New campaign to censor different view of Grand Canyon

Pressure on new director of National Parks Service


Photo by Keith Swenson from GC DV Tom Vail
Tom Vail, author and compiler of A Different View, and veteran guide for some 200 rafting tours through Grand Canyon, points out geological evidence for catastrophe.

Once again evolutionists are pushing the US National Parks Service to have the only creationist book in the Grand Canyon bookstore (in the inspirational section, by the way) banned.1

A campaign was announced by Jeff Ruch, executive director of a leftist US group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.2 PEER considers its members ‘front-line employees’ who ‘stand as defenders of the public interest’.  

Ruch launched the latest censorship effort on 28 December 2006 with a politically charged letter to the Director of the National Park Service on October 17, 2006, and with publication of articles and documents on the PEER website. 

The new NPS director, Ms Mary Bomar, was appointed to the position on October 17, 2006, and Ruch has wasted little time before pressuring her to have the creationist book Grand Canyon: A Different View removed from the Grand Canyon National Park bookstores and museums.1

Not the first time

This is not the first time that evolutionists have tried to ban A Different View. Three years ago, in 2004, the presidents of the Geological Society of America and six other geological associations demanded that the National Park Service remove the offending book, claiming it undermined the scientific understanding of Grand Canyon geology and promoted ‘anti-science’ in the form of young-earth creationism (see Geologists in an uproar). Indeed, the whole affair seems to have been somewhat suspect, involving employees inside the NPS and activists on the outside.

PEER actively lobbied for censorship at that time, claiming that their members were outraged and humiliated that the book was sold in park bookstores.

Teach the controversy

In his letter to the NPS director, Ruch asks that the interpretive staff at Grand Canyon NP be trained in how to answer questions from the public concerning the geologic age of the canyon. In PEER’s news release he says, ‘It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is “no comment.’”  

We agree that ‘no comment’ is not the best response. It gives the impression that staff have something to hide, and it kills inquiry and debate.  An open, transparent approach would be better, where staff speak freely about the controversy and help visitors understand the issues involved.

Consequently, interpretive staff need to explain to visitors that the age of the Canyon is not something that can be directly measured scientifically. Rather all ages quoted are calculations based on assumptions, and different assumptions will naturally give different ages. They should mention the ages currently quoted by evolutionary geologists and explain how the age has reduced over the years because these geologists now believe the Canyon was carved much faster and more catastrophically than was assumed 50 years ago.3 

Staff should explain that creationist geologists also believe the Canyon was carved catastrophically, some as the waters of the global Flood receded from the continent about 4,500 years ago, and others when a natural dam on the Colorado plateau burst soon after the Flood.

Interpretive staff need to be aware of how the geologic evidences relate to the differing views of the Canyon so they are comfortable discussing these issues with visitors.  A Different View illustrates some of these, but see also e.g. Grand Canyon strata show geologic time is imaginary, Were Grand Canyon limestones deposited by calm and placid seas?, Startling evidence for Noah’s Flood and Radioisotope dating of rocks in the Grand Canyon.

Their censorship efforts failed because of public indignation at their heavy-handed tactics. Within months of the controversy breaking, more than 7000 letters were mailed to the NPS in support of A Different View. One of the side effects of the displeasure generated by the would-be censors was a keen interest in the book, requiring it to be reprinted a number of times.

Grand Canyon: A Different View was compiled by Tom Vail and includes contributions by more than 20 prominent international creationist scientists.

Tricky tactics to silence different views

Evolutionists shrewdly caricature the issue as ‘science versus religion’ and then call on separation of state to silence any view but their own. Ruch used the same strategy in his PEER press release, even though those pushing evolution are themselves generally motivated by a religious view. See A Who’s Who of Evolutionists. In fact, evolution itself is based upon religious assumptions, and in many ways has the characteristics of a religion. Even worse, he insulted the scientific competence of those who hold a different view by claiming, ‘In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend belief in geology.’

‘Suspend belief in geology?’ It is hard to believe that Ruch has even read the book about which he is complaining. If he has, he should have seen that twelve of the contributors have Ph.D.s in science. Ten of the contributors have qualifications in geology and related fields such as paleontology, geophysics and geological engineering.  The book discusses the scientific evidence at Grand Canyon, including the rocks, the fossils, the strata, the climate, the plants and the animals—all with stunning colour photography. 

No, the book is not anti-science, as frustrated evolutionists like to chant, but science starting with different assumptions from theirs, science from a different perspective.  It’s the evolutionists who want to discriminate on the basis of religion.

Tom Vail, compiler of the offending book and veteran rafting guide, is familiar with both views. He taught the evolutionary model of how Grand Canyon was formed as a NPS guide for 15 years. Yet, when he studied the creation model he found it made more sense, was easier to believe and answered more questions geologically, and personally. 

So why would anyone object to visitors being properly informed? Why deny visitors the chance of considering alternative interpretations of the Canyon evidence—unless they can’t bear to think about their own personal worldview, or don’t trust the intelligence of Grand Canyon visitors.

PEER petition to build censorship pressure

As part of the latest censorship effort, PEER has placed a petition form on their website where you can say what you think about the issue and which, no doubt, they will use to lobby the NPS. Some of the comments on that page are:

  • ‘Our National Parks are not churches’
  • ‘Why are we shoving the narrow religious agenda of a small group of strident extremists down the throats of visitors to our parks?’
  • ‘Separation of church and state must be maintained.’
  • ‘I guess the next thing the NPS will do is substantiate the religious right’s idea that the earth really is flat after all.’
  • ‘This is a shocking atrocity.’

I did not notice any comments in favour of stocking the book. 

Now is the time to act.

You could send a polite and gracious letter to Ms Mary Bomar, Director of the National Park Service congratulating her on her recent appointment, saying that you have seen the letter Jeff Ruch of PEER sent her, and asking her not to agree to calls for censorship of different views. Her address is: Ms Mary Bomar, Director, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.

Encourage your friends to do the same. 

Your action will make a difference in this ongoing battle for truth.

Addendum, 22 January 2007

Michael Shermer in a recently published article in eSkeptic feels that the press release by PEER was not so honest.  See How Skeptic magazine was Duped by an Environmental Activist Group.

Irrespective of what PEER claimed in their press release about political pressure on Park employees, the basic thrust of our article is accurate:

  • There is a new push to censor the creationist book
  • The best approach for interpretive staff is to teach the controversy.
Published: 9 January 2007

References and notes

  1. How old is the Grand Canyon? Park Service won’t say, PEER News Release, 28 December 2006. Return to text.
  2. Members of PEER include government employees at the local, state and federal level, as well as activists and donors.  Return to text.
  3. To illustrate how thinking has changed, see e.g. A Grand Enigma, a review by Robert Webb in The American Scientist Online, of Grand Canyon: Solving the Earth’ Grandest Puzzle by James Lawrence Powell, Pi Press, 2005.  The idea that the NPS should have one officially approved version for the origin of the Grand Canyon misrepresents the way science works, and would stop the service from keeping up with the latest thinking. Return to text.