Idealogy Versus Isotopes

Imagine you're a columnist. You decide to write something about how the National Park Service is allowing a creationist book to be sold in their Grand Canyon stores, over the protests of its own geologists, who point out that NPS has a mandate to promote sound science. Hawking a book that claims that the Grand Canyon was carved by Noah's Flood a few thousand years ago is the polar opposite of this mandate. So what do you write? Well, if you're Republican consultant Jay Bryant, and you're writing for the conservative web site Town Hall, you declare that this as a clear-cut case of Darwinist atheists censoring freedom of speech in a desperate attempt to squelch Intelligent Design.

I don't blog much about science and politics, because I don't have the time and because others do it better than I could (see Chris Mooney and Prometheus for starters). But there's something so simple and basic about the Grand Canyon affair--with plain scientific fact on one side and eye-popping rhetorical nonsense on the other--that I can't help but register disbelief at it from time to time.


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Let them sell their book. Science must always be prepared to show doubters the facts and explanations that support the reigning hypothesis. I presume there are also other books sold in the same place that provide the scientifically accepted more complex explanation for the formation of the canyon in its wonderful detail.
An intelligent person whose mind is open can ask for no better opportunity than to compare these explanations while looking at the Grand Canyon, and as for those whose minds are not open, smile and move on, there are always going to be those who believe "it's turtles all the way down". It is their right to be foolish, and we should never forget that, in principle at least, things once thought to be foolish have turned out to be true, and beginning censorship with slam-dunk silliness like Noah's flood carving the Grand Canyon would probably not end there.

By Michael Burns (not verified) on 10 Dec 2004 #permalink

Michael Behe was in my city [Ottawa, ON, Canada] last night adding to the mental pollution. I was astonished that after all the critical assessments of his untenable notion, he still trotted out the same tired cliches and examples. Even his flamin' mousetrap that Michael Ruse dis-assembled so effecitvely.

When i asked him if his project suggested that we could shut down all the life sciences awaiting further "intelligent" revelations, there was some shuffling of feet, but no clear answer.

What is leading the Yanks to buy into this fallacy with such fervour? It's beyond my comprehension that something so demonstrably untenable garners so much public support. I know people fear the notion of natural selecton producing them is widespread, but ID doesn't solve that issue.

the bunyip

I seem to recall that one of the objections raised by the NPS scientists was that the creationist book was placed in the same section of the shelves as the hard science books. I'd suggest that the solution would be to put it over in the section which contains the inspirational ones.

In this Holiday Season of Good Cheer, let's stretch ourselves and attempt to take a God's Eye view of Creationism vs. Evolutionism. If you stand far enough back...say up in "Heaven" find that both views converge at the limits. The key difference between them is one of time and agreeing on whether the timeline required to make hu-mans and the earth's flora and fauna was a few solar days or eons of universal time.

Since God is timeless, when time "t" is taken to the limit of God's timelessness, both idealogies converge. Happy Holidays & Good Cheer To All!

By Joseph Poliakon (not verified) on 10 Dec 2004 #permalink

If they want to sell kooky books, I don't really mind, but let's have a spectrum of opinion here. Surely they can find a book that claims that the Grand Canyon was the original site of Atlantis, or that it was a furrow ploughed by an alien spaceship that crashed while on its way to build the pyramids.

"I'd suggest that the solution would be to put it over in the section which contains the inspirational ones."

That is where the YEC book is in the Visitor Center (or was on Nov. 5) though it varies in the other Park stores.

Anti-spam: replace "user" with "harlequin2"

By Mike Hopkins (not verified) on 10 Dec 2004 #permalink

Being an Australian (in Australia)I am somewhat distanced from the Grand Canyon, and certainly do not believe anything of Creationism, but let the book be on display and for sale.Good science will never submit to such rubbish and it is anti-scientific to ban it. A problem is, I agree, how to categorise it, or locate it on a shelf with other books. Putting it under "Fairy Tales",would suggest fear a of debate, but it can hardly be described as "science" either. Not much help am I ?

By Barry Sylva (not verified) on 10 Dec 2004 #permalink

Trying to censor this book was the best publicity it could receive. It is one of the best sellers in the park's bookstores.

Some Higher Source did not create this world; indeed, it grows old and weary and must someday succumb to Truth.
We made this world and thus everything in it is based upon opposites.
We were meant to live in it, not be of it.
The way out: nothing in this world is true, but we must learn to bless it because we bless ourselves.
Remember how much we have learned; remember how little we know.

By William Gruzenski (not verified) on 13 Dec 2004 #permalink

Barring someone's political or religious ideas is censorship, barring inferior and unsubstantiated scientific claims is not. Science is NOT democratic. Opposing ideas do not deserve "equal time" as political views do (supposedly) in our society. I wish that instead of arguing the facts with creationists (which doesn't work anyway), someone would explain the "scientific method" where ideas need to be supported by facts and tested before the community as a whole accepts them. I seem to remember this (vaguely) from high school biology.

As the old adage states that every journey starts with the first step and thus we must embrace each moment, for reality is really a state of mind. And will add that in that state when we have realize how little we know and still have much to learn is when we become most receptive.

By Sarah Dempsey (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

Is reality a state of mind? Or is reality just reality and there's no disputing it? I think what we have here is another cornerstone of the creationist movement.

Let me put it clearly: Just because you believe something, doesn't make it so.

The real question or argument here is whether or not "creationism" is a science, or a "scientific explanation" of geological and other natural phenomenon.One of the basic tenets of "scientific method" is that a theory or proposition is logically able to be falsified. Banning contrary views does not enhance scientific argument. In my view it would tend to stifle it, rather than stimulate the use of logic, reasoning and empirical facts to support "scientic" theories and ultimately "facts".

By Barry Sylva (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

Why the unethical behavior, if this is just a
matter of sound science?

This is from Tom Vail's attorney Gary McCaleb.

"First, documents that I obtained via a public records request revealed that the complaint letter purportedly generated by private scientists was a collaborative (and in my view, highly unethical) effort by senior National Park Service employees, who extensively edited the scientists complaint letter.

Amazingly, it appears that at least one official first helped to write the complaint, then volunteered to help the NPS respond to the complaint once it was received at their offices. Thus, if Mr. Ruch of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) [Ed. quoted in the Time commentary as opposing the book] is to take umbrage and express indignation, perhaps it should be at government employees apparently using government salaries, equipment, and materials to collude with outside activists to advance a personal agenda."