Belfast Telegraph

Creationism takes a back seat in story of Giant’s Causeway visitor centre

By Linda Stewart

The National Trust has amended a controversial exhibit at the new Giant’s Causeway visitor centre that outlined a creationist viewpoint.

The charity launched a review of the audio exhibit earlier this year after it prompted a “mixed response” from the public, attracting criticisms from scientists Professor Brian Cox and Professor Richard Dawkins.

The exhibit in the £18.5m centre, revealing how people’s explanation of how the World Heritage Site had formed had changed over the centuries, was criticised for yielding to pressure from fundamentalists.

Creationists believe the Causeway was formed 6,000 years ago, but the scientific consensus is that it was formed 60m years ago and the trust says it has always supported the scientific view of its formation.

A new audio of around 20 seconds now replaces that segment, saying: “All the scientific evidence points to a volcanic origin for the columns of the Giant's Causeway, around 60m years ago. However, not everyone agrees with the scientific view.

“There are some people who believe — often for religious reasons — that the earth was formed more recently — thousands of years ago rather than billions.”

Last night, project director Graham Thompson said the change will clear up any misunderstanding there may have been.

Wallace Thompson of evangelical group the Caleb Foundation, which lobbied for creationism to be included, said it was “not exactly over the moon” about the change but was broadly content, feeling the views of creationists were acknowledged without contempt or mockery.

“We were disappointed when the trust decided to review the previously agreed wording in that exhibit as a result of pressure,” he said.

“We are also disappointed that the outcome of the review has led to a revision of the wording, but we are very pleased that the exhibit has not been removed.

“Although we do not accept that all the scientific evidence points to a 60m-year time span, we note that the revised exhibit still retains an acknowledgement of the existence of an alternative viewpoint.”

Background

The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, according to geologists.

But creationist theory believes that the earth is only around 6,000 years old and that the causeway was formed by divine intervention.

Ancient Irish legend has it that the causeway was formed by the giant Finn MacCool as he battled with a Scottish rival.

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