Giants’ Causeway Interpretive Centre: “The National Trust fully supports the scientific explanation for the creation of the stones 60 million years ago”

Which is fine, but misses the point.  The National Trust continues to try to defend its decision to give in to the lobbying of the Caleb Foundation and include young-Earth creationist beliefs in the Giants’ Causeway Interpretive Centre[Are they after the crank pound? – Ed]  Maybe… and maybe not.

Yesterday’s NT press office blog carried this quote

A National Trust spokesperson said: “The interpretation in the visitor centre showcases the science of how the stones were formed, the history of this special place and the stories of local characters.

“We reflect, in a small part of the exhibition, that the Causeway played a role in the historic debate about the formation of the earth, and that for some people this debate continues today. [added emphasis]

“The National Trust fully supports the scientific explanation for the creation of the stones 60 million years ago.”

And the BBC report included comments by the Causeway project director, Graham Thompson.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster Graham Thompson, Causeway project director said: “Over the past five or six years we have had a thorough appraisal at what should be contained in the Causeway visitors centre, we have a huge range of exhibits, audio tours, films and how the Causeway itself links into history.

“Central to everything is how the Causeway was formed and the National Trust position is that we believe and accept the mainstream scientific idea that the Causeway was formed by volcanic eruption 60 million years ago.

“In the scientific and formation elements we base everything on fact.

“It’s a fact today that there is still a series of debate surrounding the formation of the Causeway but the exhibit is about that debate of as opposed to how the Causeway was formed. [corrected quote – see Graham Thompson’s comment here]

We have a respectful position which allows people to have debate.” [added emphasis]

That line has been modified in an update today on the NT press office blog.

Lastly there is the ‘debating characters’ exhibit, which sparked the discussion. This exhibit consists of five different audio samples triggered by buttons. It is designed to give a flavour of the historical debates there have been over the Causeway’s formation – starting with arguments between Sir Thomas Molyneux and a mystery correspondent (probably George Ashe) over whether the columns were fossil or mineral. The next clip sets out a flavour of the argument between Vulcanists and Neptunists. The next clip details how James Hutton’s work opened the way for definitive proof of an ancient earth. The fourth clip mentions a theory published in the 1800s that the Causeway was fossilised bamboo. Then the final clip states that Young Earth Creationists exist who wish to continue the debate today, as they believe the earth is only 6000 years old. [added emphasis]

That gets closer to identifying the problem here for the National Trust.  As I pointed out yesterday, in response to this quote from a National Trust spokesperson in the original UTV report

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 [over the age of the Earth] is inside the heads of young-Earth creationists.”

And, despite the new NT press office line, the offending section of the exhibition [scroll down] is titled, “The Debate continues today”

The Debate continues today

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.

To repeat myself,

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.

Martha Gill at the New Statesman blog identified the tactic in play

The strategy employed by the Caleb Foundation here appears to be one pioneered by the Discovery Institute in the US, [called] “teaching the controversy“. By insisting that the views of an incredibly small minority (of both the general population, and indeed Christians) are included in discussions of the subject, the ploy aims to create the impression that an issue is not settled. [added emphasis]

In the meantime, the geologists are getting organised.

And Dr Andrew Kerr, Reader in Petrology and Director of Admissions, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, who had pointed out the Geoscientist article in 2008, emailed Slugger yesterday.

Needless to say I am appalled by the news that this minority of a minority have succeeded in getting their claptrap even cursorily mentioned in the new Causeway visitor centre.

I have found out that the British Geological Survey HQ were asked to make representations to the NT against the inclusion of this nonsense, most probably by the Geol Survey of NI. But obviously they were ignored.

Who paid for the new visitor centre? was it entirely the NT or was there public money involved as well?

[Added: From the NT press office blog. “The Giant’s Causeway visitor experience cost £18.5million. Of this funding package, the National Trust provided £6.25m, the Department of Enterprise Trade & Investment, through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, awarded £9.25 million of which £6.125 million has been provided by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland with the Heritage Lottery Fund allocating £3million.”]

The most concerning thing is that it is an organisation like the National Trust have given into pressure from the lunatic fringe, and their scientifically illiterate political supporters.

I have alerted the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geol Soc of London to this as well as the Mineralogical Society of GB and Ireland (of which I am the PRO) suggesting that both send a strongly worded letter concern to the NT.

