“an unforgettable insight..”

Having spent most of last year filming, I think it would be fair to say that Will Crawley is eagerly anticipating the launch of BBC NI’s natural history series “Blueprint”. – there’s a trailer here.

This major, multi-faceted season across television, radio and online features a series of exciting output which will give the people of Northern Ireland an unforgettable insight into where we live and who we are and change the way they see Northern Ireland forever. Blueprint series editor Paul McGuigan says: “We’re rolling 600 million years of Northern Ireland’s unique past into an exciting series across television, radio and online.”

Now, if someone could remind Northern Ireland’s Culture Minister..

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  • Bole

    It is a sad reflection on the state of geological science in Northern Ireland that the BBC saw fit to have two archaeologists as its ‘experts’ in a set of programmes which appears to be significantly geological in nature. This dosent give the series the scientific gravitas it undoubtedly deserves.

  • An Lochlannach

    In terms of stupidity, talking about ‘600 million years of Northern Ireland’s unique past’ is on a par with Edwin Poot’s creationism.

  • Indeed, An Lochlannach. I know partition is anachronistic, but I didn’t think it dated back that far.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Pete, why do you suddenly change from reporting great political stories, which you do have a natural eye for, to inferior reports of nature, star constellations and the environment ?

  • willis

    What is the policy on backhanded compliments?

  • Pete Baker


    Everyone’s a critic..

    Ulsters my homeland

    Is that you, Edwin? ;o)

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [i]What is the policy on backhanded compliments? [/i]

    Not sure, but I bet you transubstantiation or Apostolic Succession isn’t linked to Stormont ministers in the same way Pete links a young earth with Edwin Poots.

    Double standards? you judge?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    As Edwin Poots young earth belief seems to be the highlight of Sluggers comedy hour, can you tell me when you will be making a fool of all stormont ministers who believe in the Romanish idea that transubstantiation turns bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood, or the Romanish idea that Apostolic Succession gives Rome authority over other christians, or indeed that Peter even was buried in Rome?

  • jone

    I’m told the beeb have already had pre-broadcast complaints from the ‘young earthers’, including some mad threat to have the programme injuncted.

  • JD

    Ulsters my homeland – I will happliy oblige.

    Those ‘Romanish’ (lol) beliefs are just as ridiculous as Poots’ ‘Young Earth’ nonsense. Anyone who believes those things you posted should be openly ridiculed in the same way as young earth creationism beliefs should be laughed at and mocked.

    Happy now that someone is explicitly saying their religious beliefs are as lunatic as your religious beliefs, or did you actually have a point to make?

  • There was I, gently stewing a thought about Great hatred, little room, and how Powell has adapted a Yeats phrase from 1931, and applied it to a very different context.

    That led me to flick through the only biography of WBY that I could immediately locate (Stephen Coote’s, from 1997).

    In 1881 we find the Yeats family living at Howth, and:

    Willie now immersed himself in the works of Darwin, Wallis, Huxley and their commentators. By so doing, he became naively familiar with the most troubling dilemma exposed by nineteenth century thought: the discovery that the universe is ruled neither by the God of Genesis nor by man but instead appears set on a purposeless course where chance alone ensures the survival of the fittest. For a while, fired with adolescent radicalism, Willie could revel in pulling the old structures down. He was, he recalled, ‘hot for arguments in refutation of Adam and Noah and the Seven Days’ of creation. He even took pleasure in taunting a pious geologist who came to look for fossils along the Howth cliffs, telling him that the existence of what the man sought disproved the bible in which he placed his faith. The geologist begged Willie not to raise the question again for he had considered the implications far more deeply than Willie himself and felt that in a godless world it would be impossible to lead a moral life.

    Only tangentially relevant, I admit: but I’m a sucker for a good anecdote.

  • pauljames


    On a related issue have you been following the blogstorm over at Pharyngula? The attempts of American biologist and science blogger PZ Myers to see a preview of the forthcoming creationist movie “Expelled” resulted in his exclusion (even though he was a contributer to the movie) although his guest was allowed in. The name of the unrecognised guest? Richard Dawkins.

  • Pete Baker


    I hadn’t been following it, but thanks for the tip.

    This post seems to cover it well for anyone else interested

    “It’s a movie that blames the Holocaust on Darwin — it’s stupid and foolish.”

