Giants’ Causeway Interpretive Centre: “This is, as far as we are aware, a first for the National Trust anywhere in the UK, and it sets a precedent for others to follow…”
New interactive displays and activities inside the visitor centre include an animation of the legend of Finn McCool and an innovative hand-held audio guide.
Such distractions aside, and without access to the material at issue, the quotes in the UTV report from the National Trust raise serious questions.
The trust said that the exhibit gives recognition to the fact that, for creationists, the debate about the age of the Earth is still ongoing.
A statement read: “The Giants’ Causeway has always prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is.
“One of the exhibits in the Giants’ Causeway Visitors’ Centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giants’ Causeway played in the debate about how the Earth’s rocks were formed and the age of the Earth.
“This is an interactive audio exhibition in which visitors can hear some of the different debates from historical characters.
“In this exhibition we also acknowledge that for some people, this debate continues today and we reflect and respect the fact that creationists today have a different perspective on the age of the Earth from that of mainstream science.” [added emphasis]
The problem with this is that the only “debate” taking place is inside the heads of young-Earth creationists.
To be fair to the National Trust, there is no debate in their online presentation of the history of the Giants’ Causeway.
But it is true that there has been a long-running lobbying campaign by the Caleb Foundation – which features a prominent DUP MLA, Mervyn Storey, on its “Council of Reference” – to influence the material available in the Giants’ Causeway Interpretive Centre.
That campaign, along with indications of assent from the then NI Environment minister, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, prompted this response in 2008 from the Geological Society’s Stratigraphy Commission, in the Geoscientist issue of April 2008.
The young-Earth creationists’ view of Earth history, based upon their literal interpretation of the Bible, is quite simply wrong. It is a manifest untruth. It is as wrong as saying that the Sun orbits around the Earth, or that the Moon is made of green cheese, or that the Giant’s Causeway was constructed by Finn MacCool, the giant of Irish legend. Nor are we dealing with “alternative views” of the universe. We are dealing with the difference between reason and unreason. For it is unreasonable, indeed fantastical, in any impartial examination of the evidence (evidence that was sufficient even in Victorian times, and now that has been corroborated a thousandfold), to state that the Earth is only a few thousand years old.
This is not a case of censorship. We do not question the right of creationists to hold or expound their views, to write pamphlets and books, hold meetings, or set up websites; nor would we for our part demand to distribute articles on the scientific evidence of the age of the Earth in church halls. But we profoundly disagree with any suggestion that creationist views should be given space in publicly-funded museums or visitor centres that explain natural history, or in school science lessons or science textbooks.
The significance of this point goes far beyond questions of a philosophical interpretation of humanity’s place in the universe. Humanity is now struggling to maintain itself on an overcrowded planet, on an Earth in which the life-support systems of air and water and food and land are being imperilled by human action. To deal with the many crises facing us, we need to deal with the Earth as it is – not with the utterly unreal Earth that the young-Earth creationists have convinced themselves of, by over-literal interpretation of scriptural texts.
Whether undue political pressure on the National Trust was part of the Caleb Foundation’s campaign is a question only they can answer. Whether a similar campaign elsewhere would succeed, if that’s what has happened, isn’t clear either. But the Caleb Foundation’s chairman, Wallace Thompson, is also quoted in the UTV report
“We have worked closely with the National Trust over many months with a view to ensuring that the new Causeway Visitor Centre includes an acknowledgement both of the legitimacy of the creationist position on the origins of the unique Causeway stones and of the ongoing debate around this,” Mr Thompson said.
“We want to thank senior National Trust officials who have worked closely with us over a prolonged period, and we are pleased that this constructive engagement has helped to bring about such a positive result.
“This is, as far as we are aware, a first for the National Trust anywhere in the UK, and it sets a precedent for others to follow.” [added emphasis throughout]
Adds As Prof Brian Cox tweeted
I’m afraid the National Trust should be ashamed of themselves if this story is correct. secularism.org.uk/news/2012/07/n…
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) July 5, 2012
And it’s even worse than I thought. From the linked story at secularism.org.uk
A transcript from an audio exhibit in the visitor centre reads:
Like many natural phenomena around the world, the Giant’s Causeway has raised questions and prompted debate about how it was formed.
This debate has ebbed and flowed since the discovery of the Causeway to science and, historically, the Causeway became part of a global debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed.
This debate continues today for some people, who have an understanding of the formation of the earth which is different from that of current mainstream science.
Young Earth Creationists believe that the earth was created some 6000 years ago. This is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible and in particular the account of creation in the book of Genesis.
Some people around the world, and specifically here in Northern Ireland, share this perspective.
Young Earth Creationists continue to debate questions about the age of the earth. As we have seen from the past, and understand today, perhaps the Giant’s Causeway will continue to prompt awe and wonder, and arouse debate and challenging questions for as long as visitors come to see it.
The deluded fools. Young-Earth creationists are not part of any scientific debate, mainstream or otherwise, about “how the earth’s rocks were formed”.
And it’s not the Giants’ Causeway prompting “awe and wonder” that’s behind the young-Earth creationists lobbying campaign and interest in the Interpretive Centre.
It was the opportunity to promote their supernaturalist nonsense. And the National Trust have just handed them a free platform on which to do so.
Topic: Government, Politics, Science, Society and Culture
Region: Global, Ireland, Northern Ireland, UK
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