Social Media Reach of Young-Earth Creationist’ Organizations

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.

Comments

  1. Ham’s successor – son-in-law Bodie Hodge?

    Trivium: ” (ICR) founded by Dr. Henry Morris and fun by his offspring until last year” Not much fun,I fear, but rum

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    • Ooops. Thanks, I’ve updated. Yes, not a lot of fun. With Guliuzza they have taken a step off into I don’t know where.

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    • Regarding Hodge, yes, he is the probable successor. What I was thinking is there is no person with Ham’s charisma to take over. Hodge can’t command an audience and doesn’t have the story that Ham has to give him street cred. He also tends to spout of some crazy stuff on the Answers FB program making Ham seem more sane though sanity isn’t necessarily a criteria for leadership.

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  2. Also worth noting are AIG’s Creation Museum and “Ark Encounter” theme park in N. KY that attract huge numbers of visitors/victioms (AIG claims over a million/yr), consisting largely of families, church groups, and school groups that are probably heavily influenced by their displays. LIkewise, ICR recently opened their “Discovery Center” in Dallas is probably having an impact in spreading YECism among laymen, although the virus has undoubtedly curtailed both operations and several smaller “creation museums” around the country. Another concern of mine is that AIG’s slick monthly “Answers Insider” newsletter has increasingly focused on superficial videos, “curriculum sets”, etc, aimed mostly at kids, families, and home-schoolers, as if they have largely given up on reaching well educated adults. Whether or not the strategy is working, I think it’s a bad trend. And as you note in regard to Ham’s on-line postings, they seem to be increasingly focused on social issues (“the culture war,” abortion, etc) over “creation science.” ICR used to promote a number of more substantial, ostensibly scientific adult-level books like The Genesis Flood and Scientific Creationism in their newsletters and ads , but in recent years they too have been increasingly focusing on family and child based videos and other superficial materials. All of this probably helps explain why you seldom see AIG or ICR staff commenting here–I’m not sure they even care much about making a scientific case–just pushing their views to lay audiences. Yes, AIG publishes the Answers Research Journal and CMI the Journal of Creation (which has gone by several other names) that they pass off as a peer-reviewed scientific journals, but which have nowhere near the level of rigor of real scientific journals, which are often mixed with BIblical quotes and commentary (which further turn off secular scientists), and which seem to have marginal impact at best even among lay creationists. By the way, for those interested in a good book covering the history of Creationism, I recommend Ronald Numbers’ book The Creationists.

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    • I only mention all this to point out, even though it may be obvious, that the influence of YEC groups goes far beyond their web web presence.

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  3. Charles Deetz ;) says:

    Discovery Institute? I once went looking for them on Facebook and only found a pseudo-official group.

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    • Yeah, I should have included them. I see a FB group with 13K followers and a Twitter account with 13K followers as well. They attract such a different audience because its well beyond just origins questions. Given its breadth of topics and the funding they have had the number of followers is a bit underwhelming.

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    • The main websites of Discovery Institute are:
      https://www.discovery.org/
      and
      https://www.discovery.org/c/intelligent-design/
      They have a sister sight that is entitled (somewhat misleadingly I think) Evolution News at:
      https://evolutionnews.org/about/

      As most here probably know, the Discovery Institute advocates “Intelligent Design” which
      is viewed by many as just another or more subtle form creationism. However their leaders largely focus on objecting to “materialism” and have a wide range of views on evolution (not always well clarified). For example, some such as Paul Nelson (grandson of Byron Nelson) are young-earther advocates, while others accept an old earth or evolution to one extent or another. The long time ID advocate Mihael Behe accepts and old earth and “descent with modification” but (along with others in his group) imply “intelligent design” (meaning supernatural intervention) must have been introduced during the process, without specifing just how or when this happened. Behe insists that living things have “irreducibly complex” systems and structures which prove some kind of ID must have occured, but he has only been able to propose a handful of examples, all of which have been strongly disputed by others, including believers such as biologist Ken Miller, whose book Finding Darwin’s God I recommend. I myself am working on a critique of some of Behe’s recent writings and claims, which I will link here when done. As far as their social media presence, I will let others explore with that; I myself largely avoiod social media.

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      • Let me clarify that Ken Miller himself is a Christian and apparently allows God’s being involved in a transcendent way in evolution, but does not believe Behe’s arguments and Irreducible Complexity examples are sound.

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    • The main avenue of Discovery Institute propaganda are the posts at Evolution News on their website discovery.org. On a personal level, they circulate in a small niche of conservative religious colleges and comparably inclined churches, in USA and abroad, where they hold conferences repeating their main apologetic points. There are only about a dozen main theoreticians among them, and they appear regularly as DI posters and lecturers.

