Exhibiting – the National Trust and Creationism

The National Trust (NT) has just opened a new visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.  The controversy that has followed is all due to this statement below in one of the exhibits:

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.
Young Earth Creationists believe that the earth was created some 6000 years ago.  This is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible and in particular the account of creation in the book of Genesis.
Some people around the world, and specifically here in Northern Ireland, share this perspective.
Young Earth Creationists continue to debate questions about the age of the earth. As we have seen from the past, and understand today, perhaps the Giant’s Causeway will continue to prompt awe and wonder, and arouse debate and challenging questions for as long as visitors come to see it.

This is the opinion of the Young Earth Creationists.  They are more than welcome to hold this belief but should it be in an educational setting, advocating a theory which has already been disproven?

The NT and Young Earth Creationists have presented this point of view as an alternative theory; however, their theory is just that – a theory.   Having read into some of these theories, there is little grounding for being able to prove them.  So far, I have not seen any declarations of, the Earth is only 6,000 years old and we can see that because of this firm scientific proof.  All I have seen is – the Earth is only 6,000 years old, everyone else is wrong, this is because of something written in the Bible.  If I wrote an academic paper only citing one book – the Bible – I would fail it.

When it comes down to it, the issue here is not the context of the display, but the content of it.  Museums and visitor centres should display all views, legends, myths and theories in order for visitors to best make their decision, based on the facts.  Museums should inspire visitors to think.  In this case, the theory has been presented without any facts to support it.  From what other people have said (in comments on the University of Leicester Exchanges), the myth of Finn McCool has been presented with the reasons that people believed the legend because there is a matching set of rock formations in Scotland.  The story goes that Finn McCool could not swim wanted to prove his mite against a foe in Scotland and so the Giant’s Causeway was created.    But this is a myth, a story, from a book, with as much scientific evidence as the Young Earth Creationists claim in the passage above.  Bring on the facts, the proof, and the analysis.  I would like to see it, and would welcome it.  Bring on the other alternative viewpoints and their facts and theories. 

Another question which needs to be asked is if you are displaying an alternative point of view, where are the others?  Where are the Old Earth Creationists?

On their website the NT says come and see the Giant’s Causeway, learnt the stories and see how this formation has be explained by science.
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giantscauseway/

 The whole thing seems a little ill thought out personally.

This question is being discussed at the University of Leicester here: http://leicesterexchanges.com/2012/07/09/young-earth-creationism-at-the-giants-causeway-a-grave-error-of-judgement/

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2 Comments

Filed under Museums

2 responses to “Exhibiting – the National Trust and Creationism

  1. binidj

    Old Earth Creationist right here … sort of. As a newly outed member of this (dis)organisation I should like to express my support for your ideas above. Hmm, it’s also given me an idea for a blog post of my own … nifty!

  2. electrodruid

    Nice article – I’m in broad agreement, although I would have chosen different wording when dismissing Young Earth Creationism as “just that – a theory”. Creationists generally seem to respond by saying that Evolution is “just a theory” as well, which means that things get muddied somewhat. In a scientific context, “theory” means a pretty high level of certainty – Dictionary.com defines it like this:

    “a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena…”

    My point being, Evolution is a theory (and there’s no “just” about it, it’s true and documented by a staggering amount of evidence), whereas Young Earth Creationism isn’t a theory at all – it’s not coherent or widely accepted, it has no evidence at all to back it up, and it explains and predicts nothing. It’s not a case of good theory vs. bad theory, it’s a case of theory vs. complete nonsense.

    I think the Finn McCool story is a nice flavoursome bit of myth to put in the visitor’s centre, and is relevant to the story of the Causeway. The young earth story is a lot less interesting, less directly related to the Causeway (crazy people are all over the world, after all, but there was only ever one (well, none) Finn McCool). The least the National Trust could have done would be present the young earth stuff as the myth it is rather than anything related to science. Needs more giants, though.

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