Washington, DC — The leadership of the National Park Service is ignoring calls by its own senior scientists to withdraw approval for a creationist book now being sold in park facilities, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, the book, which claims that the Grand Canyon is only 6,000 years old, has been re-ordered and is being marketed on the web as “natural history.”
A review by Park Service geologists not only found the book wildly inaccurate but that its sale violated agency policies and undercut its scientific education programs. On January 25, David Shaver, the Chief of the Park Service’s Geologic Resources Division sent a memo to Headquarters calling for removal of the book, concluding —
“Our review of …NPS policies and Grand Canyon: A Different View, lead us to conclude that this book: does not use accurate, professional and scholarly knowledge; is not based on science but a specific religious doctrine; does not further the public’s understanding of the Grand Canyon’s existence; does not further the mission of the National park Service…and finally, that this book should not have been approved for sale in NPS affiliated book sales.”
This past summer, the Park Service initially approved Grand Canyon: A Different View, by Tom Vail, for sale in park bookstores and museums one week after Deputy Director Donald Murphy had ordered bronze plaques bearing Psalm verses replaced at Grand Canyon. Murphy also wrote a letter of apology to the plaques’ sponsors, the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. In August, the Grand Canyon National Park superintendent appealed to Headquarters, raising questions about the “appropriateness” of offering a book claiming that the central feature of the park developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. Despite the controversy, the top leadership of the Park Service has —
- Approved ordering hundreds more copies of a book and offering it for sale on the Grand Canyon Association’s internet site as “natural history;”
- Blocked publication of guidance for park rangers and other interpretative staff that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific basis; and
- Stonewalled requests by the Grand Canyon superintendent, agency geologists and others for a ruling on whether the book violated Park Service rules.
“In order to avoid offending Christian fundamentalists, the National Park Service has been forced to adopt a position of geologic agnosticism,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the Grand Canyon National Park no longer offers an official estimate of the age of the Canyon. “On the same basis that public schools do not approve creationist books as science textbooks, the National Park Service has no business promoting Christian ideology masquerading as science.”