      The much larger young earth creationist world (with around 50 core theoretician fact claimants) is wary of citing ID stuff because it doesn’t accept their young earth paradigm, so tend to couch any references with caveats. But because ID apologetics avoids chronology issues altogether, its very easy and tempting for grassroots creationists to draw on DiscoTute posts along with ones from AiG, CMI & ICR, which I see all the time in exchanges on Twitter.

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      • Charles Deetz ;) says:

        ID seems to be what a confused Christian cites when asked about creation, trying to bridge the gap between reality and bible teachings. As a potential gateway to creationism, you’d think that their social media profile would be significant and relevant.

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        • I think among their problems is that by having no specific model or mechanisms to test, and in trying to avoid being directly tied to YECism so as not to alienate mainstream scientists, their web presence and language is so often so vague as to be confusing to the average visitor. Their Evolution News site, for example, gives little clue about what they are about until you drill down further. On top of that, since most IDers accept an old earth and some form of evolution (just not a “mechanistic” form), they are often smeared as compromisers or heretics by YEC groups, including AIG and ICR. Ironically though, people in the ID camp in one sense or another may outnumber staunch YECs.

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        • I think one reason ID sites are not effective “gate ways” to YECism is that most ID leaders are not YECs, and even the few that are, such as Paul Nelson, do not push that aspect much, and are not as vocal as other IDers such as Behe. Moreover, people like Behe try to base their IC claims on arguments that seem to often lack good logic or face a lot of counter arguments, and in some cases, invite troubling theological issues. For example, he argues that the genetics of malaria show that it could not come about by natural processes along–implying (tho he avoids directly saying so) that God directly intervened in earth history to make the malaria parasite. Ironically, AIG seems to take a more naturalistic view of malaria–that it degenerated from a “good” microbe after the Fall.
          https://answersingenesis.org/biology/disease/the-genesis-of-malaria/

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  4. Where would the Discovery Institute fit on this landscape, in terms of market penetration? They have their own Bio-Complexity journal (the only ID publication I know of at the moment), and their Evolution News (which effectively represents the entire Intelligent Design field in their posts) gets cribbed a lot by social media antievolutionists (such as the ones I encounter on Twitter).

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    • I wish I had included them. 13K FB followers and 13K twitter followers so not on the par with the big YEC organizations and not even quite as many followers as BioLogos and RTB. Stephen Meyer has only 2850 Twitter followers compared to 61K by Ken Ham but that is more than most other well-known figures in the science/faith arena that I’ve looked up. I’d be pretty thrilled if I ever had 2000 followers on Twitter.

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      • Thanks for the info. I don’t keep track of how many follow me on Facebook, but I am around 3200 following on Twitter. Many cutting edge scientists link to current work on Twitter, so its a handy network for keeping abreast of many fields. As for the antievolutionists, neither Meyer nor Ham interact on Twitter, though Raz Rana & Hugh Ross do now and then, as does Doug Axe & John Mark Reynolds occasionally. Kent & Eric Hovind are also non-communicators (to no one’s surprise).

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  5. I’d be curious how these stack up against the various Flat Earth proponents/groups, although Flat Earthism’s orbit seems to be decaying rapidly.

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    • Wow, just looked and FlatEarthSocieity has 92K twitter followers which is substantially more than Ken Ham and there are a couple of FB groups with 39K and 48K members respectively. That is much more than I expected. I may work on a new chart and add them.

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      • BTW, Robert Shadewald, who I used to chat with at creationist conventions in the 1980s and 90s, spent many years working on a book on the Flat Earth Society and their adherents. He died in 2000 before finishing it, although his sister complied many of his writings into a book entitled _Worlds of Their Own: A Brief History of Misguided Ideas: Creationism, Flat-Earthism, Energy Scams, and the Velikovsky Affair. _ Bob told me he thought many “members” of the Flat Earth Society did it in a “tongue in cheek” or non-serious way, although it was hard to tell what % of the group this covered, vs those who truly believed the Earth is flat. I suspect that the same is the case today.

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  6. Not to belabor the Flat Earth Society, but a Scientific American article discussed a poll indicated that about 20% of young people (or even more, depending on some uncertainties about the poll) questioned whether the Earth was round. That might sound disheartening, and they discussed possible reasons why, but surprisingly didn’t mention the possibility I mentioned above, –that some people may lie about their beliefs on the issue just for kicks. I suspect that if you asked another silly question, for example, whether the moon might be made of green cheese, you might get surprisingly high positive responses as well.

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    • Yes, I think this is the case and I think the problem of sham answers to polls has been getting worse over time to the point that polls are becoming a bit useless in many arenas.

