National Trust responds to criticism about the Giant’s Causeway exhibit

Along with several other readers, I  received the form response from the National Trust when I protested the inclusion of creationist views at the Visitor’s Centre exhibit at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.   Note that, As reported by The Independent, the creationist views were represented as follows:

The interactive exhibition in question includes an audio package re-enacting debates between historic figures, who argued over the origins of the Causeway, as well as their contrasting biblical and scientific beliefs on the origins of the planet.

The exchanges end with a further clip stating: “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 6,000 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.”

Here is their representative’s response to my outraged email (I’ve put the references to the creationist stuff in bold). It seems disingenuous and, indeed, weaselly:

Dear Mr Coyne

Thank you for getting in touch with your concerns regarding the Giant’s Causeway exhibition. I thought I would include some background information about the exhibit as well as, more specifically, references to the age and origins of the Causeway.

The basalt stone columns of the Giant’s Causeway are visited by over 650,000 people every year. The recently opened Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre provides an exhibition area to complement this iconic landmark. This stunning state of the art interpretation centre has over 50 exhibits and interactive displays along with two hours of audio trails.

All of this primarily showcases the science of such a special place and also includes the stories of the Giant’s Causeway along with its associated local characters.

For centuries the Giant’s Causeway has prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is. However, all of the information presented to visitors in relation to its formation and age reflects the science that the Causeway stones were formed 60 million years ago.

One of the exhibits in the Visitor Centre tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historic debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed and the age of the earth. It also reflects that some people today hold views which are at odds with the scientific evidence. However, the National Trust is entirely unequivocal in its acceptance of the evidence of the earth’s age and this is reflected in all the interpretation in the Visitor Centre, the audio trails which visitors use to explore the Causeway stones and in all the literature provided both before and during their visit.

Some people have raised concerns that the exhibit suggests there are still legitimate doubts about whether the Causeway was formed millions, rather than thousands, of years ago. However, given the context (the exhibit shows information on historic theories of the Causeway’s formation and the rest of the visitors centre exclusively shows the current scientific understanding) and what the installation actually says, “young earth creationists continue to debate…” we think it is clear that this is not the case.

We have been receiving great feedback from visitors since the centre opened on 3 July.

We are sorry that you are unhappy about this exhibit and, if you haven’t already had the opportunity to do so, would encourage you to come along to view the interpretation for yourself.

Kind regards

 David Andrews

Member Services Assistant

Whole Trust

National Trust (Heelis)

Well, there are more stories than just the Christian ones about how the Causeway formed.  An old one is that Fin McCool built it to cross over to Scotland to fight his nemesis. Why aren’t these tales, just as scientifically valid as the YEC stories, also represented as “subject to debate”? I’m sure that at least one Irish person believes in McCool.   Make no mistake about it, this is a sop to creationists, lobbied for by creationists, and has nothing to do with giving an informative view of the Causeway.

At the Belfast Telegraph , Fionola Meredith takes out after the creationist aspects of the exhibit in a hard-hitting editorial, “Trust’s Creationist exhibit is a fundamental mistake.”

We are talking about an ultra-conservative movement, driven by religious absolutists. And their demands are increasingly being accommodated — just as the National Trust did at the Causeway — in terms of ‘respect’ and ‘equality’. That’s why it won’t stop with the Causeway visitor centre. Next up on the wish-list? The inclusion of creationist accounts of the earth’s origins on school curricula, as a counterpoint to scientific evidence?

All in the name of ‘ongoing debate’ and the ‘legitimacy of the creationist position’, of course.

Where does this ‘respect’ and ‘equality’ for minority alternative viewpoints end? Take the Holocaust museum at Auschwitz: could you ever imagine a situation where they allowed a display devoted to Holocaust-deniers to be exhibited there?

It’s an extreme example, but the point holds: simply because a certain number of people believe something to be true, in the face of overwhelming scientific or historic evidence to the contrary, does not entitle that viewpoint to be held up as potential fact.

But, sadly, she has to get in an obligatory lick at the atheists, as if she somehow has to establish her credentials as being not on some scientific extreme:

(Honestly, if there’s one man that could make me feel sorry for a creationist, it’s Dawkins. His brand of militant scientific fundamentalism seems to offer all the zealotry and narrow-mindedness of the religious variety, only without the heavenly reward.)

