Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Another View of the Grand Canyon Controversy

The other day I posted this entry about the apparent catering to creationists by the National Park service, including the sale of Creationist books in the Grand Canyon bookstore and the suppression of discussion of the age of the Canyon. One of my readers, Park Ranger X, cautions us not to believe everything you read in the blog Without a Park to Range.

Ranger X says:

"I was skeptical, and after reading PEER's press release, I called the contact listed on the release. On January 3, I spoke with Executive Director Jeff Ruch who told me he talked with unnamed interpretive staff and park rangers. His complained mainly about lack of guidance for rangers on what to say when asked about the canyon's age. Ruch's comments seemed random and unfocused and his claims unsubstantiated. He focused on a book, Grand Canyon: A Different View, sold in the GRCA bookstore that offers a creationist view of the canyon's formation. Ruch stated that since 2003, GRCA has avoided releasing a draft from the geologic services division (I'm not aware of such a division) that gives guidance to park rangers. Incidentally, GRCA started selling the aforementioned book in 2003."

Later on Ranger X notes the following from the official NPS response:

"If asked the age of the Grand Canyon, our rangers use the following answer. The principal consensus among geologists is that the Colorado River basin has developed in the past 40 million years and that the Grand Canyon itself is probably less than five to six million years old. The result of all this erosion is one of the most complete geologic columns on the planet. The major geologic exposures in Grand Canyon range in age from the 2 billion year old Vishnu Schist at the bottom of the Inner Gorge to the 230 million year old Kaibab Limestone on the Rim."

Further Ranger X supports the sale of the creationist book in question, claiming correctly that it is in the inspirational section of the bookstore and that the bookstore is not run by the NPS but by a private entity.

Which leads me to a couple of comments. Sounds like the rangers only volunteer the information about the age of the Canyon when asked just as you can't find direct reference on the Canyon website to the Canyon's geology and age. Next, the bookstore may be run by a private agency, but presumably on Park Land. Also, I suspect the distinction between the Park Service and a private contractor is lost on the general public. Sorry Ranger X, I am not convinced by your arguments any more than I was by the Kansas Board of Education saying they weren't interested in having intelligent design taught in Kansas school rooms when all the evidence points in the opposite direction.

I for one hope that the new Congress takes a close look at this issue along with other encroachments on science by the Bush administration.

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