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  7. robert byers says:

    I don’t follow any twutter/facebook stuff. I think this underestimates active creationists by leaps and bounds and fossil gaps. Considering its all really a intellectual subject it shows how powerful creationism is. in fact it seems more accomplished then any evolutionist opponents or even general interest in origin subjects. Considering the state censorship and establishment actiove opposition it shows how rising and powerful is creationism. Yes its like somebody up there is on our side. The side of accuracy. If you think about it.

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    • Robert, you may not read much in the way of current creationist publications (let alone the modern science field), but rest assured many of us do. And fact check the claims. The professional creationists far above your non-pay grade fail miserably to make their case, meaning you don’t even have a leaky Ark to sail on.

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  8. Robert, as usual some of your comments are worded in such awkward ways it’s hard to even know what you are truing to say, but I gather your main claim is that YECism is more popular than mainstream science and becoming more so with time, but as usual, you present no evidence, and disregard the what the evidence actually shows. First, you need to distinguish between laymen and scientists on this issue. Yes, most polls show about 40% of lay Americans believe in YECism or something close to it, but the % has been declining somewhat in recent years. See for example:
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/210956/belief-creationist-view-humans-new-low.aspx
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/07/13/creationism-evolution-template-for-easing-divisions-tom-krattenmaker-column/467800001/
    However, among scientists only a tiny minority are YECs, and among biologists and earth scientists (those who regularly study evidence highly relevant to evolution) it’s far less than one percent. Only a couple professional paleontologists in the whole U.S. are YECs, and the most well known (Kurt Wise) acknowledges that he holds to that view mostly for religious rather than scientific reasons. So no matter how you slice it, YECIsm is not “rising”.
    Moreover, as Joel notes, AIG is the most dominant YEC group now, with their offshoot CMI and the once prominent ICR considerably behind them, and others even less influential, or having largely fallen by the wayside (like Kent Hovind’s org) and the late Walter Lang’s once popular “Bible-Science Association” (a small YEC group in California is now using the same name, but I doubt they have a big following). Yes, there are dozens of smaller YEC sites and blogs, and some one-man operations (like Walter Brown) with their own followings. but they pale in comparison to AIG. In comparison, there are scores of prominent mainstream scientific organizations. I suspect that if you tracked all their website traffic, and blog and social media postings, they would swamp those of YECs. Perhaps someone has done this. However, it’s secondary to a more important point, which is that quality and importance of scientific work is not measured by the level of web traffic and postings, but by the rigorous documentation and analysis of empirical evidence –something you seem unwilling or unable to grasp.

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    • robert byers says:

      You misunderstood me. I didn’t say creationism is more popular then evolutionism in the public. J just meant its popular and rising. Yes these are tiny, tiny, circles that actually giver serious reflection to these things. Thats why we easily do a better job. Its almost like origin subjects os a obscure sciences that don’t contribute anything except trying to figure out what happened. Origin subjects don’t hold up anything that might fall down. Creationism probably reaches more people and kids on a regular basis but also kids are not much interested anyways.
      Anyways the great success of creationism is the great point. A wrong idea would breed a great correction in a intelligent civilization. thats what is going on in North America. Web traffic shows people are headed somewhere.

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      • Robert, you again claim that YECism is “rising” but as usual just make more vague comments and rambling speculations, without any evidence to counter the evidence I discussed, indicating that YECism is not gaining ground even among laymen, let alone scientists. I’m not sure what you mean by “tiny, tiny circles” but if you are referring to the latter (scientists who support YECIsm), perhaps we finally agree on something.

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  9. Mountain Fisher says:

    I personally like Dr. Hugh Ross although I don’t agree with him on many counts, but I did enjoy his book Creation And Time from years ago, or I should say decades ago. I wonder about Neo-Darwinism after reading Lynn Margulis and her take, plus many other Third Way evolutionists like James Shapiro.
    I remember back in the late 70s when I toyed with YEC, but one look at the Grand Canyon in person, plus rock climbing in Yosemite forced me to reject their time frames.

    Hugh Ross and believe it or not, but Stephen J. Gould’s descriptions of the fossil record made it easier to believe in Christ and the Resurrection and stay a Christian. Ross’s story about how the first chapter of Genesis fitted the geologic record rather well really helped me to harmonize Genesis, leastways to my satisfaction, with science without having to call it a myth. Also reading some of the Puritans helped me to read the Bible in a different way such as the Book of Job was more an allegory and not so much historical. I learned to see that Wisdom is justified by her children rather than taking everything in a wooden literal way and to recognize when literalism is called for. I see some disparaging comments about Intelligent Design, but I do not believe for one minute that Darwin’s natural processes could write DNA code. Information is at the heart of Life and DNA rewriting its program to adapt to new conditions is impossible without the input of vast amounts of information. How did a two meter long molecule learn to write Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as it doesn’t aid survival?
    I do believe that Intelligent Design has something going for it. Or maybe I’ve read too much of Dr. John Lennox’ books.

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