Hanging with Scientists at the Bottom of the Grand Canyon

From Scientific American:

Since 1981 the Oakland, Calif.–based NCSE has defended evolution education in public schools against constant threats from those who seek to remove it from biology curricula or to “balance” it with the addition of oxymoronic “scientific creationism” or its mutated progeny such as “intelligent design.”

“So what does rafting down the Grand Canyon have to do with science education?” asked NCSE executive director Ann Reid, as we sat on driftwood at the Fern Glen campsite along the river on the penultimate day of our weeklong journey.

“Well, for NCSE it’s one of the most powerful places on the earth to show the differences between religious thinking and scientific thinking,” Reid observed. “The very small minority of Christians who believe the earth is 6,000 years old,” she adds, see the Grand Canyon as “the best evidence they have of Noah’s flood.”

Creationists run multiple raft trips down the Colorado every year, during which patrons hear their take, including the notion that the inundation occurred some 4,400 years ago—and rapidly deposited the sediments of the canyon’s walls.

“Of course, scientists of many different subdisciplines have figured out that the canyon is much older than that,” Reid said of the perhaps still surprisingly geologically recent date of just five million to six million years ago. “There are the rocks, there’s the biology, there’s the hydrology—it’s just a fantastic place to learn how scientists explain the world around us.”

I’ll talk more about some of the geologic history easily observable, even up close and at eye level, in the next issue. But now I want to tell you about living for a week in the Grand Canyon.

Our group of 25 traveled on what some disparagingly call “baloney boats,” rafts some 35 feet long hugged on either side by huge inflated pontoons. Those would be the baloneys. If the crew …

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