The president of the Mineralogical Society is also on the Committee of Heads of University Geosciences Departments
http://www.chugd.ac.uk/
and I have suggested to him that they might also like to express their concern.

Words really do fail me at this point.

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  • Pete Baker

    “I use the word ‘considerable’ to emphasise that Creationist views are not the fringe view that some would have us believe.”

    Young-Earth creationist views on the other hand…

    And those are the views under discussion.

  • Reader

    Backbencher: then where are all the intermediate fossils?
    Almost all fossils are samples from intermediate or doomed populations. Just as all creatures are either intermediate, or doomed not to have ultimate progeny. For instance, since I have children, I am quite possibly an intermediate between what mankind was and what mankind will be in the future.
    If you can’t see that basic point, can you at least tell me whether you think someone could tell, by examining a fossil, whether it was an intermediate or not?

  • andnowwhat

    Backbencher

    The interesting thing is that with all the school room teaching about evolution, the numbers who do not accept it are considerable. Ever ask yourself, why?

    Yep. They go home and their parents fill them with crap and keep them in an enviroment (family, church, youth groups) where this crap is espoused.

    BTW, yes, you are a fringe group but a very aggressive and nasty one.

  • Backbencher

    Mac

    Another intellectual gem from yourself, any wonder creationists say that evolutionists avoid debating the issue.

    With regard to the horse, check out

    http://creation.com/what-about-horse-toe-evolution

  • andnowwhat

    To support my last point, listen to the creationist on yesterday’s Sunday Sequence on Iplayer when he was talking to a very nice and patient scientist

  • Mac

    Haha, the creation ministries.
    Seriously?

  • Reader

    Be prepared, but, oops – sorry, I forgot one:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/

  • Backbencher

    andnowwhat

    ‘you are a fringe group but a very aggressive and nasty one’

    please provide examples of ‘aggressive and nasty’

    Or is it an example of another sweeping statement you present as fact?

  • Backbencher

    Mac

    Didn’t realise they had an office in Belfast – glad to hear it.

    No I have not read the booklet, but I’ll take your bias comments for what they are (you probably don’t recognise your bias).

    Could you please detail my acts of intellectual dishonesty

  • Backbencher

    Reader

    If you can’t see that basic point, can you at least tell me whether you think someone could tell, by examining a fossil, whether it was an intermediate or not?

    I’m not sure you understand the use of the word intermediate. It is the intermediate stage between different ‘kinds’ of animals.

    You talk about ‘an intermediate between what mankind was and what mankind will be in the future’ this would not be an intermediate as before and after are still ‘mankind’

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    Young earth creationism keeps trying to spoke the wheels of evolution (incompetently) but does not provide an alternative. Yes, it “explains” how things came to be, but that explanation has no predictive power.

    For example, evolution holds that tetrapods evolved from fish. But fish noses aren’t connected to the back of the throat like those of tetrapods – they open into the outside at both ends, like eyebrow piercings. Now, YEC would have you believe that this disproves evolution – after all, an intermediate fossil between fish and tetrapods would have to have the back end of its nose between its teeth. Many evolutionary biologists, meanwhile, maintained that no matter how silly it sounds, there must have been a creature just like that.

    Not only was the tooth-crossing nostril hypothesis demonstrated correct, but it also helps shed light on the phenomenon of cleft palate. This is how science works – anybody can make up a just-so story to explain the things that we already know. But the true test of a theory is whether it predicts things that we never expected.

    No matter what evidence is presented, YEC can explain it – this is its apparent strength. But the corollary is that it can predict nothing – this is its fundamental flaw.

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    I’m not sure you understand the use of the word intermediate. It is the intermediate stage between different ‘kinds’ of animals

    And how does one know if two animals are of different ‘kinds’?

  • andnowwhat

    Backbencher

    I gave you a source for the aggressive and nasty. Believe me, there was plenty of other examples on last week’s media

  • Mac

    “Could you please detail my acts of intellectual dishonesty”

    Let’s start with our first interaction, one that jumped out at me because it was straight from the ‘How to argue with an evolutionist’ pamphlet produced by creation ministries which I’ve read through.

