Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Creationism at the Causeway 2 - NT reconsiders

The response to my complaint to the National Trust was a request that I take the issue up with the Trust's Northern Ireland office, which I duly did. I got a prompt reply which suggests that a welcome change may be in prospect.

Thank you for getting in touch about the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre.

We have been receiving a large number of views via email and social media expressing concern that the Trust is somehow endorsing or promoting creationism in our new interpretation at the Giant’s Causeway.

Our new exhibition and outdoor audio guide clearly set out the science of the Causeway’s formation and shaping - that the Causeway is around 60 million years old.

There is one small exhibit in the visitor centre which briefly references creationism. It was our intention to present this view in the context of an historical debate about the age of the Earth.

However we recognise that many people have written to us concerned that the wording of the exhibit suggests that there is an ongoing debate in science about the formation of the Causeway - we are trying to listen to these views and take account of them. The National Trust is very clear that there is no debate in science.

The Trust’s approach is focussed on our visitors and members. We always try to respond to their feedback about how we present information and stories where we can. We have therefore decided to review the interpretative materials in this small section of the Visitor Centre.

You can find out more about this here:

We hope this addresses your concerns. 
I wrote to thank them for taking the criticism seriously. Let's hope they actually make the change without being nobbled by the fundamentalist lobby again.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Creationism at the Causeway

Sadly, the National Trust, the UK's guardian of buildings and sites of past and present value, has embraced Creationism. I mention it here since I have previously posted on the irony that attempts to make diagrams of all of time were undermined almost as soon as they were invented in the 1750s by the realisation at the end of the eighteenth century that "all of time" was very, very much longer than the pioneer chronographers had supposed.

God amuses himself with making geometric rocks
I have been a member of the National Trust for many years. I have never written before to complain about information given by the Trust at its properties, but I wrote to them today to explain that I was very unhappy about press reports of their treating Creationism seriously in their information at the Giant's Causeway. Although it seems they have tried to cope gracefully with lobbying from religious fundamentalists, they have effectively handed them just the kind of victory these people seek.

The Trust is reported as saying "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 Trust has no business according "respect" to a benighted superstition. It is silly to accord a position based solely on faith the status of a position in a "debate".

The phrase "a different perspective ... from that of mainstream science" will be read as implying that Creationism has some legitimate claim to be science, even if not mainstream, whereas it has no right to be considered as science in any shape or form. Science is based on evidence, and Creationism is based on faith – these are radically different.

This terrible move by the Trust establishes a precedent, something gleefully pointed out by the Caleb Foundation on its Web page (http://www.calebfoundation.org/):
"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.
[...] 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.
I have asked the Trust to reconsider its decision which gives credibility to a ridiculous sect and misrepresents it has having some kind of legitimacy.

Link to the New Humanist page setting out the story.