“the difference between reason and unreason..”

I haven’t heard whether there has been any progress with the reported application to appeal the Environment minister’s eventual ‘notice of opinion to refuse’ Seymour Sweeney’s plans for a privately funded Visitors’ Centre at the Giants Causeway, but the pressure from young-Earth creationists, including the DUP MLAs noted here, hasn’t gone un-noticed among scientific circles. Nor, I’d suggest, has this ministerial answer. Andrew Kerr of Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, and a member of the Geological Society’s Stratigraphy Commission, emailed a link to the Commission’s response to the prospect of “a possible eruption of Young Earth Creationism” at the World Heritage Site as published in the latest issue of Geoscientist.

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.

This is not at all to say that the world’s religions have no part to play in, say, the growing threat of global warming. On the contrary: the moral standpoints they provide may perhaps prove crucial in influencing individual or collective action that might counter this threat. But human reason as applied to the reality of the world around us – which is in essence what science is – must lie at the heart of any civilised society. The Giant’s Causeway, and its 60-million year history, must be used to help promote that reason, and to better understand the real Earth on which we live.

That does, of course, require the application of rational thinking in the modern age.

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  • heck

    pete

    you have posted something I agree with 100%

  • Rory

    Since I have found no compelling evidence to suggest to me that the Giant’s Causeway ever existed before I first clapped eyes on it I am driven to the inevitable conclusion that it first came into existence on 2nd July 1956.

  • abucs

    Saint Augustine A.D. 408
    from “The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20”.

    “It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation”

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/PSCF3-88Young.html

    (please forgive the Catholic slant)
    http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1998/9803fea3.asp

  • The Serpent

    Since I have found no compelling evidence to suggest to me that the Giant’s Causeway ever existed before I first clapped eyes on it I am driven to the inevitable conclusion that it first came into existence on 2nd July 1956.

    Posted by Rory on Apr 12, 2008 @ 06:32 AM

    Excellent Rory as ever !

    Brought back memories of studying the History & Philosophy of Science as a first year option at Queen’s !!!

  • Rory

    Thank you for your kind words, The Serpent.

    I should add that by the same token the Holy Bible itself first appeared sometime in 1949 (or perhaps 1950) although I have a copy on my shelves that was published in 1963. It’s probably a different one.

    I have long thought that creationists and their kind don’t really believe in the nonsense that they purport to believe in. They actually know that it is complete tosh but are compelled to keep uttering it because such utterances are the distinct mark of their tribal loyalty and to forsake them would be to forsake the tribe itself and leave them wandering alone in some barren wilderness bereft of comradeship and kinship, like a character from a Cormac McCarthy novel.

    The way Arsenal have been performing lately I can well understand their dilemna.

  • RepublicanStones

    A gooner are we Rory?
    Well at least people believe the Gunners pose a threat, these creationist yokels best stay on their porch, tuning up their banjo’s.

  • “I haven’t heard whether there has been any progress”

    I’m hearing that the Sweeney/Seaport appeal is languishing in an in-tray somewhere in the bowels of the planning service. There’s no mention of it on the PACNI website.

    Meanwhile Arlene Foster is ‘minded’ not to challenge Sweeney’s ‘razor-wire’ entanglement at Runkerry where only the sewage runs free 🙂

    PS The ‘effing’ gates are unlocked and anyone could wander into the grounds. Look out for a black Land Rover and a man with a mop of blond hair.

  • pauljames

    Pete

    Prepare for the the return of the AIG crew to the waterfront hall in May. Time for another push from the Dupers?

  • Greenflag

    ‘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.’

    This should be obvious to most rational people in these islands however we have seen within NI how the over literal interpretation of scriptural texts has led some to the pinnacle of political power 🙁 So if such literal interpretation can deliver that much, then why would the proponents of literal interpretation not aspire/conspire to ensure that Giant’s Causeway visitors are told the literal truth i.e the Causeway was created by a Protestant God on the 3rd day of Creation namely Wednesday the 3rd January 6000 BC just after lunchtime after which he God that is created the rest of Ireland as an afterthought ?

