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E-mails on creation flap 'swamp' Park Service

Posted By Ron Strom On 01/14/2004 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Thousands of Americans on both sides of a heated debate over a book offered in a Grand Canyon gift shop have e-mailed their opinions to the National Park Service in the last several days.

“I’m swamped,” David Barna, chief of public affairs for the agency, told WorldNetDaily. Barna estimated the number of e-mails and phone calls to be “probably 2,000 easily.”

Causing the flow of e-mail is the controversy over a book for sale at the Grand Canyon that claims the famous area was formed by the Old Testament flood Noah survived and can be no older than a few thousand years. That contention has some scientists calling for the book to be pulled from store shelves. Most geologists contend the canyon is millions of years old.

Organizations such as the American Geological Institute and the American Institute of Biological Sciences have expressed concern about the book, saying its presence could leave visitors with the impression that it is endorsed by the Park Service.

“The Grand Canyon was formed millions of years ago,” said William Ausich, president of the Paleontological Society, according to Religion News Service. “It is the job of the National Park Service to present the best scientific information possible to the public, and the book is complete pseudoscience.”

Mark Looy disagrees, saying the canyon is much younger. Looy is vice president of Answers in Genesis, a creationist organization that contributed essays to the book.

“The canyon was formed as a result of the aftereffects of Noah’s flood, a worldwide global flood,” he said. “Most of the canyon was formed by a lot of water over a relatively short period of time.”

Looy told WND Answers in Genesis appears to be leading the effort of creationists to let the Park Service know what they think of the call to remove the book. He says the organization encouraged the 17,000 people on its e-mail list to contact the Park Service.

Answers in Genesis has a staff of 130 full-time employees worldwide, including 12 scientists with doctorates in various fields.

Though the book, “Grand Canyon: A Different View” by veteran Colorado River guide Tom Vail, sold out recently, gift shop staff reordered it. In the meantime, Park Service personnel are trying to determine how to resolve the issue.

“Policy folks are meeting with the interpretive staff and attorneys to figure out what kind of guidance we can give the park,” Barna said.

Barna, who says the e-mails have been “split about 50-50″ on the issue, emphasized the Park Service does not make decisions based on the opinions of e-mailers.

“We don’t run things based on how many e-mails we’ve received,” he told WND.

Barna says Park Service interpreters teach that the canyon is millions of years old, but that fact doesn’t preclude the gift shop from carrying other opinions.

“Bookstores are not necessarily part of the interpretive program,” he said. “Just because it’s in our bookstore doesn’t mean we endorse those views.”

He likened the creationist book to Native American books for sale in Park Service shops that explain geological formations based on ancient Indian stories.

Asked when he thought the controversy would be resolved, Barna said, “Within the next three or four weeks,” adding, “Upper management knows what’s going on.”

Vail’s book features colorful photographs of the canyon and essays presenting the creationist view of the Grand Canyon’s origin.

“For years, as a Colorado River guide I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years,” writes Vail on the website of his Phoenix-based Canyon Ministries. “Then I met the Lord. Now, I have ‘a different view’ of the canyon, which, according to a biblical time scale, can’t possibly be more than a few thousand years old.”

The book, which reportedly has been moved from the natural sciences section to the inspirational reading section, was unanimously approved by a panel of park and gift shop personnel, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Deanne Adams, the Park Service’s chief of interpretation for the Pacific Region, says personnel often struggle with how to address different opinions about the age of the Earth.

“We like to acknowledge that there are different viewpoints, but we have to stick with the science. That’s our training,” Adams told the Times. She says there is no federal guideline for how to answer religious inquiries. “Every fundamentalist or Christian group has a take on how they interpret the Bible. They are entitled to believe whatever they believe. It’s not our job to change their minds.”

Answers in Genesis’ website appeal asks supporters to urge the Park Service to keep the book in the natural sciences section rather than the inspirational reading section.

“Please don’t move the book to an ‘inspirational’ section,” the site suggests supports tell the agency. “It presents the serious scientific viewpoint of many scientists.”



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