The British Humanist Association is reporting that an FOI request by Andew Muir of the Alliance Party suggests that the origin of the creationist content in the National Trusts’ Giant’s Causeway exhibit can be traced back to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment:
… an email uncovered by the Alliance Party, from a civil servant within DETI and dated 9 November 2009, states that ‘I’ve amended draft to take on board NITB [Northern Ireland Tourist Board] comment re National Trust unwillingness to accept Creationism to be included in the exhibition , as a grant condition. Are you content for submission to be submitted?’
This implies that that DETI and NITB tried to make the inclusion of creationist views be a condition of their £10 million grant to the National Trust for the development of the new visitor’s centre. Since 2008, DETI’s Minister has been Arlene Foster, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party.
It was recently reported that the National Trust had amended the exhibition (see Pete’s post here) where the crucial text had been reduced to:
However, not everyone agrees with the scientific view. There are some people who believe – often for religious reasons – that the earth was formed more recently: thousands of years ago rather than billions.
So do the e-mails between DETI and NITB suggest that this was a formula – ‘…not everyone agrees with the scientific view’ – is sufficiently vague to satisfy both sides with it’s semantic hint that the scientific view may be incorrect, rather than the fact that it is actually the generally agreed position amongst all those who have studied the geology. As to the statement – ‘often for religious reason’ – there also appears to be intentional wiggle room here (using often rather than solely). It will be interesting to see if any of this surfaces in the FOI requests. Andrew Muir indicates that he will make further requests to identify where the pressure was coming from within DETI. On the Alliance Party’s webpages he says:
“Transparency and openness in relation to this issue is urgently required. I therefore call upon the Department to clarify without delay the role played by previous and current Enterprise Ministers in relation to inclusion of Creationism within the new Giants Causeway Centre.
“Organisations such as Caleb should not be given any undue influence on independent organisations such as the National Trust as a result of the political inclination of government Ministers. Religion and Politics must be kept separate. The place for creationist theories is in Church not tourist attractions such as the new Giants Causeway Visitors Centre.”
Andrew might need to clarify this himself, though, since, just as Creationism is religion and not science, similarly this is a religious rather than political motivation (as opposed to previous ministerial correspondence with cultural institutions under their portfolio which did mix the two).
(h/t to Nevin) Sam McBride also has further details of the News Letter investigation of the same correspondence:
The News Letter contacted DETI on Friday and again yesterday, asking for details of the context in which the email was sent and whether it had ever suggested to the National Trust that including a Creationist viewpoint in the Causeway Centre would be a condition of receiving public funds.