There is an assured audience for any Bush-bashing, however implausible and easily debunked. The latest example of this truism has been provided by PEER, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:
HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY — Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology
Washington, DC — 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 [link] 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.’”
In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.
Oh, please - Ronald Bailey at Hit and Run and Red State Mike, commenting at Political Animal, had the same seemingly-obvious idea - check the Park Service website for the Grand Canyon (OK, I had the same idea, so I'm sure it was not that brilliant).
Let's see - among the Frequently Asked Questions, these are third and fourth:
How old is the Canyon?
That's a tricky question. Although rocks exposed in the walls of the canyon are geologically quite old, the Canyon itself is a fairly young feature. The oldest rocks at the canyon bottom are close to 2000 million years old. The Canyon itself - an erosional feature - has formed only in the past five or six million years. Geologically speaking, Grand Canyon is very young. (top of page)
Are the oldest rocks in the world exposed at Grand Canyon?
No. Although the oldest rocks at Grand Canyon (2000 million years old) are fairly old by any standard, the oldest rocks in the world are closer to 4000 million years old. The oldest exposed rocks in North America, which are among the oldest rocks in the world, are in northern Canada.
In the Natural Features and Ecosystem section, we find this:
Geologic formations such as gneiss and schist found at the bottom of the Canyon date back 1,800 million years.
And the Park brochure has similar geologic information on page three.
As to the notion that Park Rangers are not allowed to provide honest answers to the great unwashed, I note that school tours covering the geologic history of the canyon are available, as well as this presentation to the public:
Introduction to Grand Canyon's Geology Why is the Grand Canyon so deep, wide, and grand? Why does it exist only here in the world? Come and participate in this fascinating talk to learn how Grand Canyon was formed.
What, one wonders, do the Rangers talk about? I would bet they present the same material found at the website and in the pamphlet, but I have not sat through a presentation, so for all I know, they do three hours of Marcel Marceau impressions.
As to what is motivating this PEER press release I can only guess, but here we go - from the letter sent by PEER to the National Park Service, it appears that PEER is hoping to create an embarrassing situation for some Bushies:
At the same time, Park Service leadership has blocked publication of guidance for park rangers and other interpretative staff that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific basis. As a consequence, NPS staff has no official guidance as to how to answer questions from the public concerning topics such as creationists’ “young earth” claims.
So PEER wants a specific memo explaining that creationism is bunk, and the Bushies don't want to write it. However, PEER goes on to note the not-so-subtle finesse adopted by Evil BushCo:
Ironically, in January 2005, your Director’s Order # 6 was amended to provide:
8.4.2 Historical and Scientific Research
Superintendents, historians, scientists, and interpretive staff are responsible for ensuring that park interpretive and educational programs and media are accurate and reflect current scholarship...
The interpretive and educational treatment used to explain the natural processes and history of the Earth must be based on the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism...
Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes.
OK, I think I get it - PEER wants some senior Bushie to take pen to paper and and write that creationism is bunk. Rather than undertake career suicide, the Bushies are slyly dodging this by ordering their minions simply to teach the best available science - hardly the mortification that PEER was seeking, and hardly the outrage described in the press release.
But PEER does know its audience - I have yet to find a lefty site that did not swallow this whole. Among the credulous are Steve Benen of Political Animal, Mona of Inactivist [Yike! Not a lefty, a libertarian.], Tim F of Balloon Juice, and the Huffers.
I will pray for them. And wish them a Happy New Year.
UPDATE: Mona turns out to be a libertarian, and I wouldn't be shocked if Tim F is as well - I am trying to recall the intellectual arc of John Cole's blog and I should keep in mind that not every Bush basher is on the conventional left, especially with issues that involve the religious right. My apologies.