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Just plain crazy: National Trust includes creationist claptrap in new exhibition

THE Caleb Foundation, which represents mainstream evangelical Christians in Northern Ireland, is crowing this week over news that the National Trust has incorporated the creationist view of how the Giants’ Causeway was formed on the Co Antrim coastline.

The NT said it wanted to “reflect and respect” the fact that some people contest the views of mainstream science.

The state-of-the-art new complex, which opened on Tuesday, features an interactive audio exhibition showcasing the stories and the science behind the Giants’ Causeway, and looks at the origins of the basaltic columns. Present at the opening was Northern Ireland’s homophobic* Christian First Minister, Pentecostalist Peter Robinson.

God did it! Peter Robinson, left, and Martin McGuinness pictured at the opening of the New Visitors centre at the Giant’s Causeway.© Pacemaker.

The Trust said that the exhibit gives recognition to the fact that, for creationists, the debate about the age of the Earth is still ongoing.

A statement read:

The Giants’ Causeway has always prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is. One of the exhibits in the Giants’ Causeway Visitors’ Centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giants’ Causeway played in the debate about how the Earth’s rocks were formed and the age of the Earth.

This is an interactive audio exhibition in which visitors can hear some of the different debates from historical characters.

It adds:

In this exhibition we also acknowledge that for some people, this debate continues today and we reflect and respect the fact that creationists today have a different perspective on the age of the Earth from that of mainstream science.

The National Trust worked alongside the Caleb Foundation during the development of the centre. Its chairman, Wallace Thompson, said he is pleased with the result of the engagement and the inclusion of the creationist view.

We have worked closely with the National Trust over many months with a view to ensuring that the new Causeway Visitor Centre includes an acknowledgement both of the legitimacy of the creationist position on the origins of the unique Causeway stones and of the ongoing debate around this.

We want to thank senior National Trust officials who have worked closely with us over a prolonged period, and we are pleased that this constructive engagement has helped to bring about such a positive result.

This is, as far as we are aware, a first for the National Trust anywhere in the UK, and it sets a precedent for others to follow.

The poll being run by UTV shows than not everyone shares Thompson’s enthusiasm. Currently 53.1 percent say that the creationist claptrap has no place in such an exhibition, while 46.6 percent agree it should be included.

Said Alan Thornton, in a comment below the UTV report:

The fact that a huge number of the visitors to the NT Causeway site are schoolchildren makes it shameful that they have given Creationist fairy stories any mention at all. One thing to present Irish mythology as a local tradition alongside the geological truth. Quite another to suggest that creationists have brought ANY science to bear in what the NT and the gloating Caleb Foundation describe as an ‘ongoing debate’ about the age of the earth!!

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Educators everywhere should be boycotting the site out of duty to their students until the NT withdraws the fairy stories and starts telling their visitors the truth. How did those responsible for this decision ever think for a moment it would escape scrutiny? This has covered the NT in shame, and the current Facebook and Twttier campaigns indicate thy’ll be losing a lot of visitors until this mess is sorted out.

Over 600,000 visitors come to see the Unesco World Heritage Site every year.

The £18.5m new centre, which takes the form of an underground complex with a sloping grass roof hiding it from view, opened its doors to the public some 11 years after the previous one was destroyed in a fire.

* After his delusional wife Iris got embroiled in a row after labeling homosexuality “an abomination”, Robinson said:

It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was The Almighty. This is the Scriptures. It is a strange world indeed where somebody on the one hand talks about equality, but won’t allow Christians to have the equality, the right to speak, the right to express their views.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn & Agent Cormac

75 Responses to “Just plain crazy: National Trust includes creationist claptrap in new exhibition”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    Sorry if it was ‘obvious’, barriejohn. Mutters, mumbles, grumbles and sulks to self.

  2. remigius says:

    Here’s Dawkins having a go at the Causeway cretinists…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvPyHXvQXrc

  3. AgentCormac says:

    I received a reply from the National Trust in response to the rather irate email I sent them the other day. Here’s what it says.

