Free Presbyterian minister Reverend David McIlveen believes the Earth was created just 6,000 years ago by God, just like it says in the Bible. Dr Chris Hunt, a lecturer in palaeoecology at Queen’s University, teaches evolutionary theory and says science demonstrates that the world is millions of years old.
Yesterday the creationism v evolution debate was given another hearing when it was revealed our Culture Minister Nelson McCausland wrote to the trustees of National Museums Northern Ireland suggesting that alternative views on the origins of the universe should be displayed.
This prompted the Belfast Telegraph to bring representatives of the two disparate views together for a tour of the natural history section of the newly refurbished Ulster Museum.
One of the central attractions in the museum is a replica of a majestic giant Irish deer, which walked the earth about 80,000 years ago. The magnificent animal caught the eye of both the Reverend and the academic.
But the dating of the exhibit creates a problem for Rev McIlveen’s view of history. He explained: “I believe that the world is probably around about 6,000 years old and during that time there was the Great Flood which, in my opinion, cleared or wiped out the dinosaurs which were in existence at that time.”
But Dr Hunt, a church-going Christian, had his own views on Bible teaching. “I actually see the creation of the world in the Bible as a parable of what really happened for those who weren’t able to understand in more depth all that time ago.”
As he strolled through the minerals, rocks and fossils section, Rev McIlveen expressed his support for Mr McCausland’s view. He even went a step further and called for a Bible to be exhibited alongside the reference books in the museum. “To present the evolutionist view as fact, I think is wrong,” he said. Coming across a display of piece of Moon rock, Rev McIlveen said: “I have no reason to doubt this isn’t a piece of the Moon, but at the same time, if I was cynical, I would ask where’s the proof? It just looks like a piece of coal that has been burnt. I could have come back from Sinai with something and said it was from Jupiter.
“My cynicism deepens. What I am looking at and listening to is only an opinion and nothing more.” As they took their arguments to another level in the natural history section it was obvious that Dr Hunt was becoming increasingly frustrated.
And as Rev McIlveen spoke about apples falling from the sky he looked totally baffled.
An invitation to Rev McIlveen to attend one of his lectures at Queen’s was side-stepped with a counter-offer for the scientist to join the congregation at his Sandown Church.
Dr Hunt concluded: “The museum records a particular viewpoint which is based on a very great deal of discovered evidence and until that evidence is properly refuted and in detail then I don’t think creationists have a scientific leg to stand on.
“So-called creation science is wishful thinking. It’s very sad. I feel very sorry for the people who peddle it and I think they have been very badly misguided by the ‘creation scientists’.
“This is a museum which records Ulster’s past. The Bible only arrived in Ireland 2,000 years ago. The giant Irish deer was here 11,000 years ago. There could well be a very nice exhibit about Christianity and I would be very glad to see it, but at the moment evolution is the only real show in town.
It's not hard to imagine the jaws dropping onto desktops when the letter arrived from Culture Minister Nelson McCausland asking museum heads to pay a bit more attention to matters of vital concern to him like the Ulster Scots heritage, the Orange Order and the origin of the universe.
Charles Darwin would probably love the fact that the 200th anniversary of his birth is being celebrated with radio shows, documentaries and exhibitions, but he might not have enjoyed the way that furious Christians still despise his theories and try to prove the Bible is more reliable.