Questioning the Role of Evolution in Understanding Ourselves: A Critical Discourse Analytic Study of Scientific Articles in TIME Magazine
Type of DegreeThesis
DepartmentCommunication and Journalism
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This study is a critical analysis of language-use in scientific cover stories in TIME magazine over the course of the past 15 years. It focuses specifically on articles that apply concepts of evolution to aspects of human wellness. My launching point for this study is Jacque Ellul's (1990) model of the ideology of science, which shows how historical events have buttressed the cultural value of science as the preeminent institution of truth. TIME magazine is one place where Ellul’s model is particularly visible. Treating the text of the articles in TIME as discourse (Fairclough, 2001), my analysis follows Fairclough’s (1995b) method of critical discourse analysis, which aims to uncover hidden power structures through close examination of language-use. The central argument for my paper is that the language-use in TIME cover articles is hegemonic by demystifying meaning in the human experience and naturalizing deterministic explanations of complex human conditions. The analysis describes three functions of language-use that support this claim. One is the shaping of ideas about what it means to be human. Another is the establishment of interpersonal relationships between the media source and the audience. The third is the appropriating of what Pearce and Branham (1978) call “ineffable” experiences by locating them, validating them, and framing science as a servant to them. My concluding comments discuss the implications of the power of science and the extent to which our needs as human beings are being met.