“Militant scientific fundamentalism”? What does that mean, except for a rigorous respect for evidence?

61 Comments

  1. Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    Someone needs to nail them on the weaseling.

    Also,they’ve actually been losing members over this – I don’t expect we’ll get good numbers out of them (though you can be very sure they’re keeping track), but they need to be asked.

    Do they get sufficient public funding to be subject to FOI requests?

    • bonetired
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

      Yes they did …

      “The project: 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.”

      • Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

        I know, I’m wondering if the public funding they get is enough for an exceedingly specific request like the one I posit: how many members have quit over this.

        • gravelinspector
          Posted July 16, 2012 at 2:25 am | Permalink

          It’s quite likely that the NT (like most other organisations) only record fairly broad categories of reason for leaving, e.g. “can’t afford it” , “don’t visit NT sites often enough for membership to be worthwhile”, “member has died” (you’d not be surprised how many membership tracking systems forget that one!), “left country”. Someone leaving on these grounds would likely be flagged as “other”, or possibly “policy disagreement” as the NT has frequently been a target for (essentially) political campaigns, such as against allowing hunting on NT ground (they’re a major land-owner), or people demanding that the NT object against a specific wind farm.
          You can request FOI information that isn’t collected during normal data processing, but the target organisation can turn round and say “we think it will cost us £X to collate that data,” (e.g. going through every “I’m leaving” record since 2008 and manually collating any “narrative” reasons given), “and we think that is an unreasonable cost.” At that point, the lawyers start to get expensive for both parties.
          This error of judgement aside, the NT are generally a useful, if cash-strapped, body. (Disclosure : my wife is a volunteer at a local NT site. I think that site has about 20 volunteers for a couple of full-time staff, who also work on other sites. Which is typical.)

      • bonetired
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink

        I think that the NT will always be outside the scope of the FOI act but it might be worth FOIing the NI G’ment for the complete list of submissions made to the NT.

        • gravelinspector
          Posted July 16, 2012 at 2:38 am | Permalink

          Are the NT (presumably the “National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland,” as Scotland has it’s own separate “National Trust for Scotland”) answerable to the NI Assembly, the Welsh Assembly, or the Westminster Parliament? I’d bet the latter. Or it may be devolved. (I don’t know.)
          I checked with Wikipedia ; yes, it’s an England+Wales+NI organisation. “The Trust is an independent charity rather than a government institution (English Heritage and its equivalents in other parts of the United Kingdom are government bodies which perform some functions which overlap with the work of the National Trust).” So, the NT is quite definitely hands-off as far as government is concerned.

  2. bonetired
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    I am pleased so say that one dogged protester (CS) has got past the weasel words and has had this reply from the NT:

    “Hi Cxxx, thank you for your questions, it’s important for us to hear what people think of our exhibition. The phrase ‘the debate continues’ refers to a part of the final clip within the exhibit in question, where we outline that Young Earth Creationists wish to continue a historical debate today. We do not support this view. In fact, exactly the opposite – our interpretation at the Giant’s Causeway does in fact refute creationism, because it sets out the science about the age of the Causeway and the age of the earth across all of the exhibition and outdoor audio guides, i.e. that the Causeway is around 60 million years old. We agree that there is no debate on the age of the earth today. Creationism was included in a small section of the exhibition as one of five themes featured in the historical debate; because along with the arguments between Sir Thomas Molyneux and George Ashe, the debate between Vulcanists and Neptunists, James Hutton’s work and an 1800s fossilised bamboo theory, it represents one of the historical debates there have been over the Causeway’s formation. As part of this exhibit we refer to the young earth creationist viewpoint, not because we support it, but because it is the only theme within historical discussions about the formation of the causeway that a small minority people still believe in today. If there was an existing modern movement backing the fossilised bamboo theory, we would have referenced this in the same way. Similarly, if other religious viewpoints had played a major part in the causeway debate, and if there was a movement today which continued to believe in these historical viewpoints, we would have referred to them. To conclude, there is no debate today on the age of the earth, but there was a historical debate in which creationism played a part. Young earth creationists would still argue for this theory, but we fully support and promote the science in relation to the formation of the Giant’s Causeway and the age of the earth, as can be seen from the information we provide in the visitor centre. If you’d like to discuss your concerns further with the local team, please write to: Giant’s Causeway Interpretation Issues, The National Trust, Northern Ireland Regional Office, Rowallane House, Saintfield, Co. Down, BT24 7LH, and we will do our best to answer your enquires there. Thank you in advance for your patience & time.”

