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Europe is getting a wedgie

I’m glad someone at the New Humanist is catching on: that little bit of performance art at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, in which the creationists got their falsified myth inserted into the National Trust’s exhibits, is exactly how they operate. Every little advantage is pursued in order to falsify the existence of legitimate support. As Paul Sims explains:

The reference to creationism at the Causeway may only represent a small concession to the creationist view, but what the National Trust needs to be aware of is that winning such small concessions forms a key part of creationist strategy. By encouraging organisations such as the National Trust to acknowledge creationist perspectives, it is possible that the Caleb Foundation are following the "Wedge Strategy", a tactic devised by creationists in the United States, most notoriously the Discovery Institute, in order to "permeate religious, cultural, moral and political life" with creationism and Intelligent Design.

Aware that they can not simply convert the American public to creationism overnight, the architects of the Wedge Strategy aim to persuade politicians, journalists and educators that the correct approach to "debates" around evolution and the age of the Earth is to "Teach the Controversy", giving perspective such as creationism and Intelligent Design a hearing alongside scientific theories. Through "Teach the Controversy", creationists hope that their perspective will acquire a greater presence in educational establishments and the media. In short, once one school, or one museum, or one newspaper, starts to deal with evolution alongside creationism, others will follow.

Exactly! Creationists are not stupid. Most people don’t know much about science, and rely on the word of authorities…so when an official government agency gives even a tiny sop of acknowledgment to bogus nonsense like creationism, it legitimizes their claims, enough to cause a little bit of doubt about the science, and a little nod of approval to lies.

You can’t give a millimeter. Just present the science honestly, and don’t pander to ignorance.

Comments

  1. madbull says

    Exactly! Creationists are not stupid
    There’s something I thought I’d never hear PZ say.

  2. petzl20 says

    Exactly! Creationists are not stupid
    There’s something I thought I’d never hear PZ say.

    Yeah. I think they got to him. Check for a discarded pod hull near his cubicle.

  3. Kris says

    Well, to be fair, Ken Ham, Kent and Eric Hovind, and Ray Comfort are pretty mind bogglingly stupid. The Discovery Institute and their ilk are, unfortunately, not.

  4. madscientist says

    “Creationists are not stupid.”

    I disagree – they certainly are stupid and willfully ignorant, though not necessarily on all subjects. It is possible for someone to be a genuine expert in one field and yet be a stupid creationist. Creationists can also be conniving and manipulative and successfully push their bullshit on people who are not clever or well educated enough to see through their nonsense.

  5. says

    And as the Wedge also noted, “Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.”

    Actually, it’s not “scholarship,” it’s evidence for design that they’d need to find. Either way, though, it’s just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.

    Glen Davidson

  6. Trebuchet says

    It is sadly possible, I think, to be both stupid and clever at the same time. Perhaps “cunning” would be better than clever, but you get the idea.

  7. betelgeux says

    How do you think (the majority) of people would react if alien/cult conspiracy theories were displayed at the Devil’s Tower visitor’s center? There would be a considerable amount of outrage.

    Creationism has an advantage that alien nonsense doesn’t have–it has the backing of religion. It’s been a part of the public consciousness for centuries, drilled into the minds of the masses by preachers and the bible. This has made it almost invincible, it’s hard to fight against it without directly attacking religion itself, which will inevitably lead to cries of offense from the poor, persecuted xians.

  8. grumpyoldfart says

    I’d be interested see the sources of cash donations received by the Natural Trust in the months leading up to the time it started pandering to Creationists. I’m sure the original source would be well hidden, but I’ll bet there’s a “well-known Christian benefactor” lurking somewhere in the background.

  9. says

    I think that ‘cunning’ is exactly the word, Trebuchet. The first adjective definition I find is “1. craftiness, esp in deceiving,” which is the Discovery Institute to a T.

  10. RFW says

    @ #8: betelgeux says:

    How do you think (the majority) of people would react if alien/cult conspiracy theories were displayed at the Devil’s Tower visitor’s center? There would be a considerable amount of outrage.

