Religion in the Parks?
To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments.
Last November (2003), as I've mentioned in earlier articles, I visited the Grand Canyon. During the week I spent there, I took a couple of days to hike to the bottom and back.
I overnighted at Phantom Ranch. In the afternoon, recovering from the hike down, I took in a Park Ranger talk on how the Grand Canyon came into being. Even though I have done this before, I always find it interesting.
Unusually, the Ranger opened with:
"There are over 40 different creation myths associated with the Grand Canyon, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm going to discuss the geological creation of the canyon."
She then continued with an excellent presentation of the various natural events over two billion years which laid down the various layers of rock, raised the layers up, and then which carved the canyon.
But, in no Ranger talk on geology at any park, have I heard a Park Ranger mention creation myths, even to dismiss them in passing. And I wondered why it was necessary this time.
Subsequently, I found out. Just as creationists are trying to get their views into the public schools, they are also trying to get them into the national parks. And they are using their current set of friends in Washington to pressure the Park Service to alter its secular position.
They want their books on creation sold in the bookstores of the parks, and they expect their view of creation to be presented in addition to geology talks.
And yet, not once is the Grand Canyon mentioned in the bible. There is no information on how the Canyon was created. And creationists don't even have a coherent theory. Some think the Canyon was made that way in the beginning, others claim it was accelerated erosion, possibly, but not necessarily as an aftermath to the flood - a ludicrous theory in that water flowing fast enough to carve a channel a mile deep through rock in a few thousand years could not have carved a channel of this convoluted shape.
But nevertheless, I have no problem with books on creation being sold in the park bookstores. They should just be properly classified and placed in the fiction or folklore section, and not classified as science. And I don't mind if Park Rangers give talks on biblical creation, as long as they are not in geology talks. A presentation on the 40 or so creation myths relating to the canyon could possibly include the fundamentalist Christian tale. In a normal half hour talk, this particular myth could have its fair share of time - about 40 seconds. Any more than that would be overdoing it.
- This quotation is from memory, and may not be the exact words spoken. However, the words do convey the meaning.