A Creationist Walk Through the Grand Canyon
In June 1985, I participated in the Institute for Creation Research's Grand Canyon Field Study Course, offered for graduate credit at ICR as "Biology/Geology 537." I had been doing some "participant observation" at ICR as part of my research on creation "science" as an anthropology graduate student at the University of California at Los Angeles; this trip provided both a firsthand look at ICR education and training, plus intensive contact with active creationists.
The ICR offered three other hiking trips in April 1985 for graduate students and auditors (a total of forty participated) and received camping permits for sixty-four hikers for the season. ICR is not the first to offer creation-science tours of the canyon; Bible-Science Association groups, usually led by Ed Nafziger or Clifford Burdick, have been hiking to the bottom since 1969 (Lang and Lang, 1984; Bible-Science Association, n.d.).
That creation "scientists"especially young-Earth creationistsare so fond of the Grand Canyon may seem surprising, since its awesome mile-deep exposure of rock strata is compelling evidence of millions of years of deposition and fossilization. There are, however, several factors which attract creationists to the Grand Canyon. One is that many practitioners of creation science today, like the classical (pre-Darwinian) creation scientists in the era of "natural theology," still try to look to nature for confirmation of God's word and revelation (though fundamentalists also insist that the Bible is God's sole revelation). Nature-watching field trips and amateur geology and biology outings are very much a part of this venerable tradition. Belief that sturdy common sense, uncontaminated by worldly philosophies, theories, and speculations, will lead inevitably to truth, which can be comprehended by earnest laypersons as easily as by specialists, is also part of this heritage (Marsden, 1980; Cavanaugh, 1985). And there is increasing distrust (not limited to creationists) of the supposedly materialistic, atheistic, scientific elite. The canyon also provides a prime opportunity for "witnessing" to fellow visitors about creation and Christ.
Because I had previously taken an ICR graduate school course (on the two-model approach to origins), had attended ICR summer institutes and done a lot of research at the ICR library, and was enrolled as a graduate student at UCLA, I was told I could join the June 1985 Grand Canyon trip by paying the ICR graduate student rate of $125, as compared to the regular $350 for auditors. On my application I repeated what I had told many people at ICR in the past: that I was interested in learning about creation science, that I was studying evolution and creation science as competing belief systems, that I hoped to pick up some knowledge of geology, and that I wanted to see how the Grand Canyon could be used as an argument for creation science. I avoided stating my own beliefs regarding creation science, and I did not make any claims about my religious beliefs. Apparently, this was adequate, though other applications contained "amazing testimonies of God's work in people's lives" and told of "ICR's strategic ministry" to Christians.
ICR faculty members on the 1985 trips were geologists Steven Austin, John Morris, and David McQueen, biologists Gary Parker and Kenneth Cumming, and meteorologist Larry Vardiman. Our group was led by Morris and McQueen. David McQueen is the only ICR member who testified in the 1981 Arkansas creation science trial (he gave a pretrial deposition but was not called as a witness during the trial itself; at the time he had not yet joined ICR as a regular member). John Morris is the son of ICR founder and president, Henry Morris. Before becoming involved with creationism through participation in the Ararat expeditions, Morris tried to distance himself from his father's religion. He notes a certain irony in the fact that, as if in response to a taunt, he was struck by lightning on Ararat in 1972 and was blinded (in one eye, at least) a few years later from multiple sclerosis. Morris seems to have drawn strength and further inspiration from these troubles. At the canyon, he remained cheerful and generous throughout and appeared to be in excellent physical condition.
Our group met at dawn at ICR, near San Diego, for the all-day bus ride to the canyon. During the ride, Morris and McQueen presented some introductory remarks on the geology of the canyon, and we familiarized ourselves with the course handbook. Mostly compiled and written by Steven Austin, this handbook (Institute for Creation Research, 1985) is a forty-eight-page collection of reprints, with some original material, attractively arranged and containing much useful information. It includes many maps of the canyon and geological diagrams from various sources, plus articles from creationist and noncreationist publications. The title page warns: "Many of the interpretations expressed here represent research in progress and are therefore tentative."