    I’m none too certain that there would be any outrage at all. The fraction of the population that holds to various unsupported, anti-evidentiary beliefs is very high. Just look in your local “alternative” newspaper and there’s a very good chance you will see innumerable ads for quack therapies of many types, e.g. naturopathy, chiropractic, homeopathy, ear coning, iridology, aromatherapy, colonic irrigation, reiki, rolfing, reflexology, weird dietary systems and so on (and on and on).

    You may be quite sure that there is a parallel set of beliefs centered around aliens, UFOs, etc, and that its adherents are as firmly attached to those beliefs as fundies are to creationism or conspiracy nuts are to their theories about the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001.

    I’ll furthermore assert that most, perhaps even all, adherents to nonsense belief systems are subliminally aware that they are in the same boat with all the others, and hence will accept without protest public displays of those other systems.

    As for that phrase “teach the controversy”, the most appropriate response is “there is no controversy.” Creationism in any form is not science, and pretenses that it is are simply fabrications.

  11. says

    How do you think (the majority) of people would react if alien/cult conspiracy theories were displayed at the Devil’s Tower visitor’s center? There would be a considerable amount of outrage.

    Well… they did have the painting of the giant bear climbing it when I was there.

  12. isochron says

    …so when an official government agency gives even a tiny sop of acknowledgment to bogus nonsense like creationism, it legitimizes their claims,…

    A small correction. The national trust is not an official government agency, it’s a charitable trust which operates on public donations, voluntary work, and membership fees. It does apply for and sometimes receive funding from the national lottery fund, although that isn’t really government funding either.

    Doesn’t change the fact that it is most unfortunate that they have done this very silly thing, however.

  13. wcorvi says

    There was a school system, I think in Kansas, that initially demanded that creationism be taught along side of evolution, ‘to teach the controversy’ and ‘to give a balanced view.’ As soon as they got that installed, they demanded to eliminate evolution, so as ‘to not confuse their students.’

  14. Dick the Damned says

    Exactly! Creationists are not stupid.

    But they are crazy. And i bet some are stupid too.

    Anyone who believes what it says in a book that what was written & redacted in pre-scientific eras, & which conflicts with scientific findings, (quite apart from being self-contradictory), has gotta be one or the other, or even both. Okay, i guess some may be just plain old ignorant, too.

  15. says

    Creationists aren’t a homogenous group. Some are well meaning and ignorant, others are intelligent and sociopathic.

    They feed off each other. The intelligent sociopaths supply the arguments for the gullible to use and the gullible supply the sociopaths with money and adoration. It’s a nice little ecosystem of bullshit.

    People like the Hovind’s and WLC are of the lying bastard variety. They know that what they’re saying isn’t true. They don’t care. They get the book deals and speaking engagements and the cheers from the crowd. Who cares if the arguments don’t hold up.

    Don’t confuse saying stupid things with being stupid. They’re not stupid. The reason they say stupid things is that we’re not their audience.
    When WLC has a debate, he’s not really debating the other guy. He’s making a sales pitch to his customers. It doesn’t matter if the arguments are transparent to us. He was never trying to sell us anything. We’re not the target market.

    They’re dishonest, unethical, greedy little shits. But they’re not stupid.

  16. kassad says

    There seem to be a surge in creationist non-sense in Europe. If it is a gift from our american cousin, I’m pretty sure we would have prefered flowers. A surge in religion ain’t what the doctor recommended.

    The problem with “Teach the Controversy” is no just religious. When you say there is a controversy when there is none, it not only give room to the creationists to spew their idiocy, but everyone is free to offer is explanation: aliens, mayans, atlanteans, mermaids, giant sentient bananas. These guys help every kooks on the planets to come up with their explanations for wathever they want and let them whine they should have a slot to explain their non-sense in the name of fairness. Every “theories” should be heard with an open mind right? Talk about muddling the water.

  17. says

    Yabbut they don’t have to “convert the American public overnight” or any other way. The American public is already converted — only a minority accept the fact of evolution without supernatural intervention, and half believe in young earth creationism and don’t accept that evolution happened at all.