    So now to force the NT to make the necessary changes ….

  3. gbjames
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    sub

    • jimroberts
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

      sub2

  4. Ross Burnett
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    “Militant scientific fundamentalism”?

    To paraphrase Barry Goldwater: I would remind you that militancy in the defense of science is no vice! And let me remind you also that accommodation in the pursuit of knowledge is no virtue!

    • Hempenstein
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      +1

      But all this made me wonder what the status of the HamArk is. Poking around a bit, apparently he’s hauled in $5M in donations so far (Feb ’12), but construction is expected to drag out over many years. Could that be the real intention – not so much to build the damn thing as to use it as a money-sucking device.

  5. Richard Bond
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    It might have some relevance that the President of the NT is Prince Charles (’nuff said) and its Chairman is Simon Jenkins, a journalist with a long track record of anti-scientific views.

    Richard.

  6. Dermot C
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    This makes me very sad, indeed, and ashamed of the province of my birth. I think a lot of this has to do with fear; fear on the part of the authorities of what these creationists will do to them if they don’t mention YEC. Remember, up to a few years ago people associated with this type of fundamentalism were going around shooting people – they were armed, and possibly still are. Wouldn’t you be a bit wary of them?

    I don’t know if the Giant’s Causeway did feature prominently in the historical debate between YECs and early geologists; after a quick search, I can’t find that as a reference, but I could easily be wrong; what I would happily posit is that, if the YECs did feature in the debate about the age of the Causeway, they only appeared in it as the pre-scientific supposition, which the natural philosophers of the Enlightenment, who evolved into geologists, would gradually disprove. Of course, YECs didn’t appear in the scientific debate as it got going; until I see evidence to the contrary, I don’t believe it.

    I found a Giant’s Causeway website, to which you would not thank me if I gave you the link, which mentions 3 ‘theories’; the last one, stated, in 1 bald line is the YEC myth, written as if the site feared the consequences if it did not include the story. Reminds me of the NT.

    • Sigmund
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      It’s lucky for him that Richard Dawkins is a “protestant atheist”!

      • Dermot C
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        I love that gag, too. As good as some of the Russian political jokes. Good on ya, Sigmund.

      • gravelinspector
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:00 am | Permalink

        I got the joke.
        Unfortunately, it’s not a joke to some people. To quote one dangerous ravening mob, when I lived in an apartment between the Station and the football ground : “I don’t care if you’re not a football fan ; are you a Rangers supporter or a Celtic supporter?”
        I’m micturating in be-trousered amusement at the prospect of Rangers having crashed and taking the whole sport down with it. If only there were to be a grave, where I could organise a ceilidh!

  7. Nick Evans
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    “there are more stories than just the Christian ones about how the Causeway formed. An old one is that Fin McCool built it to cross over to Scotland to fight his nemesis. Why aren’t these tales, just as scientifically valid as the YEC stories, also represented as “subject to debate”?”

    If you go to their website, you’ll see that the NT gives far more prominence to the McCool legend: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway/

    “Volcanic crashing and burning starting sixty million years ago led to the formation of the Giant’s Causeway, a coastline that has inspired artists and photographers, stirred debate amongst scientists and captivated the imagination of locals and visitors for centuries. Made up of around 38,000 basalt columns that stretch out to sea, the formation of this otherworldly landscape can be explained by science. Locals, however, have their own story to tell.

    They say the Giant’s Causeway was the stomping ground of giant Finn McCool, who lived in these parts nearly two thousand years ago. How else can you explain the Chimney stacks that mark his house? The Organ he built for his muscial son Oisín? Or the giant boot he left on the shore?”

    The “History” page doesn’t give much time to the creationist perspective either: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway/history/

    • DV
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Giant who lived 2000 years ago? Could it be..Jesus Christ!

  8. Ludo
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    This urge to get their Christian views at least mentioned in so many places as possible, looks to me like a form of spraying or territorial marking, such as certain animals do in order to mark their presence and claim a territory.

