Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 577–603 | Cite as

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

  • Ralph M. Barnes
  • Rebecca A. Church


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.


Intelligent Design Epistemological Belief Origin Debate Oxford English Dictionary Creationism Site 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Dan Drebing who helped us code the position of the author for each document. We would also like to thank Glenn Branch at the National Center for Science Education who provided detailed feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript. We would also like to acknowledge the financial support of Haverford College.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Haverford CollegeHaverfordUSA
  2. 2.WayneUSA
  3. 3.ConneautUSA

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