There are many organizations that have built an apologetics ministry around a young-earth interpretation of Genesis. If you are familiar with young-earth creationism at all you are probably aware of Answers in Genesis (AiG) and its founder, Ken Ham. AiG wasn’t the first young-earth ministry but it has undoubtedly become the largest and most influential over the past thirty years. There are many ways to assess the influence of young-earth creationist’ ministries. Previously I have examined financial records (Creationist’ Finances), web-site traffic (Web Traffic Data for YEC Ministries) and reflected on the past and future of creationist organizations (Past, Present and Future, and Where is the Next Generation of Creation Scientists?).
Here I look at the current state of young-earth creationism through the eyes of their social media reach. Below is a chart that lists how many followers various creationist’ organizations or individuals currently maintain. Following this chart I make a few observations about what these data may or may not tell us about the state of creationism in America.
What observations can we make from this data?
1. As with all other measures, Answers in Genesis has the largest footprint of any creationist’ organization. They have about four times the number of followers across all platforms with an especially large footprint in video media.
2. Answers in Genesis is Ken Ham. He has nearly as many Facebook followers and more Twitter followers than his organization. This is partly because he posts more frequently and has a much broader range of topics that he is willing to address directly. He personally seems to have little interest in creation science but today is much more focused on commenting on social issues. Nonetheless as an individual he commands the most interest with no close second (however, see below).
3. If you have engaged in science/faith dialogues over the past 40 years you will recognize the grandfather of creation science, Institute for Creation Research (ICR) founded by Dr. Henry Morris and run by his offspring until last year when Dr. Randy Guliuzza became president. ICR was the original american home of Ken Ham before he left them to start his own apologetics ministry, Answers in Genesis. You will probably also recognize Creation Ministries International (CMI) which has a complicated relationship to Answers in Genesis separating from them in 2006. These were the big three young-earth groups for many years. Collectively they still command the “market” for young-earth creationist’ information. But….
4. You will notice that social media reach suggests that there are some newcomers to the young-earth universe of ministries. Two in particular are worth your attention. First, there is the Biblical Science Institute (BSI). This is the sole creation of Dr. Jason Lisle. Dr. Lisle got his start as a speaker for Answers in Genesis. He eventually took a position as direction of research at ICR in 2012 where he was until leaving (a huge loss for ICR) to form his own ministry, the BSI. Dr. Lisle has an strong apologetics emphasis going beyond just creation science but nonetheless is associated with his creation science writing and speaking. As you can see in less than two years he has attracted a significant audience. For a single-author operation he has a significant following (94K FB followers) and in could be considered the second-most recognizable speaker and author in the YEC panoply of Ken Ham-lites.
Second, 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. The same could be said of Dr. Wise and there others who were unknown before the movie who now have a voice in the young-earth community through this ministry.
5. The future is likely to hold many changes in the relative influence of these ministries. This is mostly because Ken Ham lacks any obvious successor that can command the same influence. Since the influence of AiG is derived from his persona when he is not longer an active participant others will gain more influence and it is unclear from what organization the primary voice of young-earth creationism in America will come. Nonetheless, AiG will remain a dominant force for years to come given their financial resources and ability to live off the name of Ham for some time (similar to a Ligonier Ministries which the non-follower would be hard pressed to name anyone beyond R.C. Sproul).
6. Collectively these young-earth ministries are easily reaching a million individuals through their various social media efforts No doubt there is great overlap in follower among these organization but there are many that follow only a single organization and probably only through one social media source. As a comparison I included the number of social media followers for two of YECs biggest “competitors,” Biologos and Reasons to Believe. Biologos in particular has increased its presence in the past five years but both are still far behind Answers in Genesis and just comparable to the second tier of YEC ministries.
One caveat with respect to the data in the table. Some of the organizations above have multiple Twitter/FB accounts. For example AiG has a Canada and European FB page. ICR has created many other sub-ministries each with their own Twitter. Few of these have significant numbers of followers but you should consider these minimal numbers. Likewise, Reasons to Believe has many chapters that have their own social media accounts. Also, social media is just a single measure of the influence of a ministry. Some ministries have substantial print-media capacities (AiG and ICR in particular) and are engaged in differing amounts of conferences and speaking ministries.