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New visitors’ centre opens at Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

World-first innovation includes creation explanation


Published: 10 July 2012 (GMT+10)
Flickr: mrpattersonsir

The famous Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, has a new visitors’ centre that opened on the 3 July 2012. It’s the first permanent home for the tourist interpretive centre since the previous one burned down in April 2000. More than ten years in the planning, the new facility took 18 months to construct and cost £18.5 million. It’s state-of-the-art in many ways.

Architecturally, it is designed to blend in with the environment. The idea is that the building not compete for attention with the natural beauty of the Causeway Coast, but to ‘blend in’ instead. Thus its roof was made to look like a natural extension of the surrounding grassland and planted with seeds from the region in the hope of attracting wildlife. Many local materials are featured in the building’s construction, including 186 hexagonal columns made from volcanic basalt quarried in nearby Kilrea, from the same lava flows that formed the Giant’s Causeway.

Another first for the centre is its treatment of how the Causeway formed—the way it interprets the site. As is traditional, it features the mainstream geological view, which says the lava flows erupted some 60 million years ago. It also features the local mythology, repeatedly playing a two-minute animation about the legendary giants Finn McCool and Benandonner. But the centre has an even more controversial innovation: it includes the creationist view for the Causeway formation, recognizing that the mainstream view is not unanimous.

Flickr: robertpaulyoung

A report by UTV said:

“The National Trust said it wanted to ‘reflect and respect’ the fact that some people contest the views of mainstream science.

“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.”

UTV also cited a statement that 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.

“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.”

Indeed, the debate does continue today because the debate is not about science but a contest of worldviews. Surveys in the US consistently reveal that a significant proportion of people, in excess of 40%, do not accept the mainstream secular scientific claim that humans evolved from other animals over millions of years.

In developing this world-first innovation, the National Trust worked alongside the Caleb Foundation, which represents mainstream evangelical Christians in Northern Ireland.

UTV News Poll

While this article was being prepared, UTV was running a poll on the question, “Do you think creationist views should be represented at the Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre?”

At Friday 6 July at 2am British Summer Time 12,014 had voted with 36.7% in favour and 63.0% against. We were going to suggest in this article: “You may like to cast your vote.” However, UTV has now disabled the poll, leaving this explanatory note: “The poll previously displayed on this page was removed on Friday 6 July 2012 at 11am (BST) due to obvious irregularities in the voting pattern. The irregularities were the result of a spam attack which threatened site performance. As a result, the poll has been removed.”


Interestingly, before the poll was disabled, various atheist blogs were up in arms at the support for the idea of the creation viewpoint being available to the public at the visitor centre. The UK Freethinkers website, in an article entitled “Just plain crazy: National Trust includes creationist claptrap in new exhibition”, provided this screensave snapshot of the UTV poll. It shows that support for presenting the creation view, though not yet in the majority, had actually increased substantially above the 36.7% we noted at the UTV site on the Friday.

In late 2000, the Foundation organized CMI’s Australian geologist Dr Tasman Walker to visit the site, inspect the Causeway, meet local political leaders, and make a public presentation about how the Causeway formed.

Subsequently, CMI published articles in Creation magazine and on the web about the formation of the Causeway: A giant cause, Reading between the Giant’s Causeway basalts, and Once upon a time in Northern Ireland. In addition CMI produced a colourful, inexpensive brochure about the Causeway, which has been widely distributed in Northern Ireland and the UK.

As is to be expected, the thought of including a creationist interpretation at the tourist interpretive centre was vigorously opposed by mainstream geologists and geological organizations. They claimed it was a threat to science but it was in fact a threat to their secular worldview, which currently enjoys a near-monopoly in the public sphere.

Geologists Jan Zalasiewicz and Tony Bazley writing in Geoscientist, the monthly fellowship magazine of the Geological Society of London, said the development was worrying and any discussion of the creationist view should be kept within “church halls”.

Ted Nield, editor of Geoscientist, was more insulting, saying that creationists were not even “worth the expenditure of our contempt”.

Tony Bazley also published an attack on the creationist explanation in the magazine Earth Science Ireland, of which he is the editor. However, he was taken to task in a letter to the editor by Irish geologist Angus Kennedy, who holds the creationist view.

Surprisingly, in April 2007, the Geological Society of London considered the issue sufficiently serious as to issue an official statement attacking ‘Young Earth Creationism’, ‘Creation Science’, and ‘Intelligent Design’ for attempting to trespass upon their domain.

The battle of worldviews between biblical creation and evolution over millions of years is fierce and has huge social implications. Dr Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the US said, “ … evolution is the great intellectual rival to Christianity in the Western world. It is the creation myth of the secular elites and their intellectual weapon of choice in public debate.”

The first step in the battle has been to exclude the Christian worldview from the public arena and confine it within “church halls”. Long-age geology and evolution has been the tool that has accomplished this in the West. However, legislative moves in recent years show that the secularists are not content to allow Christian teaching within the churches. They want to dictate through the power of the state what Christians can do within church halls as well.

UTV reports that the chairman of the Caleb Foundation, Wallace Thompson, is pleased with 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,” Mr Thompson said.

“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 innovation to include the creation explanation at the Giant’s Causeway visitors’ centre is a welcome global first. Although the creationist position is not yet mentioned on the National Trust’s official website for Giant’s Causeway, it is certainly welcome to find it mentioned in a display in the new visitors’ centre. The National Trust is to be commended on its progressive thinking in including a diversity of views. This innovative approach is one that will hopefully spread to interpretive centres in other places in the UK and in other countries—facilities that are funded by taxpayers through government agencies.

