Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), January 22, 2007
GRAND CANYON CONTROVERSY CLARIFICATION
[Rachel's introduction: In Rachel's News #889 we carried a story about the National Park Service violating its own rules by selling a book that claims the Grand Canyon was created during Noah's flood, ignoring the geological record. Here's more information on that story.]
Many PEER supporters and bloggers world-wide have commented on the controversy surrounding the age of the Grand Canyon generated by a recent PEER press release. We would like to apologize for the fact that our December 28, 2006 release, "How Old is the Grand Canyon? Park Service Won't Say," was not as clear as it should have been. If we had it to do over, it would have been written differently. While we aim to call attention to issues that we believe are important, it is not our intention to promote misinformation. To set the record straight, we would like to offer the following clarification and update.
Once we became aware that the press release was being misinterpreted, we took a couple steps to amend this error:
1) PEER revised the original release on our website, deleting the problematic first sentence. ["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."]
Although the information was not included in the release, that sentence was based on the fact that since 2004 (until this recent controversy erupted) we heard from reporters that the superintendent's office at GCNP had answered media questions about the age of the canyon with either a "no comment" or by referring the reporter to Headquarters.
2) We distributed a second press release that laid out clearly the Park Service's position on the age of the Grand Canyon, and posted the NPS official statement on our website.
It's significant to note that the public controversy surrounding our release finally stimulated the National Park Service, for the first time, to go on the record saying it did not endorse the content of Tom Vail's book, Grand Canyon: A Different View. As with all other statements on this issue, of course, it came out of HQ, and not the park.
Our intention in the original release was simply to point out that the National Park Service is
a) still selling the creationist book in violation of their own policies and despite the protests of the Service's own geologists and the park superintendent
b) stonewalling on the long-promised official review of their decision to sell the book
c) refusing to issue formal guidance to park staff on how to address questions from visitors about creationism and the official NPS position in light of the approval of a book espousing this view.
As a side note, we spoke today with someone who bought the book out of curiosity, and was dismayed to find that it included promotional material about the author's church and for his river tour company. He suggested that this offered further reasons it shouldn't be sold in the NPS bookstore.
Again, our apologies to anyone who felt offended or misinformed, and we hope that this clarifies the matter. Thank you for following PEER's work, and taking the time to become engaged in the issue. Public discourse and healthy skepticism are crucial in arriving at a more complete understanding of the truth.