Interpreting the Giants’ Causeway…

A week or so ago, Will Crawley noted that a fundamentalist campaign group, the Caleb Foundation, were claiming that NI Culture Minister Nelson McCausland’s intervention at the Ulster Museum was as a direct result of their lobbying.

On Evening Extra today, a representative of the Foundation [it may have been chairman, Wallace Thompson] confirmed that, encouraged by that ‘success’, they had contacted the NI Tourism Minister, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, seeking a similar ministerial intervention in the consultation over the Giants’ Causeway Interpretive Centre.  They had a lobbying campaign already underway.

It’s worth noting that young-Earth creationism isn’t specifically mentioned on the Foundation’s website, nor is the 17th Century Archbishop Ussher, but they do seem to be a bit obsessed by references to the age of the Earth.

And sitting on the Foundation’s “Council of Reference” is the one and only Mervyn Storey of the DUP.

And his views on the teaching of young-Earth creationism are well known.

Scientists have already responded to the suggestion that young-Earth creationism be included in material available at the Interpretive Centre of the World Heritage site, as I noted previously here.

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.

But in looking through the back-links [*ahem* – Ed] I see that the then-Environment Minister, Arlene Foster, has previously given an official written answer to a mischievous question about the age of the Giants’ Causeway

Mrs A Foster: Geologists generally agree that the Giant’s Causeway is some 60 million years old. As you will be aware, however, there are alternative views in relation to the age of the Giant’s Causeway.


Adds  A BBC report suggests it was Caleb Foundation Chairman Wallace Thompson on Evening Extra

The chairman of the Caleb Foundation, Wallace Thompson, has met the tourism minister Arlene Foster to discuss its request.

“All we are asking for is that the views that we hold, which are based on the Word of God, are at least respected and taken on board,” he said.

“A Christian politician in a position of power can make a difference.”

And on the absence of any mention of young-Earth creationism on their website, here’s fellow fundamentalist, the founder and President of Answers in Genesis – who not coincidentally are also purveyors of resources for teaching Creationism as ‘science’ – and director of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham

I want to make it VERY clear that we don’t want to be known primarily as ‘young-Earth creationists.’ AiG’s main thrust is NOT ‘young Earth’ as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority. Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.