Creationism at Giant's Causeway, courtesy of the National Trust
    By Oliver Knevitt | July 5th 2012 10:28 AM | 19 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Oliver

    In a nutshell: I like fossils. But even more than than that, I like arguments about fossils. Which is why my current occupation as a PhD researcher...

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    Are you bored of the Higgsteria yet? Well, here's another issue that needs your attention.

    The Giant’s causeway is one of the most beautiful examples of columnar jointing in the world, formed during the Tertiary igneous activity in the UK. It was formed during the Tertiary, and whilst there are a few ongoing questions about it’s tectonic history, generally it is held to be the prime example of it’s kind.

    Here is the problem. In response to pressure from the religious group the Caleb Foundation, the National Trust has included references to creationism in it’s information center at the Giant’s Causeway.

    I have no idea what the National Trust were thinking. It seems that this problem first became apparent in 2008, when my colleague Jan Zalasiewicz first wrote a letter in the Geoscientist about this. It’s here .

    If you look at the foot of the article, it seems that the Geol Soc intended to publish an official rebuttal. But as hard as I google I can’t find this. Perhaps it was left on the scrapheap, for whatever reason, but regardless, beguilingly the National Trust has still gone and done it, so we seem to be back to square one.

    I’m hoping that it’s something that somebody has included somewhere along the line without realizing the rammefications, and that it will quickly be taken down. Here's the first draft of an email I'm planning on sending to them; I want to form an official pettition, so let me know in the comments if you want your name added.

    Dear Sir/Madam,I recently became aware of the presence of a new information stand at the Giants Causeway that includes a creationist viewpoint as part of a discussion on its origins.

    Speaking as both a paleontologist and a member of the National Trust, I am, frankly, appalled to hear this. I understand the intentions of this were to cater for an alternative viewpoint, but this viewpoint is one embraced by no scientist, and therefore it is a mistake to include it here. Indeed, the sentence “…has always prompted  debate about how it was formed and how old it is” is, at best, grossly misleading, and at worst, an outright lie.

    Frankly, I find the implication that creationism deserves equal credence to mainstream science incredibly offensive, as do my colleagues, as would scientists around the globe. I write articles on creationism regularly, and I firmly believe that it is a debate needs addressing. However, it is a religious issue, and it needs addressing in a religious context. It is not a debate that has occurred in science, ever, contrary to what has been stated, and so to present it as such is an outright falsehood, and gives credence to what is essentially an religious extremist viewpoint.

    I understand that these actions were taken under pressure from a religious group, the Caleb foundation. I am disappointed that the National Trust has bowed to the demands of a religious group that is interfering in sites of scientific interest, where it does not belong.  Moreover, it represents the opinions of a group that represent a minority of views of Northern Ireland.

    Please could I have your assurance that all references to creationism at the Giants Causeway Information centre be removed? Creationism is very much a minority viewpoint, and so I think you fill find that it is also very much the opinion of national trust members also.

    I will be posting a copy of this email to my website, as well as  any replies that I receive.


    Oliver Knevitt (University of Leicester)

    Rebecca Williams (University of Leicester)

    Laurent Darras (University of Leicester)

    Laura McLennan (University of Leicester)

    Joe Keating (University of Bristol)

    Oliver Knevitt
    Department of Geology
    University of Leicester


    I visited the Giant's Causeway last year. It is absolutely stunning! Surreal!

    But, I should be careful using that kind of wording, shouldn't I. Creationist or other lost for this world kind of people might misuse it.

    I agree completely with you that any reference to the crazy not even religious idea of creationism has nothing to do in a serious visitor centre.

    However, I do not so much react to the sentence:

    "The Giants' Causeway has always prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is."

    I mean, proper scientists have at some point discussed when this was formed. Well, maybe the "has always" is giving the wrong idea....

    It becomes unacceptable when they use this wording though:

    "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."

    I mean, if it is actually refered to creationism and a current so-called debate about the age, that should be removed immediately.

    Identifying the age of the formation is part of science history ( I do not know when they could establish the age of such formations), but to say that is debated today is downright false.


    Depending on your wording, I will be happy to sign. Again, Giant's Causeway is awesome! :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Gerhard Adam
    The National Trust said it wanted to "reflect and respect" the fact that some people contest the views of mainstream science.

    Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."
    Mundus vult decipi
    Oliver Knevitt
    I've got an open letter at my personal blog; I'll post a link in a bit
    In Ireland, one acquires the Gift of the Gab by kissing the Blarney Stone.

    Much rarer, however, is the Transferable Gift of the Gab.  I once saw a possible example in the case of an elderly man who seemed totally non-communicative, until a nice Irish nurse came and spoke to him.  She must have had this gift, which one can only acquire by kissing the Blarney Stone with one’s feet touching the Giant’s Causeway.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    typo ....

