How we all subsidise creationists

I think our laws granting tax exempt status to religious organisations conflict with our human rights legislation – or at least the principles underlying that legislation. This tax exemption is based on the granting of “charitable” status to religions purely because of their advocacy of supernatural teachings. Consequently, humanist and other non-religious organisations cannot get similar tax exemptions (although they may qualify on other genuine charitable grounds) (see Taxation offense and, How to lower taxes).

So, it is a slap in the face to the non-religious to be forced to subsidise religious activity via tax exemptions. It’s even worse when organisations with tax exempt status engage in commercial activities for profit. Worse still when the religious tax exempt status supports commercial activity aimed at promoting attacks on science.

Creation Ministries International

This is the situation with Creation Ministries International, “a charitable trust that promotes creationism to churches” according to the NZ Herald article Creative differences. This describes activity taking advantage of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of publication of The Origin of Species to  attack evolutionary science.

The Creations Science Foundation (NZ) Trust (website http://creationontheweb.org) is registered with the Charities Commission. Its activities are described in the Charity Rules provided to the commission and include the aims:

“To provide by way of a wholesale and/or retail agency or shop for the importation, supply, sale and provision of all materials relating to the biblical teaching of Creation”

“To co-operate with and if deemed expedient to join with any other Christian organisation or bookshop in New Zealand . . . .  in the provision of materials relating to the biblical teaching of Creation”.

” To import, supply and sell in New Zealand any other resources articles or materials which may seem advantageous to the Trust in furtherence of its objectives to the intent that the net income and profits thereof are devoted wholly to the furtherence of all or any of the objects of the Trust.”

“To give particular service by mail order or other means to Churches and individuals in or about the Dominion of New Zealand.”

“To conduct meetings and to operate functions for the display of printed or visual materials relating to the study of the biblical teaching of Creation…”

It looks like creationism is a lucrative business. There’s money to be made and consequently money to fight over. Creation Ministries International is in dispute with Answers in Genesis over use of subscription lists, ownership of affiliate groups, web site domain names, copyrights and intellectual property (see Creationists should settle outside court).

Creationism targets Christians

Creation Ministries International seems so flush with donations and income from their sales that when they appeal for help money is not at the top of the list (unusual for a charity). Their recent appeal said:

We need to find and equip pastors and churches– so please send us the name of your pastor and appropriate contact information and we can schedule a meeting at your church with no cost utilizing the best creation speakers in the world!”

This, and the aims from their rules, shows this organisation aims all its activities at Christians. The NZ events section of their website shows that all their meetings take place within Churches. This clearly shows they appreciate that the so-called “evolution-creation controversy” is not a scientific one, but a religious one. They see that the churches provide a fertile ground for their propaganda.

Wouldn’t it be nice if some pro-science religious people would form an “Evolution Ministry,” get tax exempt status, and promote meetings and publications supporting science to fellow Christians.

Permalink

Similar articles

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

18 responses to “How we all subsidise creationists

  1. It is a slap in the face of the religious to be forced to pay for the teaching of pseudoscience in schools via direct taxes.

    Like

  2. Heh, Ken, you live in a semi-socialist society. I object to a good proportion of the people who get handouts of one kind or another from the taxes I pay. Why don’t you go into politics and do something to change the system?

    Incidentally, the final section of your article is remarkably cynical. Maybe the reason that CMI doesn’t ask for money foremost is the same as the reason that Thinking Matters doesn’t. It’s not that we have money (in the case of TM, we have literally nothing). It’s just that we don’t exist for the purpose of lining our pockets; we exist for the purpose of resourcing Christians in some way. And obviously the fact that we exist for that purpose means that we will meet largely in churches, or Christian-owned buildings. Where else would you expect us to meet?

    This clearly shows they appreciate that the so-called “evolution-creation controversy” is not a scientific one, but a religious one.

    Of course it’s religious. And of course it’s scientific. You seem to be focusing specifically on biological evolution for some reason, and that’s something denied largely by Christians because it conflicts with their religious beliefs. This doesn’t, per se, make the denial wrong. But it does make the controversy interesting to those Christians. But I don’t think CMI focuses so narrowly on evolution—there’s a heck of a lot more to the issue of creation than evolution.