Morris and McQueen asked us to note a sand dune area we passed as illustration of the weakness of the evolutionist explanation for the formation of the Coconino Sandstone layer in the Grand Canyon. The angles of the dunes were supposedly inconsistent with the bedded layers in the canyon, thus refuting the theory that they were formed from similar desert dunes. In the creation model, the Coconino Sandstone was formed under Flood waters. McQueen also pointed out a region of rounded boulders, many of them perched atop steep hills. He hoped that some graduate student at ICR would do a thesis on these, since their precarious perch seemed to indicate recent formation.
But the major activity on the bus ride was for each of us in turn to take the microphone and tell about ourselvesour interest in the trip, in ICR, about our family, how we came to know the Lord, our work, and other interests. Most participants talked at considerable length, primarily about the importance of Christ in their lives and how they came to accept himoften illustrated with quotes or references from the Scriptures. Mine was the shortest speech. I explained that I had only become interested in Christianity following my recent interest in creation science, which began a few years ago at UCLA as a consequence of studying scientific theoriesevolution in particularas belief systems; that pursuing external critiques of evolution led to my discovery of creation science and ICR. I mentioned that I was now studying creation science as a belief system as well and wanted to learn as much as possible about it and that I had attended several ICR courses.
The longest speech was by Harry (pseudonyms are used throughout this article for group members, except for ICR faculty), who related many incidents proving that God was providentially watching over him and helping him avert many harrowing and imminent disasters. Harry was a last-minute addition to the roster, persuaded to come along only the day before when visiting ICR, and he did not intend to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon with the main group. Harry was an amiable and enthusiastic witnesser, but he soon let it be known, as he was telling us some of his wartime stories, that he did not believe that the Nazis had actually tried to exterminate Jews. He was in World War II, he assured us, and he knew that tales of German atrocities were just propaganda.
Richard, an Illinois schoolteacher, was a runner and health food enthusiast. He had attended seminary, liked to read theology (he was reading Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law on the bus), and frequently quoted or discussed Scripture. His speech included a discussion of his educational philosophy and was full of references to God's will.
Charlie was a mining warehouse manager, recently a grandfather, vigorous, and extremely friendly. He was interested, like many other participants, in promoting creationism locally. Though he did not have a college education, he was very eager to learn as much as he could about geology and proved to be a highly motivated and earnest student. Charlie was one of the most genuinely nice people I have met. He was as surprised as I was when Harry announced that the Nazi extermination of Jews was a hoax and politely argued with Harry about it.
Marvin had worked in computer software, creative writing, and other jobs and planned to attend the Simon Greenleaf School of Law, a Christian institution, the next year. He loved to discuss the need for a Christian legal counterattack against humanists and evolutionists. A former Mennonite, he also enjoyed discussing theology, politics, economics, history, and philosophy. He seemed to have read a lot about creation science but knew little basic science. Marvin was attracted to conspiracy theories; it was often difficult to converse with him because he frequently launched into a recitation about organizations such as the Brookings Institution and the Trilateral Commission, which are pumping propaganda to our universities and funding humanist organizations, and the origins of this conspiracy in the Illuminati and other sinister anti-Christian plots. He held the Rutherford Institute, a legal group defending Christian rights, in highest regard and also recommended the Committee to Restore the Constitution, a rightist political and economic organization.
Jacques was an ICR graduate student in science educationthe only one in our group taking the course for credit (most participating ICR students went on the earlier trips). Polite and low-key, he was an admirer of the John Birch Society and liked to discuss conspiracy theories with Marvin.