  9. peter
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    militant scientific fundamentalism
    It means that Richard Dawkins is no longer listened to, whatever he says. That means that if Dawkins goes on going after creationists, that strategy is backfiring: whether one likes it or not.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      For somebody that nobody listens to, he sure sells a lot of books and makes a lot of TV appearances.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      How forbearing would a Dawkins have to be so that the descriptor “militant scientific fundamentalism” would not come to a creationist’s mind?

      No doubt, some number of creationists are offended at the mere idea that some Dawkins somewhere might secretly and silently harbor any such thoughts.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      militant scientific fundamentalism…

      I get really furious when the term “militant” is used to describe an atheist. Makes me want to go out and bomb a cathedral or mosque.

      • Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        Eep! Someone who’s not a regular here might think you mean that…

        /@

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted July 14, 2012 at 1:29 am | Permalink

          Er – I can’t even light the blue touch paper on a banger without getting scared, but my mother lets me use a sparkler if I have thick gloves on.

          • gravelinspector
            Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:02 am | Permalink

            So … you don’t keep bangers in your sporran? (I keep radioactive uranium glass balls in mine. Three of them. And a UV lamp.)

    • Tim
      Posted July 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      Actually, the fact that that Dawkins was singled out would indicate that he is listened to. If he weren’t, Ms. Meredith wouldn’t have used him to throw a sop to the mouth-breathers.

  10. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    For me, the offensive statement is this one:

    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.

    Creationists do not have an understanding of the formation of the earth. If they did, they wouldn’t be creationists. And their mythology is not merely “different from” mainstream science; it’s flat-out wrong, and the Trust should not be shy about saying so.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      …different from that of current mainstream science

      “current mainstream” is just totally unnecessary.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        There should have been a cool strikethrough there – I guess I’ll never master html without a preview pane.

        • Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          “current mainstream science”?

          /@

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted July 14, 2012 at 1:27 am | Permalink

            Ok how did you do that? I tried *s* and */s* with the asterisk replaced with “less than” and “greater than”.

            • Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:52 am | Permalink

              <strike>mainstream</strike>

              😉

              /@

              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted July 14, 2012 at 4:16 am | Permalink

                Thanks, Ant!

  11. anthrosciguy
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Why couldn’t they do it in a way that’s fun but tells us the science, like Rick Steves did (Rick is a devout CHristian, BTW):

    The leading attraction along the coast is the Giant’s Causeway, a four-mile-long stretch of shoreline famous for its bizarre basalt columns. The shore is covered with hexagonal pillars that stick up at various heights. It’s as if earth is offering God his choice of 37,000 six-sided cigarettes.

    This was a big stop for 19th-century tourists. Early guides gave nicknames to the peculiar formations like “the Pipe Organ”.and the “the wishing chair.”

    Geologists claim the Giant’s Causeway was formed by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago. As the lava surface cooled, it contracted and cracked into hexagonal shapes. As the layer of hardened but alligatored rock settled, it broke into its many stair steps.

    Oh, that isn’t so at all. The Giant’s Causeway was formed by an Ulster warrior giant named Finn MacCool who wanted to reach his love on the Scottish island of Staffa. At that time, the causeway stretched to Scotland, way back when the two lands were connected. Today, while the foundation has settled, the formation still extends undersea to Staffa, just off the Scottish coast. Finn’s causeway was ruined (into today’s “remnant of chaos”) by a rival giant. As the rival fled from ferocious Finn back to his Scottish homeland, he ripped up the causeway so Finn couldn’t chase him.

    Giants or geology — you decide. Either way, the Giant’s Causeway is well worth a stop.

    • gravelinspector
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:09 am | Permalink

      Early guides gave nicknames to the peculiar formations like “the Pipe Organ”.

      I’ve seen lots of stalactite formations in caves also described as “pipe organs”. I’d not heard that applied to columnar basalts (though I’ve only seen ones in Tenerife, Skye and Mull ; not the GC).
      One of these days, I’m going to have to actually find a pipe organ to see what they actually look like!
      Technically, I suppose a lung is a pipe organ. But they don’t look much like any basalts I’ve hammered.

