Park Service Considers Geology, Noah Both Plausible

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It would seem that the National Park Service (NPS) isn't really SURE how old the Grand Canyon is. Despite vigorous protests from both Park Service scientists and leading geological societies, a book approved in 2003 for sale in National Park bookstores--which takes the somewhat unscientific view that the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's Flood--is still available despite an official promise to perform a high-level policy review of the issue. Apparently three years was not long enough to accomplish such a review, or even to begin one or make a formal internal request for one. (Hmm, sounds a bit like those "studies" of global warming that always need a follow-up study, except that those studies at least actually take place.)

In August 2003, Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale at park bookstores of Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, a book claiming the Canyon developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time-scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters and members of Congress that there would be a high-level policy review of the issue.

According to a recent NPS response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), no such review was ever requested, let alone conducted or completed.

Materials for sale in the Park have traditionally, and by policy, reflected the highest quality science and are supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover, 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.

This is particularly ironic since in 2005, two years after the book controversy erupted, NPS approved a new directive which states that the "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....Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes."

Well, then. That settles that. Someone will have to get cracking on their own book explaining the origins of the Grand Canyon as being carved out by the tears of Vishnu, or perhaps by a flow of marinara sauce from the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The National Park Service apparently would be more than happy to sell it for you.





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