Experiential Thinking in Creationism — A Textual Analysis
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CitationNieminen, Petteri. Ryökäs, Esko. Mustonen, Anne-Mari. (2015). Experiential Thinking in Creationism — A Textual Analysis. PLoS ONE;10(3), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118314.
Creationism is a religiously motivated worldview in denial of biological evolution that has been very resistant to change. We performed a textual analysis by examining creationist and pro-evolutionary texts for aspects of “experiential thinking”, a cognitive process different from scientific thought. We observed characteristics of experiential thinking as follows: testimonials (present in 100% of sampled creationist texts), such as quotations, were a major form of proof. Confirmation bias (100% of sampled texts) was represented by ignoring or dismissing information that would contradict the creationist hypothesis. Scientifically irrelevant or flawed information was re-interpreted as relevant for the falsification of evolution (75–90% of sampled texts). Evolutionary theory was associated to moral issues by demonizing scientists and linking evolutionary theory to atrocities (63–93% of sampled texts). Pro-evolutionary rebuttals of creationist claims also contained testimonials (93% of sampled texts) and referred to moral implications (80% of sampled texts) but displayed lower prevalences of stereotypical thinking (47% of sampled texts), confirmation bias (27% of sampled texts) and pseudodiagnostics (7% of sampled texts). The aspects of experiential thinking could also be interpreted as argumentative fallacies. Testimonials lead, for instance, to ad hominem and appeals to authorities. Confirmation bias and simplification of data give rise to hasty generalizations and false dilemmas. Moral issues lead to guilt by association and appeals to consequences. Experiential thinking and fallacies can contribute to false beliefs and the persistence of the claims. We propose that science educators would benefit from the systematic analysis of experiential thinking patterns and fallacies in creationist texts and pro-evolutionary rebuttals in order to concentrate on scientific misconceptions instead of the scientifically irrelevant aspects of the creationist—evolutionist debate.