There were two women in our group. Sue, an outgoing Montana schoolteacher, was an avid birdwatcher and camping and hiking enthusiast who sometimes entertained us with coyote yelps on the trail. Pat was an emergency room nurse from Arizona and was involved with Bible study groups. Always cheerful and animated, Pat managed to wear earrings and nice clothing on the trail in spite of fearful heat. Pat and Sue both seemed highly appreciative of and somewhat awed by the opportunity to learn creation science from Morris and McQueen of ICR in person.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon late in the evening and went directly to our campsite. There we met two other members of our group who had driven to the canyon separately. Roger was a high-energy physicista "flash-and-boom" physicist, as he put itat Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. He had worked in geophysics, as well as fusion research and other fields, and has published in technical journals. Since becoming a creationist, Roger has written several articles for Creation Research Society Quarterly on planetary magnetic fields. His conversion to creationism has apparently taken a toll on his family life and relations at work, and he expressed genuine, heartfelt gratitude for the fellowship he received in our company. Roger had offered to discuss creation science at company seminars, but he said proposals had been quashed by upper management despite the interest of many of his colleagues. He presented a paper on Earth's magnetic field during the Flood at the 1986 International Creation Conference. Roger was also the only person in the group who fully realized that, as a cultural anthropologist, I was actually apt to be studying themthat although inside the group I was also apart from it and that though I sympathized with much of their worldview and was participating in their activities, this did not necessarily mean that I had converted to all their beliefs. The others tended to assume, more or less, that I believed in creationism and a fundamentalist view of Christianity, and I did not try to correct this assumption. Every once in a while, as we were hiking along, Roger would ask me what my impressions and conclusions about creationists were.
Steve was a graduate student in Colorado. He had previously been a fireman, during which time he had gotten into the habit of writing letters to local papers defending creationism and other religious topics. He began graduate studies in parasitology on the advice of biologist Gary Parker of ICR, who had spoken about this as being a field most in need of creationist study. Steve was gregarious and outgoing, and his outspokenness had resulted in much friction in his graduate studies since he is openly contemptuous of evolution ("evil-ution," as he usually referred to it) and does not shirk chances to challenge it in class. Steve is active in a local fundamentalist organization, Christian Research Associates, as their creation science specialist and gives presentations of creationism sponsored by CRA. He made good use of the ICR expertise at hand on this trip, often asking McQueen and Morris questions concerning various aspects of creation science in order to better and more effectively present creationism himself to others. A navy veteran, he often expressed a militant superpatriotic attitude which seemed at odds with his sincerely friendly personality.
Bob, the final member of our group, met up with us the next day. He had driven from Maine with his wife (she did not hike down into the canyon with us). Bob was very quiet and polite, and I did not find out much about his background except that he had been a missionary in Alaska and planned to return there after this trip.
Though a small samplethere were ten of us who went into the canyon plus the two ICR leadersmy impression was that our group was fairly representative of active supporters and followers of creation science. These were all people interested and committed enough to spend the time and money for a tour led by ICR (though, of course, being in the Grand Canyon is itself quite rewarding), and several had come considerable distances. Most had advanced training in science or technology or worked in fields in which knowledge of science or technology is important: one professional physicist, one with computer experience, one in the mining industry, one graduate student in science education (albeit at ICR), one graduate student in a biological field, and two teachers. The remaining two, like all the others, were both active in religious activitiesBible study and missionary work.
The participants' philosophical and theological viewpoints varied somewhat from each other and from ICR's but not to a degree that I would consider surprising. All were solidly and actively creationist; no doubt they would not have applied if they had not beenor would not have been accepted if they seemed skeptical. All seemed to accept the ICR young-Earth Flood geology brand of creationism without question. Significantly, all were born-again Christians who believed in biblical inerrancy and the importance of resisting the teaching of evolution. There were some mild differences in doctrinal matters but nothing anybody got upset over (Calvinist interpretations were favored by some; the ICR leadership is Baptist); rather, this merely led to some spirited but friendly theological discussions.
We spent the first full day at the canyon rim, glorying in the view. Morris and McQueen gave a series of lectures on the canyon's geology and formation by the great worldwide flood. We learned to identify the major rock strata spread out in full view beneath us. Most of the descriptive geology taught to us was the same as anything we would have learned from orthodox geologists. Few creationists object to using the standard names of the geological column in classifying strata but insist that these descriptive names be decoupled from assumptions of vast ages.
