National Park Service Not Allowed to Talk About Geologic Age of Grand Canyon—Might Offend Creationists


Or at least that's what the advocacy group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility claim. To wit:

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).

The creationist book in question is Grand Canyon: A Different View. My favorite line about the creationist book that is still on sale at the park bookstores is:

"As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan."

Whole press release here

Hat tip to David Nott.  


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  1. As stupid as this is it is also instructive to remember that if the Grand Canyon was owned and/or operated by a private organization, this kind of political posturing could be avoided. That wouldn’t stop the creationists from making absurd claims but it would offer control over what is presented to those who actually own the property.

    The Nostrils of Satan crack is priceless. LOL.

  2. Oh, BTW, I don’t really care if the Park service sells Grand Canyon: A Different View. It really isn’t any more absurd than some of the politically correct crap (books and booklets) I’ve seen for sale at places like Wupatki, Sunset Crater, & Rainbow Bridge (where the Park Service says don’t walk under the bridge because you’ll offend the Indians).

  3. WC: “…it would offer control over what is presented to those who actually own the property.”

    What if the creationists bought it? Holy (bull)shit!

  4. Fortunately, I have devised a Deep Time workaround to make the Canyon’s excess of geology acceptable to vetically challenged Creationists :

  5. Godfrey, that’s the problem with markets, sometimes the Scientologists buy stuff we wish someone else owned.

    To move from the reality of where we are now to a more palatable there I would think it would be more likely that some sort of long term operating lease or a co-op purchase to an organization(s) like the Nature Conservancy would be a more likely scenario. the deal would, of course, have to contain many CC&R’s to maintain the status (for future generations) of what we have come to want from a National Park.

  6. The bible says it was created by Noah’s flood, period, END OF DISCUSSION. Who are we to argue with the truth?

  7. Actually, most of us minarchists clould look the other way with respect to government owned parks if the fargin’ government wasn’t such a poor steward of our resources. There are so many problems in need of a fix that privatizing the parks is way, way, way down on the list, except that it might offer better management and upkeep. Not always a given, but often is true.

    I’m digressing here, but many of the new developments out west are putting in private parks that are maintained by the HOA as an effective way of keeping the lowlifes out, the toilets clean, and the graffiti down to a minimum. It seems to be working.

  8. Hey Juanita, where you been?

    I just know you were that skanky sax player with the bad legs and bad breath that used to sit next to me in tenth grade. Didn’t you move to Japan or something?

  9. Uh, Juanita, that’s quite a website you got going there. 🙂 Better warn the guys that it isn’t appropriate for work. Got dam that made me LOL.

  10. TWC

    First time that happened to me I was worried for a week that the IT guy was going to shoot me an email 🙂

    Great post, but not much to say. Some things speak for themselves.

  11. Steve ITK–yep, that was quite a surprise.


  12. due to pressure from Bush administration appointees.

    Name names.

    I’m willing to believe that some True Believers got a creationist book put on the rack. Hey, isn’t that what diversity and multiculturalism are all about?

    But I find it harder to believe that said True Believers are actually trying to prohibit park personnel from giving the “official” estimate of the age of the park. Any real attempt to do so would leave a trail a mile wide.

    I smell disgruntled Dem civil servants propagating an urban legend.

  13. I don’t think it’s a big deal to sell one book catering to Creationists. If it convinces one person to hawk over 20 bucks to support the management of the park, it’s 20 bucks less that the Government has to steal… er… appropriate from the rest of us.

  14. the main source of information in the PEER press release is…. the executive director of PEER.

    they seem to be able to document pretty well the pathetic saga of the creationist book issue, but it’s hard to get outraged about someone putting a book of stupid opinions out into the marketplace of ideas. i thought that’s how it worked. yes, i know, library vs. school room and all that, but really, just take a stress pill and relax. there are about 1,523,346 worse problems to worry about.

    and my bullshit detector is wailing after the unsubstantiated claim that 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.

    i assume what this really means is that PEER demanded that GCNP “say the words”, and due to either pressure from above, or annoyance at being told what to do, GCNP declined. but that is quite a different thing from rangers, interpretive displays, etc. pretty clearly showing the assumed age of various features. until someone i trust tells me they’ve been to GCNP and all the signs i remember seeing have been taken down, i think PEER is just saying something that, while techincally true, is easy to misinterpet and generate outrage.