  12. RandomOrator
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    David doesn’t seem get the fact that the inclusion of this paragraph in an otherwise scientific exhibit will be used by creationists to give legitimacy to their position regardless of the intended context. Even if a statement were explicitly included indicating the center disagreed with the creationist position, it would be conveniently omitted. The creationists’ message thrives on the fact that their audience is not exactly critical thinkers when it comes to information handed to them by their perceived authority figure. Especially when it conforms to their already held notions.

    • RF
      Posted July 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Oh, please. Creationists are going to engage in misrepresentations regardless of what anyone does.

  13. Colleen
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I’m headed to Northern Ireland next month, and was really looking forward to seeing the Giant’s Causeway. Now I’m even more curious to see it, and experience the Visitor’s Centre exhibits! I made a note of the NT address for “interpretation issues,” and will follow up when I get home.

    • Kieran
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget to ask a ranger about the debate and check if they are towing the Ntional trust line of we support science. Check if they try to placate if you claim to be a flat earth creationist

      • RF
        Posted July 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        It’s “toeing”. And I’m a bit uncomfortable with false-flag operations.

  14. Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Sadly, the Enlightenment and Charles Lyell’s work didn’t make it to Northern Ireland. So ashamed of my place of birth. Not surprised though. Evangelical Protestantism with an unflinching demagoguery has always been a feature here. I know, I grew up in this culture but mercifully got out of it after a decent education.

    These people are generally fundamentalists who do not compromise and have a suspicion of, nay downright hostility to, intellectuals. They believe they are the chosen ones, the people who have the true revelation and everyone else is wrong. In many ways, this is a Christian taleban similar to that in the US. Given no checks on their power, these people would have a theocracy here. Sadly, many voters would assent to it.

    The National Trust are mugs. The’ve set up the slippery slope which will eventually lead to the Caleb foundation trying to introduce intelligent design to school curriculums. I suspect as well however that the minister for culture and arts did some financial bullying. He is also a YEC.

    There are atheists and freethinkers here, but we aren’t vocal to our shame. We need to organise to defend against this nonsense and not have to rely on outsiders to throw our rocks for us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hugely appreciative of Richard Dawkins et al, but we need to also stand up for ourselves
    As for the Belfast Telegraph’s editorial. Good as far as it goes, but the sideswipeat atheists is just so stupid – and yet understandable moral cowardice here. We have a long history of catholic vs protestant violence here. But one thing both communities can agree on is that atheists are scum of the earth. I recently came out to my parents and they were horrified. You would have thought they’d just been given a cancer diagnosis. To side with atheists here is not good for one’s social standing.

    Someone should ask Fionola, if she or any of her family ever get grieviously ill and a trained doctor tells them what the condition is and how it can be treated, will she accuse them of a narrow fundamentalist approach to medicine?

    Last one out of Belfast, please switch out the light.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      It looks like some atheist organization is beginning to form in Northern Ireland:

      atheismnorthernireland.com

      http://www.atheismuk.com/2012/02/23/atheism/calling-atheists-in-northern-ireland-2/

      • Dermot C
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

        Slightly off-topic, but not that much. My dad, a 17 or so year-old Derry Catholic in the late 1940s, with his mate, Mick McCool – no doubt a descendant of the Causeway’s Finn McCool – forged invitations (complete with R.S.V.P.s) to a big get-together for the great and good of Catholic Derry to a big banquet in the Guildhall.

        Lots of people confirmed their attendance.

        On the appointed night, my dad and Mick ensconced themselves in the pub opposite, to watch the province’s Catholic elite turn up to a non-event, baffled by the ignorance and apparent sectarian rudeness of the Guildhall’s security staff, who turned them away, in perfunctory fashion. I suspect that the latters’ language was more Anglo-Saxon than my Latinate affectation.

        I think that this anti-religiosity may be in my genes; I’ll have to see Francis Collins about it.

        • gravelinspector
          Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:20 am | Permalink

          So … they’d infiltrated a credible destination for the RSVP letters, or had arranged some way to intercept the post and avoid tipping people off. Tricky!
          Sorry … I’m not for one second contemplating the logistical details of performing a “false flag” time waste like this. Or, for that matter, performing two false-flags for the same night, to get a crowd of angry green shirts at one end of the street, and a crowd of angry blue shirts at the other end.
          I’d need a convenient rooftop to view from.
          Fortunately, it wouldn’t really work on this side of the country. We had some Orange Lodges try to establish “tradition” for a rabble-rousing march here about 10 years ago. I was offshore at the time, but I am told the streets were lined three-deep with people. Everyone turning their back on the bigots.