  18. jamessweet says

    Oh, we can give a millimeter in compromise, I think: As I suggest in the other thread, let them have the sign exactly as is, simply add an addendum: “This, of course, is complete bullocks.”

  19. pipenta says

    Is there any push back against this Giant’s Causeway creationist exhibit thing? Any effort to get it removed?

  20. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

    pipenta, there has been a shitstorm of epic proportions thrown at the NT, of which the NH article is one small facet. The NT are trying to stick to their guns, correctly saying that anyone who actually visits the centre will come away with the clear message that the scientific explanation of the origin of the Causeway is the correct one. What people are (so far wit limited success) trying to explain to them is that, as LykeX puts it above, the visitors are not the creasciolists’ target market. They simply deliberately quote mine the exhibit to misrepresent the NT’s stance to people who will never set foot in Ireland.

  21. sapphire says

    This particular fight actually dates back to around 2007 when a local group’s minister got up a campaign to teach ID as well as to have ID references shown in museums and other sites.
    That campaign died out but the idea got the backing of the Caleb Foundation.
    The Caleb Foundation is a religio-political organisation with string links to Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party and the Orange order (both hard line protestant theocratic organisations). The Discovery Institute also got involved as did Northern Irish MP and creationist Mervyn Storey.
    Caleb Foundation is dangerously theocratic and Reconstructionist, spouting the usual line that government is under the delegated authority of God and must be exercised according to the will of God as interpreted by hard line protestant fundamentalists. Education is the responsibility of fathers, guided by the church and should teach only those things necessary for salvation and eternity. All else is psuedo education.
    DUP has a strong following in Northern Ireland but most of its supporters are unaware of its real face.
    There are efforts to get the display removed or changed but – you know – freedom of speech, human rights, religious freedom – we have all that crap here too.
    The irony, lost on most, is that Caleb is using human rights legislation when it stands for the restriction and removal of most of those rights.
    Anyway, thanks for giving this a world wide exposure.

  22. hypatiasdaughter says

    #16 LykeX – Spot on!
    I cannot get a handle on exactly how “stupid” the leaders of the CreoID movement are.
    Susan Jacoby had a debate over xtianity with D’Souza, that was analyzed by Beahan and Brayton on Reasonable Doubts: http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2012/05/30/rd-extra-debunking-dsouza/
    They kept granting how intelligent D’Souza was. But D’Souza kept spewing blatant falsehoods about the founding of the U.S. that could only be described as lies if he was as intelligent and informed as they granted him.
    Two choices – either he is ignorant of the history; or he isn’t ignorant and is therefore lying.
    The disturbing question is what goal do they have that makes them lie so blatantly? I cannot see in them the naive but passionate fear of you going to hell that makes the average xtian want to convert you. They mean well and they are genuinely afraid for you.
    There is something deeper and more rotten about what D’Souza & WLC (and anyone who wants to establish xtian political hegemony in the U.S.) are trying to do.
    I guess that’s why I really hate fuckers like them.

  23. lamanga says

    The National Trust (NI) sent me a vanilla reply to my email. (My bold.)

    Dear Lamanga
    Thank you for your e-mail in relation to interpretation at the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre.

    We would like to stress that all of the information presented to visitors in relation to how the Giant’s Causeway was formed, and how old it is, clearly reflects the science, i.e. that the Causeway stones are 60 million years old. This is reflected in the visitor centre, the audio trails which visitors use to explore the Causeway stones, and in all the literature provided both before and during the visit.

    There is no creationist interpretation and no alternative theories as to the formation of the Causeway are presented.

    This is a stunning state of the art interpretation centre with over 50 exhibits and interactive displays and two hours of audio trails. One of the exhibits in the Visitor Centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historical debate which took place about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth. This is an interactive installation in which by pressing buttons visitors can hear a flavour of some of the different debates from historical characters over centuries. In the context of this exhibit listeners hear a statement that for some people this debate continues today and that Creationists have a different understanding from that of science. We do not explain, justify or support that view.

    We are sorry that you are unhappy about this exhibit. However, we hope that you will have the opportunity to come to the Giant’s Causeway, enjoy the visitor centre and see the interpretation in its entirety. The Centre, which opened on 3rd July, is receiving great feedback from visitors.

