Proponents of Creationism but not Proponents of Evolution Frame the Origins Debate in Terms of Proof

Barnes, Ralph; Church, Rebecca
March 2013
Science & Education;Mar2013, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p577
Academic Journal
In Study 1, 72 internet documents containing creationism, ID (intelligent design), or evolution content were selected for analysis. All instances of proof cognates (the word 'proof' and related terms such as 'proven', 'disproof', etc.) contained within these documents were identified and labeled in terms of the manner in which the terms were used. In Study 2, frequency counts for six terms (proof, evidence, establish, experiment, test, trial) were conducted on a sample of peer-reviewed research articles in the journal Science and the 72 internet documents included in Study 1. Quantitative and qualitative analyses revealed that proponents of creationism were much more likely than proponents of evolution to frame the creationism/evolution issue in terms of proof (ID proponents fell partway between the other two). Proponents of creationism frequently described empirical data favoring their position as proof of their position. Even more frequently, proponents of creationism described evolutionary scientists as being engaged in failed attempts to prove the truth of the evolutionary position. Evolution documents included fewer proof cognates than creationism or ID documents and the few proof cognates found in evolution documents were rarely used to describe the status of the theory of evolution. Qualitative data analysis indicated that proof cognates were often used to indicate certainty. The asymmetry between evolution and creationism documents was limited primarily to proof cognates; there were no major asymmetries for the terms evidence, establish, experiment, test, and trial. The results may reveal differences in the epistemological commitments of the involved parties.


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