    Thank you for your email,

    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.”

    FAQs

    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 1800′s 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.

    For any further enquiries please email the address below;

    ni.customerenquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk

    Kind Regards
    Carol O’Brien

    Membership Department

  4. barriejohn says:

    They still give no credible reason why they would consult with a barmy outfit like the Caleb Foundation in the first place. The mention of the creationist “interpretation” is just a sop to the extreme fundamentalists who populate Northern Ireland, and should be removed forthwith.

  5. Angela_K says:

    Excellent work AgentCormac, My reply from the NT was pretty much word for word as yours.

    Carol O’Brien [good catholic name that] has been somewhat evasive in her reply, weasel words indeed. If the NT fully support the scientific evidence there is no need to include the creationist misinformation.

  6. AgentCormac says:

    Angela_K

    My sentiments exactly. I can’t help feeling that the NT has been duped by the Caleb Foundation who are clearly cock-a-hoop that a body of the NT’s status has ‘collaborated’ with them. This is what it says on their website – you can almost see the smug, self-satisfied smile on the face of its author as he or she wrote it.

    “Northern Ireland evangelical umbrella group, the Caleb Foundation, has welcomed the opening of the new Causeway Visitor Centre. Speaking on behalf of Caleb, its Chairman, Wallace Thompson, said:

    “Caleb congratulates the National Trust on the opening of its brand new state-of-the-art Visitor Centre at the Giant’s Causeway.

    As an umbrella organisation which represents the interests of mainstream evangelical Christians in Northern Ireland,we have worked closely with the National Trust over many months with a view to ensuring that the new Causeway Visitor Centre includes an acknowledgement both of the legitimacy of the creationist position on the origins of the unique Causeway stones and of the ongoing debate around this. We are pleased that the National Trust worked positively with us and that this has now been included at the new Visitor Centre.

    We fully accept the Trust’s commitment to its position on how the Causeway was formed, but this new centre both respects and acknowledges an alternative viewpoint and the continuing debate, and that means it will be a welcoming and enriching experience for all who visit.

    This is, as far as we are aware, a first for the National Trust anywhere in the UK, and it sets a precedent for others to follow. We feel that it is important that the centre, which has been largely funded out of the public purse, should be inclusive and representative of the whole community, and we have therefore been engaged in detailed and constructive discussions with the Trust in order to secure the outcome we have today.

    We want to thank senior National Trust officials who have worked closely with us over a prolonged period, and we are pleased that this constructive engagement has helped to bring about such a positive result.”

  7. Broga says:

    @remigius: Thanks for the Richard Dawkins’ link. I was pleased, thanks to you, to hear that discussion. Dawkins as usual was brilliant: calm, incisive and occasionally contemptuous. It amazes me how he keeps his cool. There were some real nutters phoning him. Despite the NT saying the Giant’s Causeway was formed 60 million years ago these clowns still insisted that “reputable scientists” said it was formed 6,000 years ago. Good to hear the plaudits Dawkins got, particularly at the end of the discussion. Thanks again.

  8. Gigaboomer says:

    Freethinkers, perhaps ‘thinking optional’ may be a better name for your website. Seriously how can believing that everything made itself from nothing for no reason be anything other than ‘barking mad’?

  9. Matt Westwood says:

    @Gigaboomer: Because the laws of physics that have been determined by millennia of scientific investigation suggest that this is precisely what happened.

    Beats the crap out of your cock-and-bull story about a magic man in the clouds with a talking snake and a physically impossible world-covering flood.

    It takes a considerable level of intelligence to understand the scientific explanation, though, which is why those of lower intelligence prefer to believe a fairy story.

  10. Broga says:

    @Gigaboomer: OK, so who or what made your Sky Fairy? You choose to decide that your Sky Fairy just happened. Why accept that? All you are doing by insisting on the Sky Fairy is adding complications. The existence of your tyranical, applause loving and violent god is infinitely more unlikely than anything science suggests. So, my question is, “Who created your God?” And when you have answered that the next question is, “And who created whatever created your God?” and so on ad infintum. It’s not all that difficult to grasp, is it? Your problem is that you are hooked on a fairy story.

