Grand Canyon

Finally. That whole “geology” hoax has been upended…

The Grand Canyon National Park has been forced by the National Park Service (whose officials were appointed by Bush) to sell a book claiming the canyon was formed by Noah’s Flood, instead of by geologic forces. While the Park superintendent is against this decision, he has been overridden.

A press release issued by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) states this alarming fact about books for sale:

…materials are only to reflect the highest quality science and are supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover, unlike a library the approval process is very selective. Records released to PEER show that during 2003, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and other products for bookstore placement while approving only one new sale item — the creationist book.

The book, Grand Canyon: A Different View, is now being sold in the “Inspirational” section of the gift shop instead of the “Natural Science” section. Still, it shouldn’t be there in the first place.

But it must be good. It’s endorsed by Ken Ham.TM

A lovely, up-to-date timeline of Grand Canyon geology can be found here.

(Thanks to Logos for the link)


[tags]geology, atheist, atheism, Christian, fundamentalist, Creationism, Grand Canyon National Park, National Park Service, Bush, Noah’s flood, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Grand Canyon: A Different View, Ken Ham[/tags]

  • txatheist

    I remember hearing about this a year or so ago. Believe it or not I’m for free speech and that it’s properly placed in the spiritual section is fine with me. It’s like Behe’s book “Darwin’s black box” in that I don’t agree with it but as long as it’s in the christian section at the bookstore I think that right to express his views is Constitutional.

  • MTran

    txatheist,

    I can understand your thinking, even as I cringe at the thought of this book.

    My concern here is that it gives the appearance of governmental endorsement regarding religious issues. Particularly since it appears to directly violate the clear wording of the regulations that limit the NPS to selling only scientifically sound materials.

    At first glance, I was going to say that free speech issues were important considerations. But after reading the NPS article that Hemant linked to, I am convinced that this is yet another Bush administration ploy to inject a very specific religion (Literalist Christian Evangelism) into government.

    This book has no business being in the NPS bookstore. And the policy that has prevented the NPS from accurately informing visitors as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is shameful.

    The author has a protected right to express his views and sell his books through churches and the public marketplace. But not through instrumentalities of the federal government.

  • txatheist

    Mtran,
    Sorry, I overlooked that important clause about books in the park being scientifically based. Now, I’m displeased that it is there. My solution? Put books that debunk young earth claims in that same section….gotta be fair.

  • Zeolite

    One interesting thing to note is that most NPS bookstores and gift shops are not directly run by the NPS but by cooperating associations (Like Xanterra, Eastern National, and Jefferson National Parks Association). But NPS does, of course, have a say in what is sold there. I had not heard about NPS staff not being allowed answer questions about the age of the Grand Canyon before. I’m a NPS interpretive Ranger and haven’t had any restrictions like that put on me. Infact, I discuss deep time with visitors pretty regularly. (My comments here are, of course, personal comments and I am emphatically not speaking as a representative of NPS.)

  • MTran

    Zeolite,

    Thanks for that info. It’s not unusual for government buildings or sites to have private vendors or tenants on the premises. It helps to defray costs and liability while providing the private sphere with opportunities.

    txatheist,
    You’ve truly got my sympathies with that “accommodation” to all views but I wouldn’t be surprised if it caused a furor from some extremists. ;-)

  • Aimee

    Here is another blog that has written about the Grand Canyon issue. There is a funny clip at the end. Sad thing is, all atheists have probably heard these excuses before. If the whole Noah’s Ark story is what is going to be told to people visiting the Grand Canyon, I would seriously think twice about ever taking my kids there, at least while that are at their impressionable age. It is ridiculous how we have to keep going above and beyond to not piss off the Christian right, get some thicker skin!
    http://fpffressminds.blogspot.com/

  • http://pragmaticlibertarian.thinkertothinker.com/ Rakeela

    I can’t say I really see the ethical problem with the book being sold. Nobody will be forced or required to buy it. The only problem here is a legal one. The book is patently unscientific and therefore against the regulations-as-quoted.

  • Aimee

    The problem isn’t so much the book being sold, but all of the other ones that were turned away because it didn’t mention Noah. It’s a crock.

  • Eliza

    January 20, 2009, cannot come fast enough.

  • Eliza

    Hmm, sounds like PEER’s claims in that press release didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

  • MTran

    Eliza,

    Thanks for posting that link. This kind of stuff makes you wonder what the employee organization was thinking, or whether it was a ploy for some other grievance. It doesn’t take much effort for a mistaken or unhappy person to turn out a pretty good news story!

    I can see the far-right fundamentalists using this sort of small scale dust-up as evidence of government wide persecution of religion. Of course, compared to the non-existent “War on Christmas” this is nothing. Though I doubt you’ll see any of the Christmas Warriors standing down or even bothering to track down the sources of their “war.”

    Color me mildly irritated. I still have uneasy feelings about religious or “spiritual” texts sold on government property.

  • Zeolite

    Thanks for that article Eliza. That sits much better with me as representing the that NPS I know and love. I think it was good that the article quoted Director’s Order #6, but there is a lot of legislation (director’s orders are not legislated) which direct the NPS to take into account. The Organic Act and the Antiquities Act both protect national historic and/or cultural resources which may include religious beliefs associated with the history or the culture of a specific location. (Examples, Chaco Culture NHS, Haleakala NP, find many more at http://www.nps.gov) I do strongly agree that religious or spiritual books and ideas should not be sold or interpreted to the public as scientific fact but in many case those beliefs are part of the history or culture of a site and part of what makes that location nationally significant.

  • MTran

    Zeolite said:
    I do strongly agree that religious or spiritual books and ideas should not be sold or interpreted to the public as scientific fact but in many case those beliefs are part of the history or culture of a site and part of what makes that location nationally significant.

    I think you’re right about that. I can’t imagine being able to talk about the settling of Utah & Salt Lake City without prominent coverage of the LDS pioneers & settlers.

    As far as “misinformation” being reported from apparently authoritative government sources: When I worked for federal offices, odd reports would appear from time to time and it wasn’t always easy to figure out how the story got so twisted. But there were more frequent instances where people really didn’t comprehend the “question” being asked by a member of the public / media or who genuinely believed they had conveyed accurate information but were completely off base.

    Once the misinformation gets circulated, for some issues, no amount of “clarification” will be accepted by the public.

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  • Pete T Barnes

    Creation and evolution, both theories are haywire, the truth lies some where between the two. I am a pantheist, the whole universe is god.

  • Pete T Barnes

    When I was a kid I was told a Scotsman dug the Grand Canyon looking for a nickel he lost down a gopher hole.

  • Diana

    does the Louvre sell copies of “The Da Vinci Code”?

    to me, the most telling part of this argument/bickering is that the “non-believers” seem to be held to a higher standard of proof than the believers…

    do the religious zealots ever take a half-truth and spin it in their own favor for the sake of argument? quite frequently. but those who prefer the separation of church and state are apparently not allowed to take a three-quarter-truth to demonstrate that our government should not be selling religious texts in national parks.

    (as they were actual residents, presenting the Native American beliefs in national parks is very appropriate. if there was actual evidence that Noah was present at the creation of the Grand Canyon, it would be appropriate to present that viewpoint.)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Even if the Da Vinci Code was sold at the Louvre, that book is openly a work of fiction.

    The book that we’re talking about at the Grand Canyon park is being sold as if it were telling the (scientific) truth.

    Again, presenting the Grand Canyon book as if it is a myth that one group of people believe (along with Native American beliefs), that’s very different from presenting those books as accurate reflections of modern knowledge.

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