October 6, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Creation-Evolution Contest in Grand Canyon: New York Times Prints Eyewitness Report

New York Times reporter Jodi Wilgoren explored “parallel universes” along the Colorado River this summer (here for multimedia version).  She rode a raft with a creationist group led by Tom Vail for several days, then rode with another party led by evolutionist Eugenie Scott.  Her experiences with these two groups illustrated the stark contrast between the worldviews at conflict in American society.  “Two groups examining the same evidence,” she remarked.  “Traveling nearly identical itineraries, snoozing under the same stars and bathing in the same chocolate-colored river.  Yet, standing at opposite ends of the growing creation-evolution debate, they seemed to speak in different tongues.”
    Wilgoren mentioned several scientific evidences that Tom Vail discussed as support for his Genesis Flood interpretation.  One, the smooth perpendicular folds in Carbon Canyon, he explained as evidence the material had to be soft when bent.  The long-age view is that pressure over time could give the rocks plasticity; “That’s just a theory,” Vail replied.  He also discussed evidence for a mass kill event covering 5,700 square miles.  He pointed to a vertically-oriented nautiloid that could not have remained in its position for tens of thousands of years while it was being buried slowly.  On the evolution group’s raft, a geologist who had been questioned about it only responded that “scientists had not documented the billions of nautiloids creationists cite and had found no stunning pattern in their orientation.”
    Although Wilgoren asserted the correctness of the “scientific” view of the ages of the rocks and the canyon, her anecdotes about the behavior of the people of the parties seemed as contrasting as that of the differing interpretation of the canyon.  She portrayed creationists in the group praying for one another and expressing their joy and thankfulness to God over the beauty surrounding them.  The evolutionists, on the other hand, she portrayed as flippant and disrespectful about religion.  Perhaps that was best illustrated in the music.  Creationists sang hymns of praise accompanied by flute and guitar.  Eugenie Scott, on the other hand, taught her group this ditty about a fishlike invertebrate evolutionists claim is one of our ancestors: “It’s a long way from amphioxus / It’s a long way to us. / It’s a long way from amphioxus to the meanest human cuss. / Goodbye fins and gill slits / Hello lungs and hair! / It’s a long, long way from amphioxus, / But we come from there.”
    Another observation Jodi Wilgoren made was that all on the creationist raft had voted for George Bush, and all but two on the evolutionist raft for John Kerry.  She also pointed out polls that show a third of the American public believe the Bible should be taken literally and that nearly half believe humans were created in nearly their present form within the last 10,000 years.
    The article was peppered with the usual claims and counter-claims about science and religion, facts and faith.  But Wilgoren gave surprisingly good press to Tom Vail, who used to teach the evolutionary view before becoming a Christian, and whose book Grand Canyon: A Different View has ranked 17th out of 800 products in the national park bookstores.  It has sold 40,000 copies, she said, “despite science organizations’ protests of its sale in park shops.”  She gave Vail the last word: “We can read God’s word and we know what we’re supposed to do.  It’s real clear up here what we’re supposed to do.”

Considering the disdain with which creationists are usually treated, Jodi Wilgoren gave a pretty fair and balanced presentation.  The only flaws are the assumptions that evolutionists have the better science.  Some of her words assume that evolutionary geologists have science on their side.  We will suggest changes to the underlined words.

  • “Geologists date this sandstone to 550 million years ago and explain the folding as a result of pressure from shifting faults underneath.”  Change that to “evolutionary storytellers” and “speculate.”
  • “That same week, a few miles upriver, a decidedly different group of 24 rafters surveyed the same rock formations – but through the lens of science rather than what Mr. Vail calls ‘biblical glasses.’”  Change that to “evolutionary glasses”.  Vail is up-front about his Biblical presuppositions.  Evolutionists need to be up-front about theirs.
  • “this trip was a floating geology seminar, charting the canyon’s evolution through eons of erosion.” Substitute evolutionary geology, speculating about the canyon’s formation through an unobserved period of erosion.
  • Eugenie Scott said, “To a standard geologist, to somebody who actually studies geology, this just shouts out at you: This is really old; this is really gradual.”
    Should be, To an indoctrinated evolutionary geologist, to somebody who views the world through evolutionary glasses, this just confirms one’s presuppositions.
  • “Science unequivocally dates the earth’s age at 4.5 billion years, and the canyon’s layers at some two billion years.  Change to Evolutionary geology needs the earth to be 4.5 billion years old, and speculates within their evolutionary model that the canyon’s layers must be some two billion years old.
  • “Even the intelligent design movement, which argues that evolution alone cannot explain life’s complexity, does not challenge the long history of the earth.”  Should be, does not attempt to debate the age of the earth, because that is not the question they are addressing.
  • “‘I won’t defend evolution,’ Dr. Scott said in exasperation one evening.  ‘We don’t defend the spherical Earth.  We need to stop defending, as they put it, Darwinism, and just make them show they have a scientific view.’”
    Belief in evolution has nothing to do with belief in a spherical earth.  The sphericity of the earth is observable, and is even taught in the Bible (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:10).  Evolution in the Darwinian sense of universal common ancestry is not observable and contradicts the fossil record.  Dr. Scott needs to get over her exasperation and defend her position with evidence.  The antecedent in “they” have a scientific view” is unclear.  Both views need to be plausible inferences about the past based on currently observable evidence.  Both have religious implications.
  • “Mr. Gishlick said scientists had not documented the billions of nautiloids creationists cite and had found no stunning pattern in their orientation.”
    Not scientists, but evolution-biased critics.  Evolutionary geologists may not have found this evidence, because they don’t ask the right questions.  The evidence is out there for anyone to see.
  • “‘I don’t really care how they reconcile Noah’s flood with scientific things – it’s about religion,ֻ protested Mary Murray, 54, an artist from Laguna Beach, Calif., who came with her biology-professor husband.  ‘We shouldn’t be talking about religion at all in the public schools.’”  What she means is, “I am closing my mind to their evidence.  It’s about maintaining special treatment and favored status for my secular religion.  We shouldn’t be letting their religion compete with mine in the public schools.”

You get the idea.  Words can bias an article and embed hidden assumptions.  Discerning readers need to be watchful for how reporters attempt to sway opinions with word games.  At least here on CEH, you get to hear both sides.
    Want to go on the river with Tom?  Check his 2006 ScheduleCreation Safaris, our parent organization, is co-sponsoring the August 25 three-day excursion.  View postcards from the 2005 trip, which was a great success with 26 people aboard: #1 and #2.  We guarantee you will have a lot more fun with creationists than with a bunch of sourpuss scoffers and mean human cusses.  We guarantee you will enjoy “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” more than “Goodbye fins and gill slits.” (compare this essay with the evolution songbook).  It may be a long way from amphioxus, but it’s a short way to the cross.

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Categories: Bible and Theology

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