Statistics and consensus cues

As Chapter 6 identified, Darwin-skeptics frequently use statistics to attack the scientific basis of common animal-human biological ancestry. In association with such arguments are antievolutionist claims that common biological descent is erroneous because there exists a chasm of substantive traits separating humans from animals.10 These characteristics, which include but are not limited to human consciousness and the capacity for reason, are said to confirm human exceptionalism while being unexplainable by means of natural selection. Correspondent!}', it is asserted that there exist two principal and apparently contradictory views of humankind. The first involves recognizing humanity’s divinely established distinctiveness and the intrinsic value of all people, epitomized by the notion of imago Dei. In the second view, however, our evolutionary animal ancestry is embraced, resulting in the diminution of human specialness as well as the erosion of morality and religiously sustained values (Chapter 1). While such conclusions are not new, modern antievolutionists utilize statistics to further the argument, presenting mathematical information that seemingly reveals the immense genetic differences between humans and other fauna. Conspicuously then, Statistics and Technical Jargon cues in ICR, Answers in Genesis, and CSC media intersect with discussions of human nature, morality, and the preservation of religious values. Hence, numerical data attempting to refute the similarities between human and chimpanzee genomes, for example, may be particularly striking for audiences with culturally cognitive commitments to an ontological animal-human divide. Moreover, such statistics may resonate with audiences whose religious and cultural identities are paired with the thesis that human rights and dignity are based upon the assumption that all people bear God’s divine image.

Along with employing statistics when considering human nature and values, Darwin-skeptic media also apply stats to advertise the numbers of people who maintain similar group commitments to those upheld by Darwin-skeptics (Chapter 6). To this end, opinion poll results are said to verify that an important majority of non-elite individuals reject evolutionary theory or accept that the Bible is inspired by God. Survey data are also utilized to demonstrate how large numbers of citizens also support ‘fairness’ in school curricula through the teaching of alternative, non-Darwinist viewpoints. Tied up with such numerical information are messages indicative of certain moral foundations. Hence, Answers in Genesis writers use survey results to stress the evidently deplorable state of Evangelical Christianity, which is experiencing an exodus of youth as young Christians turn their backs on both the church and biblically founded moral values. These statistics are then used to bolster what might be considered purity/sanctity and authority/respect formulations. Namely, it is stated that the theological integrity of Evangelicalism and widespread adherence to biblical morals, as well as the congregational numbers of church communities, will all be restored when Christians reembrace an undiluted respect for scripture represented in Young Earth Creationist hermeneutics and faithfulness. The use of poll data across Intelligent Design media also features rudiments of the fairness/reciprocity moral axis. CSC representatives broach the subject of fairness within articles contending that survey numbers reveal how evolution maintains modest public support. Surely then, it is unjust for a marginal group of elites to push evolutionary theory upon the majority of citizens, as the theory’s supporters labor to restrict both antievolutionist information and the personal autonomy of individuals.

In appealing to surveys and statistical majorities, these claims coincide with Social Consensus cues as they detail how a multitude of people share Darwin-skeptic convictions. Values discourses and moral foundations are further advanced through affiliated Social Proof and underdog declarations. This occurs in ICR’s descriptions of creationists as gallant resisters of a proevolutionist hegemony, struggling in an increasingly secular and Christian-hating world. Amid such statements are invocations for Christians to venerate the true authority of God and his word over the counterfeit influences exerted by non-creationist academics and policymakers. These petitions suggest authority/respect principles as they establish for audiences the genuine powers to which Christians should be expressing deference. At the same time, cases of Social Proof and Underdog Effects in Answers in Genesis and ICR media reaffirm how crowds of people around the globe, including underdog Darwin-skeptic scientists, maintain the group commitments shared by Evangelical audience members. Such Social Consensus cues do not simply mention that there are significant populations endorsing creationism, but they also iterate specific Christian values to which these publics apparently adhere. Through this, Social Proof and underdog claims reference more than just numbers of people, but also several conservative Evangelical ideals that these supportive masses are said to accept. These values include respecting the Bible as the conclusive source of knowledge about the world and how it came to be, as well as honoring scripture as the sole authority on how people should daily conduct themselves.11 In this fashion Darwin-skeptic locutions of Social Consensus differ from those appearing in NCSE articles.

National Center for Science Education media are the only counter-creationist communications exhibiting Social Consensus cues to a considerable degree. However, in NCSE materials appeals to popular agreement are noticeably unmarked by the types of overt values statements found in antievolutionist materials. The same observation holds true when comparing Darwin-skeptic instances of Statistics and Technical Jargon with those appearing in BioLogos and NCSE media. Though both antievolutionist and proevolutionist media feature this persuasive element, Darwin-skeptic pundits recurrently yoke culturally cognitive values and language suggestive of moral foundations to statistics in ways not exhibited in the latter two organizations’ broadcasts. It is in recognizing these distinctions that a fuller picture of Evolution Wars’ persuasion emerges. An image that includes not merely tallies of persuasion elements, but one in which the dimensionality of cultural values and moral intuitions in Darwin-skeptic and proevolutionist media are also taken into consideration.

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