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

World-first innovation includes creation explanation

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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.”

poll

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
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Earth's Catastrophic Past
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Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
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