December 30, 2006

Park Service Won't Tell Grand Canyon's Age

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 2:18 pm

Update: It turns out the claims made by PEER are entirely bogus. For a complete debunking, see the Skeptics Magazine here. I apologize for getting duped.


Sure, some things have changed since the mid-term elections, but some things stay the same:

Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive 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.’”

Compared to federal funding for abstinence-only programs to combat AIDS in Africa, this is small beans. But it’s so symbolic of the Administration’s pandering to a small special interest group. Young-earth Christians are a minority of a minority – these fundamentalists reject even intelligent design, because it acknowledges the earth is more than 6,000 years old.

There are plenty of conservative Christian views worthy of theological refutation, but this isn’t one of them. As Pope John Paul wrote, “truth can not contradict truth”. Young earth creationism isn’t theology, it’s heresy, a doctrine that separates us from God. This doctrine forces a false choice: acceptance of a demonstrably erroneous proposition, or unbelief in God. If these were the only two choices, I’d have to go with unbelief in God. Young earth creationism denies the glory of God’s creation, of God’s divine work. It does this by promoting a literal reading of the Bible where none is necessary, negating a deeper appreciation of God’s creative act.

I guarantee you that Bush is not a young-earth creationist. But this is a political pay-off to a powerful special interest group that propagates this particular heresy. 2009 can’t come soon enough.

(Via Political Animal.)

8 Comments

  1. Well said. Christianism is polarizing people and ideas when it doesn’t need to.

    Comment by Rick — December 30, 2006 @ 6:10 pm

  2. And btw, if IE7 is goofing up your site, you might want to look for a new layout. I had a similar problem with IE6 a while back with a layout that I had designed, and just decided to drink the green kool-aid and find something that made everybody happy.

    Comment by Rick — December 30, 2006 @ 6:12 pm

  3. You raise an interesting point there saying that young-earth creationism is heresy. I grew up fundamentalist, I was homeschooled, and I was taught young-earth creationism as fact. I didn’t believe that old-earth creationists, for instance, were necessarily going to hell, but I was only taught the most literal interpretations of the Bible, and that’s what I believed. To me, old-earth creationism seemed to border on heresy. Even now (at 21), it can sometimes be hard for me to understand the Bible in anything more than a literal way unless somebody else explains their interpretation to me. I’ve seen it pointed out before that fundamentalists often become non-religious when their worldview is shattered, and for this reason I definitely think fundamentalism is dangerous to a person’s faith. Actually, “faith” might not be the right word (“worldview” might be better); the kind of Christianity I grew up with bordered on making “faith” completely unnecessary, since if I recall correctly everything was presented as absolute fact. It is very, very hard to break out of that kind of worldview. (Sorry if I’m going off-topic here.)

    I do have a complaint, however: One thing I don’t like on a lot of web sites is the implication that it’s okay to be prejudiced against fundamentalist Christians because they aren’t worthy of being tolerated. I really hope this isn’t taken the wrong way, but the fact that young-earth believers are a “minority of a minority” doesn’t mean that it’s therefore okay to offend them unless there’s a good reason. To tell the truth, this argument scares me; it reminds me too much of “majority rights” arguments. Once again, I’m sorry if I’m making a wrong accusation or something. I’m not saying that you’re supporting “majority rights”, but that particular argument does scare me.

    As it is, I personally don’t have much of a problem with what the NPS is doing; it certainly beats the harsh invective I often hear from various positions in the “evolution debate”. At least the NPS isn’t being prejudiced. When I was growing up, however, I was used to the fact people disagreed with me and tended to ignore any statements made about either evolution (which I still have no real opinion on one way or the other) or the age of the earth. (However, I have to agree with you on abstinence-only programs to combat AIDS in Africa; the problem is way too serious to do something like that that could cost numerous lives.)

    P. S. I’m using Safari on an iMac, and the site looks just fine for me. I’ve been going here for a while (at least a year) and it still looks the same for me as always. I might advise you to see if you can fix the layout issues in IE7, but it might not be as much of a problem if the site is still readable.

    Comment by Alex — December 30, 2006 @ 8:58 pm

  4. I would not take that PEER press release at face value. Just for starters, despte their claim that the Park service is agnostic on the age of the Grand Canyon, the park service website and brochures quite clearly put the age of the Canyon rocks as several bilion years.

    My interpretation of events (which, combined with a buck, get you a discount latte at Starbucks) is that PEER, a left-leaning group, is engaging in a bit of agit-prop – they want a specific memo from a Bushie saying that creationism is bunk; the Bushies have countered with a non-specific directive to base Ranger presentations on the best available science; and since that is not suitably embarrassing, PEER has delivered this press release.

    So, offically, the Bushies have punted on the creationism question. Of course, the order to base presentations on science also leaves the Rangers without guidance as to the Paul Bunyon legend, Area 51 questions, alien visitations, Elvis – Dead or Alive, and a host of other issues, and yet PEER has ducked those.

    More here (Sorry for the shameless self-promotion).

    P.S.: I am hating IE7 right now as well – I used it for the first time last night and had a post disappear.

    Comment by Tom Maguire — December 31, 2006 @ 10:10 am

  5. Thanks for pointing this out. This is par for the course with the Bush administration, which has always placed ideology (religious and political) above science. The PEER site shows the response to the FOI request, indicating that no action was taken to review the matter, even though one was promised–thus sweeping the matter under the rug.

    The power of the religious right on this matter can be illustrated in other ways. In early 2005, Roger Ebert wrote about how IMAX theaters in several southern cities refused to show the movie “Volcanoes of the Deep Sea” because it presented scientific information about the age of the earth that didn’t jibe with fundamentalist dogma. The battle against efforts by the religious right to dumb down science education in this country is never ending, unfortunately.

    Comment by Mystical Seeker — January 2, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  6. It looks to me like a lot of people were duped, including the folks at Skeptics Magazine. It’s good that people are willing to fesss up to the fact they were duped, though.

    Of course, to me, this raises some interesting questions about what one is to do in a world where even hardcore journalists can be so easily duped. Who do you trust? How do you decide who you should trust?

    Comment by Jarred — January 18, 2007 @ 9:00 am

  7. The problem with sources…

    At some point in the last twenty four hours, one of my favorite liberal Christian bloggers made an update to a post he made about claims that the National Park Service staff were prohibited from giving an answer about the……

    Trackback by The Musings of a Confused Man — January 18, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  8. The reason why this story is so easily to believe is that it is so credible. We know from past experience that the Bushites have declared war on legitimate science in many different ways. We also know that the war against science has taken place among many right wing evangelicals who make up a big part of Bush’s constituency–for example, the de factor censorship of an IMAX movie in parts of the south because it mentions evolution. There really is a war going on against science by the Bushites and the Religious Right, regardless of whether this particular story is true or not.

    Comment by Mystical Seeker — January 19, 2007 @ 8:59 am

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