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.”
>>>UPDATE Wednesday 3 October: Review now complete – see details here.>>>
Notes to editors
This is an interactive audio exhibit: by pressing buttons within this exhibit the visitor has an opportunity to hear a flavour of this debate between historical characters. In this exhibit we also reference the fact that Creationists today have a different understanding from that of mainstream science. A transcript of this section of the exhibit is available.
The National Trust undertook extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders in the planning and development of the entire interpretative content of the exhibition.
The consultation included the local community and existing visitors to the World Heritage Site.
This exhibit is just one of many great stories we tell at the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre. The interpretation covers many themes and topics, including science, geology, natural history, myths and legends and the stories of local characters, past and present.
The Giant’s Causeway visitor experience cost £18.5million. Of this funding package, the National Trust provided £6.25m, the Department of Enterprise Trade & Investment, through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, awarded £9.25 million of which £6.125 million has been provided by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland with the Heritage Lottery Fund allocating £3million.
Ticket admission includes: access to the visitor centre, hand held pocket audio guide, orientation leaflets and car parking. Find out more on the Giant’s Causeway web pages.
Background to the National Trust:
The National Trust is a conservation charity which looks after special places throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We look after some of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful and special places – for ever, for everyone. The places in our care range from Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard, to our only World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway; from amazing gardens like Mount Stewart and Rowallane to mansions such as Castle Coole, The Argory and Florence Court and rare working mills like Patterson’s Spade Mill and Wellbrook Beetling Mill.
In all, in Northern Ireland, we protect and provide access to:
- Over 120 miles of coastline (about one third of Northern Ireland’s coastline)
- 40 square miles of countryside
- More than 200 listed buildings
- 4,000 hectares of farmed land
- Over 1,500 archaeological sites.
We are actively supported by over 56,000 members and over 2,000 volunteers in Northern Ireland. Well over a million visitors enjoy our sites every year. We encourage everyone to enjoy and care for our nature and heritage. In doing so, we also advocate the protection of the environment across all of Northern Ireland, not just at our own sites. Find out more at: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Transcript from debating characters on a listening point within the exhibition venue>>>
Stone or Giant Fossil? : Thomas Molyneux & St. George Ashe
Ah, so you’d like to know my opinion on the matter? Thomas Molyneux is the name, State Physician of Ireland my calling.
I made a long study of the Causeway, this wonder of creation, and the first thing to say is that it has nothing to do whatsoever with ancient myths and legends and so forth – superstitious nonsense!
I believe what we have here is simply basalt rock; now hours of study through my lens show no signs of fossils in the stones… whatever others may have to say on the matter… and whoever those others may be – these ridiculous letters aren’t even signed!
Oh, come now, Dr. Molyneux! I do not admit to writing any letters, but I shall freely confess to being St. George Ashe, Bishop of Cloyne, and to believing firmly that the fossils are not in the stones – they are the stones themselves!
The shape of the columns tells me that they are the stems of huge, fossilized sea creatures – mighty relatives of the little Entrochus fossils that the dedicated searcher may sometimes find along the coast.
Preposterous, old friend! One might as well talk of fairies and giants!
Tcha! We’ll see, Dr. Molyneux – we’ll see!
Forged in fire or born in water? : Nicholas Demarest & Abraham Werner
Bonjour! Nicolas Desmarest at your service! And so you are interested in knowing how the great stones were created, n’est-ce pas? Bien! Amateur I may be, but I am still a man of science. And, whatever Abraham Werner says, the Causeway is exactement like the volcanic stones in the Auvergne in France.
No, no, no, you say volcanic – I say it is…
Thank you, Herr Werner, but you will permit me to finish, s’il vous plaît! Ahem! I have observed this old lava again and again and everywhere in it – voilà! Columns. In the Giant’s Causeway, these same columns are proof of an old volcano. Werner may be a mining expert – but when it comes to geology…
…when it comes to geology, I am Teacher of Mining and Mineralogy at the Freiberg Mining Academy und NOT un amateur! I visited the most famous basaltic hill in Saxony, near Stolpen, in person, and it is not a volcano! More – there is no volcano anywhere near it! Earth’s waters, not its fires, created its rocks!
Bof! Mon dieu. Ignore Herr Werner! I myself have seen ancient lava that has flowed over great distances! You must search far to find its source – so perhaps this area, too, was once flooded with lava and…
Nein, Monsieur Desmarest! Nein, nein, nein!
Mon Dieu, ces Allemands! This is the 18th Century, n’est-ce pas?!?!
An Ancient Earth or a New Creation? : James Hutton and Dr Richardson
Now see here, I am deeply concerned that…oh I do beg your pardon. My name is Richardson – the Reverend Doctor William Richardson. Rector of Clonfeacle.
I am a keen naturalist, so I have every sympathy for open-minded scientific enquiry. But as I say, I am deeply concerned that Mr. Hutton may mislead you with his theories on the age of the Earth.
We know from the Bible that the Earth is 6,000 years old! One has merely to count the generations between Adam and the birth of Our Lord. And for all his eminence as a geologist, and his standing with the Royal Society in Edinburgh, that makes Mr. Hutton’s theory nonsense!
Now, now Dr. Richardson, I am well aware that my theory is challenging…upsetting to many…I myself find it dizzying…yet when I look at the evidence, at the slow and steady volcanic formation of rocks – occurring even as we speak! – I am driven to believe that 6,000 years is a mere blink in the life of the Earth – I see no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end!
Well, I shall return to Antrim once more, Mr. Hutton! I am sure I shall find proof there that all rocks are formed under the sea – and put an end to your theory of an ancient Earth!
Indeed? Well I wish you luck, sir…
Bamboo? : Captain Morton
Ah, good day to you! Morton’s the name – Captain Charles Morton, Royal Navy. So – want to know the real truth as to the origins of the Giant’s Causeway stones, do you?
It seems to me that anybody who’d sailed with me would have a better chance of understanding their origins than these landsmen who sit and read their books.
As for me, well, the logs will show that I served Her Majesty Queen Victoria long enough in the tropics to recognize bamboo when I see it!
The long, narrow stems – the occasional joints on the columns – why, any Jamaica Station hand would know this for bamboo.
Giant bamboo, yes, as befits the age of dinosaurs – but fossilized bamboo it must be and is!
(Chorus of laughs)
Quiet there! Quiet on deck, I say!
The Debate continues today
Like many natural phenomena around the world, the Giant’s Causeway has raised questions and prompted debate about how it was formed.
This debate has ebbed and flowed since the discovery of the Causeway to science and, historically, the Causeway became part of a global debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed.
This debate continues today for some people, who have an understanding of the formation of the earth which is different from that of current mainstream science.
Young Earth Creationists believe that the earth was created some 6000 years ago. This is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible and in particular the account of creation in the book of Genesis.
Some people around the world, and specifically here in Northern Ireland, share this perspective.
Young Earth Creationists continue to debate questions about the age of the earth. As we have seen from the past, and understand today, perhaps the Giant’s Causeway will continue to prompt awe and wonder, and arouse debate and challenging questions for as long as visitors come to see it.
For further information on this exhibit, please speak to a Ranger.
- ENDS TRANSCRIPT -
To register your opinion formally please email us and our team will respond to you as soon as they are able.
If you feel you have a question which has not been answered sufficiently here please direct it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or you can write to: Giant’s Causeway Interpretation Issues, The National Trust, Northern Ireland Regional Office, Rowallane House, Saintfield, Co. Down, BT24 7LH, and will do our best to answer your enquires there.