The ICR position is that the canyon was formed during and immediately after the Flooda few years after, not the hundreds of millions of years proposed by "uniformitarian" geologists. We were taught to distinguish original "creation" rock from rock resulting from sediments deposited by the Flood. This turns out to be fairly simple, especially at the Grand Canyon, where the mostly horizontal strata are so neatly exposed. All Precambrian rock is considered pre-Floodthat is, original created rock. Creationists say that fossil evidence indicates an "explosion" of complex metazoan forms in the Cambrian, including representatives of all animal phyla. Precambrian rocks (at least in the Grand Canyon) appear to contain no fossils. The Precambrian layers in the canyon are tilted and faulted, in marked contrast to the neat horizontal layers overlying them. These contorted Precambrian layers were pointed out to us with no trace of embarrassment; after all, there was a day of tremendous violence in creation week, when God separated the land from the water; also, there was incredible violence when the waters of the deep were opened up during the Flood. The "Grand Canyon Supergroup" is a sequence of late Precambrian strata visible in some parts of the canyon lying at a very sharp angle; most of the visible Precambrian rock, however, is vastly oldermillions of years were eroded away before the Cambrian depositions. A "Great Unconformity" separates the Precambrian from the Paleozoic strataevidence, to the noncreationist, of this enormously long period of erosion and a gap in the geologic column. To the creationist, however, it is evidence of the violence of the Flood.
All rock above the Precambrian levels, we were told, is Flood rock. To the noncreationist, this is bizarre, since the neat horizontal strata-nearly a mile highare so different and clearly demarcated. If formed within a year as a result of a single flood of unimaginable violence, why isn't everything just jumbled together? Here is where clever, ad hoc creationist hypothesizing comes into play. Both hydrodynamic sorting of sediments (including animal remains) and series of changing currents are involved. They explain that the layers of sediment were not dumped all at once but that great currents swept across the area from all directions as the waters receded. Thus, sediments picked up from the north would be dumped one day; later, an entirely different set of sediments originating in the south would precipitate out on top of these and so forth. Several of the layers might be deposited in each of these series: gravels and coarse material precipitating out first, then sand on top of this, and, finally, silts and clays. Henry Morris, in fact, claims that the neat and extensive horizontal layering of the canyon argues against an ancient Earth: "The strata simply could not have remained so nearly uniform and horizontal over such great areas and great periods of time" while undergoing all the geological activity attributed to it by evolutionists (Morris, 1974:153).
These explanations are not new. In The Deluge Story in Stone, first published in 1931, creationist Byron Nelson presents the theories of the older Flood geologists, many of which have been resurrected by today's creation scientists. John Williams, for instance, wrote in 1789 about the formation of British coal seams, sometimes as many as sixty strata at one site. Williams thought that these were laid by successive tides or currents during the Flood. These tides, produced by the sun and the moon, "perhaps several miles in perpendicular depth," coursed back and forth over the land, depositing new layers of sediment at each pass (quoted in Nelson, 1968:78-79).
Morris and McQueen explained that the Grand Canyon itself was carved out very soon after the Flood. All the layers of newly deposited sediments were still fairly soft and unconsolidated, so this entire process took but a few years at most. The source for this sudden and monumental erosion was the retreating waters of the Flood, perhaps trapped upriver temporarily, then bursting through with enormous force. (Nafziger [n.d.:160] says that this sudden rush of water may have been released as late as two hundred to three hundred years after the Noahic Flood, but most creationists assume it occurred immediately following the Flood.)
No one in our group betrayed the slightest bit of doubt concerning this explanation of the canyon's origin. Indeed, many expressed amazement that anyone could be so foolish and perverse as to believe otherwise. How could this whole enormous canyon have been formed by such a small river, as the evolutionists claim? Where is the necessary downstream deposition of eroded canyon sediment? What about all the alleged missing layers? We shook our heads in wonder and genuine pity at the ability of evolutionists to accept such utter absurdity. Several people agreed that it would have been enlightening to have included an evolutionist in our group so that we could hear firsthand how these incredible beliefs could possibly be explained and rationalized. We agreed, however, that, though it would be entertaining, it would have resulted in too much disturbance and argument.
That evening on the rim we had supper at our campsite. The featured dish was McQueen's tasty "igneous-metamorphic-sedimentary chili" with hot dogs. We were up by 4:30 the next morning and began our hike down into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail shortly thereafter. Everyone carried Bibles (item number one on our ICR pre-trip equipment checklist), although several people carried only compact New Testaments. Morris had some tents, camp stoves, and other equipment from his Ararat expeditions. Because of the heat, most of the tents were left up at the rim. The two women shared one tent, and I carried my little borrowed one, though I did not use it every night.
