Incoming Environment Minister Edwin Poots has insisted his creationist religious beliefs will not stand in the way of doing a good job.
The DUP Lagan Valley Assembly member, who is expected to take over the office from Sammy Wilson within weeks, reiterated his controversial view that the planet was created 6,000 years ago, but said his philosophy included the necessity of protecting God’s Earth.
Mr Poots said he believes the Earth was created by God around 4,000BC, according to the genealogical information outlined in the Bible.
“I am a Bible-believing Christian and I do not see that will impact in any way, shape or form on my role as Environment Minister,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“If you believe God made this Earth, you will believe you should look after something he has given us. I will seek to look after God’s creation and I do not believe in any way, shape or form that being a Christian affects your ability to protect the Earth that God has given you.”
Mr Poots said he did not believe there was scientific evidence to back up the theory that the Earth is billions of years old.
Earlier this week, a fundraising drive by the National Trust claimed the Giant’s Causeway was formed 60 million years ago.
Questioned about this, Mr Poots said: “I don’t believe the Giant’s Causeway is 60 million years old. If other people make an issue of that, it’s up to them.
“The Giant’s Causeway is a fantastic site, an asset which needs us to sell it and make it marketable. Whatever length of time it has been in existence will not undermine that message.”
His views were branded “reactionary” by the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland, which believes there is no supernatural explanation for the universe.
Brian McClinton, a director, said: “It’s obviously not true. All the scientific evidence shows the earth is about three to four billion years old and the universe is 13-14 billion years old so his view would not fit with this calculation.”
Mr McClinton said Mr Poots’s view was derived from the theory of the 17th century Archbishop Ussher, who believed the universe was created on October 23, 4004BC, after basing his calculations on the genealogical information outlined in the Old Testament.
“It’s all nonsense really. Fossil evidence points to a much older earth than that,” he said.
“It’s an indication of an obsolete, backward scientific knowledge. It’s a bit ironic that the minister is so ignorant about the environment.
“It’s unfortunate that the Minister for the Environment has a blinkered notion of the history of the Earth.”
Alliance leader David Ford said: “Edwin Poots has his own beliefs and is entitled to hold them. The Department of the Environment must, however, operate using the best available scientific evidence when making decisions.”