(Florence, KY) – A new book offering an alternative view of how the Grand Canyon was formed is the object of a book- banning effort by prominent evolutionists, who have demanded that the Grand Canyon National Park Service remove the text from bookstores within the park.
Grand Canyon: A Different View is the 2003 work of Tom Vail, who collected essays from 23 contributors (most of whom hold earned doctorates in science). His book presents a creation science viewpoint of the Canyon's formation that is quite different than what most Canyon visitors are told.
Creation scientists present evidence that the Grand Canyon was formed not by the slow erosion of the Colorado River over millions of years, but by a lot of water over a short period of time.
The controversial "Grand Canyon: A Different View" has been on sale at the Canyon's bookstores since last fall. It quickly raised the hackles of the presidents of seven science organizations, who jointly signed a December 16 2003 letter to the park's superintendent urging him to remove the book.
Apparently in an effort to placate some outraged Grand Canyon employees, the book has been moved from the natural sciences section to the inspirational reading section of park bookstores.
"I've had reactions from the staff all over the board on it," park Deputy Supt. Kate Cannon. told the Los Angeles Times. "There were certainly people on the interpretive staff that were upset by it. Respect of visitors' views is imperative, but we do urge our interpreters to give scientifically correct information."
Washington based Park Service spokesman David Barna told the Los Angeles Times that each park determines which products are sold in its bookstores and gift shops. The creationist book at the Grand Canyon was unanimously approved by a new-product review panel of park and gift shop personnel.
But the book's status at the park is still up in the air. Grand Canyon's superintendent, Joe Alston, has sought guidance from Park Service headquarters in Washington. Meanwhile, the book has sold out and is being reordered, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Ken Ham, one of the book's essayists and president of Answers in Genesis, (AIG) commented, "The effort to ban the book is remarkable. Although Tom's beautifully illustrated book is low key, it still has managed to shake up the evolutionary community and its strongly held beliefs about the Grand Canyon and its supposed history of millions of years. I hope the controversy will lead many more people, including Canyon visitors, to read its alternative, scientific viewpoint."
Ham added, "Since the book shares the conclusion of most Canyon geologists—whether creationist or evolutionist—that most of the Canyon was created in a relatively short period of time, why then shouldn't its visitors be exposed to this view?"
Answers in Genesis, is a self-described "Christian apologetics ministry that equips the church to uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse. The thousands of articles and media programs on this site answer questions about creation/evolution, dinosaurs, and much more."
ORIGINS OF THE CONTROVERSY
The controversy was apparently originated by Dr. Wilfred A. Elders, a professor at the University of California–Riverside. He commented, "During my visit to the Grand Canyon in August 2003, I learned that this book, "Grand Canyon: a Different View," was being sold in bookstores within the national park."
Apparently incensed, Elders published a scathing review of the book Elder's Review.
Elders summed up his review by commenting "(The book) is not a geological treatise. It is ‘Exhibit A' of a new, slick strategy to proselytize by biblical literalists using a beautifully illustrated, multi-authored book about a spectacular and world-famous geological feature. Allowing the sale of this book within the National Park was unfortunate. In the minds of some buyers, this could imply National Park Service (NPS) approval of young Earth creationists and their religious proselytizing. I believe that the continued sale of this book within the National Park will undermine the work of the NPS interpreters who work so hard to educate the public."
Admittedly, Elders did have one or two nice things to say about the book. He wrote "To me GCDV is remarkable; it is the only young earth creationist text that I have enjoyed reading. Its author and compiler, Thomas Vail of Canyon Ministries, has been a river guide for many years and knows the Grand Canyon at river-level better than most people.
However, it is not his ideas that I found attractive but rather the striking layout and many beautiful photographs of the Grand Canyon that enhance the text. These are largely the work of another river guide, Charley Heavenrich, about whom Vail writes (GCDV, p. 104) - ‘Although he does not share the creationist point of view, he is profoundly moved by the canyon and the depth of courage and ability he sees in the people who travel with him.'"
The complete review appears on a site titled "No Answers in Genesis" The site's home page is subtitled "Creationism is not the answer to evolution; ignorance is."
SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES WEIGH IN ON BOOK CONTROVERSY
Three months later, the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park received a letter of protest, signed by seven presidents of a number of prestigious scientific societies. They included the American Geophysical Union, the American Geological Institute and the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology
The letter (available at AGIWEB.com) read in part,
"It has come to our attention that a book espousing a particular religious interpretation of the Grand Canyon is being sold in bookstores within the Grand Canyon National Park under the guise of a being a scientific explanation for the origin of the canyon. The book, Grand Canyon: A Different View (compiled by Vail, 2003), makes claims about rocks and the formation of the canyon that are at odds with the well-documented scientific understanding of Earth history.
