative for audiences: the certainty of the Bible or the findings of disputed science? Darwin-skeptic communications also feature cases of Asking Questions that cast doubt upon the scientific validity of evolution, and the moral character of evolutionists. These types of queries insinuate that, unlike ingroup underdog scientists, proevolutionists must be embellishing what little empirical evidence they have in order to deceitfully corroborate evolutionary theory. The Center for Science and Culture’s use of rhetorical questions also does this while putting special emphasis on conspiracist allegations involving self-seeking academics, bullying, and widespread censorship of Intelligent Design-supporting facts. In effect, these rhetoricals can be tagged as appeals to fairness/reciprocity intuitions. This moral foundation comprises gut-level sensitivities related with the need to be treated equitably and to also treat others fairly, along with compulsions to protect the rights of citizens and personal autonomy. With its questions about why scientists are trying to impede academic freedom, censor data, and force an untested science upon the masses, CSC’s News and Views recurrently engages readers on the issue of fairmindedness and personal liberties. In this way, Intelligent Design media also refer to sociocultural values associated with notions of freedom and the right to independent thought. Suchlike discussions of fairness and suppression also frame the Center for Science and Culture’s abounding examples of the Contrast Principle and Negativity Effect, which coincide with Scarcity Principle claims.