Correction: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-01-17.html Big ole hoax, it seems.
For all the gory details, including author bio and folks to contact about this travesity, see: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-01-10.html
Some of you may recall a prior blog post where my oldest sister and I got into a brief email harangue because she insisted on forwarding me absurd religious-type emails. When I protested (perhaps not politely but with a great amount of logic to her propaganda), she actually accused me of being godless. Who knew that independent critical thinking was tantamount to atheism?
I saw the woman at Christmas but she didn’t hug me or speak two words in my general direction, so I’m convinced her innate hostility (at what, I’m not sure) has now found a new target (cuz apparently my father and stepmother are not enough) and she’s no longer speaking to me.
In light of all those events, it should be no surprise the following article immediately made me think of her….
Creationism in Our National Parks
by Donald Prothero
If you thought that censoring talk about global warming and suppressing the free speech of government scientists was bad enough, last December the government reached a new low. According to documents released on Dec. 28, 2006 by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Bush administration appointees will not allow rangers at Grand Canyon National Park to mention that the earth is more than a few thousand years old. “In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” said PEER Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’” I have been unable to confirm this report in my own enquiries among rangers and on the NPS website, but perhaps the order is still being considered at the NPS and has not yet been forced on the rangers.
This is just the latest step in a creeping introduction of religious fundamentalism to our National Parks. Under the “faith-based” initiatives of the Bush Administration, the National Park Service (NPS) is now creating “faith-based” parks by placing crosses in numerous places, and Biblical verses on the plaques overlooking the Grand Canyon. These plaques were reinstated by Bush appointees after the NPS director had them removed on advice of lawyers in the Department of the Interior. In August 2003, the creationist book Grand Canyon: A Different View, by Tom Vail, was introduced to the Grand Canyon bookstore. It promotes the absurd idea of young-earth creationists that every layer in the Grand Canyon (PLUS its subsequent carving) can be explained by Noah’s flood. There were national protests from geologists, all the relevant scientific organizations, and NPS personnel (including the entire NPS geologic staff), and Park Service Superintendent Joe Alston blocked its sale. But Bush appointees at the NPS headquarters intervened and overruled Alston. NPS Chief of Communications David Barna then told Congress and reporters that there would be a review of the issue, but no such review was even requested, even after 3 years — and the creationist book is still on sale in the Grand Canyon! And it is clear that the Bush appointees in the NPS are pandering to the religious right. According to an NPS spokesperson Elaine Sevy, speaking to a Baptist news agency, “Now that the book has become quite popular, we don’t want to remove it.”
The political bias of the process is even more starkly revealed by the way in which the NPS policy approves books for sale in its parks. The policy clearly states that the books are supposed to reflect only the highest quality of science and support approved interpretive themes. According to records, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 other books for placement on the shelves in 2003, and approved only one — the creationist book. In 2005, the NPS approved Director’s Order #6, section 8.4.2, which states that “history of the Earth must be based on the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism [and] Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes.”
This raises even larger, more troubling issues. It’s already bad enough that only a minority of Americans have even a limited understanding of evolution, and a majority still believe the creation story is literally true. It’s worse that creationists have effectively destroyed the teaching of evolution in science classes around the country by pressure on school boards and textbook publishers, even though the courts have ruled against them every time. Now their attack is focused on geology and the age of the earth, making one of our most essential sciences highly vulnerable. If creationists managed to put their bizarre notions of geology into place, do you think that we would have another new oil discovery, or find any more precious minerals or groundwater? Not likely! Their first attack is naturally in a place like Grand Canyon, which is so popular and so clearly shows the immense span of earth’s history, but who’s to say where they’ll strike next? Many of the national parks, such as Petrified Forest and Dinosaur and Badlands and John Day Fossil Beds, also display an impressive record of fossils changing through time in way that cannot be explained by the Bible. According to PEER Director Ruch, “As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan.”