Friday, 13 July 2012

The National Trust fails to answer key questions

The National Trust decided to stop posts on the issue of the Giant's Causeway from appearing on its Press Room blog - and undoubtedly because of the complaints they got about this they restarted them again - but apparently introducing moderation - and then made no arrangements that moderation should be carried out reasonably quickly - which would clearly be essential if the re-opening of the posting facility was meant to be genuine. 

Before I knew that they had introduced I prepared the following text to draw attention to the matters I had already raised, in a somewhat different way, to point out that they were matters which needed addressing.
There are several issues which the National Trust (and ntsteve) are carefully avoiding.

The first is the whole issue (well know to all competent charities) of "product placement" where an organisation expresses interest in a well-known Charity for no better reason that it wants a free ride on the charity's coat-tails - to boast sales (if it is a commercial organisation) or to get its views publicised if it is a pressure group (including religious organisations, political parties, etc.). The National Trust, if the Board is competent, should have a policy on this and I have asked what it is - and whether the Giant's Causeway case falls within its policy or outside its policy and there has been no reply.

The fact the the Young Earth Creationists are a religious group is irrelevant. What seems to have happened is a clear case of product placement. After all, if the National Trust felt they needed to mention the issue they could have done so using neutral words which did not blatantly advertise one particular group over others (particularly in Northern Ireland where religion is such a hot potato). Would they have mentioned the words “Young Earth Creationists” at all if the subject had not been raised in the consultation by an organisation which was trying to find ways of publicising its views. May I suggest that the following wording would have have covered most of the objections:

"Despite the scientific evidence there are still some people who reject the facts presented here on religious grounds"

This covers all possible creationist explanations from any religion, without giving any support to any particular pressure group.

If the wording of the exhibit falls outside the current National Trust "product placement" policy there can be no question about changing the wording immediately on these grounds alone – irrespective of the turmoil that has been created.

If what is on the exhibit falls within the N.T. rules this means that, for example Joe Blogg's Fish Bar could have joined in the consultation, and try and get the N.T. to include a statement in the exhibition pointing out that “while some people disagree, Joe Blogs' fish bar says that fish caught off the Giant's Causeway are particularly tasty.” If this is the case the N.T. rules need urgently revising by the Board - and many of us require assurance that the matter will properly be addressed at this level, as otherwise any Tom, Dick or Harry can start using the National Trust as a free advertising billboard.

No such assurance has yet been given that the issue is being competently handled at this level.

The other issue relates to Dr. Richardson statement which indicates that he adhered to the idea that the earth was 6000 years old. Did he explicitly say so in his writings between 1802 and 1812? (Sorry I don't have access to a suitable library or I would have looked for myself.) He had plenty of other objections to James Hutton's views on the geology - which appear to have little to do directly with the "Deep time" issue. Even if Richardson had objected to "deep time" this does not mean that he automatically considered Bishop's Usher's calculations were the last word on the matter. I am simply asking for assurance (with a proper citation) of one of Richardson's papers which explicitly mentions 6000 years - and if not that part of the exhibit misrepresents him - and should be altered to accurately reflect his published views.

This is a matter of whether the National Trust is accurately reporting history - and if it is not, perhaps because it took advice from someone who was not a competent geologist - it is prepared to change what is written to more accurately reflect history. It should be a very easy matter for someone with access to the publications to check and report here - and if the National Trust is competent it will already be doing so - as it would end up with even more egg on its face if it turns out that they have misrepresented the Rev Dr Richardson and failed to check when the matter was pointed out to them.

All I am asking is for a reply which says that in the paper ~~~ published in ~~~ Dr Richardson wrote “~~~~” which justifies the use of the term 6000 years – as such a reference SHOULD be in the research documentation drawn up in designing the exhibit. If there is no such reference in the pre-exhibition documentation, and no such reference can be found, it is clear that the National Trust research was not competent.
There is of course the issue of funding. The National Trust said they received no money in effect ear-marked to include the Young Earth Creationist views. However they received money from the Northern Ireland Government, and would have known that some government ministers shared such views. Even if there is no formal agreement it is very easy to fall into the trap of doing what the paymaster would like. The Trust has now got itself into a position where it has either to look incompetent in front of the whole scientific community - or accused of censorship by leading figures in an organisation which made a significant contribution to the building of the centre. Whether they like it or not, the National Trust have accepted the 40 pieces of silver and in doing so have stepped outside their charitable aims in a way that will offend many of their members.

1 comment:

  1. The National Trust are reconsidering the offending text.