  15. well, if i was 7 minutes faster, it would have been me that looked smart, and rc dean would haved looked like a parrot, copying me.


  16. Not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature? Really?

    NPS: Nature & Science? Geology Resources Division ? Grand Canyon

    How old is the canyon itself?
    The early history and evolution of the Colorado River (of which Grand Canyon is only a part) is the most complex aspect of Grand Canyon geology and far beyond our scope here. We do know, however, that the erosion which has shaped the canyon has occurred only in the past five to six million years-only yesterday, considering the age of the rocks through which the Canyon is carved.

    Are the Oldest rocks in the world exposed at Grand Canyon?
    Although the oldest rocks at Grand Canyon (2 billion years old; ie. 2,000,000,000) are fairly old by any standard, the oldest rocks in the world are closer to 4 billion years old. The oldest exposed rocks in North America (which are among the oldest rocks in the world) are in northern Canada.

    How old is the Canyon?
    That’s a tricky question. Although rocks exposed in the walls of the canyon are geologically old, the Canyon itself is a fairly young feature. The oldest rocks at the canyon bottom are close to 2 billion years old. The Canyon itself-an erosional feature-has formed only in the past five or six million years (6,000,000). Geologically speaking, Grand Canyon is very young.

    From an official publication of the National Park Service. Doesn’t sound very creationist to me.

  17. Oh no, the unwashed masses are influencing the activity of the Federal Government! How dare they?

    If you don’t want to hear Bubba’s opinion, don’t spend Bubba’s money.

  18. the age of various geological structures isn’t an “opinion” in the same sense that “rainbows are pretty” is an opinion.

    perhaps we should take polls and decide whether proteins or DNA is the genetic material of humans based on the opinions of the populace at large, instead of, you know, evidence and observations of experiments.

  19. The Wine Commonsewer says:

    “Godfrey, that’s the problem with markets, sometimes the Scientologists buy stuff we wish someone else owned.” [Emphasis added.]

    Was that a typo, sir? Not that I object to the sentiment, it just seems a little Freudian, is all.

  20. If it were me, I’d buy the Grand Canyon and do what we did in Springfield with our gorge.

  21. Son, I picked on Scientologists on purpose because they have purchased a couple of really cool buildings that I would have rather they didn’t. I also considered using the example of the Jesus Freaks that bought Murrieta Hot Springs and closed it off to the public, as well as the Moonies and the Washington Times. Despite the appearance of a clever play on words I was not casting aspersions on scientists.

  22. Re: the allegations of pressure from the Bush people: someone (I think it was Michael Shermer over at wrote a few months ago that he had spoken with Bush’s “science” consultants who assured him that despite the tossing of rhetorical bones to the evangelicals, the administration was solidly on the side of science and evolution. Take it for what it’s worth…

  23. ……..nor being purposefully Freudian, which I suppose is, well, not being Freudian cuz you know about it.

  24. I looked at the PEER website and didn’t see any proof that the Park Service was pressured. RD Dean (as usual) is correct as is Cab and Mr Miller.

    Where’s The Beef Regards, TWC

  25. Russell: good job correcting the geological column. This’ll shut those so-called “scientists” up once and for all and hopefully bring a lot of atheists back to the Lord.

    Praise be!

  26. I disagree with Creationism (I’m a Geneticist) but I can’t think of a better way to set school curricula than to let the locals vote on it. If they choose Noah’s Ark, then so be it.

    This extends to the Grand Canyon. If the Feds are going to fund a park, then the trappings of the site will have public input. I fully expect there to be some inconsistency, but on the whole it’s the only way to do it.

  27. Then, bubba, may your children’s only school alternative be one of those schools.

    You also probably never visited the Smithsonian during the Clinton years…

  28. W.E., actually, that’s a great argument for abolishing public schools.

  29. “Bush’s “science” consultants who assured him that … the administration was solidly on the side of science and evolution.”