The hike down was tiring, as it was already very hot and we had heavy packs. We made several long stops along the way, during which McQueen and Morris lectured on geological features we were passing through. Morris also gave us hiking tips from his mountaineering experience. Passing through the Coconino Sandstone, one of the upper strata, McQueen explained how the abundant fossils of this layer could be accounted for within the Flood model. Steven Austin of ICR has developed a "floating mat" hypothesis of coal formation: huge masses of trees and vegetation were torn loose during the Flood and rafted by the strong currents. Depositsespecially tree barkfrom these floating mats of vegetation settled to the sea bottom to become coal. McQueen hopes to extend this hypothesis to argue that animals survived early stages of the Flood on these floating mats, only to be entombed later in various deposition layers. Some survived long enough to make footprints underwater across the newly laid sediments. Leonard Brand of Loma Linda's Geoscience Research Institute, in experiments cited in our course guidebook, used live animals in his lab to make footprints in dry, wet, and underwater sand. He concluded that the Coconino Sandstone fossil footprints were consistent with underwaternot eoliansand dunes.
When we reached Indian Garden Campsite later that morning, the heat was ferocious. Our group's designated camping area had no shade, so we sat by the stream cooling our feet and discussing the ubiquitous and many-tentacled New Age movement. Roger entertained us with gruesome parasite stories. One ranger said that the temperature was 118 degrees; another thought the thermometer had been pushed beyond its reliability.
In the afternoon, we looked for trilobites in the blazing heat. Then most of the group went to Plateau Point overlooking the Inner Gorge. After admiring the Colorado River directly below us, hundreds of feet deep in the Precambrian Vishnu Schist, we scoured the locality for animal tracks. Plateau Point is in the Tapeats Sandstone, the lowest Cambrian layer. Fossils of trilobites and worm burrows are common, but we were particularly concerned with "out-of-order" fossils. Australian John Mackay had recently discovered some marks at Plateau Point and reported on them in Ex Nihilo (1985; also reprinted in our course guidebook). He thought that these could be footprints of vertebratesamphibians or reptilesthough these were not supposed to have evolved until much later, according to evolutionists.
We now reexamined these alleged vertebrate tracks. Our opinions were solicited, although most of us had no previous geological training. This is consistent with the creation-science tradition of amateur nature-watching. Creation science relies upon a naive empiricist philosophy of science: science is thought to be built up of common-sense observations; nature (like Scripture) is perspicuous; ordinary folk, if not blinded by theoretical speculations and materialist, evolutionist idols, can participate in this enterprise of understanding God's creation. Local creation-science groups often include astronomy buffs, rock hounds, bird-watchers, and other enthusiastic scientific amateurs interested in observing, collecting, and seeing the glory of God in naturealthough not familiar with modem understanding of science as a controlled hypothesis-testing enterprise. In this case, we remained skeptical. When I was asked, I ventured that the sediment pushed up by the tracks suggested motion or weight inconsistent with the supposed "claw" marks in the center. McQueen and others also felt that these "vertebrate" footprints did not constitute reliable evidence for creationism.
Yet, despite this tradition of obsolete common-sense empiricism, with its harsh criticism of evolution and other modern scientific theories for being nothing but biased, abstract speculations, creationists indulge in hypothesis-spinning of the most reckless sort. We were encouraged in this: what scenarios could we devise which would account for the observed data-fossil footprints, various strata, faults and unconformities, or whateverand still preserve the absolutely required literal interpretation of Genesis? No discrepancy is perceived, because creationists know that the Bible is totally inerrant. Empirical scientific data must be reconcilable with Scripture interpreted in its plainest, most literal sense (except where "obviously" symbolic!); thus, the wildest hypotheses are proposed to force nature to agree with the revealed word of God. No matter how unlikely the fit with the data, these creation-science speculations are considered plausible precisely because they preserve the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.
We got back to our campsite at dusk and broke camp very early the next morning to reach the next campground, Phantom Ranch, before the midday heat. We took a long and extremely refreshing break when we hit the river; the water was numbingly cold. There was no afternoon group hike as planned due to the heat. It was hot all night; a ranger said that the previous evening it didn't drop to 100 degrees until 9:30. Pat stayed up late assisting a ranger with a hiker suffering from heat exhaustion. Sleeping without tents, we were awakened frequently by various animals, especially lizards scurrying over our bodies. Deer and squirrels shamelessly inspected our backpacks.
