Protests hit Grand Canyon book with creation science essays

PHOENIX (BP)--Secular scientists have taken aim at the National Park Service for a book advocating creation science available at Grand Canyon bookstores.

The volume in question, "Grand Canyon: A Different View" compiled by Tom Vail, describes the canyon's formation as part of the worldwide flood recounted in Genesis. The book also describes the earth as much younger than the usual estimates of secular scientists.

News reports in recent days have highlighted the controversy which has been growing since the hardcover book of photos and essays went on sale last August in bookstores operated at the national park by the independent, nonprofit Grand Canyon Association. The GSA identifies itself as "a non-profit organization established in 1932 to support education, research, and other programs for the benefit of Grand Canyon National Park and its visitors."

The decision to sell Vail's book has drawn barbs from numerous critics in the secular scientific community.

The inclusion of Vail's book among items for sale initially was approved "unanimously ... by a panel of park and gift shop personnel," The Los Angeles Times reported. The book now has been "moved from the natural sciences section to the inspirational reading section" of the canyon's bookstores in an effort to appease park and bookstore employees, The Times reported.

Although acknowledging GCA's independent status, a webpage of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) complains, "Most visitors to the park will not distinguish between facilities managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and the nonprofit association's management of the bookstores; hence it is reasonable to assume that people will believe that the young-earth position is accepted by NPS staff.

"This makes the job of interpretation more difficult -- and interpreters already receive pressure from creationist visitors to 'give all of the evidence' and present a young-earth view," the NCSE webpage states.

The book also was targeted in a letter signed by the presidents of several science organizations, including the Paleontological Society, American Geophysical Union, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Association of American State Geologists, Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, American Geological Institute and the Geological Society of America.

"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 officials wrote to the superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park. "The book aggressively attacks modern science and broadly accepted interpretations of the geologic history of the Grand Canyon."

Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and one of 20 contributors to Vail's book, urged those who want the book sold at the Grand Canyon to contact Frances Mainella, director of the National Park Service, and Gale A. Norton, U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Ham suggested several points could be made by those contacting the NPS, including:

-- "Why shouldn't Canyon visitors be allowed the choice to read this book and then decide for themselves which view of the Canyon's formation is correct?"

-- "Please don't allow censorship and book banning to occur."

-- "Even many evolutionists believe that much of the Canyon was formed by a lot of water over a short period of time -- so why the effort to silence the book's view?"

-- "Many of the essays in the book are written by scientists with doctorate degrees who have also conducted serious research at the canyon." Among the contributors are such well-known creation science proponents as Henry and John Morris, Duane Gish and Ken Ham; Kurt Wise, a Harvard Ph.D. on the faculty of Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn.; and pastor-author John MacArthur.

Vail and his wife, Paula, operate Canyon Ministries in Phoenix, Ariz., and arrange "Christ-centered motorized rafting trip(s)" through the Grand Canyon.

Vail's book, published by New Leaf Press, is available on such websites as Amazon.com, which allows websurfers to post online reviews and comments.

An unnamed reader from Lodi, Calif., said those adhering "to a naturalistic, evolutionary paradigm will not be happy with this book, because it offers people a look at alternative interpretations of science. Many naturalistic evolutionists want to be people's brains for them."

Tom Sholes, a reviewer from Larkspur, Colo., complimented the book as graphically attractive but criticized its scientific views. "The photographs are stunning, but much like the literal view from the Bible, this book is all image and no real substance. ... Great book for creationists though. It will help them feel much more secure in their collective ignorance."

Richard Ruelas, a metro columnist for the Arizona Republic, wrote in a Jan. 12 column about an interview he conducted with Vail: "I told him that unlike his own unshakable beliefs, science would probably welcome evidence that supported creation. 'That's how it's supposed to be,' [Vail] said. 'But that's not what's happening with this book'" in a reference to the letter of protest from the presidents of the scientific organizations.

Ruelas reported the book has sold almost 300 copies since August and noted "each sale put more money into the hands of the Grand Canyon Association. That money goes to support scientific education and geologic research about the Canyon. Vail's volume about creation helps advance evolution."

But Vail's book clearly contends for the biblical account of creation: "When viewed from a biblical perspective, the Canyon has 'God' written all over it, from the splendor and grandeur of the Canyon walls, to the intelligent design of the Creator," he writes. "The Canyon gives us a glimpse of the effects of a catastrophic global flood, as well as an appreciation for the scale of the biblical flood of Noah's day."

In the introduction, Vail also recounts: "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. 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."


Keith Hinson is public relations associate for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. Art Toalston contributed to this article. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: 'GRAND CANYON: A DIFFERENT VIEW.'

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