    Well, that’s almost as ridiculous as blaming Francis Bacon.

    Or even Galileo..

  • Greenflag

    ‘but I’m a sucker for a good anecdote.’

    Back in 20,000 BC a distant neutron star in the constellation Aquila (Eagle) underwent a violent cataclysm and belched hard radiation into space hurling an expanding sphere of poison at the speed of light in all directions . For approx 22,000 years it sped through space and hit the Earth over the Pacific ocean on the evening of Aug 27th 1998 . For 5 minutes on that late summer day Earth was bombarded by gamma rays and X rays the lethal twins generated by thermonuclear bombs as well as by the interior of stars . Even after travelling 20,000 light years the energy was sufficient to send radiation sensors on seven earth satellites to maximum reading or off scale . Two satellites were shut down to save their instruments from burnout . The radiation penetrated to within 30 miles of the Earth’s surface and was dissipated by the lower regions of our atmosphere.

    This was the first time that such high energy from outside the solar system was detected to have a measurable effecton the atmosphere.

    Probably not the first time Earth has been buffeted by energy from interstellar space . Perhaps it was something similar that caused some of the mass life exterminations .

    Astronomers believe that the 1998 event was caused by the surface disruption of a kind of star that had only been theorised to exist : a magnetar -a type of neutron star perhaps 20 miles in diameter but more massive than our sun . A thimbleful of magnetar would weigh 100 million tons-matter compressed far beyond the point of human comprehension.

    Had the ‘magnetar ‘ been 5,000 light years away instead of 20,000 our ozone layer would have been blown away and we (all animal life) would have been ‘fried ‘ or evaporated out of existence .

    We’ve been very lucky these past 4 billion years :). I would’nt push it .

    On a more cheerful note only the other day it was possible to see with the naked eye in the wee hours an exploding star a bright blip about 7.5 billion light years or halfway across the known universe . So this ‘blip’ would have actually taken place some 3 billion years before the Earth was formed . It’s a quare place this universe I tell you or as Joxer Daly questions in O’Casey’s Plough and the Stars’

    ‘What is the stars ‘?

    I dont think Joxer would be too enamoured of present day discoveries 🙂 I’m not too fond of those magnetars myself either 🙂

  • Greenflag

    Or even Galileo..

    Or even the Jews . I mean if the Jews had listened to what Jesus had to say they would never have suffered and had they become Christians then some other shower could have been holocausted instead :(?

    jaysuz wept 🙁

  • the serpent

    that’s the first time i’ve seen the word holocausted used. Is there a verb…To holocaust ?

  • Greenflag

    For they(the mere Irish ) took the oul king’s English
    And turned it right around
    And invented darlin phrases
    The invader to confound etc etc

    Actually the first recorded use in English of the word ‘holocaust’ was back in the time of Richard (I’m fond of little arab boys as well ) the Lionheart . Being strapped for cash he had the Jews expelled from England minus their dosh of course . Several hundred were drowned by tidal waves when they were forced to march out a couple of miles to a ‘ship which was supposed to take them somewhere else . Its mentioned in Simon Schamas brilliant series History of Britain.

    Richard the Lionheart not content with ‘holocausting’ the Jews went one better by getting himself captured and all England had to pay dearly for his ransom . As a result there was no money for to supply an army to defend England’s territories in France the ‘Angevin Empire’ and thus England became just a small part island Kingdom . Of course as the Scots , Irish and Welsh were soon to find out what was lost in France would be won back somewhere else ! And here beginneth the 800 year war !

  • Kelly’s Eye

    “In terms of stupidity, talking about ‘600 million years of Northern Ireland’s unique past’ is on a par with Edwin Poot’s creationism.

    This is nonsense. If it’s possible to speak of “Ireland’s” 600 millions year natural history, or (for that matter) to speak of “Europe’s” 600 million year natural history, it s just as possible to speak of “northern Ireland’s” natural history. The political term, whether it is Ireland, NI or Europe, is a comparatively recent innovation, but the terms label an area of land and that is the point. If this programme tries to examine Northern Ireland’s natural history, that is perfectly reasonable. There are many textbooks of natural history with Northern Ireland in their titles. We even have a department called the Geological Survey Northern Ireland. Nothing strange about that locution either.