    Like

  3. It would be a slap in the face to all of us to have to0 pay for teaching pseudo-science in school via taxes, Ross. But what to you have in mind, specifically. Magic, religion, homoeopathy, levitation, intelligent design, the paranormal?

    Like

  4. Does TM have tax exempt charity status? Or does it benefit from it in some way via rent-free accommodation, meeting places, resources (eg from Creation Ministries), pad services, etc. from organisations with such tax-free status?

    Like

  5. I don’t have much problem with “charitable” status for organisations that “do charity”, i.e. that help others who are unable to help themselves. But dishing out bibles and other “religious material”, setting up shops, setting discussion forums for their own members, constructing churches, etc. is not “being charitable”, these activities serve the interests of the members.

    I think it is wrong that religious organisations be granted charitable status solely on the basis of being religious organisations. The only organisation that should be given charitable status are those whose activities are only “charitable” in the sense I described above. Organisations with a mixture of charitable and non-charitable should re-structure into two, with the activities of the latter taxed.

    FWIW, I very briefly looked into setting up a scientific charity and having myself work under it as a means of getting funds, the idea being that the work would ultimately in the aid of cancer research or whatnot, and that donations would count as tax deductions for those donating.

    Bnonn: there’s a heck of a lot more to the issue of creation than evolution Some time ago I wrote that members of your forum would do well to read and understand the history of “creationism” and the organisations associated with it. I think you’d find the real issues in the founding of the creationist movement and thinking were (and still are) a desire to have “religious rule” and a fear of losing power. The “creation issue” strikes me as merely being the “product” for “customers” (aka “followers”, like TM’s members) to “buy into”.

    (Ken: I note I can’t expand the comments textbox to the right any more. I can make it larger by dragging it down, but not to the right. Not terribly important, but it helps me write long comments. Maybe this is what I get for writing long comments… hehe)

    Like

  6. Heraclides – looks like you have identified a drawback with the Cutline theme. It also doesn’t appear to allow threaded comments.

    Looks like I may have to try one of the other ones.

    Like

  7. It’s not a big issue, just what I get for rattling on… 🙂

    Off-topic: I’d love to see this work repeated, testing if fundamentalist religious teaching influences epigenetics in a similar way, in particular for genes associated with stress response and to compare with profiles of epigenetic changes associated with (other) stress-associated environments.

    http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/02/child_abuse_permanently_modifies_stress_genes_in_brains_of_s.php

    The origin abstract is here (note it refers to “early life stress”, not “child abuse”):

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11430844

    Like

  8. Does TM have tax exempt charity status? Or does it benefit from it in some way via rent-free accommodation, meeting places, resources (eg from Creation Ministries), pad services, etc. from organisations with such tax-free status?

    It doesn’t currently have tax-exempt status; the administrative overhead in registering as a charity is beyond our means at the moment. However we certainly do benefit in the ways you suggest—Thinking Matters Tauranga meets in the Bethlehem Church meeting center, for example.

    Like

  9. Heraclides – thanks for an interesting report. I think I may have seen other papers reporting similar work.

    I think we have neglected child abuse which was not physical or sexual. Yet I am convinced that such neglect and psychological abuse can have consequences that are just as great. And I am convinced that the effects seem to be like a permanent post-traumatic stress disorder.

    There was a situation of neglect, physical and psychological abuse in my own family and I can see the extreme results of PTSD more than 60 years on. In some ways some effects only seem to manifest themselves in old age.

    I have referred to Richard Dawkins’ interview of Jill Mytton in Psychological and religious abuse of children and
    Psychological abuse of children. Her work with survivors of religious cults does show that children in these cults effectively suffer a form of psychological abuse and manifest symptoms of PTSD later in life. This can also effect the ability to develop a personal moral sense (this always being provided by religious elders) and awareness of personal preferences.

    While she has specialised in religions cults I am sure similar effects occur with other extreme ideologies not considered as cults. And fundamentalist religions (and political groups) could have similar effects.

    Like

  10. @ Dominic – February 23, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Referring to my comment that “the so-called “evolution-creation controversy” is not a scientific one, but a religious one” you claim:

    “Of course it’s religious. And of course it’s scientific.”