  11. AgentCormac says:

    I have sent the following reply to Carol O’Brien at the National Trust. I’ll let you know if I get another reply.

    Dear Carol,

    Thank you for your reply.

    While I can accept that the National Trust no doubt entered into consultative dialogue with the Caleb Foundation with honest intentions, unfortunately the Foundation’s response lays bare the unbelievable naivety of that exchange, with Wallace Thompson, Chairman of the Foundation writing on their website:

    “…we have worked closely with the National Trust over many months with a view to ensuring that the new Causeway Visitor Centre includes an acknowledgement both of the legitimacy of the creationist position on the origins of the unique Causeway stones and the ongoing debate around this.”

    And that right there is the nub of it – the reason why so many people like myself are utterly aghast at what the National Trust has done. The very fact that you have referenced creationism in such a setting offers it legitimacy.

    Despite what you say, this remains an ill-conceived move which opens the door to the questioning of scientific fact and empirical evidence. It implies that there is debate where none whatsoever exists, except in the minds of those who seek to warp the evidence to fit preconceived notions that have absolutely no foundation in reality.

    I maintain that it behoves the National Trust to reconsider its position and remove the damaging references.

  12. Matt Westwood says:

    @AgentCormac: You might also want to point out that “The Foundation” in Arabic appoximately translates to “Al-Qaeda”. That’ll put the wind up their muddied waters …

  13. AgentCormac says:

    Gigaboomer

    While there is an ever-growing profusion of (admittedly incomplete) empirical scientific evidence regarding the origins of the universe, at least we seem to have lots and lots and lots of it, and it is literally growing day by day. You, on the other hand, are happy to rely on a 2000-year-old book containing the blatant fantasies of a few early humans and nothing more.

    No one can yet explain the existence of life, matter, the cosmos or anything else with any real certainty. But at least we freethinkers put our trust in verifiable facts and quantifiable evidence from which we can build up our understanding of reality. Better that by a country mile, wouldn’t you say, than starting out with some ludicrous superstition and then conveniently ignoring the fact that there is nothing whatsoever to corroborate or substantiate it?

    Now, you tell me. Who’s barking mad?

  14. dp says:

    @AgentCormac

    But at least we freethinkers put our trust in verifiable facts and quantifiable evidence from which we can build up our understanding of reality.

    Facts are facts; That’s not a matter of being religious or not. They are objective and verifiable.

    Evidence, on the other hand, is in support of a theory. Facts can therefore be used in support of (evidence for) competing theories.

    Better that by a country mile, wouldn’t you say, than starting out with some ludicrous superstition and then conveniently ignoring the fact that there is nothing whatsoever to corroborate or substantiate it?

    When you leave out the hyperbole (ludicrous superstition, conveniently ignoring, nothing whatsoever), in my humble opinion, there is no difference.

  15. AgentCormac says:

    dp

    My apologies.

    Maybe it would have been more accurate if I had said that when it comes to understanding the origins of our world Freethinkers prefer to put their trust in evidence (this being the available body of information) which is corroborated by objective and scientifically verifiable facts, whereas (hyperbole aside) there doesn’t seem to be anything other than a very old book of questionable veracity and origin to support the claim that there is an all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipotent god who created the entire universe and absolutely everything within it over a six-day period sometime during the past 6,000 years.

    Happy?

  16. dp says:

    @AgentCormac

    Here we disagree. There is plenty of evidence, because evidence is nothing more than (objective) facts brought into the context of a claim or theory. Facts that support a claim or theory strengthens the claim or theory while facts that refute a claim or theory weakens it.

    Facts can be used in support of competing claims since they only become evidence in the context of that claim. The evidential value is not intrinsic to facts.

    The framework in which creationists interpret evidence and build their theories is a supernaturalistic one: the universe is created. Naturalists, obviously, operate within a naturalistic framework.

    Both sides draw from the same pool of facts to support their claims and theories and try to build a hollistic explanation of those facts.

