Trust set to review creationist exhibit

KEVIN MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA 5 JUY 2012 The Causeway debate...Picture Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography Multimedia
KEVIN MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA 5 JUY 2012 The Causeway debate...Picture Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography Multimedia

THE National Trust is to review the Giant’s Causeway exhibit which mentions the views of those who believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old after criticism from scientists and a backlash from members.

The Trust, which has seen 25,000 people visit the new Causeway visitor centre since it opened at the start of the month, said that its intention had never been to endorse the views of creationists.

In a statement released yesterday, the Trust said that the display was meant to inform visitors about the debate over “how the earth’s rocks were formed” but added that many critics were reacting to “media coverage and online discussions” rather than the exhibit itself.

The conservation body said that it was not its intention to either “promote or legitimise any of these opinions or views”, adding: “Unfortunately, elements from this part of the display appear to have been taken out of context and misinterpreted by some.”

The statement went on: “Having listened to our members’ comments and concerns, we feel that clarity is needed. 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 no further misunderstanding or misrepresentation of this exhibit can occur, we have decided to review the interpretive materials in this section.”

The Trust has been accused by Professor Richard Dawkins of caving in to “the intellectual baboons of young earth creationism”.

But DUP MLA Jim Wells, who believes the world is 6,000 years old, said that creationism was “a perfectly legitimate point of view” which he would like to see in other attractions such as the Ulster Museum.

Yesterday, Wallace Thompson, chairman of the Caleb Foundation, the evangelical lobby group which helped secure the exhibit in the centre, said that he was in “ongoing contact” with the National Trust and had “sought clarification as to the nature of the review and whether there will be a public consultation on this”. He added: “Obviously we want to see what they are doing before making a comment on it.”

Meanwhile, DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has declined to say whether she was lobbied by the Caleb Foundation over the issue.

Responding to a written Assembly question from Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn asking for a list of the groups who lobbied her department for the inclusion of a creationism exhibit at the Causeway centre, Mrs Foster said: “A range of individuals and groups wrote to me expressing an interest in the interpretative content of the Giant’s Causeway visitor experience.”