1.07.2007

much older than that

Before I moved to Canada, I frequently blogged on topics roughly categorized under "creeping theocracy". Whether it was attacks on an independent judiciary, pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions they don't approve of, proselytizing in the armed forces, or anti-abortion terrorism, one of the many reasons for our unhappiness in the US was the escalating Christianization of the country. And I say that with apologies to the millions of American Christians who don't interpret myths literally and who want to live in a secular state.

One of the biggest topics on our Theocracy Watch checklist has to be creationism and its barely-disguised counterpart, mistakenly called "intelligent design". (Don't let those quotes fall off, folks.)

How about this for Theocracy Watch?

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER):
How Old Is The Grand Canyon? Park Service Won't Say
Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

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.
The National Parks are one of the US's truly great legacies. I grew up visiting Parks all over the country on family vacations, and their desecration breaks my heart.

Under the Resident Administration, industry interests have trumped the interests of the Parks and most Park visitors; the presence of snowmobiles in Yellowstone is one horrible example. This just kills me. Supposedly we need to "balance" the interests of the snowmobile industry (and the tiny percentage of Park visitors who want to ride them) with those of the magnificent, historic park and the millions of people who travel to it every year. Balance? Why should snowmobile interests share any part of the equation? Why shouldn't they be completely banned? Let people who want to ride snowmobiles do it elsewhere. But then, the people who make and fuel the snowmobiles would lose business, and they've contributed heavily to re-election campaigns.

This is a frightening, dangerous, slippery slope. If it weren't for the National Park Service, there'd be Canyon View Condos overlooking the Grand Canyon, and not a redwood left in Yosemite. Commercial interests have to be barred from the Parks, or the Parks will be destroyed.

This creationist ignorance is a different kind of threat, something more insidious - invisible, and even more dangerous.

There's a touch of irony in this for me, too. When I was growing up, our family vacations almost always centered on National Parks. My parents took us all over the country, near (upstate New York, Maine) and far (South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, California) to experience their natural beauty and grandeur. One of the few positive gifts I got from my father (along with his politics) was his great appreciation of nature.

On one visit to the Grand Canyon, he woke me up before dawn, and we went together, alone, to see the sun rise over the Canyon. It was an awesome sight, in the true meaning of the word. My father told me it was in the presence of great natural beauty and wonder like this that he felt his belief in god. Like most people, he saw no contradiction in feeling god's presence and understanding the natural forces that created something like the Grand Canyon. Perhaps like most people, he saw them as inextricably linked.

Here's a history of the creationist threat to the National Parks, and a look at commercial and religious threats to the National Parks. There's a petition you can sign and some other ways to take action.

10 comments:

Scott M. said...

My god, that's horrible!

This can't be serious... they refuse to acknowledge the science within the park??!? Isn't that part of their mandate?

That must be part of their mandate.

Are PEER proporting a urban myth?

L-girl said...

Are PEER proporting a urban myth?

Scott, I know it seems unbelievable. Allan sent me the link, and he said he was sure it must have been a hoax or an April Fool's type of satire.

But it's real. The pamphlet first came out in (I think) 2004. Check the links at the end of the post.

Scott M. said...

Fortunately, they still have the real data on their web site:

http://www.nps.gov/archive/grca/education/EE_FieldTrips/index.htm

redsock said...

I know I type this a lot (and so does L), but news like this is what we mean when we say to people living outside the US that you have no idea what is going on up/over there.

There is shit like this going on every single day, on countless fronts, never (or just barely) reported by the "liberal media" (like once at the bottom of page F56 and then forgotten forever).

redsock said...

Another great thing is Bush's "signing statements", which are becoming more and more common.

For example, he signs a bill prohibiting something (like torture) but he then tacks on a rider stating that he is under no obligation to actually abide by the law.

Ta-da! Most people then think he has prohibited torture (yay!) and he gets to legally do what he has been doing all along. And the wonderful "opposition party" doesn't utter a peep.

Hell of a way to run a democracy.

redsock said...

Okay, last one.

The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House complex are not subject to public disclosure.

The Bush administration didn't reveal the existence of the memorandum of understanding until last fall. ...

******

Ah, the "people's house"! And yet the New York Daily News reports that Bush "has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant ... [He] asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed ..."

L-girl said...

And yet the New York Daily News reports that Bush "has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant ... [He] asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

Damnit, this was my next post! Go get your own blog, eh.

And you took down your political blog because...?

James said...

You can find more recent details at the Bad Astronomy website. Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer) points out that the PEER press release is a little misleading: no-one's actually been instructed to respond "no comment" to questions about the canyon's age. Here's the actual situation:

"Are you simply saying that the NPS hasn’t offered an official guideline to its employees as to how they are to answer that question, and not that the official position is to answer “no comment”?"

1. Reports from Grand Canyon NP interpretive staff, some of whom have been seeking clarification from their chain-of-command relative to questions about the validity of “young earth claims.” The more than three-year hold-up in blocking official guidance on this question is part of this concern.

2. Statements by NPS HQ officials that the creationist view should be given equal time in park materials.

3. The reply from the Grand Canyon superintendent’s office to media inquiries on the official park view on the age of the Canyon.

[PEER] did not mean to imply that geological information has been deleted from park materials.


Not that this is any better, but one of the worst things that can happen when trying to fight this kind of thing is to misrepresent the actual situation, no matter how trivially -- do that, and the creationists feel justified in dismissing you entirely as a liar.

Crabbi said...

I was disgusted to see plaques witth biblical verses at the Grand Canyon. Apparently they were removed at one time and then returned. I get that religious types want to give praise to what they see as god's handiwork, grandeuer, etc., but can't they do that privately, keeping in mind that not everyone shares their beliefs? Oh wait, I'm being rational, aren't I? Damn me.

Scott M. said...

My god.