The National Park Service has dragged its feet for three years on a decision about whether to halt the sale of a creationist book saying the Grand Canyon is only thousands of years old, an advocacy group has charged.
The agency has also declined to give an official answer on the Canyon’s age because of pressure from the Bush administration and religious groups, the group said. Most geologists put the Canyon’s age at 5 million to 6 million years.
“As one park geologist said, this is the equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book titled ‘Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan,’ ” said Jeff Ruch, the group’s executive director.
Ruch’s group is also asking the Park Service to give tour guides explicit instructions about what to say when someone asks whether the Canyon could be younger than most geologists believe.
The guides should tell those visitors there is no valid scientific data to support the idea that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, Ruch said, calling for the release of a 2002 Park Service pamphlet saying as much.
“In terms of the official position of the park as to whether the creationist claims have any merit, they’re not allowed to say anything,” Ruch said, citing complaints he had received from park interpretive staff members. “In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology.”
Local Park Service staffers say that’s not the case.
The interpretive staffers leading tours give the age of the Canyon at 5 million to 6 million years with some rock layers dating to 1.7 billion years. The Canyon’s staff has not reported any confusion as to what to tell visitors, the Park Service said.
But the agency didn’t detail what their employees should say when a visitor asks whether the Canyon could be younger, or formed in the same flood that carried Noah’s ark.
After three years, the Grand Canyon Association is still selling “A Different View.”
“We do not use the creationist text in our teaching, nor do we endorse its content. However, it is not our place to censor alternate beliefs,” Park Service spokesman David Barna said.