The National Trust should not have buckled to pressure from the “intellectual baboons of young Earth creationism”, one of the world’s leading evolutionists has told the Belfast Telegraph.
Professor Richard Dawkins said it was regrettable that the trust had “paid lip service to the ignorant bigotry” of fundamentalists who believe the world is just 6,000 years old after references to creationism were included in the Giant's Causeway visitors' centre.
TV science broadcaster Professor Brian Cox also waded into the row. He said: “The National Trust should be ashamed of themselves. I don't mind creation stories presented as mythology, but to suggest there is any debate that Earth is 4.54 billion years old is pure s***.”
The trust’s move was hailed by the Caleb Foundation — an evangelical Protestant lobby group whose members believe in the literal truth of the Bible — which said the gesture “respects and acknowledges an alternative viewpoint” on the origins of the Earth.
While it claims to be non-party political, its chairman is Wallace Thompson, a former adviser to DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds. The vice chair is DUP MLA Mervyn Storey, who represents North Antrim, where the Causeway centre was built. Mr Thompson said Caleb had “worked closely with the National Trust over many months” to ensure the creationist position was included and it was very pleased with the results.
Prof Dawkins said that while the trust exhibit presents the scientific view of the Earth’s age, the charity had also “paid lip service to the ignorant bigotry of ‘young Earth creationism’, a view which flies in the face not only of science, but of theology too”.
“The age of the Earth is a matter of scientific fact, not opinion, and balance and fairness do not enter into matters of fact.
“The National Trust should not have given any consideration whatsoever to the intellectual baboons of young Earth creationism,” he said.
But the trust said it had merely acknowledged such views. A spokesman said: “We reflect, in a small part of the exhibition, that the Causeway played a role in the historic debate about the formation of the Earth, and that for some this debate continues today.“
Creationist theories have sparked controversy here in the past. Two years ago the then Culture Minister Nelson McCausland called for museums to give more recognition to creationism after meeting Caleb Foundation lobbyists. Mr McCausland later asked for alternative views on the universe’s origins to be represented in museum exhibitions here.