The next morning, we returned to Indian Garden, arriving by 8:00. Richard, the runner, left his pack to jog up to the rim and back. The rest of us spent most of the day under a big shade tree telling jokes and stories and dozing a little. I told McQueen that I had spent several years as a counselor in a psychiatric hospital, and he asked me whether I thought acute mental illness was due to demonic possession. Like others at ICR, the power and influence of Satan and his demons is very real to him. McQueen believes that Hitler's uncanny military genius was due to satanic possession. He was proud that in his Arkansas pretrial deposition he deflected the inquisitorial questions of the evolutionist lawyer intended to get him to admit (as Geisler did during the trial) that he believed that UFOs were satanic deceptions. McQueen parried this hostile line of questioning by replying that his professor's brother, Dean Rusk, as secretary of state, knew that there were many secret flights by military craft flown by our own red-blooded American boys.
That evening, we had a meeting, ostensibly to review and ask questions about canyon geology, as well as the usual devotional. We had invited two other couples to join us. While we waited to get started, the ranger on duty came by. She stayed to chat for a while and ended up hearing about the Flood geology interpretation of the canyon. A Jewish woman from Massachusetts, she didn't seem to be familiar with creationism and appeared bewildered by the gentle but persistent witnessing. We left her with some surplus camping food and a Bible. (Creationists find government-sponsored "evolutionist indoctrination" by park rangers highly annoying and want a more "balanced" approach. At a local creationist meeting I attended, we were told that one park ranger at Mammoth Caves, since having been introduced to the Bible-Science Newsletter, now presents both the "evolutionist" and the Flood geology interpretation of the caves' origin.)
The meeting proper began with a discussion of the Grand Canyon as evidence of God's awesome powers of destruction. Beautiful as it is, it is a reminder and a warning of the destruction of the entire world because of sin. Eventually we got around to geology, but the conversation reverted almost immediately to religion. The older couple inquired about the Flood theory of the canyon's origin. Morris called upon me to respond by giving a summary of the creationist explanation we had learned. I demurred and mumbled something to the effect that I was still trying to absorb these lessons and it might be better if someone more confident answered. In truth, I couldn't bring myself to present the creationist explanation as if I believed it, especially to strangers (though it turned out that our guests were sympathetic to creationism). Later, when someone in our group asked me why I declined to answer, I said that I have great difficulty speaking in public, which is also true.
So, it was left to others to describe Flood geology. Talk then turned to the biblical implications of the Flood. The younger couple, both English, asked several polite but pointed questions. The young man, it turned out, was in general agreement with the fact of the Flood and knew his Bible well but did not agree with other theological conclusions of our group. In particular, he disputed the central claim that personal acceptance of Jesus as savior led to certain and eternal salvation. Any good Christian might backslide, he argued, so being born again or "saved" could not be any guarantee of salvation. This led to a very serious theological argument, with our English visitor raising objections which were energetically responded to by most members of our group. Eventually our visitor claimed that Jesus was not the same as God, since Christ himself prayed to God. At this point, it became clear to us that he had been influenced by Jehovah's Witnesses, which was confirmed when he stated that there would be a heavenly kingdom on Earth and not a rapture of the faithful. Questioned, he admitted that he had studied their literature. Both sides were adamant, and it was well after dark before our group gave up trying to convince him of the error of his cultic interpretation. This theological discussion preempted any further geology, but no one minded. Most of us were quite excited by it, though frustrated at the stubborn persistence of error.
It was clear that the main emphasis of this "geology field course" was religious: seeing in the Grand Canyon a warning to heed God's word and accept Christ before the coming destruction of the world, communicating this to fellow hikers, and fellowship with our own group of believers. Whatever geology we learned was secondary to this overwhelming concerna means to an endthough we were actually interested in the canyon's geology as well. But even this scientific interest was motivated by desire to be able to defend the faith against skepticsapologeticsand to present creationism more effectively to others. We had daily devotionals and Bible study sessions, during which our leaders would ask one or two of us to offer prayer. McQueen brought along wafers and wine for Sunday communion. I was asked to lead the group in prayer on this occasion, but once again I demurred. No one seemed to resent my shyness and my admitted unfamiliarity with doctrine, but everyone else offered prayer freely, easily, and often. Once I was asked to which church I belonged. I replied that my wife still attended Catholic church. My questioners muttered condolences and did not press the matter.
