A few months ago there was a mini-kerfuffle over the wording of the exhibit at the Visitor’s Centre at the Giant’s Causeway lava formation in Northern Ireland, an exhibit run by the National Trust (see here, here, here, and here for my reports). Geologists date the formation as 50-60 million years old, but the exhibit at the Visitor’s Centre caved in to creationist pressure, saying this:
Creationists believe the stones, which emerged from the sea-bed following intense volcanic and geological activity 60 million years ago, were in fact formed around 4,500 years ago as a result of Noah’s Flood.
Many UK residents, and many of my readers, objected to this nod to creationism, though the creationist Caleb Foundation, which promoted that language, was pleased. Tons of people wrote in to the National Trust, which promised last July to review of the creationist language. I and many of us were among these writers, and I think the strength of the opposition surprised the National Trust. They had to do something or they were going to look as if they were making concessions to opponents of science.
According to the BBC News, the National Trust’s decision has now come down, and it’s not going to make creationists happy:
A new piece of audio, approximately 20 seconds long, now replaces the previous recording.
. . . Previously the audio which accompanied the exhibit said that questions had been raised about the formation of the rocks.
“Young Earth Creationists believe that the earth was created some 6000 years ago,” it said. “This is based on a specific interpretation of the bible and, in particular, the account of creation in the book of Genesis,” it said.
“Some people around the world, and specifically here in Northern Ireland, share this perspective.”
The new audio now says there is a “clear understanding among scientists that the heat of the earth was the driving force behind the formation of the Giant’s Causeway”.
It adds that the earth is “far older than had previously been thought”.
“All the scientific evidence points to a volcanic origin for the columns of the Giant’s Causeway, around 60m years ago.
But they still couldn’t resist a tiny sop to creationists, for this language remains:
“However, not everyone agrees with the scientific view. There are some people who believe – often for religious reasons – that the earth was formed more recently: thousands of years ago rather than billions.”
Well, I suppose 99/100 of a cake is better than half a cake. The “often for religious reasons” is, of course, a weasel phrase. Nobody believes in a young earth except for religious reasons!
The religious Caleb Foundation, who pretty much lost, nevertheless pronounces itself “broadly content with the Causeway review”:
“When the new Visitor Centre at the Giant’s Causeway was opened in July 2012, Caleb congratulated the National Trust on the inclusion of an audio exhibit which acknowledged both the legitimacy of the creationist position on the origins of the unique Causeway stones and the ongoing debate around this.
We were disappointed when the Trust decided to review the previously agreed wording in that exhibit as a result of pressure. We are also disappointed that the outcome of the review has led to a revision of the wording, but we are very pleased that the exhibit has not been removed, as demanded by some. Although we do not accept that all the scientific evidence points to a 60 million year time span, we note that the revised exhibit still retains an acknowledgement of the existence of an alternative viewpoint. The National Trust has therefore set a precedent for others to follow”.
Yes, but the precedent is the other way round: it says that science wins, and that opposition to a 5000-year-old Causeway is based purely on religion.
One can actually make a case that leaving in mention of the “alternative” view is not too bad, for that view is characterized as based not on science but on faith. After all, one of the reasons I wrote WEIT was to dispel the creationist “alternative” view of life, and to do so I had to acknowledge its existence.
h/t: Adrian, Kieran, and Chris