    I am glad you accept it as a religious conflict – this is often denied by creationists. But obviously organisations like CMI, the Wedge strategists, and (I am currently finding) some NZ bible colleges aim their creationist propaganda and teaching specifically at the religious, Christian, community. Not surprising because, although probably less than 40% of Christians reject evolutionary science, the religious mode of thinking can easily reject science.

    But what is your evidence for the claim that it is a scientific controversy??

    I am aware that as a healthy, dynamic and active science there are plenty of vigorous disputes within evolutionary science – but none of these is about creationism. Although creationist ideas may have been widely accepted several centuries ago, that is no longer true in today’s scientific community – at least as a scientific idea (There will of course be individual scientists who hold creationist religious beliefs – just as there will be those who believe in racism, astrology, sexism, etc., etc. But they don’t hold these beliefs as scientific ideas).

    If one looks at the scientific literature (and that is the place to find evidence of any scientific controversy) I believe there will probably be less consideration of creationist theories than there is of phlogiston (also an idea commonly believed several centuries ago and, like creationism, since discredited).

    I am aware that scientist often have to engage with creationists in the public, political, sphere. But my point is that this doesn’t occur in the scientific sphere (its not an argument about science).

    So – what evidence can you present to support your claim that this issue is a scientific controversy?

    Like

  11. But obviously organisations like CMI, the Wedge strategists, and (I am currently finding) some NZ bible colleges aim their creationist propaganda and teaching specifically at the religious, Christian, community. Not surprising because, although probably less than 40% of Christians reject evolutionary science, the religious mode of thinking can easily reject science.

    I think you have twisted this entire issue in your mind.

    1. I’m not sure why you even point out that CMI etc targets Christians. These are Christian organizations set up largely for the purpose of assisting Christians to understand these issues. Who else would you expect them to target? It’s like saying that universities “aim their propaganda and teaching specifically at students”.

    2. Calling material “propaganda” merely poisons the well.

    3. Whether or not the religious mode of thinking (whatever that is) “can easily reject science”, the Christian mode of thinking cannot. In my experience, I’ve found that most Christians who have paused to think about the relationship between faith and science have come to recognize that science is a God-given means of learning about creation, and that rejecting it is illicit. But Christians are increasingly coming to understand the influence of presuppositions on scientific theories—ie, they are not oblivious to the fact that secular worldviews will select for secular inferences, secular interpretations, and secular conclusions.

    4. Rejection of naturalistic biological evolution is not contiguous with or indicative of rejection of science.

    But what is your evidence for the claim that it is a scientific controversy??

    Duhm…the fact that it’s about a scientific theory?

    I am aware that as a healthy, dynamic and active science there are plenty of vigorous disputes within evolutionary science – but none of these is about creationism.

    Of course, disputes within evolutionary science by definition exclude the sorts of controversies we’re talking about. You’re stacking the deck by confining the question to scientists who accept naturalistic biological evolution.

    Although creationist ideas may have been widely accepted several centuries ago, that is no longer true in today’s scientific community – at least as a scientific idea

    Of course, there are actually plenty of scientists who hold to creationism as a scientific idea. The fact that this is due to religious presuppositions doesn’t deflect or mitigate this. To think otherwise would be to indulge in the genetic fallacy.

    If one looks at the scientific literature (and that is the place to find evidence of any scientific controversy) I believe there will probably be less consideration of creationist theories than there is of phlogiston (also an idea commonly believed several centuries ago and, like creationism, since discredited).

    Of course, if the allegations that anti-evolution theories are actively discriminated against are true, that’s exactly what you’d expect. You’re also stacking the deck again by excluding a priori any literature which does include discussion of creationism as unscientific. Of course, plenty of work has been published defending creationism and/or refuting evolution which at least claims to be scientific, so you appear to be begging the question.

    I am aware that scientist often have to engage with creationists in the public, political, sphere. But my point is that this doesn’t occur in the scientific sphere (its not an argument about science).

    Even if this is true, that doesn’t make it a non-scientific issue or imply that the argument is not, in principle, scientific. It just means that you’re using criteria of your own choosing to exclude it as being scientific, based on your own prejudices. Just like other scientists do. The fact that most scientists don’t engage with creationists, preferring instead to ignore them, hardly indicates that the argument, should it be taken up, isn’t a scientific one. It just shows that secular scientists aren’t engaging with the argument at all.