Much of the excitement on the trip concerned witnessing attempts. People who were witnessed to were enthusiastically discussed and prayed over afterward. There was a definite consensus that such encounters were by far the most important aspect of the trip and that our witnessing was quite successful. Roger, our physicist, met a German graduate student who did not know anything about creation science but expressed real interest in it. He met up with us later, and the witnessing was pursued. Morris ran into a couple of Turkish exchange students, and some of us spoke with a young Afghan, also.
Not that all of this was imposed upon reluctant passers-by. On the contrary, many who were witnessed to were sincerely interested, though some seemed totally unaware of what creation "science" was. On several occasions, someone would overhear Morris or McQueen lecturing to us on creationist geology and come up to us afterward to introduce themselves. They were Christians, they would say, and were interested in what they had heard. Where did we come from and how might they learn more about creation science? Thus were some people introduced to ICR.
The Turkish students with whom Morris spoke were part of a school group. Their teacher, who considered himself a Christian and something of a Bible scholar, disagreed with Morris about creationism and the age of Earth. Morris wanted to discuss this with him, but he had to return to his students. A little later, Roger heard the teacher talking to his students about the creationists he had just met (that is, us) and telling them that creationism was mistaken. This kind of response infuriated many in our group, and some unflattering things were said about that teacher. Here was somebody calling himself a "Christian" who nonetheless denied essential (according to ICR) doctrine: the historicity of Genesis, including the Flood and the literal six-day creation.
We hiked back up to the rim the following morning. At supper, we talked about other creationist groups and interpretations. Depending upon the audience, creationists may attack rival creationist interpretations as much as they do evolution itself. There were some very funny anecdotes. Some complained about John Clayton, an Indiana old-Earth creationist. Morris offered some witty impressions of Carl Baugh, the Paluxy investigator who sees "manprints" everywhere. Morris and others at ICR think Baugh does creationism a great disservice with his scientifically naive and ill-founded claims. The Loma Linda University scientists of the Geoscience Research Center, another well-known and influential creationist organization, on the other hand, are seen as too cautious and overly critical in evaluating creationist claims. Their creation science is too conservative for ICR's taste. Morris also criticized Navarra's alleged discoveries of wood from Noah's ark on Ararat as almost certainly fraudulent and Navarra's film as probably a hoax.
After supper we sat around the campfire telling stories and fellowshipping. After an hour or two of this banter, everybody in the group began offering prayers and giving testimonysome of it quite long-winded and repetitiousabout what this Grand Canyon experience has meant to us. Everyone agreed that the spiritual aspects and the fellowship were most important. This went on for quite a while. Eventually, McQueen announced that he was exhausted and wanted to retire. But someone popped up and suggested that we all hold hands around the campfire and pray. Such suggestions are hard to refuse for zealous believers who feel that their faith must be constantly and publicly affirmed. Every so often, someone would chime in with a spoken prayer. Silence seemed to be abhorred and would be filled as soon as somebody thought of another suitable prayer. Finally, we hugged and said our goodbyes.
Bible-Science Association, n.d. "Violence in the Bottom of Grand Canyon" (tract). Minneapolis.
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Creation-Science Legal Defense Fund. 1984. "Rampant Persecution of Creationists Reaches Epidemic Proportions." Creation. July: 10-11.
Institute for Creation Research. 1985. "Grand Canyon Study Course." Acts & Facts. 14:8:3.
. 1985. Institute for Creation Research Grand Canyon Field Study Course: Biology/Geology 537: April & June 1985. El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research.
Lang, Walter, and Lang, Valeria. 1984. Two Decades of Creationism. Privately published.
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Mackay, John. 1985. "Cambrian Fossil Footprints?" Ex Nihilo. 7:3:13-14.
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