Thursday, November 18, 2004

Also, the Garden of Eden was real

Well, this is a disturbingly Handmaid's Tale-ish turn of events. Time magazine reports that the creationists have apparently ensconced themselves in the National Park Service. Or at least in NPS bookstores.

Two-thirds of the way across the continent, some four million people annually visit Grand Canyon National Park, marveling at the awesome view. In National Park Service (NPS) affiliated bookstores, they can find literature informing them that the great chasm runs for 277 miles along the bed of the Colorado River. It descends more than a mile into the earth, and along one stretch, is some 18 miles wide, its walls displaying impressive layers of limestone, sandstone, shale, schist and granite.

And, oh yes, it was formed about 4,500 years ago, a direct consequence of Noah’s Flood. How’s that? Yes, this is the ill-informed premise of “Grand Canyon, a Different View,” a handsomely-illustrated volume also on sale at the bookstores. It includes the writings of creationists and creation scientists and was compiled by Tom Vail, who with his wife operates Canyon Ministries, conducting creationist-view tours of the canyon. “For years,” Vail explains, “as a Colorado River guide, I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time span of millions of years. (Most geologists place the canyon’s age at some six million years). Then I met the Lord. Now I have a different view of the Canyon, which according to a biblical time scale, can’t possibly be more than a few thousand years old.”

But (you're thinking), surely they can't get away with this! They can't sell a book like that in a state-run, taxpayer funded, park affiliated store! Right? Wrong.

But when Grand Canyon National Park superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale of Vail’s book at canyon bookstores, he was overruled by NPS headquarters, which announced that a high-level policy review of the matter would be launched and a decision made by February, 2004. So far, no official decision has been announced.

Even worse, according to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), an organization that includes many Park employees, papers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that no review has ever taken place. Indeed, PEER claims that the Bush Administration has already decided it will stand by its approval for the book and that hundreds more have been ordered. “Now that the book has become quite popular,” explained an NPS flack to a Baptist news agency, “we don’t want to remove it.”

Isn't that just ducky? I wonder when they're going to start making atheists and agnostics wear armbands and live in special "neighborhoods." (Thanks to the indispensable Progress Report for the link.)