Joel Duff has done several deep dives into the numbers regarding Young Earth (YE) creationist organizations. Around 2012, he presented a table of their finances and noted the traffic on their respective web sites. In February of 2021 he tabulated their social media followings. He includes many insightful observations. Here I will summarize some of his findings, but his original articles should be consulted for background and details.
2010-2011 Comparative Finances of Young Earth Creationist and Some Other Evangelical Ministries
Dr. Duff is a professor of biology at the University of Akron, Ohio who blogs at Naturalis Historia. He used publicly available information (IRS 990 Forms for 2010/2011 reporting period) to compare the finances of the following organizations:
The first four outfits (ICR, AIG, CMI, and CSE) are straightforward YE creationist groups. Henry Morris was a co-author of The Genesis Flood, whose publication in 1961 launched the modern YE creationist movement. Morris formed the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in the early 1970s.
Several Australian YE creationist ministries, including one headed by Ken Ham, combined in the early 1980s to form the Creation Science Foundation. Ham moved to the United States in January 1987 to engage in speaking tours with ICR. In 1994 Ham left ICR, and with the collaboration of his Australian colleagues, formed an autonomous ministry in the U.S. This was branded as the U.S. branch of “Answers in Genesis” (AIG); the Australian Creation Science Foundation took that same name for their group. Autonomous Answers in Genesis offices were later opened in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
In 2006, the AIG branches in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa split from the US and UK to form Creation Ministries International (CMI). The U.S.-based Answers in Genesis, headed by Ham, is the world’s dominant YE organization. In 2007, AIG opened the Creation Museum, a facility that promotes young-Earth creationism, and in 2016 the organization opened the Ark Encounter, a Noah’s Ark–themed amusement park.
Creation Science Evangelism (CSE) is the creation of the eccentric Kent Hovind, known as Dr Dino and also known for his massive legal troubles (e.g., prison for tax fraud).
These organizations promote their YE creationism messages via printed media, videos on DVDs and on YouTube, and in-person talks. A few years back, Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries International (CMI) presented an afternoon workshop at a Baptist church near my home in the northeast U.S. I wrote up my impressions of that encounter in A Creationist Speaker Comes to Town.
The other three groups listed above (Desiring God, Ligonier Ministries, and TBN) for comparisons are evangelical organizations with some apologetics aspects. It is not clear to me why those particular comparative groups were chosen. I would have thought that William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith or Ravi Zacharias’s RZIM would have been cleaner apologetics comps back then. Desiring God and Ligonier produce mainly devotional media, with some emphasis on the rational consistency of the Christian faith. They are strongly Reformed, which I understand is the faith tradition that Dr. Duff hails from.
Here are the financial numbers, from the 2010/2011 reporting year:
Table from The Natural Historian
Here are the acronyms again: Institute for Creation Research (ICR) , Answers in Genesis (AIG) , Creation Ministries International (CMI), Creation Science Evangelism (CSE), Desiring God (DG) , Ligonier Ministries (LM) , and Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Dr. Duff points out that ICR and AIG operate on a scale comparable to the three more general Christian ministries listed here (DG, LM, amd TBN), which makes these YE creationist organizations (for better or worse) a substantial theological voice within the evangelical community.
AIG leads in all categories except Total Assets, where is surpassed only by TBN; TBN’s finances seem more complex, and their assets may be inflated by their Holy Land Experience in Orlando. ICR’s contributions are not far behind AIG, but total revenues and expenses are about three times higher for AIG. This may be partly driven by AIG’s operation of the Creation Museum. CMI and CSE are much smaller than ICR or AIG.
Led by the arguably charismatic Ham, AIG has excelled at marketing its message to the (mainly American) masses, whereas ICR and CMI in part define themselves as doing more careful and fundamental “creation science”. I don’t know how the finances have evolved in the past ten years, but I would guess that AIG has widened its lead over these other groups.