    To paraphrase the booklet..
    When arguing with an evolutionist in front of floating/undecided observers, ask the question ‘if evolution has been proved, why is it called a theory’
    Which you did, when it was explained to you what the definition of the word theory is in scientific circles you immediately responded that you knew that and moved on.

    So if you understand the meaning of the word theory, why ask the question? The reason you asked such a stupid question is because it’s textbook (literally) creationist obfuscation/dishonesty.

  • Nardac

    Backbencher: “Obviously I can’t read the three books tonight”. Obviously you can’t. But I’m happy to stump up for whichever one you choose if you let me have a postal address or amazon wishlist. I’d then be happy to read and respond to your thoughts about your chosen text. Come on, what have you got to lose?

    Andrew: smart and organized – clear responses to creationist questions/objections without resorting to name calling. Lots of the former on this thread but plenty of the latter too.

    Mister Joe: this might be interesting on the plant question.

  • Nardac

    Sorry – this

  • Mister_Joe

    Nardac,

    the “this” link doesn’t work (for me?). Can you elaborate?

  • Mister_Joe

    Got it. Thanks.

  • Mister_Joe

    On my wish list. Twice the price here!

  • Reader

    Backbencher: I’m not sure you understand the use of the word intermediate. It is the intermediate stage between different ‘kinds’ of animals.
    I don’t think ‘kind’ is a scientific concept, unlike species or genus. Is ‘Kind’ part of the creationist lexicon?
    However, from context, you seem to be suggesting that evolutionists suggest a line of descent starts as one ‘kind’, has a couple of hundred generations as an ‘intermediate’, before becoming a different ‘kind’. A given fossil can be labelled as a ‘kind’ or as an ‘intermediate’. Scientists wouldn’t make that sort of distinction. There are lots of fossil samples from large breeding populations in long term stable environments – but isn’t that exactly what you would expect to see?
    Backbencher: You talk about ‘an intermediate between what mankind was and what mankind will be in the future’ this would not be an intermediate as before and after are still ‘mankind’
    Before mankind there was a series of apes, man-like apes, and ape-like men. The crucial transition was more social or mental than physical. We can’t see the future, but we may become Morlocks, or Eloi, or supermen, or couch potatoes, or giant pulsating brains. We could branch, or die out. We could control our future evolution, or adapt to new opportunities, or be victims of circumstance. I am perfectly happy to be an intermediate, and I hope things turn out well.

  • Reader

    Oops – Italics gone?

  • john

    I dont know why you are all bothering to debate with creationists they will not change their minds. If the world is really 6000 years old then Newgrange and Céide Fields must have been built on day 1 and are as old as everything else on the planet (snigger)

  • Jack2

    Hehe John your spot on with Newgrange.
    Even living organisms are older than 6000 years.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_%28tree%29
    Est at 80,000 yrs looking at a series of evidence.

    The young earth creationists – well we added up the names in the bible.
    LMFAO.

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    John,

    I’m not trying to change his mind. I’m trying to impress upon him the futility of trying to win.

  • dwatch
  • Backbencher

    andnowwhat

    To support your accusation that creationists are ‘very aggressive and nasty’ you suggested listening to Sunday Sequence. I took the trouble to listen to this earlier.
    Are you serious when you cite this as an example of ‘very aggressive and nasty’. I challenge everyone commenting on this issue to have a listen (it is in the second half of the programme) and highlight the ‘very aggressive and nasty’ bit.

    Maybe in your book everyone is aggressive and nasty if they differ from your point of view.

  • Backbencher

    Andrew

    ‘it can predict nothing – this is its fundamental flaw’

    I don’t agree, how about

    The earth is only a few thousand years old therefore evidence will be found that humans and dinosaurs lived on earth at the same time.

    (Not sure if that meets your criteria for a prediction)

  • Backbencher

    Mac

    ‘when it was explained to you what the definition of the word theory is in scientific circles you immediately responded that you knew that and moved on’

    As usual you distort the truth, go back and read the posts.

    As previously requested please detail the ‘intellectual dishonesty’?

  • Backbencher

    Nardac
    Thank you for the kind offer, but I imagine that this debate will have past by the time I have read it.

    Nevertheless I would still be interested in a quick synopsis on -Where did the matter that made the universe come from?