  15. Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I’m completely in favor of the NT retaining the references to the Genesis creation myth, as well as to young earth creationists that regard this as a legitimate explanation for the Causeway. Just as long as it is followed in the next breath by language like: “…that these moronic cretins take these fables to be an accurate natural history continues to astonish and amuse sane and well-educated people to this day. It is hoped by the majority that increasing public ridicule and ostracism will sufficiently shame and embarrass younger members of creationist cults, causing them to turn against their parents and offering new and innovative ways to heap even more derision, abuse and scorn on this dying breed of idiotic, brainless and irritating scum.”

    Or words to that effect.

  16. Kieran
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Dear Kieran

    Thank you for your email dated 9th July.

    Thank you for your comments and feedback regarding the Giants Causeway exhibit.

    The Giant’s Causeway visitor centre provides a state-of-the-art exhibition area which showcases the science and the stories of the Giant’s Causeway.

    All of the information presented to visitors in relation to how the Giant’s Causeway was formed, and how old it is, clearly reflects mainstream scientific understanding that the Causeway stones were formed 60 million years ago.

    For centuries the Giant’s Causeway has prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is.

    One of the exhibits in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historic debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth.

    In this exhibit we also state that for some people this debate continues today.

    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.

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

    “We would encourage people to come along, view the interpretation and judge for themselves.”

    Below are some Frequently Asked Questions regarding the exhibit:

    Q. Is there a debate about the age of the earth – why is NT suggesting science is up for debate?

    A. No, there is no debate on the age of the earth. The National Trust fully supports and promotes the science in relation to the formation of the Giant’s Causeway and the age of the earth.

    All of the information presented to visitors in relation to how the Giant’s Causeway was formed, and how old it is, clearly reflects science and that the Causeway stones are 60 million years old.

    Q. What does the controversial interpretation refer to ?

    A. In summary, one of the exhibits in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historical debate which took place about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth.

    The detail of the exhibit which sparked the discussion 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 forth clip mentions a theory published in the 1800s that the Causeway was fossilised bamboo. Then the final clip states that Young Earth Creationists wish to continue the debate today, as they believe the earth is only 6000 years old. The National Trust does not support this view.

    Q. What is in the visitor centre ?
    A. We have an amazing visitor centre with fantastic facilities, walking trails, and the interpretation includes many themes and topics. These include science, geology, wildlife, history and myths and legends and stories of local characters, past and present. Please see the attachment of the Welcome Leaflet on the email body.

    Q. Will we be changing the exhibition?

    A. The entire interpretation in the Visitor Centre has just been installed. We have no plans to change this exhibit at present.

    Q. What is the National Trust’s relationship with the Caleb Foundation

    A. Caleb is an organisation which expressed interest in our plans for the Visitor Centre interpretation. As part of the consultation process on the development of the Interpretation we met with a wide range of groups – international visitors, community, funders, scientific community and Caleb was only one of those groups. We met with Caleb and discussed our plans for visitor centre interpretation as we did with many groups.

    Q. Did the National Trust receive any funding from Caleb?

    A. No.

    Q. Did the National Trust take any wording from Caleb ?

    A. None of the language in the interpretation came from the Caleb Foundation

    Q. Why did you only consult with Caleb groups as your religious group ?

    A. We did not only consult with Caleb in the process. The consultation process was with a wide range of stakeholders, including radio and press adverts to stimulate awareness. Caleb responded in the consultation process. We simply reference in a small part of the interpretation that they hold a different view from science but the National Trust does not support or endorse this view.

    Q. This interpretation makes the Visitor Centre unsuitable for children/education visits

    A. All of the information on how the Giant’s Causeway was formed and how old it is reflects science: i.e. that it is around 60 million years old. The interpretation in the Visitor Centre is very child friendly and suitable for education visits. The National Trust fully supports and promotes the science in relation to the formation of the Giant’s Causeway.

