New age proposed for Giants Causeway

UPDATE: The National Trust have released a statement, stating that the NT supports the scientific explanation, but that they simply highlight “that for some the debate continues”. To me, that still doesn’t fix the fundamental issue at play. There’s a lot of people who believe some very weird stuff – it doesn’t mean they are opinions which should be given oxygen.


The National Trust have opened a new visitor centre at one of the UK’s greatest World Heritage sites. What’s particularly of note is that – in a display of bombastic ridicule-attracting lunacy – they’ve included an explanation of the Giants Causeway formation which proposes that it’s no more than 5000 years old.

Their defense of this act of belligerent ignorance is that they wanted to

 “reflect and respect” the fact that some people contest the views of mainstream science.

Frankly, if we’re going down that route, presumably they’ll also be opening displays supporting the Expanding Earth hypothesis, the idea that the sun rotates around the Earth, and that aliens live amongst us. Actually, that last one might have some truth in it.

I’m not going to pretend that the National Trust has any mandate to do science right, or even that education is part of its aims (“The National Trust was founded in 1895 to promote and look after places of historic beauty permanently for the benefit of the nation across England, Wales and Northern Island. Our core purpose is to look after special places for ever, for everyone.”).  However, as an organisation which takes a great deal of effort to educate people about the places it cares for, it strikes me as utterly ridiculous that this could happen.

I mean, Lord Kelvin had managed to work out that the Earth was at least 20 million years old 150 years ago. And that was before geology caught on as a pastime, let alone a serious area for research, pushing that age up to 4.54 billion years. Hell, even a rudimentary measurement of the thickness of the sedimentary pile we see preserved in crustal rocks, and a simple bit of calculation on settling rates puts you in the hundreds of millions of years. How can we possibly take ourselves seriously as a society if we let this 5000 year nonsense get promoted alongside actual, measurable, quantifiable, testable science?

It’s bad enough when private enterprises like ‘Creationism Museums‘ get set up. For such a large charity, with so much influence in this country to adopt this stance is truly terrifying. I can only presume that we can expect National Trust volunteers to shortly start providing alternative explanations of Stone Age archaeology, and placing some insightful dioramas of men in robes riding pleisiosaurs at strategic locations around Dorset. I’m really looking forward to the explanation of the Kimmeridge Bay ammonites as some kind of mass death-assemblage in a pan-global mega-flood a couple of thousand years ago.

To let a small local lobbying group have this much sway on a visitor centre for one of the most stunning geological sites in the UK is farcical – particularly after years of time to think about it. This appears to be an impolitic view in some circles, but just because you should respect someones *right* to an opinion doesn’t mean you have to actually heed their opinion. If I’m interested in how a computer works, and I get two conflicting opinions from an IT engineer and an astrologer who’s never used one, it doesn’t mean I conclude there’s still some debate on the subject.

The National Trust should be ashamed of themselves.


About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in Geology, Not even wrong, Science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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