    I guess you nailed it. Wedge firmly inserted where none need be present.

  24. kieran says

    Tried to contact the national trust directly, as far as they are concerened they support the science 100% but felt that because so many in Northern Ireland hold a creationist view it should reflected in one small section in the display. They probably dealt with Caleb in good faith and bought into the present both sides argument. Unfortunatley they are now relaising that dealing with creationists is just not worht the hassle.
    Unfortunately direct political action is hard due to the nature of the power sharing agreement everybodies view is valid so pointing out that the some of the minsters are complete religous nutjobs isn’t going to happen.
    Legal option would be hard, while there is a freedom of religion section in the Belfast Agreement there isn’t any case of church and state seperation in the north.

  25. julietdefarge says

    There may not be large groups of Hindus or Muslims in Northern Ireland, but perhaps they could be encouraged to demand that Their version of the origin of geological formations also be represented.

  26. says

    It’s no better in Australia:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/education/experimentation-on-the-science-syllabus-puts-feelings-before-facts/story-fn59nlz9-1226422078412

    Behind a paywall but the first lines give you the drift:

    “SCIENCE as taught in Queensland schools is a “social and cultural activity” that generates explanations of natural phenomenon based on “personal experiences”, a view rejected by the nation’s deans of science as fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of scientific inquiry.
    The description is contained in an overarching statement introducing the syllabus for physics, chemistry and biology for Years 11 and 12 entitled: “A view of science and science education.” ”

    It’s being derided as postmodernism in education, but it sounds very like the way creationists edge into science.

  27. douglashudson says

    Creationists are not stupid, and they certainly aren’t crazy. (obligatory “crazy is an ableist slur” reminder.)

    What they are is arrogant. They refuse to question the underlying assumptions of their beliefs, and, worse, they try to enforce their beliefs on everyone else.

    If the creationists were content to keep their beliefs to themselves, no one would care.

  28. johnlee says

    Lamanga,
    Can you give us the National Trust (NI)’s email address so we can all voice our concerns about this?

    Thanks

  29. kieran says

    enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk is their main one and it’s the one I used at first, been sent two emails, first was a copy and paste of what most people have gotten except mine has a Q&A section
    ni.customerenquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk They want people to direct their emails to the northern irish branch basically is a northern problem for northern people.

    Sorry about the lack of block quotes

    block quote=”Thank you for your comments and feedback regarding the Giants Causeway exhibit.

    The Giant’s Causeway visitor centre provides a state-of-the-art exhibition area which showcases the science and the stories of the Giant’s Causeway.

    All of the information presented to visitors in relation to how the Giant’s Causeway was formed, and how old it is, clearly reflects mainstream scientific understanding that the Causeway stones were formed 60 million years ago.

    For centuries the Giant’s Causeway has prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is.

    One of the exhibits in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historic debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth.

    In this exhibit we also state that for some people this debate continues today.

    A National Trust spokesperson said: “The interpretation in the visitor centre showcases the science of how the stones were formed, the history of this special place and the stories of local characters.

    “We reflect, in a small part of the exhibition, that the Causeway played a role in the historic debate about the formation of the earth, and that for some people this debate continues today.

    “The National Trust fully supports the scientific explanation for the creation of the stones 60 million years ago.

    “We would encourage people to come along, view the interpretation and judge for themselves.”

    Below are some Frequently Asked Questions regarding the exhibit:

    Q. Is there a debate about the age of the earth – why is NT suggesting science is up for debate?

    A. No, there is no debate on the age of the earth. The National Trust fully supports and promotes the science in relation to the formation of the Giant’s Causeway and the age of the earth.

    All of the information presented to visitors in relation to how the Giant’s Causeway was formed, and how old it is, clearly reflects science and that the Causeway stones are 60 million years old.

    Q. What does the controversial interpretation refer to ?

    A. In summary, one of the exhibits in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historical debate which took place about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth.

