It’s good to be back in the office again! I’ve just returned from a speaking engagement in Phoenix, Arizona, and a side trip to the Grand Canyon. This is the fourth time I’ve hiked the Canyon, not counting one mule trip. True, I’m ten years older than I was the last time I hiked it, but hey, the Canyon’s ten years older too! (I guess there’s a flaw in that logic somewhere.)
From the South Rim of the Canyon to the Phantom Ranch at the bottom is a vertical descent from about 6,860 feet to about 2,400 feet (the North Rim is about 8,241 feet). Descending on the South Kaibab Trail and returning to the top on the Bright Angel Trail is about a 16.3 mile round trip, strenuous but glorious. The view is incredible, and it changes every few minutes and every few feet.
Listed by some as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is truly a testimony to the beauty of God’s creation. But some would explain it otherwise. On the South Rim one may travel the Trail of Time (http://trailoftime NULL.org/). Every few yards along this 2.83 mile Trail is a rock, embedded in concrete, with a date and explanation. For example, near the beginning of the Trail of Time is a specimen of Vishnu Schist, from the Vishnu Layer enfolded with the Zoroaster Layer near the bottom of the Canyon. Each exhibit is labeled by age, and as one walks the Trail one observes 1.7-billion-year-old folds, then 1.2-billion-year-old mud cracks, 800-million-year-old algai reefs, and 270-million-year-old fossils. Thus, on a relatively short walk, one will have traversed about one and a half billion years.
These dates reflect the conclusions of eminently-qualified scientists. But they are just that — conclusions. Many disagree with these conclusions, including highly-qualified scientists. A Gallup poll from just last week shows that 46% of the public believes God created man within the last 10,000 years (http://www NULL.gallup NULL.com/poll/155003/Hold-Creationist-View-Human-Origins NULL.aspx), about 32% believe God guided an evolutionary process over millions of years, and only 15% believe in naturalistic evolution.
Should I object that my tax dollars are being used to proclaim, as dogmatic fact, what is only an opinion that I personally reject? Or should I “lighten up” and not get upset when I see something with which I disagree?
Maybe so. But then, why do American Atheists, Inc., get so upset just because one of their number might happen to drive on a Utah highway and see a cross with the name of a patrolman (http://morallaw NULL.org/news/roy-moore-foundation-defend-utah-highway-crosses-in-supreme-court-brief) who died on that site in the line of duty? Why do civil liberties groups go ballistic when they see the Ten Commandments on public property? Why does the Freedom From Religion Foundation write a threatening letter when they learn of a sign at the entrance to the Town of Sylvania, Alabama (http://morallaw NULL.org/news/judge-roy-moore-foundation-to-defend-alabama-town-signs), saying “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism”?
And why do the courts sometimes agree with these complaints? In several cases, courts have said that these displays appear to constitute state endorsement of religion and communicate a message of exclusion to those who do not share the message conveyed by the display.
For the sake of argument, let’s accept that assertion. But then, why must tolerance be only a one-way street? Should the Trail of Time — erected at the Canyon at my expense — communicate a message of exclusion to me? As a creationist, should I feel that I am not fully part of the community because I do not accept the uniformitarian and evolutionary conclusions written in stone on the Trail of Time and elsewhere throughout the Grand Canyon and practically all national parks? Because I reject the conclusion that the various layers of rock in the Grand Canyon were laid over hundreds of millions of years, should I conclude that I am not really welcome to hike its trails?
As in so many other areas, the courts often treat Establishment Clause cases with a double standard. But I need only gaze upon the magnificence of the Canyon to reassure myself that blind nature could never have formed such a wonder, but only the hand of God Himself.
In one of my many conversations while hiking the Bright Angel Trail, a man asked me, “Does the Bible say anything about the Grand Canyon?” I answered, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and then noted that the Great Flood of Noah’s time explained the formation of the Canyon far better than a uniformitarian process.
Those who want an alternative explanation, presented by qualified scientists, are encouraged to read Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, ed. Dr. Stephen A. Austin (Institute for Creation Research 1994).