    Q. Does the National Trust have any plans to change interpretation at other sites to reflect the Creationist perspective?

    A. No. The exhibit at the Giant’s Causeway is specific to that site and tells the story of the part the Causeway played in the historical debate which took place about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth.

    Q. Was the National Trust under pressure from political parties to include Creationist perspective in the centre ?

    A. This is not a creationist exhibition. We undertook an extensive consultation process with a range of stakeholders, including the local community, international and domestic visitors, the scientific community and political stakeholders. These consultations informed the National Trust’s decisions on the interpretive content of the entire exhibition. We the National Trust took the decision to include the exhibit in question in the interpretation.

    Q. Was funding for the Creationist perspective funded by government money ?

    A. It is not a creationist representation within the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre – we simply reference that Creationists have a different perspective – we do not explain, support or justify those views. The £18.5 million project for the new facilities, interpretation and trails was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (£3million), £9.25million from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board with support from the European Union Regional Development fund and £6.25 million from the National Trust. Our interpretation was supported within this overall package.

    Q. Why is the Creationist perspective used in the centre ?

    A. It is not a creationist representation within the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre – we simply reference that Creationist have a different perspective – we do not explain support or justify those views One of the exhibits in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historical debate which took place about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth. This is an interactive, audio exhibit in which visitors can hear a flavour of some of the different debates from historical characters. In this exhibit we also acknowledge that for some people this debate continues today, and we simply reference the fact that Creationists have a different perspective from that of science. We do not support or endorse their views.

    Q. Were the funders aware of this inclusion ?

    A. We kept all the funders abreast of the full interpretative approach and content during its development.

    Q. Can I still access the stones for free ?

    A. Anyone entering the site on foot has free access to the stones and linked path network.

    If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Kindest regards
    Caroline Taylor
    Member and Supporter Services Centre
    National Trust

    —- Original Message —-

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I am writing to add my objection to the audio section in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre which supports creationism. While this support is unintentional on your part it is present due to the choice of language used to describe the creationist view point.

    The transcript of the section, starts with “the debate continues today”, suggesting a science debate when there is none. The use of the term “current mainstream science” is straight from creationist literature. This will be seen as a stepping stone to legitimacy which creationists need to further their religious ideology. While you may not have intended it, your institution will now be used as an example of an organisation that supports creationism. This is already occurring through press releases from the Caleb Foundation and from Ken Ham’s organisation AIG. Removal of the audio section would help restore your scientific credibility however you will then be accused by the creationists of stifling debate; it was always a win/win scenario for them.

    I would also wonder how elevating one minority religious view at a public building is affected by the Belfast agreement. It would be my understanding that free practice of religion prohibits public authorities favouring one religious view over others.

    My visits to the causeway where always science based as I carried out research for the Northern Irish countryside survey as such didn’t get a chance to play tourist, I would not be willing to pay money to an exhibit that supports creationism so it looks like I won’t be able to enjoy your centre until this mistake has been rectified.

    Thank you for your time

    Kieran

    My follow up email to getting a copy and paste reply was as follows

    Hello

    Thank you for the copy and paste reply, which did not answer any of the concerns I raised. I would add that your continued refusal to see your actions as supporting a religious view as very worrying as your exhibit which covers actual science is now being used by creationists as support for their religious views.
    Here are just a small sample of creationists using your exhibit to further their religious agenda

    http://creation.com/giants-causeway-visitor-centre-opens
    http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2012/07/06/refreshing-news-from-northern-ireland-but-would-secularists-in-the-usa-be-this-tolerant/
    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/community/columnists/david-mcconaghie-causeway-creationist-feature-promotes-healthy-debate-1-4038102

    If you continue to stone wall and refuse accept that you’ve made a mistake, it will appear that you support these views.
    Science is about being wrong and learning from error, it would be a great teaching example if your organisation were able to admit the mistake made and take corrective action. Unfortunately it seems that by the repeated press releases that still give tacit support to the young earth creationist religious perspective as if it was an alternative scientific theory I do not hold much hope of your organisation removing this minority religious view.

    Once again thank you for the copy and paste reply

    To which I got

    Dear Kieran

    Thank you for your email dated 10th July.

    I can confirm i have forwarded your email to our Central Office team today.

    Somebody will be in contact shortly.

