Tuesday, January 16, 2007

National Park Service Clarifies Position on Age of the Grand Canyon...Possibly

Apparently the National Park Service has just officially clarified its position on the creationist book being sold at the Grand Canyon and declared the following:

In a statement issued by the National Park Service (NPS) Chief of Public Affairs, David Barna, on January 4th, the agency contends that park rangers have been instructed to "use the following explanation for the age of the geologic features at Grand Canyon…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 Grand Canyon will, however, continue to sell the book in the visitor center bookstore, although in the "inspirational" section and not with the science books. As the article notes, this is the first time the National Park Service has officially distanced itself from the creationist book, which is good, but it still doesn't explain the following:

* Why did the Park Service approve it for sale? Under agency rules, park officials are only to allow display materials of the highest accuracy and which support approved park interpretive themes in its bookstores;
* What happened to the "policy review" on the book promised in public statements and in letters to members of Congress by Barna and other NPS officials?
* Why has NPS refused for the past five years to issue the pamphlet entitled "Geologic Interpretive Programs: Distinguishing Science from Religion" providing guidance to park rangers and other interpretive staff on how to answer questions relating to creationism, evolution and related topics?

I was unaware that the NPS refused to issue a pamphlet providing guidance to park rangers on the difference between science and creationism. That sounds suspicious...So is this:

The Barna statement notes "This book is sold in the inspirational section of the bookstore" but omits the fact that this "inspirational" section was created after PEER exposed the fact that the book was being sold as a "natural history." The inspirational section now includes anthropological works on Native American culture but no other work remotely resembling the Vail book.

I'm sure RangerX will have some more enlightening comments on the subject, given his inside sources (I just checked...he does, although it's not what I suspected). In that regard, it is probably good that the book is still on sale, given that there may be some unforseen benefits for science in the park.

"Our only point is that the Park Service should stop selling the book with a government seal of approval," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Nonetheless, we are delighted that the Park Service has, after three years, finally chosen to publicly and unambiguously acknowledge that the Grand Canyon is the product of evolutionary geologic forces."

RangerX's concerns aside about misinformation regarding what the on-the-ground interpreters are being told, I'm glad to see NPS formally clarifying their position...I think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post on that awful book. I work for the NPS here in the Southeast Regional Office. It really blew my mind that they let that thing be sold period. Most folks in the NPS, the ones that actually do the work, would not want that book in there. It's scary how W's "Faith Based" philosophy (remember, Jesus is his favorite philosopher)can trickle down to the park level.