From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=801

HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY
Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

December 28, 2006

Washington, DC – 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.'”

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National
Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the
book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to
honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the
Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet,
suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for
rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between
science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic
issues.

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 PEER, no such review was ever requested, let alone
conducted or completed.

Park officials have defended the decision to approve the sale of Grand
Canyon: A Different View, claiming that park bookstores are like
libraries, where the broadest range of views are displayed. In fact,
however, both law and park policies make it clear that the park
bookstores are more like schoolrooms rather than libraries. As such,
materials are only to reflect the highest quality science and are
supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover,
unlike a library 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.

Ironically, in 2005, two years after the Grand Canyon creationist
controversy erupted, NPS approved a new directive on “Interpretation
and Education (Director’s Order #6) which reinforces the posture that
materials on 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 [and]
Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to
endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes.”

“As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone
National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils
of Satan,” Ruch added, pointing to the fact that previous NPS
leadership ignored strong protests from both its own scientists and
leading geological societies against the agency approval of the
creationist book. “We sincerely hope that the new Director of the
Park Service now has the autonomy to do her job.”

Contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337
info [at] peer [dot] org

8.4.2 Historical and Scientific Research. Superintendents, historians,
scientists, and interpretive staff are responsible for ensuring that
park interpretive and educational programs and media are accurate and
reflect current scholarship…Questions often arise round the
presentation of geological, biological, and evolutionary processes. The
interpretive and educational treatment used to explain the natural
processes and 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. The facts, theories, and
interpretations to be used will reflect the thinking of the scientific
community in such fields as biology, geology, physics, astronomy,
chemistry, and paleontology. Interpretive and educational programs must
refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural
processes. Programs, however, may acknowledge or explain other
explanations of natural processes and events.

http://www.nps.gov/policy/DOrders/DOrder6.html