    If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    They are now asking that all correspondance be sent via snail mail to
    Giant’s Causeway Interpretation Issues, The National Trust, Northern Ireland Regional Office, Rowallane House, Saintfield, Co. Down, BT24 7LH

    • gbjames
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      I want to know why they didn’t consult those of us who believe that these are parts of the engine of a large spacecraft that crashed. We believe that the impact was so great that the power systems were transformed into the granite columns we see today. Doesn’t the public deserve to know our view of this?

      • gravelinspector
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:23 am | Permalink

        Doesn’t the public deserve to know our view of this?

        There is a service called “WordPress” that will provide you with a framework for presenting your views to the public. You may have heard of it.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:37 am | Permalink

          GravelInspector: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humour

  17. Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    “Thank you for getting in touch with your concerns regarding the Giant’s Causeway exhibition.”

    After the response you received, Jerry, I’m now curious if you’ll be locating your anger.

  18. ArizonaJones
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    After a coalition of the most brilliant minds
    a cross Europe have just accomplished the
    impossible; with the European Space Agency, landed humanity’s first probe on a moon of Saturn, Titan, nearly a billion miles from
    Earth, and returned the first photos ever taken from our solar system’s only moon with an atmosphere; and after another international coalition at the LHC just discovered the Higgs Boson, it’s embarrassing to think
    that the National Trust is still promoting
    belief in invisible supernatural beings, especially to children. After experiencing
    what centuries of superstitious belief has
    wrought on the great nation of Ireland, one
    would hope they would have learned by now.

    • Dermot C
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      C’mon, AJ, no nation is ‘great’, they’re just nations, whether you want to be polite or not. I think this web…blo… forum is sufficiently mature to dispense with such pleasantries and to call things,in an intellectually robust way, as they see them; surely, we can all agree that ‘great nation’ is too propagandistic and empty a phrase?

  19. etranger
    Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    It’s also embarrassing that almost everybody’s talking about the “god particle”.

  20. David Evans
    Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    It’s pleasing that all 4 comments (so far) on the Belfast Telegraph article criticize its attack on Dawkins.

  21. msobel
    Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    It is terrible that the National Trust ignores the simplest explanation. Ceiling Cat created the causeway as a litter box for dinosaurs.

    What an attack on religion.

    • gravelinspector
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:28 am | Permalink

      Ceiling Cat created the causeway as a litter box for dinosaurs.

      Ceiling Cat wouldn’t have created a litter box for her pet dinosaurs, since they were dead at the time (except for the feathered ones). Litter boxes for her adulatory Ulster “… regular army / of hippopotami / all singing this haunting refrain …” makes a much more appealing image to me.
      (Brownie points to anyone who gets the song reference.)

  22. Kieran
    Posted July 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Don’t know if you are tracking the story but the national trust have decided to review the section.
    http://ntpressoffice.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/giants-causeway-visitor-centre-interpretation-statement/
    and on their facebook page
    https://www.facebook.com/#!/nationaltrust
    their press office email press.office@nationaltrust.org.uk
    Feel free to offer alternatives but I get the feeling that some sort of sop will still be given to creationists.

    • Colleen
      Posted July 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Kieran,
      Thank you for posting links to the National Trust updates. They’re not really saying anything new, though, are they? Certainly not that the exhibit will be changed …

      • Kieran
        Posted July 19, 2012 at 1:21 am | Permalink

        They still view that people are reacting to reports rather than the text. I feel the text is lacking in a number of ways, it’s been pointed out that some of the historical characters didn’t actually say what they said, the reverend seemingly never said 6000 or young earth.There is no concluding character showing how the historical debate was won by science.
        The the section that actually matters, the debate contiues today. It could have been written by someone at the discotute or AiG. It’s loaded with poor language.
        It’s like they made this lovely cake, with layers of evidence based exhibits and then for reasons of their own allowed a dog to come in a defficate on the side of it.

  23. Posted July 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    You may already know, but the situation is under review http://ntpressoffice.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/giants-causeway-visitor-centre-interpretation-statement/#comment-613


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] can read about the National Trust’s response here. VN:F [1.9.18_1163]please wait…Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)VN:F [1.9.18_1163]Rating: 0 (from 0 […]

%d bloggers like this: