Northern Ireland, you really don’t want to become the Texas of Europe

There’s goofy stuff coming out of the lunatics following Ian Paisley—the chair of the Education Committee is a creationist, apparently, that wacky party is trying to get creationism taught in the schools, claiming “it can stand scientific scrutiny”, and what’s this about trying to label the Giant’s Causeway with a creationist explanation? The Pagan Prattle has the links. This is not a good path for Northern Ireland to be taking.


  1. Tony Lloyd says

    The causeway was created by neither God nor Geology: every one knows it was built by Finn MacCool.

  2. says

    The over-reaction to Reiss probably didn’t help.

    Certainly the (probably garbled) message attributed to Reiss was over the top. But his overall message that creationist students should be engaged wasn’t enough reason to make him lose his position.

    I’ll bet it’s going to feed the martyr complex, however much stupidity it takes to do so.

    Glen D

  3. Whit says

    Wait… how is a flood supposed to make the Giant’s Causeway? Have these people ever seen what the leftovers of a flood look like?

  4. sjburnt says

    But i wonder if it’d all have turned out the same
    If jim and he had a smoke

    And talked about racehorses
    And the epistles of st. paul
    Over a bottle of bushmills
    They could have settled it all.

  5. says

    Teach the Finn MacCool controversy!
    Or the Hellboy 2 controversy – or even the Led Zeppelin album cover controversy! Anything but that silly flood geology crap.

  6. BigBob says

    What on Earth causes Paisley to back this horse? They’re not even attempting to dress it up as ‘Intelijunt Desine’. By the time it occurs to them that they should have re-labelled it ID, it’ll be too late. And it’s not as if NI is a hotbed of creationism. Legless carthorse anyone?

  7. Epinephrine says

    My clan’s from N.I., and I enjoyed our visits with them greatly – very nice, sensible folk they are.

    That said, we stocked up on things like The Pill before going to stay in Ireland/N.I. for a long period of time, as there are issues with religion poking its head into what should be secular life. In that way, I’m not too surprised that there is a creationist push – in the Republic of Ireland it used to be virtually impossible to get condoms, though it’s much better now.

  8. says

    I was just thinking how it’s surprising the IRA or other group didn’t do in Paisley during the years of terrorism. But then the thought came to mind that Paisley was of more value as a live demagogue to those folks than as a possible martyr to their enemies.

  9. says

    “What on Earth causes Paisley to back this horse?”
    “And it’s not as if NI is a hotbed of creationism.”

    You don’t know Northern Ireland much BigBob, do you?
    ‘Dr’ Ian Paisley got his doctorate (in theology) in the US in Bob Jones University.
    Modern creationist religious thinking was pretty much invented in Ireland (Bishop Ussher, J. N. Darby the originator of the modern rapture myth, etc) and the DUP are the current major exponents (although they don’t consider themselves Irish).

  10. Nick Gotts says

    Glen Davidson@2, BigBob@8,

    Paisley and his crew are fundamentalists and literalists – they are backing creationism because they believe in it, and the Reiss case has precisely 0 to do with it.

  11. Richard Harris says

    …become the Texas of Europe…

    I’ve never been to the north, but the south is very nice.

    We went to look inside a chuch in downtown Dublin, (for architectural appreciation reasons), & had a shock: it was just about full of people doing religion observance. Such places are always empty of people trying to suck up to a god in England. It looked so wwweeeiiirrrddd. But the quality of the Guiness more than makes up for the superstition shortcomings.

    So, what does Texas have to make up for craziness?

  12. Celtic_Evolution says

    My family’s clan hails from Donegal… so although not technically Northern Ireland, it’s close enough that I feel a sense of shame for the people of my ancestry if they continue down this path.

  13. raven says

    Never been to NI, certainly no reason to go there. I’ve read that while the hot shooting Reformation war is over, there is still a cold war between the 2 xian sects. Walls between neighborhoods, separate schools, separate societies, a lot of bigotry, and so on.

    With that sort of conflict, you end up with hardened extreme positions on both sides. The Catholics are very Catholic and the Protestants are very Protestant.

    Since the Catholics are not creos, at least officially, the Protestants probably adopted creationism just to stick it to them. A lot of this is just in group versus out group tribal behavior. Unlike the USA where it is…in group versus out group tribal behavior.

  14. SamP says

    The NI environment Minister is a MMGW sceptic too (‘Its a hysterical pseudo-religion’, to paraphrase). Google recent news for Sammy Wilson.

  15. WithoutSol says

    PZ: I read this and other ScienceBlogs every day. I do not deny that Texas is full of evangelical bullshit, but as a Texan (born and raised) I know from experience that not all of us are crazy religious… or religious at all (like my-atheist self). I was born in Houston, lived there in fundie east TX for a while and now live in Austin; which is very tolerant. So please when you insult Texas, please leave out Austin. Its the shining blue gem of Texas.

  16. The Petey says

    there is still a cold war between the 2 xian sects. Walls between neighborhoods, separate schools, separate societies, a lot of bigotry, and so on.

    They just need a large population of jews to move in and they will have a COMMON enemy to rain their bigotry on.

    * no, this is not meant to be anti-semitic and I have NO data on what the actual jewish population of NI is.

  17. says

    Texas is about 50 times the size of NI, a damp but pretty hole of a place with a population of about 1.7 million. The Texans might be pissed off at the comparison ;-)

    Those of us who live in NI already know that the DUP is a party of religious fundamentalists and they have been trying to foist their views on state school education for a while now. They’re the largest political party here, so many of my neighbours MUST support their loony views. Most of them are involved in the church Ian Paisley founded, which also runs its own private schools. Can you imagine what they teach…poor children.

    There is a good alternative to school education, for those who don’t want our children’s education to suffer the interference of fundies.

  18. says

    I didn’t mean to capitalise the word “must” just now, nor did I mean to imply that most of my neighbours are Free Presbyterians (Paisley’s church) but that most DUP politicians are.

  19. says

    He’s a terrorist.

    Why should anyone take him seriously.

    The solution to the violence, that he and Martin McGuinness were promoting, is that the heads of the different terrorist organizations are the leaders of the government.

  20. Alan Chapman says

    …it can stand scientific scrutiny…

    Either they don’t understand what constitutes EVIDENCE or they’re being intentionally deceptive. Despite unlimited opportunity to present EVIDENCE, they resort to the same unconvincing appeals to emotion and ignorance. The inability to explain ‘x’ does not constitute evidence in favor of cockamamie conjecture.

  21. Desert Son says

    Richard Harris posted:

    So, what does Texas have to make up for craziness?

    A couple of recommendations:

    I highly recommend the sunsets in the Chihuahua Desert region of West Texas. For example, if you can catch one from the foothills of El Paso’s Franklin Mountains looking west into New Mexico, especially if there’s a small storm over Southern New Mexico behind which the sun is setting, it’s spectacularly beautiful (lightning forks descending amidst the rain curtain layered over the brilliant blood orange fusion reaction in the distance – positively breathtaking).

    On the culinary front, I recommend Texas barbecue (or BBQ, or Bar-B-Q, depending on region/semantic preference). Less sweet than traditional Carolina barbecue, generally hotter with lots of spice. Mouthwaterin’ good, particularly if paired with an ice cold beer (lager). I recognize that some regions of the world find chilled beer suspect. When the ambient temperature is in the 36-40 C range on a hot Texas day, with the perspiration running down the bottle, a chilled beer with your barbecue is a wonderful thing. Personally, I prefer brisket, but ribs are wonderfully done here, too.

    I invite comments from fellow Texans on other commendable aspects of the Lone Star State. It’s always easy to point out a region’s nuttiness (and Texas has plenty, truthfully admitted), but it’s nice to hear about the positive things, too. At the least, I hope folks elsewhere in the world will understand that Texas has folks trying to counter the ills we recognize.

    From Austin, and with, as ever, wishes for

    No kings,


  22. Desert Son says

    Cheers to RM for the notation about brisket, and for my own tardiness with posting, I can only say, “Curse my metal body, I wasn’t fast enough” /slowtypistreferencingC3PO

    No kings,


  23. Ichthyic says

    claiming “it can stand scientific scrutiny”

    Whee! I love it when they say that.

    Really gives ya somethin’ ta sink yer teeth inta!

    It’s like they really WANT to commit intellectual suicide. Must have something to do with that “rapture” mentality.

  24. Ichthyic says

    “Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as Vice President of the United States?”

    I see the script-monkeys have got it running almost neck and neck now.

  25. The Petey says

    Desert Son:

    St. Arnold Brewery out of houston does put out some fine beer. And having roses bloom 11 out of 12 months is pretty neat.

  26. me says

    “Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as Vice President of the United States?”

    Bad question. She is qualified to be the Vice President, after all, the Vice President does very little (usually, the present occupant of that office is an exception). She isn’t qualified to be President, if McCain were to die (very possible for a man of his age and health).

  27. says

    Sigmund @12,

    agree with you generally, but:

    the DUP are the current major exponents (although they don’t consider themselves Irish)

    Paisley does, though. The question of identity in Northern Ireland is not simple, and “British” and “Irish” are not mutually exclusive categories for everybody there (and nor should they be).

    Sammy “So is you here on holiday?” Wilson, now; he’s one who thinks B != I.

  28. Iain Walker says

    Having grown up in Northern Ireland, I can tell you that it has been the UK’s Bible Belt for a very, very long time. My former school (technically non-denominational, but overwhelmingly Protestant in intake) had a hardline fundamentalist Christian Union packed full of creationists, and I also had a biology teacher who if not a creationist himself was only too happy to curry favour with his creationist pupils, with such bon mots as “Evolution -if you happen to believe that kind of thing”. That was about 25 years ago, and at one of the top-ranked schools in NI.

    So this is nothing new. It’s only becoming a political issue now because the DUP (the political home of fundamentalist Ulster Protestantism) has finally acquired some real political power (albeit shared).

    By the by, the current Minister for Education in the NI Assembly is Caitriona Ruane, who’s a member of Sinn Fein. She’s OK with discussing creationism in Religious Education classes, but not in science classes (see BBC news story from last year here). Northern Ireland being the kind of place it is, having a member of a former terrorist front organisation in charge of children’s education is the preferable option.

  29. Cliff Hendroval says

    Less sweet than traditional Carolina barbecue,

    Not sure what you mean by this, as the version I’m familiar with (as is common in eastern NC) is chopped slow-roasted pork lightly marinated in and moistened with a peppery vinegar sauce.

  30. Saint Pudalia says

    As an atheist Texan, born and raised (and an Austinite to boot), I offer the following:

    Houston Grand Opera
    Art Car Parade
    The Beer Can House
    Col Bubbie’s Army Surplus
    Big Bend National Park
    Whooping Cranes
    Robert Rauschenberg
    Tex-Mex cooking
    Kerrville Folk Festival
    Terry Allen
    Cadillac Ranch
    Chili as the State Dish
    Home of the first atheist radio show (on KPFT)
    Molly Ivins & Ann Richards
    Home of the first PBS station
    Lady Bird and, of course:

  31. E.V. says

    Yeah, yeah, Texas is a study in contrasts, BBQ,Tex-Mex, Molly & Anne, Barbara Jordan, John Henry Falk, Kinky, Leftie, Willie, Waylon, blah, blah, blah. If I start listing the bad points, it’ll look like one of those bloated posts by the cracker agonists.
    For those of us here who no longer buy into theism (or never did), we are the slimmest of minorities and definitely outgunned out-shouted by the fascist fundies in the “we’re loud, we’re proud, we’re here for Jeebus” vs. “Your God is a fabrication so keep him to yourself” rhetoric war.
    Our fundies seem to have more political power than most other states except Kansas and Florida. (We’ve got one in the Whitehouse, even though he’s masquerading as a more moderate Methodist)
    As for Austin, it is a dubious oasis of less conservative ideology but it doesn’t counter the ignorant bible thumping majority charmingly folksy but naively religious majority of the LSS.

    BTW, Molly wasn’t born here, but she stayed once she got here, bless her heart.

  32. Tom (the Belfast one) says

    Someone asked “why did Paisley back this horse”. What you maybe don’t realise is that Paisley and his ilk are the wackaloons who have held NI back for decades. Paisley is/was a personal friend of Bob Jones, of Bob Jones stupiversity fame (sorry, I don’t know if the auld fecker is still alive.

    Paisley, the bigotted old bastard has a lot to do with why I had to live through decades of “the troubles”.

  33. The Petey says

    My first encounter with TX fundies after I moved to Houston was a co-worker trying to convince me of the scientific proofs that state the moon is only 5000 years old. I was scairt.

  34. Desert Son says

    Cliff Hendroval:

    Not sure what you mean by this, as the version I’m familiar with (as is common in eastern NC) is chopped slow-roasted pork lightly marinated in and moistened with a peppery vinegar sauce.

    My mistake, then. My experience with Carolina barbecue was at a place called Bubba’s on Cape Hatteras back in the ’90s, and it seemed to my palate to have a sweeter taste (molasses content, maybe? Not sure), but that may not be traditional, nor even common (or accurate!).

    Thanks for the clarification. I need to expand my barbecue horizons (sadly, this may also mean expanding my belt horizons)!

    No kings,


  35. Nick Gotts says

    The chances of the UK adopting sharia law in the next 50 years are about the same as the USA doing so.

  36. Holbach says

    Reminds me of a quote by Ingersoll that I cannot locate at hand and can’t quote verbatim, but it is familiar:

    “Religion has left Italy to an organ grinder, Spain to a guitar, and Ireland to exile.” Close enough.

  37. Natalie says

    Never mind, the internet has corrected me. Sweet sauces are all over. Apparently Kansas City barbecue sauce is known for being really sweet, so maybe that’s what you had, Robert.

  38. E.V. says

    …and to top it all off, both sides of my family are of Irish and Welsh descent. I am surrounded by YEC’s geographically and geneologically.

    Robert Rauschenberg and Janis Joplin were fromthe hell hole of Port Arthur.

  39. says

    Sadly for NI this isn’t the first time the religious whack-jobs have tried to have a hand in directing education into the sewer. Several members of the devolved government are so obsessed about their religious beliefs they have pushed for creationism (as well as the outrageous comments about homosexuals that got a lot more publicity).

    You’d think a country that is trying to pull itself out of over 30 years of actual violence spurred on crackpot religious viewpoints (yeah, I know there was more to it than that but…) would have learned enough to move away from this…

    On a side note, Paisley has many more crazy, crazy ideas… How he has any credibility is beyond me.

  40. amk says

    The Petey,

    They just need a large population of jews to move in and they will have a COMMON enemy to rain their bigotry on.

    Muslims are more useful for that these days. I remember a story from before 9/11 that there was a campaign against a mosque being built, with the campaigners claiming that it could introduce religious fanaticism and intolerance into Northern Ireland. BBC Radio 4’s Northern Irish reporter was aware of the irony, and thoroughly embarrassed.

    The last I heard the largest minority in NI was Chinese, of whom there were a few thousand. 2001 census reports 5,000 non-Christian religions, out of 1.7m. 235,000 no stated religion.

  41. Marc Abian says

    This is why I don’t even want the north back (though I’m in a tiny minority on this one).

    Though in fairness, it’s not like we don’t have cardinals trying to wedge religion back in down here seen as the government is weak right now.

  42. Meg K. says

    First thought: Ian Paisley’s still alive? Drat, it’s too bad he didn’t die while I wasn’t looking.

  43. Shane McKee says

    Folks, don’t panic too much – there is a fine and solid cadre of people (including quite a lot of Christians) who recognise that creationists are nutters, and who are prepared to take them on. This issue hits our media from time to time, and invariably the creationists are smacked down.

    PZ was recently interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster (NI’s main BBC radio channel) about the cracker incident; Will Crawley (the interviewer) has also interviewed Richard Dawkins several times (Dawkins rather likes him – he’s good).