    As far as I am concerned creationists have build a compelling case in support of supernatural creation, something we obviously disagree about.

  17. remigius says:

    You cannot use supernatural ‘evidence’ to explain a natural event. It doesn’t work that way.

    Dickhead!

  18. Matt Westwood says:

    Fact: Radioactive isotopes decay at a measurable rate. This has been observed as a physical, natural process.

    Fact: The ratio of radioactive isotopes to its decay products can be used as a technique for determining the age of the rocks that make up the Earth.

    Fact: Using these techniques, it has been determined that the eage of the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years. That’s 4.5 thousand thousand thousand years. That’s 4,500,000,000 years.

    This series of simple facts contradicts the beliefs of the Young Earth Creationists, who have no theory which can actually refute them.

  19. Broga says:

    @Matt Westwood: As my long dead Scots grannie often said, “You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink.” The Young Earth Creationists, who prefer fantasy to facts and superstition to science, don’t want to drink. What fascinates me is how they manage to sustain their daft beliefs. Do they see their confidence in ancient tribal lore, written in a book of many contradictions, cruelties and idiocies as some kind of comfort blanket? Weak, cowardly and foolish, they dare not contemplate the space and time vastness within which we cling to our piece of insignificant little rock. What thrills and inspires me, and many on this site, terrifies them as they take a false refuge in their fantasy God.

  20. AgentCormac says:

    dp

    You really are missing the point, aren’t you? You don’t have any facts to provide evidence for your crack-pot theory. You have a very old book of superstitious claptrap which, as I pointed out earlier, is of highly dubious veracity and origin.

    And there was me thinking you were just being a hair-splitting arse trying to pick me up over the use of my English (although I think you’ll find that ‘ludicrous superstition’ is actually rhetoric rather than hyperbole). When as it turns out you’re actually a deluded arse with no concept of facts, evidence or, indeed, reality.

    Now do run along and have a nice little chat with your invisible friend and stop annoying everyone else.

  21. dp says:

    @AgentCormac

    It has never been my intention to annoy anyone. I hope you will accept my apologies if that is how I came across.

  22. AgentCormac says:

    This is seriously, seriously good news, barriejohn. It’s a fantastic result which shows that as a bunch of like-minded people we really can get results if enough of us are prepared to make our views known. I have to admit it’s a surprising u-trun after the response that myself and I’m sure many, many other people received from the NT which categorically stated that, “We have no plans to change this exhibit at present.”

    Just goes to show what we can do if we keep at ‘em, people!

    I wonder if the Caleb Foundation website will be quite as self-congratulatory now? (Just wait for the ‘persecuted xtian’ card to be thrown on the table, picked up by the The Hate Mail and then taken to the Court of Human Rights.)

  23. Broga says:

    @barriejohn/AgentCormac: Delighted to read this. I think the NT tried to hang to the commitment they had made to the creationists but they deserve credit for this change. The facts and insistent pressure were just too much for a respected organisation, which the NT is, to withstand. Of course, we can now expect the usual howls from rabid creationists about christians being persecuted by these terrible militant atheists.

    The 6,000 years myth is that, it is obviously that, it is laughable to argue that there is any truth in it and it owes its existence to the nonsense within a largely nonsensical bible. To gloat is repellent but I am happy about this. Thanks for the information bj.

  24. AgentCormac says:

    Broga

    Agreed. Good on the NT for seeing the error of their ways. But just how naive were they to get themselves into such a position in the first place? It really beggars belief.

    However, part of me really does hope that the Caleb Foundation people now choose to make more of this. I would relish seeing them being made to justify their ludicrous claptrap in public because, let’s face it, that’s precisely what they don’t want.

    As this entire episode has highlighted, their strategy is to sneak doubt, obfuscation and pseudo-credibility in through the back door without ever having to stand up and produce any evidence whatsoever to support their views. It’s devious. It’s underhand. And it just goes to show that because they can’t in any way substantiate their own fantasies, they must resort to casting doubt on the veracity of empirical scientific knowledge.

    Bring it on!