THE future DUP health minister has entered the escalating row about an acknowledgement of creationism in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre, defending it as “perfectly legitimate”.
Although the National Trust – which opened the £18.5 million centre on Tuesday – endorses the scientific view that the rocks are about 65 million years old, an audio exhibit in the centre informs visitors that some believe the earth is 6,000 years old.
On Friday, Professor Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s leading evolutionists, attacked the National Trust over the exhibit, accusing it of caving in to “the intellectual baboons of young earth creationism”.
“The age of the earth is a matter of scientific fact, not opinion, and balance and fairness do not enter into matters of fact,” he said.
However, DUP MLA Jim Wells told the News Letter: “If we were to use that phraseology for people who don’t believe in creationism we would be branded as bigots, as narrow-minded and insulting.
“There is a perfectly legitimate point of view, which I hold, that life is so complicated that it simply could not have come together by pure chance ... I believe that is a legitimate point of view, it is held by millions, and it has a right to be heard, along with the view that we all originated through microscopic cells which evolved into monkeys and so on.”
The South Down MLA welcomed the “very tangential and not very hard-hitting reference to creationism” at the Causeway and said he would like to see a creationist viewpoint in the Ulster Museum.
Mr Wells also objected to UTV removing a poll about the row from its website after an influx of support for the exhibit.
Web polls are notoriously unreliable as they can be easily influenced by motivated groups of people who email like-minded friends asking them to vote.
Senior UTV executive Morgane Campioni said that its online polls “should not be seen as scientific” and said the poll on creationism was removed after it noticed “irregularities” caused by a spam attack.
Mr Wells said that the poll had initially shown 11 per cent in favour of the exhibit but by yesterday, when it was removed, the poll was showing 40 per cent in favour of the exhibit.
But Mr Wells said: “The ‘spam attack’ was a lot of folk from the Christian background who rang each other and alerted each other ... and let’s be honest about it, we were encouraging as many folk as we knew to log on to vote because we feel it is absolutely appropriate that the alternative view is given at the Causeway centre.”
Mr Wells claimed that UTV had removed the poll “because the result was not what they wanted” but the broadcaster said that it welcomed readers’ views and it had already published more than 600 comments about the issue on its website and welcomed further comments.