The book is not about geology but, rather, advances a narrow religious view about the Earth. We urge you to remove the book from shelves where buyers are given the impression that the book is about Earth science and its content endorsed by the National Park Service."
The letter writers told Grand Canyon Superintendent Joseph Alston, "The National Park Service should be extremely careful about giving the impression that it approves of the anti-science movement known as young Earth creationism or endorses the advancement of religious tenets as science.
The book aggressively attacks modern science and broadly accepted interpretations of the geologic history of the Grand Canyon. As such, any implied approval or endorsement by the NPS for the book and others like it undermines efforts to educate the public about the scientific understanding of Grand Canyon geology."
The writers continued by telling the park superintendent that the book "is not about science." As such, they commented, "We strongly urge that, if it remains available in Grand Canyon bookstores, it be clearly separated from books and materials that do discuss our scientific understanding of Grand Canyon geology.
As you know, the Grand Canyon provides a remarkable and unique opportunity to educate the public about Earth science. In fairness to the millions of park visitors, we must clearly distinguish religious tenets from scientific knowledge."
Commenting on the Answers in Genesis web site (Answers in Genesis), Vail said he is not surprised at the letter. He said,
"The book presents a different view, one that goes against the grain of everything they [evolutionary geologists] believe. Without an earth that is millions of years old, the entire evolutionary house of cards falls apart, and think about what that would mean to those that have been trying to ‘prove' this theory their whole careers. Not only does their theory crumble, but their world view crumbles with it."
The situation escalated when a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a self-described "private, non-profit organization that protects the government employees who protect our environment) got involved and issued a press release lambasting what they saw as a "Christian fundamentalist" takeover of the National Park Service.
Posted by Environmental Media Services at Environmental Media, the release was headlined "Religion on Display in National Parks; Christian Fundamentalist Influence on Park Service Decisions - ‘Faith-Based Parks' Decried."
It read in part, "In a series of recent decisions, the National Park Service has approved the display of religious symbols and Bible verses, as well as the sale of creationist books giving a non-evolutionary explanation for the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders within national parks, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Also, under pressure from conservative groups, the Park Service has agreed to edit the videotape that has been shown at the Lincoln Memorial since 1995 to remove any image of gay and abortion rights demonstrations that occurred at the memorial.
"‘The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups,'" stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. ‘The Bush Administration appears to be sponsoring a program of Faith-Based Parks.'"
Environmental Media Services (www.ems.org) is a self-described non-profit organization "dedicated to providing journalists with the most current information on environmental issues."
Writing on the Answers in Genesis web site (Answers in Genesis), writer Mike Matthews commented in part, "It's simply untrue and deceptive to claim that those who believe in a young earth are ‘anti-science' and that the book ‘Grand Canyon: A Different View' ‘aggressively attacks modern science.'
In fact, three creationist scientists made poster presentations of their radiometric dating research at a conference of the American Geophysical Union on December 5—and all three of these men (Dr. John Baumgardner, Dr. Russell Humphreys and Dr. Larry Vardiman) are contributors to Vail's Grand Canyon book."
Matthews said that another contributor to Vail's book, Dr. Steven Austin, presented a paper at a Geological Society of America conference. This concerned "his discovery of massive numbers of nautiloid fossils (a squid-like creature) catastrophically deposited in a rock formation of Grand Canyon over hundreds of kilometers and including billions of nautiloids. The National Park Service even asked Dr. Austin to write a monograph for them, explaining his findings."
Matthews said Austin's discovery was made in part because of his adherence to a literal interpretation of Genesis when considering the world's geology and history. He added, "Evolutionists missed the story because they were not looking for evidence of catastrophe on such a massive scale."
This latest controversy followed one last year when Canyon officials required that plaques containing Biblical Psalms be removed from the Canyon. That decision was later overturned and is now under review.
Visit Jeremy's website at JoyJunction Jeremy Reynalds was born in England, emigrated to the United States in 1978 and married Sylvia in 1979. They have five boys. Jeremy gave his life to the Lord in 1976 and currently attends Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque. He became an American citizen in 1998 and voted in his first general election in 2000.
Copyright © 2003 Jeremy Reynalds.