Sunday, January 07, 2007

Creationist finances: Center for Scientific Creation

This is the tenth and final in a series of posts about the finances of the creationist ministries which were previously reported in Reports of the National Center for Science Education in 2000 in an article by John Cole: Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, Access Research Network, the Creation Evidence Museum, Creation Illustrated Ministries, Creation Moments, Creation Research Society, Creation Worldview Ministries, the Discovery Institute, and now we finally reach Walter Brown's Center for Scientific Creation to complete the series. Although Brown's organization was not included in Cole's article, I include this one because it is a Phoenix-based organization and one that I've personally interacted with.

Walter Brown holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT. He is a retired Air Force colonel who has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a hotbed of Christian evangelism. He bills himself as a life-long evolutionist who converted to creationism after extensive scientific study. He has worked as a creationism evangelist, mainly teaching seminars in churches, since his retirement from the Air Force in 1980. He is the author of a book listing specific arguments for a young earth and against evolution titled In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, which he now makes available online on his website, Part of his book is an argument for his specific theory of flood geology called hydroplate theory (which Robert Schadewald referred to as a theory of "continental zip"), which is not taken seriously by most of his fellow young-earth creationists. Brown hasn't submitted his theory for peer-reviewed publication, even though there are creationist journals open to him, such as the Creation Research Society Quarterly and the Journal of Creation (formerly the Ex Nihilo Technical Journal). Brown has advocated a number of very bad arguments for a young earth which have been refuted even by his own fellow creationists, including the moon dust argument, the shrinking sun argument, and an argument from missing time based on a misunderstanding of leap seconds, which Brown ended up removing from later editions of his book. Brown has made the erroneous arguments that Lucy's knee joint was found away from the rest of the skeleton and that Archaeopteryx is a hoax. His book's assessment of human evolution has been critiqued in detail by Jim Foley on the website.

Brown is well-known for his debate challenge, in which he asks for a Ph.D.-credentialed evolutionist to engage him in a written debate. I engaged in a written debate with Brown in the pages of the Creation/Evolution journal, which appeared in three successive issues in 1989-1990.

In 1998, Walter Brown was appointed to the committee to review Arizona's state science standards by a creationist member of the state Board of Education, but he was unable to have any significant influence. Other members of the committee included ASU philosophy of science professor Jane Maienschein (appointed by ASU President Lattie Coor) and ASU biology professor Steve Rissing (appointed by Arizona State Superintendent of Public Education Lisa Graham Keegan). The final standards produced by the group were strongly supportive of teaching evolutionary science and were approved by the Board of Education in a 6-3 vote.

Brown apparently originally moved to Phoenix to study geology with ASU geology professor Robert S. Dietz (b. 1914, d. 1995), who was a major figure in the development of the theory of seafloor spreading and continental drift. Dietz was a strong opponent of creationism (and was the faculty advisor to the Phoenix Skeptics group which I initially created as a student organization at ASU). Unfortunately, Dietz engaged in some ill-considered public debates late in his life in which he performed rather poorly, including a public debate with Brown at ASU. Although Brown and Dietz disagreed with each other on science and religion, they apparently considered each other to be friends.

The financial data for the Center for Scientific Creation from

Revenue: $61,020.23 ($12,915.95 donations, $47,052.66 from goods sold)
Expenses: $116,996.55
Net assets at end of year: $108,858.55
Salaries: $97,500
Dr. Walter T. Brown, Jr., president and director: $55,000
Mrs. Margaret H. Brown, secretary and treasurer: $35,000

Revenue: $57,274.67 ($15,216.01 donations, $41,846.93 from goods sold)
Expenses: $69,671.71
Net assets at end of year: $96,461.51
Salaries: $52,500
Dr. Walter T. Brown, Jr., president and director: $32,083
Mrs. Margaret H. Brown, secretary and treasurer: $20,417

Revenue: $61,152.11 ($16,554.36 in donations, $44,427.29 from goods sold)
Expenses: $101,505.78
Net assets at end of year: $56,107.84
Salaries: $82,500
Dr. Walter T. Brown, Jr., president and director: $50,417
Mrs. Margaret H. Brown, secretary and treasurer: $32,083

Earlier year donations and gross merchandise sales (i.e., not profit, from 2003 Form 990--the CSC cost of goods sold appears to generally be about 1/3 of the sales price):
Donations: $11,208.30
Merchandise sales: $74,053.17
Donations: $10,842.00
Merchandise sales: $38,195.67
Donations: $52,709.18
Merchandise sales: $103,724.03
Donations: $11,437.15
Merchandise sales: $94,476.13

CSC's merchandise sales bring more of its revenue than donations. Those appear to have peaked in 2001, and may be continuing a decline in recent years (though 2005 was better than 2004). The organization has spent more than it has taken in for the last three years of available reports, with its net assets dropping by almost half from 2003 to 2005, from $108,858.55 to $56,107.84.

It's not clear whether CSC has any plans for succession after Brown is gone. I've been told that Brown's son rejects creationism and his father's religious views.

You can find CSC's 2003 Form 990 here, 2004 Form 990 here, and their 2005 Form 990 here.


Nick (Matzke) said...

Hey Jim,

Great posts. Not that you need to spend your life doing this, but three other groups you should check out if you get the chance:

Foundation for Thought and Ethics
Probe Ministries
Reasons to Believe

prince said...
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