    The detail of the exhibit which sparked the discussion consists of five different audio samples triggered by buttons. It is designed to give a flavour of the historical debates there have been over the Causeway’s formation – starting with arguments between Sir Thomas Molyneux and a mystery correspondent (probably George Ashe) over whether the columns were fossil or mineral. The next clip sets out a flavour of the argument between Vulcanists and Neptunists. The next clip details how James Hutton’s work opened the way for definitive proof of an ancient earth. The forth clip mentions a theory published in the 1800s that the Causeway was fossilised bamboo. Then the final clip states that Young Earth Creationists wish to continue the debate today, as they believe the earth is only 6000 years old. The National Trust does not support this view.

    Q. What is in the visitor centre ?
    A. We have an amazing visitor centre with fantastic facilities, walking trails, and the interpretation includes many themes and topics. These include science, geology, wildlife, history and myths and legends and stories of local characters, past and present. Please see the attachment of the Welcome Leaflet on the email body.

    Q. Will we be changing the exhibition?

    A. The entire interpretation in the Visitor Centre has just been installed. We have no plans to change this exhibit at present.

    Q. What is the National Trust’s relationship with the Caleb Foundation

    A. Caleb is an organisation which expressed interest in our plans for the Visitor Centre interpretation. As part of the consultation process on the development of the Interpretation we met with a wide range of groups – international visitors, community, funders, scientific community and Caleb was only one of those groups. We met with Caleb and discussed our plans for visitor centre interpretation as we did with many groups.

    Q. Did the National Trust receive any funding from Caleb?

    A. No.

    Q. Did the National Trust take any wording from Caleb ?

    A. None of the language in the interpretation came from the Caleb Foundation

    Q. Why did you only consult with Caleb groups as your religious group ?

    A. We did not only consult with Caleb in the process. The consultation process was with a wide range of stakeholders, including radio and press adverts to stimulate awareness. Caleb responded in the consultation process. We simply reference in a small part of the interpretation that they hold a different view from science but the National Trust does not support or endorse this view.

    Q. This interpretation makes the Visitor Centre unsuitable for children/education visits

    A. All of the information on how the Giant’s Causeway was formed and how old it is reflects science: i.e. that it is around 60 million years old. The interpretation in the Visitor Centre is very child friendly and suitable for education visits. The National Trust fully supports and promotes the science in relation to the formation of the Giant’s Causeway.

    Q. Does the National Trust have any plans to change interpretation at other sites to reflect the Creationist perspective?

    A. No. The exhibit at the Giant’s Causeway is specific to that site and tells the story of the part the Causeway played in the historical debate which took place about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth.

    Q. Was the National Trust under pressure from political parties to include Creationist perspective in the centre ?

    A. This is not a creationist exhibition. We undertook an extensive consultation process with a range of stakeholders, including the local community, international and domestic visitors, the scientific community and political stakeholders. These consultations informed the National Trust’s decisions on the interpretive content of the entire exhibition. We the National Trust took the decision to include the exhibit in question in the interpretation.

    Q. Was funding for the Creationist perspective funded by government money ?

    A. It is not a creationist representation within the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre – we simply reference that Creationists have a different perspective – we do not explain, support or justify those views. The £18.5 million project for the new facilities, interpretation and trails was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (£3million), £9.25million from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board with support from the European Union Regional Development fund and £6.25 million from the National Trust. Our interpretation was supported within this overall package.

    Q. Why is the Creationist perspective used in the centre ?

    A. It is not a creationist representation within the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre – we simply reference that Creationist have a different perspective – we do not explain support or justify those views One of the exhibits in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historical debate which took place about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth. This is an interactive, audio exhibit in which visitors can hear a flavour of some of the different debates from historical characters. In this exhibit we also acknowledge that for some people this debate continues today, and we simply reference the fact that Creationists have a different perspective from that of science. We do not support or endorse their views.

    Q. Were the funders aware of this inclusion ?

    A. We kept all the funders abreast of the full interpretative approach and content during its development.

    Q. Can I still access the stones for free ?

    A. Anyone entering the site on foot has free access to the stones and linked path network.

    They actually don’t realise that they were played, they are begining to get that idea now.”