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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...

Trojan Weasels

Geoscientist 22.08 September 2012

TedIn late July, the National Trust bowed to pressure to rewrite the interpretation boards it had lately installed at the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, which acknowledged the existence – particularly in the Six Counties – of a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) view of its formation. The Trust had come under intense pressure from groups of Christian fundamentalists, and alas made the mistake of bending a little too far backwards in accommodating them.

Scientists must never forget that anyone is free to believe whatever nonsense they like about the world, for their freedom is also our freedom. But that is not to say that we should accept the claims of fundamentalist believers that their version of creation myth has equivalent ‘scientific’ claim upon reality - and public attention.

It could have been worse. Scientists could take comfort that the panels clearly presented a proper scientific explanation first and relegated YECs to a subsidiary section about myths. The problem arose, however, not because YEC beliefs were mentioned (though that was too much for some) but because the Trust did more than nod to the existence of YEC beliefs when it stated: “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.”

The weasel words here are ‘current mainstream’. Without those words, the statement is unexceptionable. With them, the YECs attain everything they scheme for – namely, a clear implication that there exists a form of ‘science’ that supports the ridiculous idea that the world is only 6000 years old. To sow doubt where there is none is all they want.

Max Frisch’s classic 1958 play Biedermann und die Brandstifter – known in English as The Fire Raisers - is a parable about the Weimar Republic’s destruction by Nazism. In it, a complacent bourgeois family refuses to think evil of the lodgers in the attic, until it is too late and they find themselves collaborating in burning down their own house. The Trust’s careless concession, in two apparently harmless words, was what lets the fire-raisers in; for they played right into the hands of those specious casuists whose evil work tricks the ignorant into accepting the trespass of fundamentalism and dogma upon the rightful domain of science.

We would congratulate the Trust on its U-turn, were it not for our belief that it should not have been so naive in the first place.

Further Reading