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317scary report on censoring of Science at the Grand Canyon

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  • erickrieg@verizon.net
    Jan 17, 2007
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      From Michael Shermer's "eSkeptic" magazine In this week's eSkeptic, geologist and paleontologist Dr. Donald
      >Prothero discusses the latest creationist challenge to science in the
      >form of banning park rangers at the Grand Canyon from telling people
      >how old it is!
      >Dr. Donald R. Prothero is Professor of Geology at Occidental College
      >in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute
      >of Technology in Pasadena. He is currently the author, co-author,
      >editor, or co-editor of 21 books and almost 200 scientific papers,
      >including five leading geology textbooks and three trade books. He is
      >on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine, and in the past has served
      >as an associate or technical editor for Geology, Paleobiology and
      >Journal of Paleontology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of
      >America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of
      >London, and has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim
      >Foundation and the National Science Foundation. He has also been
      >featured on several television documentaries, including episodes of
      >Paleoworld and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts.
      >Creationism in Our National Parks
      >by Donald Prothero
      >If you thought that censoring talk about global warming and
      >suppressing the free speech of government scientists was bad enough,
      >last December the government reached a new low. According to documents
      >released on Dec. 28, 2006 by the Public Employees for Environmental
      >Responsibility (PEER), Bush administration appointees will not allow
      >rangers at Grand Canyon National Park to mention that the earth is
      >more than a few thousand years old. "In order to avoid offending
      >religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders
      >to suspend its belief in geology," said PEER 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.'" I have been
      >unable to confirm this report in my own enquiries among rangers and on
      >the NPS website, but perhaps the order is still being considered at
      >the NPS and has not yet been forced on the rangers.
      >This is just the latest step in a creeping introduction of religious
      >fundamentalism to our National Parks. Under the "faith-based"
      >initiatives of the Bush Administration, the National Park Service
      >(NPS) is now creating "faith-based" parks by placing crosses in
      >numerous places, and Biblical verses on the plaques overlooking the
      >Grand Canyon. These plaques were reinstated by Bush appointees after
      >the NPS director had them removed on advice of lawyers in the
      >Department of the Interior. In August 2003, the creationist book Grand
      >Canyon: A Different View, by Tom Vail, was introduced to the Grand
      >Canyon bookstore. It promotes the absurd idea of young-earth
      >creationists that every layer in the Grand Canyon (PLUS its subsequent
      >carving) can be explained by Noah's flood. There were national
      >protests from geologists, all the relevant scientific organizations,
      >and NPS personnel (including the entire NPS geologic staff), and Park
      >Service Superintendent Joe Alston blocked its sale. But Bush
      >appointees at the NPS headquarters intervened and overruled Alston.
      >NPS Chief of Communications David Barna then told Congress and
      >reporters that there would be a review of the issue, but no such
      >review was even requested, even after 3 years — and the creationist
      >book is still on sale in the Grand Canyon! And it is clear that the
      >Bush appointees in the NPS are pandering to the religious right.
      >According to an NPS spokesperson Elaine Sevy, speaking to a Baptist
      >news agency, "Now that the book has become quite popular, we don't
      >want to remove it."
      >The political bias of the process is even more starkly revealed by the
      >way in which the NPS policy approves books for sale in its parks. The
      >policy clearly states that the books are supposed to reflect only the
      >highest quality of science and support approved interpretive themes.
      >According to records, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 other books
      >for placement on the shelves in 2003, and approved only one — the
      >creationist book. In 2005, the NPS approved Director's Order #6,
      >section 8.4.2, which states that "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."
      >This raises even larger, more troubling issues. It's already bad
      >enough that only a minority of Americans have even a limited
      >understanding of evolution, and a majority still believe the creation
      >story is literally true. It's worse that creationists have effectively
      >destroyed the teaching of evolution in science classes around the
      >country by pressure on school boards and textbook publishers, even
      >though the courts have ruled against them every time. Now their attack
      >is focused on geology and the age of the earth, making one of our most
      >essential sciences highly vulnerable. If creationists managed to put
      >their bizarre notions of geology into place, do you think that we
      >would have another new oil discovery, or find any more precious
      >minerals or groundwater? Not likely! Their first attack is naturally
      >in a place like Grand Canyon, which is so popular and so clearly shows
      >the immense span of earth's history, but who's to say where they'll
      >strike next? Many of the national parks, such as Petrified Forest and
      >Dinosaur and Badlands and John Day Fossil Beds, also display an
      >impressive record of fossils changing through time in way that cannot
      >be explained by the Bible. According to PEER Director Ruch, "As one
      >park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park
      >selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan."
      >For further details…
      >* www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=801
      > * www.time.com/time/columnist/jaroff/article/0,9565,783829,00.html
      > * www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=428
      >Take action on the issue
      >For those of you who wish to take action on this issue, we recommend
      >Ms. Mary Bomar, Director
      >National Park Service
      >1849 C Street NW
      >Washington, DC 20240
      >US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
      >354 Dirksen Senate Building
      >Washington, DC 20510
      >202-224-4971 (phone)
      >202-224-6163 (fax)
      >US Senate Subcommittee on National Parks
      >(a subcommittee of the above)
      >354 Dirksen Senate Building
      >Washington, DC 20510
      >202-224-4103 (phone)
      >202-224-4340 (fax)
      >Express your concern to a committee member and request that hearings
      >be held to discuss this unconstitutional practice. Contact your local
      >representative using the following list of Democratic members of the
      >US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
      >* Jeff Bingaman (NM)
      > * Ranking Member *
      > 202-224-5521
      > website
      > * Daniel K. Akaka (HI)
      > 202-224-6361
      > website
      > * Byron Dorgan (ND)
      > 202-224-2551
      > website
      > * Bob Graham (FL)
      > 202-224-3041
      > * Ron Wyden (OR)
      > 202-224-5244
      > website
      > * Tim Johnson (SD)
      > 202-224-5842
      > website
      >* Mary L. Landrieu (LA)
      > 202-224-5824
      > website
      > * Evan Bayh (IN)
      > 202-224-5623
      > website
      > * Dianne Feinstein (CA)
      > 202-224-3841
      > website
      > * Charles Schumer (NY)
      > 202-224-6542
      > website
      > * Maria Cantwell (WA)
      > 202-224-3441
      > website
      > * SEE LIST of Republican members
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