Each year ICR sponsors a tour called "Grand Canyon Adventure." After an opening seminar in Phoenix and "mini-lectures" on the Canyon rim, a number of us joined a regularly scheduled nature walk and lecture along the rim, led by a very nice young ranger. The story he told about the formation of the Canyon was predictable, with a few minor variations. But we had already given lectures on this subject, explaining the weaknesses in the traditional "story."
To the group's amazement, the ranger did not seem to understand even what he was saying! He said that radiometric dating can be used to date the limestone layers; that off-shore deposits can be uplifted out of water over millions of years with no erosion and that the fossils in the Canyon show a clear progression of evolution from bottom to top. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to understand the weaknesses in his story, nor did the rest of the crowd of tourists standing around.
From time to time he asked for a response, and someone would attempt to parrot back what they had been taught in class or learned from tourist brochures or PBS specials. Especially one young boy, around 10 years of age. Obviously bright and interested in science, his misconceptions understandably were significant, but all those around complimented and encouraged him for being able to rephrase what he had been told. If a ranger, scientist, teacher, documentary, or newspaper tells it, it must be true. Memorize and repeat!
I remember a prior Grand Canyon trip—this time on a hiking trail. One of the participants was an older lady who, in her younger years, had been a ranger at Grand Canyon. She had been taught the "story" and how to teach it. She knew how to wave her arms and talk of millions and billions of years. She revealed that she and the other ranger/story-tellers viewed their public lectures as entertainment. Tourists come to the Canyon fully expecting to be entertained and awed with talk of vast time, and slow processes, and big words they don't understand—all part of the wonder of national parks. The rangers may not know or believe the story, but people expect it.
But this dear lady, a ranger at the time, through the witness of some Christian friends, had come to know the Lord as her personal Savior one night on the rim. Nobody talked about the Canyon, or creation, or her job, but the next morning when she went out to "tell the story," somehow she knew it wasn't true. The words simply wouldn't come. Within a few weeks she had resigned from the Park Service and ever since had been searching for answers. How precious to see her 30-year-old questions answered, satisfying both mind and spirit.
The story rangers tell today has changed somewhat. They take seminars in how to deflect difficult questions from creationists and Christians. And lately the story includes the evils of "man" and the "deification" of nature. The "story" still contains bad science, but uses the opportunity to teach borderline pantheism—another story rangers are taught and which people expect to hear.
*Dr. John Morris is the President of ICR.
Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 1993. Do Park Rangers Tell A Credible Story?. Acts & Facts. 22 (6).