    ‘This is not at all to say that the world’s religions have no part to play in, say, the growing threat of global warming. On the contrary: the moral standpoints they provide may perhaps prove crucial in influencing individual or collective action that might counter this threat’

    Moral standpoints ? Not so sure about that . How would for instance the RC Church’s moral standpoint on birth control , abortion, contraception etc make sense in a world of 7 billion people . If the entire world followed the RC Church’s teaching the planet would be home to 20 billion within a few decades accompanied by a commensurate increase in human misery , poverty, ignorance , wars, famines etc etc all of course Ad majoram Dei Gloriam .

    On reflection and in terms of revenue generation the management , design and informational literature at the Causeway Info Centre should perhpas be given to the young Earth creationists . I can envisage visitors from all over the world being intrigued if not amused by not just the geological wonders of the basalt columns but by the ‘living ‘ dinosaurs attempts to explain to visitors that God created these steps to Scotland in 6,000 BC . Sounds even less plausible than the Finn McCool legend I know but hey that’s what tourists are for eh ? the taking in of revenue I mean 🙁

  • Rory

    Let’s hope, Nevin, that they have some nudie Adam and Eve statues then we can can have erotic petting as well. Totally inclusive of course – hetero, gay, lesbian, bi (and that other thingy of which I can never remember the name) – just so long as they are true Bible Christians.

  • Rory

    Can – can“? Naughty French dance? Surely, Non, monsieur?

    Whoops! i can see that I was getting quite carried away with all this eroticism.

    I’ll go and have a lie down.

  • [aside]

    Hi suckers

    We have had the first period of stable local government for decades and it will last.

    Love
    Pete n Marty

    Black and Red Berets of Ireland – the BARBie dolls!!

  • E eye E eye yo

    Seymour should employ Billy Armstrong as a planning consultant because according to David Gordon in last nights Telegraph Billy didnt think he needed planning permission for his office or sign and thinks its ok to sit on the environment committee overseeing other peoples planning misdemenors. As Reg has kept quite on the “bould” Billy I wonder what he would say if Seymour built on the causeway? Also Arlene,as minister,has said nothing on “Billygate”
    so maybe if Seymour became an MLA then he to could get away without needing planning permission on any development.

  • “so maybe if Seymour became an MLA then he to could get away without needing planning permission on any development.”

    Like this (Foster link), EIEIyo – and he’s not even an MLA 🙂

  • Pete Baker

    Try to keep to the actual topic, Nevin.

  • Pete, the topic needs a bit of livening up. These young earthers and fundamentalist atheists take themselves far too seriously.

    In the words of Albert Einstein:

    “Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.”

    “One thing I have learned in a long life – that all science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike.”

    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” The Causeway Creation Committee

    And there’s more at Dunluce Christian Fellowship’s Campaign Trail

    Is radioisotope dating all it’s cracked up to be?

    Perhaps the new interpretative centre could have two entrances – and I could ignore both as I make my way down to the enchanting landscape that is the Giant’s Causeway.

  • Greenflag

    abucs ,

    ‘It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings’

    There must be several million St Augustine like minds throughout the underdeveloped world today as they listen to US foreign policy Aid experts explain how AIDS can be prevented by ‘abstinence’, and the Roman Catholic Church telling them that using condoms is against God’s law 🙁

    Unreason is alive and well and following it’s anti human course as it strives to create even more human misery than ever 🙁

    Rory ,

    ‘I have long thought that creationists and their kind don’t really believe in the nonsense that they purport to believe in.’

    Those who are at the top of some of these ‘cults’ are usually con men . Sex and religion are probably the two greatest ‘earners’ when it comes to divesting people of their money . Religion /Churches/ Gospel Halls / Ministries etc etc should be treated by the State as businesses and made to account for all monies collected -revenues earned and they should be taxed like any other business . There should be full public disclosure of their ‘earnings’ and where the money is going!