Stop Press!

Over 200 people have joined a new group on the social networking site Facebook whose goal is to ‘remove the creationist exhibits at the Giants Causeway centre’. Responding to such cricticism, Graham Thompson, Causeway project director said on BBC Radio Ulster: “We have a respectful position which allows people to have debate.”

BBC News, Online group calls for removal of creationist exhibit at Giant’s Causeway, 5 July, 2012.

Helpful Resources

Footprints in the Ash
by John Morris, Steven A Austin
US $17.00
Hard Cover
Earth's Catastrophic Past
by Andrew A Snelling
US $60.00
Hard Cover
Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
by Dr Tas Walker
US $0.20

Readers’ comments

Keiron A.
Northern Ireland has always been the more Christian out of all of the UK especially when they have political parties like the DUP, UUP and the TUV who are all Christian based parties ruling over Northern Ireland. Let's hope the rest of the UK follow suit.
Dave C.
This just goes to show that it's the secularists who are close-minded and boxed in with their thinking.
D. N.
It never ceases to amaze me that rather than engaging creationists with the facts, evolutionists try to 'legislate' and intimidate creationism out of the public forum. This, to me, is overwhelming evidence that YEC is a threat to evolutionary thought. Public engagement would be the death knell for creationism if evolution had the substantiation claimed by pseudo-scientists.
Daniel R.
Time to get your head out of the sand and see just Who it is that holds the universe and every single cell together in perfect order. I know my Jesus lives because He abides in me. They may try to take Christ out of creation, but can never take Him out of me and that's the Truth. He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His Own, literally! Amen. I challenge the evolutionist to ask God for divine revelation and read the entire Bible.
Nathanael L.
I read articles about this. While the response was predictable, the fact that this was raised is mildly encouraging. However, I would have some actual account of how creationists believe it formed would have been more educational and helpful than a bland comment that some people debate the age question.
Tas Walker
Indeed, Nathanael, some account on how creationists explain its formation would have been helpful. But that is a bridge too far at the moment. Hopefully ther reference at the visitors' centre may be enough to arouse interest in some people and prompt them to do some searching. Below these comments on this page are references to articles that discuss its formation from a creationist perspective.
Chuck J.
I agree with the old earth supporters that they have much to fear from the creationist point of view. Their argument is thin enough already without the more solid evidence for the Biblical global flood. Lacking enough evidence for their position to stand on its own, they are left with trying to shut down any other thought or speech.
Tas Walker
Yes. Many people do not know that there is a coherent, scientifically based biblical explanation, so this comes as a huge shock.
Andrew M.
I saw the article on UTV website not long after it was published and I am now glad to see an article on CMI in regards to this. I am to visit Portrush at the end of the month and I am very excited to get to see this exibit. It is great to see CMI picking this up and bringing it to a global audience
michael S.
I find it amazing that evolutionists will battle against a creationist explanation being spoken out but not fight against mythical interpretations of giants. They know that people are not stupid, that people will take the creationist explanation seriously, rather than a TRULY mythical story of giants that people would dismiss. Even the evolutionary outrage confirms their own belief that creation is a genuine alternative conclusion to evolution.

Now if the Trust said that creation was explained also as a myth, then the evolutionists would be satisfied, but to propose that it is true, it intolerable to them.

But if something is true, or even potentially true, why not speak about it? Do they therefore care for truth? Why are they afraid of us positing that the bible, which has been accepted as true for thousands of years, actually is true?

The true outrage is that they believe that have the patent on truth.
Anton D.
It is not about respect for the creationist way of thinking/believing that matters - it is proper recognition (from a democratic and scientific point of view) that

a) there are a significant number of people that believe differently from the popular/secular way of describing the origins of our environment - and

b) both have their scientific claims to believe so. Leaving out the creationist interpretation is doing science a GREAT injustice!

The truth cannot be voted in or out.
Geoff H.
It is hopefully a sign of more eyes being opened by the great work of CMI and its international affiliates. The stir being created by this move is also a good sign. I think it will bring publicity to the cause rather than the intended outcome of censoring the creationist worldview.

I've not heard of any other instances of this action being taken by a state organisation at a public display such as this. Hopefully other more "timid" curators will now follow suite and "come out" of the dark evolutionary closet to shed a little of the light of truth on their own exhibits.
Patrick C.
Thank you, Tas, for a lovely article. At last creationists are being treated with respect rather than as lobotomised idiots, as the secularists always try to paint us. At last the public will finally realise that evolution is not all there is; rather there is a battle between two competing worldviews. Nevertheless, the secularists won't stand idly by on this matter; which is one good reason why creationists need to become more involved in supporting organisations like CMI, in whatever way they can.

One final observation: in the 'Stop Press' section of your article the dear old BBC still struggles to meet its Charter's demand for unbiased reporting. ‘TV presenter Professor Brian Cox tweeted that it was nonsense "to suggest there is any debate that Earth is 4.54 billion years old."’ Well, that's certainly not observational science, Mr. Cox! Even the BBC reporter exposed the apparent inability to separate facts from the origins debate – "The Causeway is a Unesco World Heritage Site and features more than 40,000 interlocking basalt columns formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity.” Everything in the sentence is a fact, except the ‘millions of years’ which is not. This is a belief, based on a worldview, about this world’s origins (evolution). Creationist geologists point to the Causeway being formed around the time of the Flood, some 4,200 years ago, not the 6,000 quoted by the BBC article. Keep up the good work.

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