Monday, January 01, 2007

How old is the Grand Canyon? (Correction)

PLEASE NOTE: This story turned out to be completely false! Thanks to Michael Shermer for tracking the story down. It appears that Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) pretty much made up the story for their political own political gain. Here is Michael Shermer's take on it:

Then why did PEER issue that statement in the first place? In my opinion, this is why:

PEER is an anti-Bush, anti-religion liberal activist watchdog group in search of demons to exorcise and dragons to slay. On one level, that’s how the system works in a free society, and there are plenty of pro-Bush, pro-religion conservative activist watchdog groups who do the same thing on the other side. Maybe in a Hegelian process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis we find truth that way; at least at the level of talk radio. But journalistic standards and scholarly ethics still hold sway at all levels of discourse that matter, and to that end I believe we were duped by an activist group who at the very least exaggerated a claim and published it in order to gain notoriety for itself, or worse, simply made it up.

To that end I apologize to all of our readers for not fact checking this story before publishing it on eSkeptic and www.skeptic.com. Shame on us. But shame on you too, Mr. Ruch, and shame on PEER, for this egregious display of poor judgment and unethical behavior.



HERE IS THE ORIGINAL (INCORRECT) STORY AS IT WAS PUBLISHED HERE:
Is agnosticism on the age of Grand Canyon deliberate or an oversight? Its scary if its deliberate. In any case, here is a press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER):
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. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

"In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology", stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is 'no comment'".

and this is what makes it problematic:
Park officials have defended the decision to approve the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, claiming that park bookstores are like libraries, where the broadest range of views are displayed. In fact, however, both law and park policies make it clear that the park bookstores are more like schoolrooms rather than libraries. As such, materials are only to reflect the highest quality science and are supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover, unlike a library the approval process is very selective. Records released to PEER show that during 2003, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and other products for bookstore placement while approving only one new sale item - the creationist book.



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