    Also, for a bit of fun, why not head over to William’s BBC blog: – there you can feast on some of the cultural/ethical/religious morsels that come our way.

    If we might borrow a term of Paisley’s, with regard to creationists: NO SURRENDER!

  44. Desert Son says


    Apparently Kansas City barbecue sauce is known for being really sweet, so maybe that’s what you had, Robert.

    Aha! We may have a winner. I may have been confusing KC BBQ with that further east.

    In which case, not only do I need to continue barbecue research, but clearly have to go back to geography class, too. :)

    Anyway, thanks to all for the clarification/edification. Richard Harris, as you can see, I’m clearly not the person to defer to on matters of barbecue lore . . . but I stand by my opinion on the desert sunsets! :)

    Also kudos to E.V. for the Stevie Ray Vaughan mention. Absolutely!

    No kings,


  45. Sarcastro says

    It’s Fionn mac Cumhaill, you illiterates.

    It’s Goídelc is what it is. You’ll never spell it right without lenited consonants.

    I’m supposedly descended from that giant, although when I told an Irishman I was a Maccool on my mother’s side he pointed out I was pretty much descended from horse-thieves. Descended from Orangemen on my dad’s side though. Got kicked out of Scotland, kicked out of Ireland, kicked out of New York, kicked out of Pennsylvania, kicked out of Virginia and finally came to Tennessee where we found someone we could kick out.

    Oh, and devised the best fucking barbecue on Earth. Yea, KC sauce is OK, but those midwestern heathens have this bizarre idea that BEEF is barbecue. Now THAT is screwy ass.

  46. says

    I will always admire Paisley for finally sitting down and talking to the Republican Sinn Fein, with whom until his recent retirement he shared power in the government Northern Ireland. That’s a leopard who changed his spots. Two leopards, if you count the Provisional IRA who, through the offshoot Sinn Fein party, shifted from bullet to ballot box.

    Paisley is also fairly left-wing in his social sympathies and he worked well with his constituency which contained a large number of Roman Catholics.

    Having said that, Paisley’s religious beliefs are those of the Bob Jones University alumnus that he is. Many in the leadership of his party share his religious views, and some even share his minority church, the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, also known as the “Wee Frees”. In the power-sharing Executive, basically, you have to rely on the Republicans, who are nominally Catholic and usually fairly sensible, to ensure that this nonsense gets no further. The Education Minister is Caitriona Ruane, a Sinn Fein politician who represents the constituency of South Down.

  47. guthrie says

    Hey, Feorag has hit the big time! I wonder if they have noticed?

    Sarcastro #64- you do know why they got kicked out of Scotland though? THe short answer is that James the 6th had a good idea for clearing the borders of the troublesome horse and cattle thieves…

  48. Cruithne says

    Nice to see so many people here standing up to intolerance and ignorance through the medium of…er intolerance and ignorance.

    How does this work exactly?

    We rail against one group for relying on superstition, ignorance and fake facts and we use the very same things to do it.
    Jesus H Smith, ever hear of a self defeating argument?
    As a former resident of Northern Ireland it dismays me to see one by product of the welcomed peace deal was a move towards the religious right trying to shuffle us all back into some new dark ages.

    But we don’t defeat that by besmirching an entire people as cattle thieves, imply they are scum (hey, that’s me and my children you’re talking about when you say that) or falsely claiming someone is a terrorist.
    Someone here expressed regret that a terrorist organisation didn’t assasinate a democratically elected politician, wow how enlightened.
    Wan’t there a thread here the other day pointing out that some mad creationist said all terrorists are Dawkinists?

    Anyway, keep kicking against the pricks, but don’t stoop to their methods.

  49. John C. Randolph says

    Is that the same Ian Paisley who made a career out of stirring up as much catholic vs. protestant violence as he could, for several decades? Is that the bloodthirsty motherfucker we’re talking about here?


  50. John C. Randolph says

    Paisley was of more value as a live demagogue to those folks than as a possible martyr to their enemies.

    True… When you’re in a war, it’s certainly advantageous to have enemies who are as stupid as possible.

