1 December 2007

Not just an American problem (Part II)

As I have said before, and will assuredly do again, creationism is not just an American problem. The creationist creep is real, friends, and it's transatlantic.

In the latest episode, as reported by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, the Giant's Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, National Nature Reserve, and the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, has become a target for creationist propaganda.

The 'Causeway Creation Committee' believe that Noah's flood, not a 60 million year-old volcanic eruption followed by accelerated cooling, created the distinctive hexagonal basalt columns of the Giant's Causeway. They also believe that dinosaurs walked the earth alongside humans. Sounds like someone's been spending too many hours on the Answers in Genesis website and not enough reading peer-reviewed dino-science.

The Causeway Creation Committee says Noah's flood,
not an ancient volcano, created the Giant's Causeway, below.

(c) National Trust

Just a harmless bit of willful ignorance? Unfortunately, no. The Causeway Creation Committee want their 'theories' (which are not actually theories but dogma) presented in the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre and in the Ulster Museum, and in the long term they want intelligent design (creationism in science-sheep's clothing) to be taught as part of the science curriculum in Ulster schools.

But if any old dogma can make it into science class then why not also teach the legend of Finn MacCool? Supposedly the Irish giant built the causeway as a footbridge to fight his Scottish rival Benandonner (whose lair, Tolkien fans will appreciate, was called 'Fingol's cave'). Apparently, Finn MacCool got off to a good start, but then just as Benandonner approached on the new causeway, Finn collapsed with exhaustion. Fortunately the MacCool-witted missus saved Finn by covering him with a blanket and pretending he was a baby.

...to which I can't help adding (it being so close to Christmas) that this would not be the last time a supernatural being would be mistaken for a baby (oh wait, it's the other way around...).

So, to be fair (because we have to be fair, right?), the Giant's Causeway visitor centre should be teaching three theories for the creation of the Causeway: 1) 60 million year-old volcano, 2) Noah's flood and 3) Finn MacCool's giant biceps. After all, Stephen Moore from the Causeway Creation Committee did say that children should be allowed to have 'all the interpretations'.

I thought about ending my post there (boo-ya!), but there was one additional thing that concerned me about the Belfast Telegraph article, and I can't not mention it...

In the article, Jonathan McCambridge writes, 'Science tells us that the Giant's Causeway was created 60 million years ago....'. Hey, Jonathan, just who is this 'science' bloke, anyways? I'd sure like to meet him, because apparently he can 'tell' us all sorts of interesting things!

Science doesn't 'tell' us anything, folks. We help ourselves understand how the world works by using science as a method, but it is not passive and it does not involve 'listening' to some omniscient entity called 'science'. Sloppy language like this reinforces the commonly held misconception that science is something locked away in an ivory tower, and it also helps creationists claim that evolution is a religious belief.

But let's get back on track. Do we really need to worry about creationism creeping into British science education? I mean, this isn't some Kansas backwater, this is Britain! Surely these fundies won't be allowed to dictate what is taught in British schools, right? 'Fraid not: the creationists in Ulster have already racked up 1000 signatures but to date only the Belfast Humanist Society has spoken out publicly against Bible stories being taught in science classrooms there.

Which allows me to end where I began: creationism is not just an American problem. It's time for Britons to shake off the dust, proudly take up the mantle of their scientific legacy, and make some noise for the Enlightenment!


BobC said...
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CAE said...

Well yes, but... Belfast is hardly representative of most of the UK when it comes to religion.

I love the idea of teaching the "feuding giants" controversy though. Maybe someone local should write a letter demanding that this 3rd point of view is taught alongside evolution and creationism. Hey, it worked for the spaghetti monster guy.

Sid Leavitt said...

Great post, nunatak. Thanks for introducing me to Finn MacCool and Benandonner. Sound like guys I'd like to have a Guinness with.

Anonymous said...

Oh great flood, how we love you. Is there any geographical feature that you're not capable of explaining?


I am voting for Finn MacCool.

paul said...

Hi nunatak,
I have posted a reply to this blog entry. You can find it at:

paul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.