    "and so I think you fill find that"

    Wise up!! It is a debating characters exhibit that also mentions that a sailor of old believed it was fossilised bambo!!!
    It is a very entertaining exhibit. I have visited it. Comment should be reserved for those who actually have seen it

    Oliver Knevitt
    The problem is that they have that part... and then go on to say that the debate continues to this day. They never make it clear that it is a religious debate and is not a debate that happens in science. There is no debate over the age of the rocks in science. 
    You could accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon but nonetheless it is people who have seen the exhibit that have asked me to write this as an open letter. I was hoping that as a paleontologist I could give it some clout. The national trust have uploaded a full description and transcript and it doesn't ally my fears. 
    Well done to the Trust on their decision to respect minority views. When you read their statement it's clear that it is an accurate summary of the situation. Note that almost all todays mainstream geological views began its life as a minority view and had to make its way against the majority: identity of fossils, e.g. igneous origin of granite, plate tectonics. Actually, there are still lots of issues that are hotly discussed in geological circles. Neither censorship or decision by committee is the answer. Education means appreciating the different views that there are on an issue. On the other hand, you are being indoctrinated when you are given the impression that everyone has the same view when they don't. I thhink the Trust is to be commended for its position.

    Gerhard Adam
    Then I suppose you don't oppose the notion that the next surgery you get should be done without anesthesia?  After all, while it is a minority position, it should still be respected.

    You're a fool.  Science isn't about opinions and to promote the idea that minority views should be granted equal credence with established science is the ultimate foolishness and is ridiculous on the face of it.  The only people that support such an agenda are the very fools that believe such nonsense, since they would never grant such a privilege to positions they oppose.  It's the height of hypocrisy.
    Mundus vult decipi
    That’s a very strong epithet you’re using there, Gerhard!  Reminds me of
    ... but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
    But I would also point out to TW that there are two very vociferous and aggressive minorities of whom he/she would not approve, who at present exert a disproportionate amount of influence on lawmaking in the United Kingdom.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps ... in my view, I'm being somewhat restrained compared to my feelings on the matter.
    Mundus vult decipi
    but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire

    I'm sure I do not need to remind you, Robert, that "Thou fool" is a translation of the single word "raca" which is a curse. It is not an evaluation of someone's intellect or common sense, even if such an opinion is spat out in well-justified exasperation!
    Hi Gerhard,
    Dr. Barry Marshall and Dr. Robin Warren of Perth, Western Australia did not agree with conventional medicine and had to fight against the establishment in order for their revolutionary discovery and amazing treatment for a debilitating medical condition to be accepted. They were eventually awarded the Nobel Prize for their work.. Science is not about majority opinion but about properly understanding reality. I encourage you to do some research into the geology surrounding this issue.

    Gerhard Adam
    What exactly is your point?  Science is about evidence.  When evidence exists and a legitimate case is made, then this becomes the consensus position and hence the majority.  The one thing it does NOT consist of is speculation about miracles or the supernatural.

    Anecdotes such as you describe indicate nothing special, because obviously all scientific discoveries begin as individual perspectives.  However, unless you have something specific that you're advocating here, I don't see what the connection is between a medical condition and the geology you're considering.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Naah. If someone wants to get some creationism all they have to do is pick up a Bible and take
    everything it says literally. In the meantime, sullying a fanatastic site like the causeway with ignorant, deceptive, irresponsible, totally refuted trash "science" and religious extremism is , well, not okay.
    I commend you on your tolerance. Truly. Commendable intentions.
    However, I don't think encouraging religious fascist lobbying is a good plan, anywhere.
    If the Caleb Foundation can't think logically or honor the facts, theres no reason to reinforce their dark Ages worldview of science denial and attack by lending their ideas the slightest bit of scientific credence.
    Because there is none.
    There is plenty of ignorance in this world already.
    The Trust really shouldn't reinforce it.
    There are "museums" in America where dinosaurs are depicted as having saddles on them,
    becuase they had to have lived less than 6000 years ago according to the Bible.
    Hopefully, you recognize that its enthusiastic attendees may not be the most ..."uh".... informed of people.
    It might be better to be grateful the UK and Ireland don't have people that ignorant as a significant part of the population. America has a sizeable creationist segment. Its scary stuff.
    Will Fraser Geologist

    I am surprised that nobody in this thread mentioned that the historicity of Adam and Eve has been disproven.
    The bible is chock full of myths.

    The bible is chock full of myths.
    But there's also a lot of history.  Where one evolves into the other is a matter of disagreement.

    Nevertheless, what 'Adam and Eve' says about the human condition is more to the point than other ancient or modern myths, including that of no-myth.

    Hi Anomyous and Erinaceus,

    Adam and Eve are not a myth. The genetic evidence confirms biblical history. Google "The non mythical adam and eve" for a geneticists analysis.

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, but that's complete rubbish.  Adam and Eve has to be a myth because the biblical account presents some rather significant problems if taken seriously.

    In the first place, Adam and Eve aren't relevant from the biblical perspective.  If we are to take the Biblical accounts seriously then the population bottleneck occurred with the great flood.  So no matter how one chooses to interpret the first chapters of Genesis there can be no ambiguity about the underlying meaning associated with Noah.

    Therefore the biblical account indicates that all of humanity had to originate with four breeding pairs (i.e. Noah and his sons and their wives).
    Add this to the genetic effects of the biblical Flood (with its severe but short population bottleneck)
    Of course to accept this account indicates that all of humanity is the direct result of inbreeding and incest.  We are already quite familiar with how the genetics works at such population densities, so it seems that those accepting the biblical account have some scientific and non-scientific explaining to do.
    I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to identify the missing components in this genetic history.
    Mundus vult decipi