    Like

  12. “It just shows that secular scientists aren’t engaging with the argument at all.”

    Or, more correctly that creationists (whether they are scientists or not) are not engaging – in that they don’t deal with the issues at a scientific level of evidence, theory and validation. Their participation is not scientific.

    Dominic – your comments attempt to rationalise your position. But the simplest way to convince people is evidence:

    Provide me with the names (links) of scientists (or if you like theologians using scientific evidence) who are participating in this so-called “debate” at a scientific level – (evidence, theory and validation against reality).

    Like

  13. Ken: But what is your evidence for the claim that it is a scientific controversy??

    DBT: Duhm…the fact that it’s about a scientific theory?

    A scientific controversy is surely one that’s grounded in science. People could argue that the Earth’s flat, but it’s not a scientific controvery – there’s no scientific evidence to support that claim. The same is true for creationism. If you want to claim otherwise then put up the evidence to support it.

    Like

  14. Or, more correctly that creationists (whether they are scientists or not) are not engaging – in that they don’t deal with the issues at a scientific level of evidence, theory and validation. Their participation is not scientific.

    I have no idea what you’d say that, Ken. Clearly there are Christian scientists who do deal with the issues at a scientific level of evidence, theory, and validation. Jon Safarti comes to mind off the top of my head, but I don’t really know many because the evolution issue doesn’t particularly interest me. Russell Humphreys is another who is involved in cosmology rather than biology.

    Dominic – your comments attempt to rationalise your position. But the simplest way to convince people is evidence:

    I find it fascinating that you internally deflect everything I say by reinterpreting my statements from ones describing how things are to ones describing how I want things to be.

    Provide me with the names (links) of scientists (or if you like theologians using scientific evidence) who are participating in this so-called “debate” at a scientific level – (evidence, theory and validation against reality).

    If I provided the names—and I’m sure you’re capable of finding out who contributes to periodicals like Journal of Creation—I’d be implicitly buying your attempt to define the issue along pragmatic grounds, as if the controversy only becomes scientific when scientists start to debate it in a widespread and scientific fashion. Of course, I’m saying that it is scientific by definition, since it revolves around a scientific theory. Furthermore, there are scientists out there arguing for non-evolution views (whether creationists or no). You’re welcome to argue that when you said “scientific controversy” you were referring to some kind of wide-spread debate in the scientific community, but that ain’t what a scientific controversy has to be by the lights of plain English, and that’s not what I took you to mean.

    Like

  15. Of course the existence of Santa Clause can be defined as a scientific issue with a scientific controversy. We just need people to make that claim of existence (and there a quite a few young creative people who will.

    But, in my book, that is not a scientific controversy because it doesn’t deal with evidence, formulation of theory and validation against reality.

    Nor does Journal of Creation – put out, incidentally, by that “charity” CMI – well known for its divorce from objective reality.

    Like

  16. Bnonn,

    An attack on a scientific theory, isn’t “scientific” just because the thing it attacks it a scientific theory. It will only become scientific if the argument presented against the theory (or whatever) is a scientific argument.

    Trying to lay down a conspiracy theory that scientists reject other ideas out of hands while leaving out the actual reason things are excluded (lack of evidence & sound argument, etc.) is, to be polite, silly.

    Like

  17. Ken,

    Following on from the papers I pointed out earlier, I’ve just seen this: McGowan et al Nature Neurosci. 12(3)342 – 348 (2009). “Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse”. I suspect there will be quite a few studies of this kind in the near future, as the technology is now in place to do this sort of thing reasonably routinely (resources permitting).

    I have yet to read this, but I think that this is the paper being reported elsewhere on blogs as reporting differences between suicide cases that were victims of child abuse and not.

    Like

  18. Trying to lay down a conspiracy theory that scientists reject other ideas out of hands while leaving out the actual reason things are excluded (lack of evidence & sound argument, etc.) is, to be polite, silly.

    It’s never stopped creationists before, though. They’re not the sharpest pencils in the box.
    😉

    Like

Leave a Reply: please be polite to other commenters & no ad hominems.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s