    I remember reading that the Brits had several plans to kill Hitler at various times during the war, but passed on them because they were better off with Hitler in charge. If they’d killed him, someone competent to run a war might have gotten control, with disastrous results for the world.


  51. Starviking says


    As another former NI resident I’m in total agreement with you – demonizing one side of the community is a very easy thing to do, especially for the mentally lazy and incurious.

    On Paisley, he’s a mixed bag. A former rabble-rouser and possibly one of the formentors of the Troubles – but in recent years he’s pushed for reconciliation – which considering how far right-of-centre he was was a big move to make. Apparently he was always a very good MP for his Catholic constituents – he took his job seriously. I just wish our current bunch would do the same (or that more people would vote for the non-sectarian Alliance Party).

    Standing up for Northern Ireland a bit – whilst Archbishop Usher of Armagh (my old hometown) created that 4400BC nonsense, one of his successors Archbishop Robinson set up the Armagh Observatory – which is doing sterling work in science and science education alongside the Armagh Planetarium.

  52. Shane says

    Archbishop Ussher was a very intelligent man, and did a sterling job with the evidence he had available to him. Back then, all there was was the bible; no Egyptian hieroglyphs, no Akkadian or Sumerian, no geology, no biology worth talking about.

    What he did was use the Bible (and multiple texts thereof), and work out the chronological correspondences, assuming the “originals” were correct. In this respect, ya gotta hand it to him.

    To be honest, I have no doubts that if he had lived a few centuries later, he would have been more than happy to accept the findings of science. Nowadays people like Ussher, Lamarck and Paley are almost vilified, but their errors actually help us to perceive the truth, which is nice, if somewhat ironic. Maybe it’s time he was rehabilitated a bit.

    A hugely impressive intellect; such a shame to have it wasted (along with so many others) in farting about looking for a non-existent space pixie.

  53. Nick Gotts says

    I agree with Shane on Ussher – given his assumptions, which were universal in his time and culture, his scholarship was pretty good. It’s a bit like the angels-on-pinheads thing, which regularly comes up here as an example of medieval stupidity: the dispute was whether the number who could dance on a pin was finite (but very large) or infinite, hence relevant to deep conceptual problems about the infinite and infinitesimal. In short, having creationist/medieval beliefs is stupid now, but it wasn’t stupid then.

  54. says

    People always argue that Ussher drew his conclusions from a rational analysis of the bible. It’s not true! The central assumption of his calculations was that there were 7 millennial periods, each exactly 1000 years long, paralleling the 7 days of the bible. That’s how he got the date of 4004BC; the one ‘firm’ date he had was that Jesus was born in 4BC, so he ‘knew’ the world had to have been created precisely 4000 years before.

    It was an exercise in numerology and fitting the facts to his premise.

  55. Shane says

    PZ – yes, where did you get that from? I certainly hadn’t run across it before (but then I haven’t read Ussher’s originals either).

    That notwithstanding, you can sometimes take a really stupid idea and use it to come up with some great ideas – take Mickey Behe’s flagellum. We probably wouldn’t know as much detail about the exquisite evolution of this piece of “molecular machinery”, if Mickey hadn’t issued his patently absurd “challenges”. You can use daft things as a counterfoil to develop clever things. Of course, that’s not to justify “teaching the controversy” in schools, but I have to say that my own frustration at creationist crap (in Northern Ireland) has led to me reading a lot more evo-devo than I might otherwise have done, so in some ways good can come from evil.

    But if you can come up with an Ussher ref re the millennial periods, that would certainly dent a few cherished notions I had.

  56. Shane says

    Quick Google:

    Ussher himself estimated that the second coming of Christ would occur exactly 6000 years after the creation of the world, that is, in the fall of 1996. His conclusion is based of the view that each day of creation represents a thousand years. This view is called the “millennial week.” Thus, according to Ussher, on the seventh millennial day, October 23, 1996, Jesus Christ would return to earth and life as we know today would cease.

    OK, so I guess that makes Ussher a dumb arse after all then.

    Unless we missed something. Did we??