Thursday, 4 October 2012

The National Trust does the right thing at the Giant's Causeway

Back in July, I stuck my oar in (as did many others) to the National Trust Giant's Causeway controversy when it was revealed that their visitor centre had an exhibit that appeared to (at best) appease or (at worse) endorse the Young Earth Creationist view of the age of the Earth (and the Causeway). (See here and here for more on how very wrong the Creationists have it.) Initially, I was sympathetic and supported them but was subsequently convinced by the arguments of others and withdrew my support.

The errors that I felt the Trust made (and emailed them about as a member, requesting a correction) were in some potentially misleading:
To suggest that the debate continues in this context does imply it is a scientific debate. It is not. The fact that the audio subsequently makes it clear that the debate only continues for "some people ... based on a specific interpretation of the Bible" does not entirely undo this initial error. Although I am willing to believe that this is an accident and the NT did not mean to imply that the scientific debate continues, the fact that some people interpret it this way is reason enough, in my book, to change it. This was the first big mistake.

The second big mistake was the use of the word "mainstream" in the sentence: "This debate continues today for some people, who have an understanding of the formation of the earth which is different from that of current mainstream science." Again, although this is immediately followed by a sentence that makes it clear that these people have a different understanding for religious (not scientific) reasons, I find myself agreeing with those commentors who see this sentence as implying that there is some other kind of science that disagrees with the current "understanding of the formation of the earth". There isn't. This is misleading and, even if not giving YEC legitimacy, it reduces the legitimacy of the NT exhibit.

I stand by my original view that the words themselves are true but it is clear that the context and exact choice of phrase - whether deliberate or accidental - is not giving an impression that is consistent with the Trust's stated position on this topic. For this reason alone, they must revise the wording of the exhibit, even if they do not drop the YEC reference altogether...
Happily, as reported today by BBC News (Trust amends Causeway centre 'Creationist' exhibit), the Trust has listened to all its members that complained and changed the wording:
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.

"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."
Although not far enough for some, I am happy that this solves the big problem and no longer implies that there is any scientific debate. YEC is a religious position, (im)pure and simple.

h/t WEIT

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