    After that comment, I expect to hear joe speaking up for Creation Science at any moment. 😉

  30. Those NPS guys are very clever. In addition to the link gave they also post some of that heretical information on their GCNP FAQ page. I guess PEER didn’t think that was a frequently asked question.

    I’m going to send out my own press release demanding that the NPS stop doing Bush’s bidding in claiming the Grand Canyon was created by a supernatural being. Paul Bunyan.

    How old is the Canyon?

    That’s a tricky question. Although rocks exposed in the walls of the canyon are geologically quite old, the Canyon itself is a fairly young feature. The oldest rocks at the canyon bottom are close to 2000 million years old. The Canyon itself – an erosional feature – has formed only in the past five or six million years. Geologically speaking, Grand Canyon is very young.

  31. bubba, I recall from another thread that you’re a geneticist and also not a creationist, but my point is, certain aspects of reality aren’t up for debate or to be put to a vote. should local school boards or electorates vote on what the usual color of the sky is? (“it’s blue!” “no, it’s green! in our county, what you call blue, we call green. we had a vote.”) or are certain aspects of reality objectively factual? should local school boards get to decide whether 1+1=2 or not?

  32. Creationists get it that “nostrils of Satan” is just jerking their bobber. They know Satan is much more insidious, not to mention suave and debonair. They know He laughs at neither Jeff Foxworthy nor The Cable Guy.

  33. My question: Is “The Grand Canyon: A Different View” selling? No matter what the rhetoric, “The People” have a tendency to vote with their dollars.

  34. Having spent more time on this than it merits (i.e., five minutes), this is pretty clearly an invented fight. This comes from the letter *to* the NPS from PEER, the group which issued the press rleease that sparked this:

    At the same time, Park Service leadership has blocked publication of guidance for park rangers and other interpretative staff that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific basis. As a consequence, NPS staff has no official guidance as to how to answer questions from the public concerning topics such as creationists’ “young earth” claims.

    Not exactly – as the letter eventually makes clear, the NPS guidelines exhort the staff to base their answers on the best available science. However, I have no doubt that some senior Bushie is manfully resisting calls for him to specifically state that creationism is bunk – his view, presumably, is that the order to utilize the best available science is clear enough already.

    PEER, of course, wants the a directive specifically denouncing creationism in order to embarrass some senior Bushies. Cute, but hardly the attack on science they are depicting here.

    However, they know their audience – no lefty site I have seen that has picked this up has even bothered to check the NPS website.

  35. I’m surprised the normally rational Ron Bailey fell for this BS. I visited the Canyon just last year and I knew it was Lefty agitprop after reading the first paragraph.

    As for the Lefties, it was just too good to pass up: An opportunity for a real twofer, to be able to simultaneously embarass the Bush Administration AND ridicule religious conservatives.

  36. Sheesh, when can we get rid of our own Lysenkoists?

    I think the Chinese and the Indians would call these people “useful idiots.”

    Note: the critical mass of plutonium is not decided upon by a vote from the general populace.

    “The fallacy of democracy is that it assumes the average opinion of ten people from off the street is better at taking out your appendix than one doctor.”

  37. Utter Bunkum. Read Tom Maguire (Just One Minte) or go to the park;s own website.

  38. How can they say the GRAND CANYON is milloins of years old it dont exactly have a age to count


    “Experience North America’s biggest whitewater on this Christ-centered motorized rafting trip through a canyon with walls over a mile high.”

    i just wanted to share that.

  40. “Nostrils of Satan” is a great book, I can’t believe all these people are making fun of it!

  41. As a former national park ranger, I highly doubt that interpretive rangers were told not to disclose the Canyon’s age. Interpretive park rangers are, first and foremost, scientists. Such a proclamation would stir up rebellion, and I surely would have heard about this through my network of NPS friends. I’m going to do some digging though with some of my contacts and post my findings. Thanks for bringing this to light.

  42. Had something similar happen when I went to Mammoth Cave last week. When the NPS guide talked about the creation of the cave and it’s age, he added ‘Allegedly’ to the end.

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