  • Backbencher

    Reader

    Not sure if you are deliberately trying to throw the conversation of track – the issue is intermediate or transitional fossils. The issue of identifying them, or what to call them, does not seem to be a problem. Evolutionary scientists are seeking them, and make great fanfare when they think they have discovered one.

    The problem for you is – why are there none (or only a few disputed ones)?

  • Backbencher

    dwatch

    check out
    http://creation.com/tree-ring-dating-dendrochronology

    The paragraph immediately prior to the conclusion makes interesting reading.

  • Mac

    “As usual you distort the truth, go back and read the posts.”

    Nothing to reread, you asked

    ““If the evolutionary view is so well proven why is it still only a theory?””

    Straight out of the creation ministries handbook of disinformation.

    Loved the creation ministries take on dendrochronology, especially the line

    “but this depends on temporal placement of fragments of wood (from long-dead trees) using carbon-14 dating.”

    ohhhh, long dead trees, like that’s a bad thing, do they even pretend to know the cornerstone of how radiocarbon dating works?

    Almost as good as

    “However, when the interpretation of scientific data contradicts the true history of the world as revealed in the Bible, then it’s the interpretation of the data that is at fault.”

    Well, that’s that settled then, can’t argue with the heavily edited racial myths of bronze age goat herders can we?

  • Backbencher

    Mac

    What about the last paragraph of the article, you seemed to have missed that bit. A good example of evolutionists claiming something is reliable and then, what do you know, it turns out to be wrong! Surprise Surprise!!

    I have copied the paragraph below
    The extended tree ring chronologies are far from absolute, in spite of the popular hype. To illustrate this we only have to consider the publication and subsequent withdrawal of two European tree-ring chronologies. According to David Rohl,3 the Sweet Track chronology from Southwest England was ‘re-measured’ when it did not agree with the published dendrochronology from Northern Ireland (Belfast). Also, the construction of a detailed sequence from southern Germany was abandoned in deference to the Belfast chronology, even though the authors of the German study had been confident of its accuracy until the Belfast one was published. It is clear that dendrochronology is not a clear-cut, objective dating method despite the extravagant claims of some of its advocates.

  • Backbencher

    Mac

    Regarding the comment

    ‘However, when the interpretation of scientific data contradicts the true history of the world as revealed in the Bible, then it’s the interpretation of the data that is at fault.”

    Yes, creationists recognise their world view and seek to find a logical interpretation of the data, meanwhile, you fail to acknowledge that you view is merely an interpretation of the data and not fact in itself.

    Regarding goat herders, you show you ignorance of scripture, go and check out who Moses was.

  • Backbencher

    Mac

    Regarding the theory, as you won’t re read the posts I’ll spell it out for you

    I asked “If the evolutionary view is so well proven why is it still only a theory?”

    Someone suggested I did not understand the Scientific term theory

    I responded, I did

    Someone then gives an explanation of the term theory

    The point is evolution is only a theory, open to change, correction and ultimate rejection, in favour of a better explanation of the facts.

    There is nothing intellectual dishonest about highlighting evolution is only a theory. I know you might not like that fact, and find it difficult to come to terms with, but there it is.

  • Nardac

    Backbencher, I’d be quite happy to resume to the “debate” once you’ve read any one or more of the books I recommended. Why not give it a go? What have you got to lose?

  • Mac

    “The point is evolution is only a theory, open to change, correction and ultimate rejection, in favour of a better explanation of the facts.”

    Complete the thought
    ….based on advancing scientific techniques and knowledge.
    NOT on bronze age myths.

    And therein lies your problem, the Semitic version of Völuspá or Lebor Gabála Érenn has no role to play in The Theory of Evolution. That time is gone, and all the DUP members in all the creationist pockets in the world will not alter that.

  • Greenflag

    @ Nardac ,

    What have you got to lose?

    Short answer his straw .

    Some more recommended reading for those who ‘doubt ‘ evolution being fact .