  • HenryB

    From what I’ve read about the programmes, geology is just one of the sciences considered. Seems to take in just about eveything! From island formation to human genetics. You’d need an army of scientists to cover all those areas of science. Choosing two archaeologists is hardly much of a compromise.

    What’s the story about the Creationist protest? Are they planning a picket outside the BBC on Monday? that’s what im heariing …

  • Sam Neilly

    Edwin Poots has to decide on the budget for the Armagh Observatory. Would you have a creationist deciding if money should go to space research!?

    How can there be a legal challenge to a documentary about natural history? Can somebody explain???

  • Anonymous

    My understanding is that creationist groups across northern ireland are up in arms about this natural history series. the bbc is receiving letters of complaint every day and the programme hasnt even been shown. a solicitors letter has been received threatening legal action on the basis of the use of the license fee to make the programmes. the bbc is now concerned that there may be an organised protest or picket outside broadcasting house on monday morning, the day of transmission. apparently the culture minister has been in touch with the corporation. edwin poots wants the bbc to explain why creationists across northern ireland are about to have their religious views trampled over in this series. looks like the beeb is about to get itself into a fight with northern irelands sizeable fundamentalist community. a game of theological chicken …. who will blink first???

  • Darwin’s Rottweiller

    There is an email campaign by fundamentalist creationists. They have been sending the same email to the bbc. Here is a copy of the email that is being received. This is from a creationist website that is encouraging people to send this email to the presenter:

    Suggested email to sign and send to the presenter William Crawley on william.crawley@bbc.co.uk

    Dear Mr Crawley,

    In relation to the upcoming series of BLUEPRINT programmes I wish to register my protest to the BBC NI about this offensive abuse of the licence fee money of the many Christians in Northern Ireland who accept God’s account of His own Creation as recorded in His Word in the book of Genesis.

    I would ask, for the sake of balance, that BBC NI expend a similar amount of finance and give a platform to Scientists, who are Christians and ‘Biblical Creationists’ to explain the visible scientific evidence that concurs with their beliefs on the origins of the island of Ireland.

    Yours faithfully

    sign with your name

  • Answers not in Genesis

    I’m amazed at this stuff. Let’s hope the beeb doesn’t fold in this face of this silliness. BTW, since the creationists are always lording their bogus degrees, they might have had the grace to include crawley’s earned “Dr” title in their email (or do they only use titles when the degree has been purchased on the internet?).

  • jj

    I’m writing this from the US, where we have more than our fair share of creationists, but I had no idea that NI was so prone to this problem as well. We also have courts involved and local school boards trying to push a creationist agenda. Is there anything similar in NI as well? Thankfully, your media don’t seem to be as influenced by creationists as in the US, where there is a lot of political power within the creationist movement. After all, they helped elect a president.

  • Greenflag

    ‘of the many Christians in Northern Ireland who accept God’s account of His own Creation as recorded in His Word in the book of Genesis.’

    Can these ‘Christians’ prove that God wrote the book of Genesis ? Scientists, geologists , paleontologists , anthropologists must prove their facts , theories , findings based on scientific and mathematical method .

    Christians have their faith and their faith is not a science . We who happen to be non religious or atheists or nature lovers, agnostics etc have to suffer while the BBC shows Songs of Praise or RTE bells the Angelus or whatever .

    The ‘creationsts’ can do what I do when there is something on the TV that offends their taste . It’s called the off switch .

  • Greenflag

    ‘After all, they helped elect a president.’

    In Northern Ireland they elected the First Minister – Ian Paisley who is an honorary ‘graduate’ of the infamous Bob Jones ‘University’ of South Carolina. The institution which even George Bush apologised for visiting and which John McCain refused to visit.

    The difference between Northern Ireland and the USA in respect of their ‘creationist’ fundamentalists is that in the former they are poorly educated and barking mad, whereas in the latter they are barking mad and poorly educated . They are basically good people who are adrift in a world where there the simple certainty of belief is no longer appreciated as it was say in Victorian England or Medieval Rome . These are people who believe that if we all just believed in God (their God mind you not the God of the Jews or Muslims etc ) then the world would return to the way it was when everything was better and average life expectancy was 19 , people did’nt have the vote, and the Pope was either Christ’s vicar on Earth or the Whore of Babylon 🙁

  • All we need is in the Holy Book.
    Ireland’s enablers will face the Reckoning beofre we have the Rapture.

  • Philip Green

    I am a Christian and I happen to work in biological sciences. Evolution is the basis for much of my research. I see no conflict whatsoever between my faith and my work as an evolutionary biologist. It frustrates me greatly that Creationists are often portrayed as the majority position within Christianity. In fact, Creationists account for a tiny fringe within global Christianity. They are an a vocal minority.

  • pauljames

    “I would ask, for the sake of balance, that BBC NI expend a similar amount of finance and give a platform to Scientists, who are Christians and ‘Biblical Creationists’ to explain the visible scientific evidence that concurs with their beliefs on the origins of the island of Ireland.”

    Visible scientific evidence? you surely mean “Goddidit”

  • james g

    those creationist guys are nuts. why are they being taken seriously anyway?

  • willis

    I can just feel the tension rising. I may have to fight my way through a picket rather than organize one.

    What is the Creationist website?

    Not this one obviously…


  • If the Beeb had half a clue, they’d get a production company to offer up a quid pro quo: a history of the Bible.

    That’s the sprat.

    Catching the mackerel then involves having Karen Armstrong to do a Scharma. I’m still working through her superb book, now recently into paperback (and on special 3-for-2 offer, when I bought it). If you can’t get it on discount, the hardback is going cheaper than the retail paperback on Amazon (that’s information, not a plug).

    Armstrong has impeccable NI roots a generation or so back, so there you are.

    As one who is agnostic even about my own agnosticism, I find her socio-theology very palatable. She seems sound (to me, anyway) on the causes of the rise of fundamentalism. She sees it as a product of the modern, scientific zeitgeist.

    We are so into explaining and rationalising [“logos”], we have lost “meaning” [“mythos”]. Scientific explanation cannot give an explanation of the “meaning” and “purpose” of life: myth could and did. Until the modern era, though, folk did not confuse the one with the other, though “myth” frequently worked as an explanation of observable phenomena. So I learned many examples of “mythos” as a child:

    Four peas in a hole:
    One for the rook, one for the crow;
    One to rot, and one to grow.

    Myth has been replaced by absolutist ideologies (and organic pesticides): as an intelligent, imaginative species, we are diminished; and resort to monstrosities like fundamentalism. [My gloss.]

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow,

    ‘and resort to monstrosities like fundamentalism.

    Imagine coming face to face with a medieval Christian serf from the 13th century . It’s only 40 generaations ago and yet if you were in the England of 1250 there would be some things you would recognise -students were graduating from Cambridge -a form of Middle English was spoken as well as Norman French among the upper classes .


    Even if you broke the language barrier you and yon serf would have very little to say to each other after the usual weather chat . You would probably be interested in finding out what his goals in life were , what contribution did he hope to make to the world , what did he expect to leave to his children -what were his ideas about happiness and the good life ?. You might even want to probe a little deeper into his psyche (a la sluggerotoole 🙂 ) and ask him about his national /religious /identity problems ?

    You should not expect much of a response . If all you get is a blank stare its not because you’re talking over his head , or his mind isn’t developed enough for the exchange of ideas . It’s just that his ideas about life , history and reality are so utterly different from your 21st century views.

    The Christian view of history perceived/perceives life in this world as a mere stopover in preparation for the next . To the medieval mind the world was an ordered structure. God controlled every single event . The Christian God was a personal God who ‘intervened’ in every aspect of life . If things happened or did’nt happen it was because God willed it . God made history , not people . Allah akbar in modern parlance if you will .

    Modern fundamentalists although they would object to the comparison are in essence no different than the Allah Akbar mobs or the peasants or landlords in 18th and 19th century Ireland or their equivalents in Russia, France , Germany , England etc . The myth of religion is very important to them . It is their ‘explanation’ for the world around them .Without it they are adrift on a sea without apparent purpose .

    Myth plays a role not just in religion but also in historical interpretation , political ideologies and nowadays on the screen in Hollywood.

    Our science based world /material civilisation has been built up over the past 400 years and there are still pockets of ‘outdated’ thinking in the backwaters of even the so called developed world . But just as the medieval and later Popes had to accept that the Earth was not the centre of the universe so too will the fundamentalists and allah akbar crowd sooner or later have to face the reality that in a world of rapidly diminishing energy resources Allah /God /Jehovah will not help them .

    Karen Armstrong btw is a good read for those who are trying to make ‘sense’ of the fundy mindset .

  • Greenflag @ 11:50 AM:

    We’re in agreement, mostly, I see.

    Even so, and off-topic, I question your:

    England of 1250 … students were graduating from Cambridge – a form of Middle English was spoken as well as Norman French among the upper classes.

    As soon as I start on the following, I predict instant correction from the great Nevin.

    I think there’s some argy-bargy about the term “Norman-French”: I seem to recall the eggspurts (phoenetic, but appropriate) prefer “Anglo-Norman”. Any way, the French didn’t adopt their own language officially until 1539, so it’s difficult to speak of a “French”.

    Then thanks to King John (who deserves a better press than he gets) being systematically done over by the French, after about 1200 the Anglo-Normans had to decide which side they were on. Those who wanted to keep their English fiefs adopted English. Parliament began using English as its medium during the 13th-century, as I remember. The Provisions of Oxford, from 1258, were the first official document in English since 1066. That suggests that Anglo-Norman was well out of favour (except for the royal court, perhaps) by your time-scale. The Anglo-Normans in Ireland, of course, went Irish-speaking from the start (otherwise they’d have been short of pillow talk).

    However, my main complaint is that you give the junior University such undeserved antiquity. The first College in Cambridge is quite recent: Peterhouse in 1284, so there were precious few graduates around. If the pseudo-intellectuals couldn’t cope with the academic intensity of Oxenford, they should have settled on Stamford, the main stop-over on the decampment, which is a far nicer place, and away from the worst of the Siberian blast I got there last week.

  • Just catching up with today’s Economist.

    It leads its domestic section with an essential article on “Anglo-Saxon attitudes”, comparing British and US views of society, politics and economics. Inevitably, a poll is involved. Yes, the gist, but seemingly not the whole thing, is on line.

    I recommend especially the attitudes on religion:

    Do you believe there is a God?
    Do you believe there is a hell?
    If the prime minister/president were an atheist, would you feel delighted/indifferent/sorry/angry? and
    Which explains the origin of the earth?

    The last is right on topic here:

    The theory of evolution: Britain 60%+; US 30%.
    The Bible: Britain 10%; US 40%.
    “Intelligent design”: Britain 15%; US 20%.

    The printed copy before me (which may then not be on-line) comments:

    The gap between Britain and America is widest on religion: no surprise there, as Britain is famously a post-Christian society and Americans are, if anything, re-discovering the faith of their fathers. But the difference in views is so wide that even British Conservatives are a great deal more secular than American Democrats are.

    I do wish that Economist house-style didn’t conflate the USA with “America”, though.

  • Greenflag

    ‘my main complaint is that you give the junior University such undeserved antiquity.’

    Mea culpa and that’s neither Norman or Anglo French or Irish 🙂

    ‘Honi Soit qui mal y pense’ coined circa 1350 sounds Norman French to me rather than Anglo Norman . IIRC it was only after the bubonic plague that Middle English began to make serious inroads into the language of the nobility and high clergy . KIng Edward 1 (longshanks) still spoke Norman French as his first language though he did address his troops in middle english before the Battle for Wales.

    ‘As soon as I start on the following, I predict instant correction from the great Nevin. ‘

    Indeed that lad knows the language spoken and geneaology of the earliest forms of microbial life 🙂 a veritable terror to us all 🙂

    ‘I do wish that Economist house-style didn’t conflate the USA with “America”, though.’

    A bugbear of mine too . Canada, Brazil , Argentina and Mexico not to mention Cuba would have given different numbers .

    ‘The theory of evolution: Britain 60%+; US 30%.
    The Bible: Britain 10%; US 40%.
    “Intelligent design”: Britain 15%; US 20%.

    I did a quick survey with Dublin friends and relatives and here are the preliminary results of the jury.

    Evolution : 90% +
    The Bible : Oh yeh in parts it’s good .
    Intel Design : The brother works at Intel as a designer