  • Timber

    The problem here though is that if we accept the scientific position then we must also accept that Jesus did not rise from the dead and was not born of a virgin (OK virgin birth is technically possible in the same way some lesbians can get pregnant without ever sleeping with a man but you get my point). A position of scientism or positivism would exclude these as possibilities. To be consistent therefore would mean that no public money should be spent on anything promoting the resurrection or virgin birth, such as school nativity plays or anything with a cross on them.

    Sure it’s easier to find contradictory evidence to young earth creationism than to the resurrection. However the philosophical naturalism necessary to accept the scientific method coupled with what we know about biology would preclude it. So it isn’t really qualitatively any different.

    Personally I’d be happy to exclude all religion from schools, but you can’t ban teaching of young earth creationism and not also ban teaching about the resurrection or the like. From a purely scientific position they’re both fantastical and go against evidence.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Nevin

    DUP office in Church St doesn’t have planning permission either.

  • pauljames

    Nevin

    Ahh the peer reviewed papers of Dr Steve Austin and his magnificent work at Mt St Helens. He also produced exellent data for the Grand Canyon which confirmed the Institute of Creation Studies as the premier research facility in its field. In fact recognition by the Nobel committee cannot be far away.
    On school trips I too headed straight down the hill but I know what I want my kids to be reading if the teacher happens to be a bit more fastidious.

    Timber

    Exactly so

  • Greenflag

    ‘Personally I’d be happy to exclude all religion from schools, but you can’t ban teaching of young earth creationism and not also ban teaching about the resurrection or the like. From a purely scientific position they’re both fantastical and go against evidence.’

    Banning outright would of course be an infringement of civil rights and freedom of religion . It also would have the opposite effect of that intended . Prohibition did’nt work . And even though ‘nicotine’ has been proven to be addictive banning smoking would only drive the activity into criminal revenue streams.

    But such teaching should be done by the Churches or institutes and not by the public or State schools . Subjects taught in schools should conform with the latest real scientific knowledge about the world and all that’s in it !

    Religion should have no place in public education IMO.

  • abucs

    I’ll stick to the topic.

    tackling AIDS in the third world and the differences between ‘supernaturalism’ and evidence against a 6,000 year old earth, or the suitability of religion in schools would hijack the thread.

    On a slightly on topic thought though – the Parrallel Universes theory held by quite a few physicists (where the universe copies and splits in two at every quantum event) would mean that theoretically our earth could be six minutes old.

    I don’t subscribe to that view either but am willing to listen to anyone who has a ‘sensible’ viewpoint.

    Sensible usually means one that i won’t disagree with. :o)

  • Rory

    Greenflag,

    I do so agree with your proposals for the rigorous treatment of these despicable cults in regulatory and taxation matters. I do think it would be much simpler though (and kinder in the long run) simply to publicly hang their leaders. But then I always was a bit of a softie.

  • Greenflag

    Rory,(a bit of a softie)

    ‘I do think it would be much simpler though (and kinder in the long run) simply to publicly hang their leaders.’

    I must be more of softie for I can only agree with your kind suggestion once the accused have had a fair trial -and on that matter I think the medieval practice of outing witches by submersion could be a winner all round 🙂

  • Greenflag

    abucs,

    ‘On a slightly on topic thought though – the Parrallel Universes theory held by quite a few physicists (where the universe copies and splits in two at every quantum event) would mean that theoretically our earth could be six minutes old.’

    Brilliant so in theory this would reduce my age to .0005 nanoseconds . I think we had better stick to the one and only universe humanity is ever likely to experience and the general scientific consensus is that our universe is approx 13.8 billion years old .Unless of course God is not only playing dice with the universe but deliberately creating geological strata to fool scientists . So now to God the Father , Son and Holy Ghost we can add a God the Practical Joker ?

    Look on the bright side -heaven might not be such a bore after all ! This thread is going to hell 🙂

  • gewurztraminer

    Would the third day after the creation not be the 29th December as opposed to 3rd January?