    1. Evolution – Carl Zimmerman
    2.Science v Intelligent Design – John Brockman
    3.Mapping Human History – Steve Olson
    4.Genome -Matt Ridley
    5. Ancestors Tale -Richard Dawkins
    6.Before the Dawn -Nicholas Wade
    7. Eight little Piggies -Stephen Gould
    8.Social Conquest of the Earth -E.O Wilson
    9.Rise & Fall of the Third Chimpanzee -Jared Diamond
    10.Greatest Show on Earth -Richard Dawkins
    11.Making of Mankind -Richard Leakey
    12.Your inner Fish -Rubin
    13. 10,000 year Explosion -Cochran & Harpending
    14.Prehistory of the Mind – Mithen
    15. Why Evolution is True -Jerry Coyne
    16.A Short History of Everything -Bill Bryson

    On the other hand you might find it easier and less a strain on the eyes to listen to Professor Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago .

    http://new.exchristian.net/2010/04/why-evolution-is-true-by-jerry-coyne.html

    And then there is

    http://bevets.com/equotesd3.htm

  • Reader

    Backbencher: Not sure if you are deliberately trying to throw the conversation of track – the issue is intermediate or transitional fossils. The issue of identifying them, or what to call them, does not seem to be a problem. Evolutionary scientists are seeking them, and make great fanfare when they think they have discovered one.
    So, are all of the ancestral whales: Pakicetus; Ambulocetus; Rodhocetus and Basilosaurus: ‘kinds’, ‘intermediates’, alternating ‘kind’ and ‘intermediate’, or what?
    And once an intermediate is found between an existing ‘intermediate’ and a ‘kind’, does that mean the previous ‘intermediate’ is promoted to a ‘kind’?
    Thankfully, the scientific position is not anywhere near so confusing as the creationist labeling game – a creature is what it is (of a ‘species’) and also fits where it fits (as a ‘transitional’).

  • Brian

    Greenflag

    All those books should be burned and replaced by the Bible.

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    Backbencher,

    The earth is only a few thousand years old therefore evidence will be found that humans and dinosaurs lived on earth at the same time.

    Yes, or it could be used to “predict” that such evidence would not be found, because God could have just wanted it that way. The problem with invoking “God did it” is that God is omnipotent, therefore no amount of evidence could possibly be sufficient to prove that God didn’t do it. But you do have to invoke a terrific amount of mental gymnastics to believe that radiocarbon dating, tree rings, archaeology, plate tectonics, genetics, cosmology, particle physics and the Hubble Space Telescope all simultaneously suffer from various errors that somehow conspire to produce results that agree with each other; whereas there is absolutely no conceivable way that a translation of a 2,500 year old transcript of assorted oral histories could be inaccurate in even the tiniest detail? Even about things that by its own account happened before any man was alive to witness?

  • Greenflag

    ‘replaced by the Bible.’

    Or the Koran ? or the Talmud ?
    Why the one rather than the others?

  • Mister_Joe

    I read a piece of advice a while back: Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and it annoys the pig.

  • Mourne77

    To me the real question is why do we need to spend millions of pounds of tax payers money to interpret the stones in the first place.The scientificand mythical explanations are well known and creationists believe otherwise. The stones will still be there when the National Trust, the Visitor Centre and the scientific and creationist philosophies are long forgotten. Of more importance to me are the local people. The UN World Conservation Monitoring Centre has the following to say about local people in relation to the Giants Causeway.

    “LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION
    The site is uninhabited now, although several small settlements exist immediately inland of the Causeway cliffs. In the 19th century, and up to the acquisition of the site in 1961 by the National Trust, many temporary commercial stalls and huts were either owned or managed by local people for tourists and visitors. A house occupied by a custodian appointed locally to oversee these activities was located next to the Giant’s Causeway (DoE, pers. comm.,1995)”

    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/medialibrary/2011/06/23/35378ed9/Giants%20Causeway.pdf

    If the stalls were still available to local people, then the creationists could have their own stall and the storytellers theirs. The scientific version could be told in the Libraries of the local towns (thus helping to keep them open). The visitors could then take their pick or just enjoy a cup of coffee at a locally owned stall and wonder at the stones.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    “The debate continues today.”

    An irrefutable date and calculation
    was disputed by the Fable Foundation;
    the age of Terra Firma
    is now Terra Infirma
    because the Trust preferred subsidisation.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    “The debate continues today.” continued

    First they went for the museums and we spoke out because we were friends of the museums;
    Then they went for the Causeway and we spoke out because we were friends of the Trust;
    Then they went for the schools and we spoke out because we were parents of children;
    Then they went to the polls and we voted in our thousands for the DUP.

    With apologies to Pastor Niemöller

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles