The National Trust have announced that they are to review the content of their exhibition at the new Giant’s Causeway visitor centre. The exhibition generated controversy by appearing to suggest that creationism can provide an alternative explanation of the site’s formation. The Giant’s Causeway, located on the County Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, includes spectacular basalt columns which were formed by volcanic eruptions up to 60 million years ago. However, an audio exhibition in the new visitor centre contains a reference to the creationist view of the site’s origin, and claims that the ‘debate’ on the origin of the site continues today. The British Humanist Association (BHA) welcomes the National Trust’s decision to review the exhibition, and hopes that they will change the exhibition to make it clear that the creationist account is false.
The audio exhibition at the new visitor centre says that ‘this debate [on the origin of the Giant’s Causeway] continues today for some people, who have an understanding of the formation of the earth which is different from that of current mainstream science’. When creating the exhibition, the National Trust appear to have been under pressure from the Caleb Foundation, a group which represents evangelical Christians in Northern Ireland. The Caleb Foundation say that they ‘worked closely with the National Trust over many months’ on the project.
The BHA commented on the exhibition earlier this month, arguing that ‘putting creationist views on display in a National Trust site gives them an unfair appearance of legitimacy. It is false to claim that there is still a “debate” going on over the origins of the Giant’s Causeway, because the creationist viewpoint has no scientific evidence to back it up, and it is completely wrong to portray it on an equal footing with the genuine scientific account. Creationist views should not be included in a display whose purpose is to educate the public about science.’
The National Trust have now responded to the widespread criticism which the exhibition has generated. A National Trust spokesman announced today that ‘there is clearly no scientific debate about the age of the earth or how the Causeway stones were formed. The National Trust does not endorse or promote any other view. Our exhibits, literature and audio guides for visits to the Causeway stones and this renowned World Heritage Site all reflect this. To ensure that no further misunderstanding or misrepresentation of this exhibit can occur, we have decided to review the interpretive materials in this section.’
Pavan Dhaliwal, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented that ‘we welcome the National Trust’s decision to review the content of the exhibition. The creationist account of the origin of the Giant’s Causeway is false, and we hope that the National Trust will change the exhibition to make this clear. In a display which is supposed to educate the public about science, it is unacceptable to suggest that creationism can be viewed as an alternative explanation of natural phenomena. In referring to creationism in this way, the National Trust appear to have fallen victim to the “teach the controversy” strategy pursued by creationists, in their attempt to disseminate their views via educational institutions. We hope that the National Trust will make it clear in future that the scientific account of the Giant’s Causeway is the only legitimate account.’
For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0773 843 5059.
The National Trust’s announcement:
Media coverage of the exhibition:
The BHA’s earlier news article about the exhibition:
Details of the BHA’s Countering creationism campaign:
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.