2021 Social Media Reach of YE Creationist and Other Organizations
Dr. Duff has tabulated how many followers are currently maintained by various YE creationist organizations or individuals:
Table from The Natural Historian
Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis (AIG) dwarf all the others. Ham by himself has a huge social media following. Dr. Duff notes that this may lead to succession problems for AIG, whenever Ham (now 70 years old) steps down. There is no one else in the creationist world with his name recognition.
ICR and CMI are still hanging in there in 2021. The Hovinds’ Creation Today group is way down, though they have produced over 800 YouTube videos.
There are a couple of notable newcomers on the YE creationist ministry scene. Astrophysicist Jason Lisle was a speaker for AIG, then became director of research at ICR in 2012. He then formed his own ministry, Biblical Science Institute (BSI), and has gained a substantial (91.5 k) Facebook following.
Also, the 2017 YE creationist movie “Is Genesis History” has become something of a rallying point. That film was not tied to any one of these organizations, and probably benefited from being distanced from the sometimes-controversial Ken Ham. Dr. Duff notes:
A significant web-presence has formed around the feature documentary “Is Genesis History?” (see my reviews: A Landmark Film for the Creationist’ Community and Reflections on Is Genesis History). The creators of the film have created a website and YouTube channel bartering off the popularity of the film that has quickly taken on a large presence on social media. In my reviews in 2017 I suggested that this film would become more influential over time. As I suggested, the film gave voice to many creationists who were outside of the three major YEC ministries (AiG, ICR, and CMI). Some of those voices on their own have small social media presences. For example, Dr. Todd Wood (Core Academy of Science in the chart above) has a very small following but even before the film his voice had more weight than his organization’s finances and web stats would suggest but now he is featured regularly on the Is Genesis History web page and their YouTube channel where he is viewed by exponentially more viewers than visit his site.
In total, these young-earth ministries are regularly reaching over a million individuals. Two other faith-and-science ministries, Biologos and Reasons to Believe, are also included in the table above for comparison. Biologos, founded by Francis Collins (now director of the U.S, National Institutes of Health), accepts essentially all of modern science (ancient earth and evolution). It is thus positioned as “evolutionary creationism”, sometimes called “theistic evolution”. Reasons to Believe, founded by Canadian astrophysicist Hugh Ross, falls in the anti-evolution but Old Earth creationist camp. The social media reach of these two organizations is comparable to the second-tier YE creationist groups.
Dr. Duff was asked in a comment on his blog post about the Discovery Institute, which is the epicenter of the “Intelligent Design” movement (Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, etc.) This group disputes evolution, but generally accepts modern geology and astronomy (old earth). Although the DI is a well-funded organization with a vigorous publication effort, its social media followings are relatively small (13k on Facebook, 13k on Twitter).
I would be curious to know, in more dimensions, what are the relative influences of the YE creationists like AIG versus the old earth anti-evolutionists like the Intelligent Design folks. It is so straightforward to demolish the young earth case (see, e.g. , Some Simple Evidences for an Old Earth and Evidences for a Young Earth) that it is kind of boring for me to keep beating that dead horse. If someone simply refuses to face the geological facts, there is not much more I can do for them.
Therefore, most of my posts in the past few years have dealt more with challenges to evolution. I think it is harder for the layman to see the flaws in the anti-evolution arguments, so I have focused on those. In geology, it is pretty straightforward to visualize a little crack in the ground formed by an initial fracture of a crustal plate just getting wider and wider until you get the Atlantic ocean. But with evolution, I can understand resistance to the notion that mutations just keep accumulating to the point that a whole new organ gets formed. The notion of “irreducible complexity” has strong intuitive appeal. Just in the nature of things, we simply don’t have available a step-by-step record of each mutation it took to get from one species to another, or from terrestrial tetrapods to modern whales.
I guess I should review some polling data to see what percent of the American populace holds to YE creationism as opposed to old earth anti-evolutionism. If the two numbers are about equal, then it may be more fruitful to work on age of the earth issues. That seems an easier case to win, if someone’s mind is at all open to the physical evidence. If a person is still convinced the earth is only 6000 years old, there seems little point talking about evolution.