When it comes to relaying the history of the Grand Canyon, a new book co-authored by longtime Flagstaff resident Wayne Ranney takes a different approach to one of the world's most famous geologic features.Lets leave aside the author's notion that this book provides a “different approach” to the formation of the canyon, since The Tusayan National Geographic Bookstore has one (count 'em, One) book espousing the creationist perspective, called The Grand Canyon, A Different View, edited by Tom Vail, while every other book takes the mainstream science approach to the formation of the canyon.
What sets the book apart is how it places religion front and center in its discussion of the canyon’s geology. In 240 photo-rich, textbook-style pages “The Grand Canyon Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?” highlights the stark divide that continues to exist between some religious views of the canyon’s formation and the prevailing science about its more than 6 million-year-old evolutionary history.
The book does what geologists have failed to do for decades, said Ranney, a former geology professor who has written several books on Grand Canyon. It directly confronts a sector of Christian believers, called Young Earth Creationists, who maintain that the Grand Canyon’s layers were created in one year during Noah's flood and that the event happened along a timeline of Earth’s history that goes back just 6,000 to 10,000 years.
Page after page of the book is dedicated to explaining those beliefs and then showing how the canyon’s geology conflicts with and debunks them.
This new work is a welcome book to combat the nonsense of Tom Vail. When I was at the Tusayan Bookstore a few years ago, I waded through the book—which has to be seen to be believed—and realized that the devotion to the young earth model causes people to concoct absolutely unbelievable geologic scenarios that simply do not stand up to any sort of scrutiny. As Geologist David Montgomery writes:
Digging deeper into the book, I read that the canyon itself was carved when the sediment that formed the rocks now exposed in its walls was still soft. I was puzzled that the authors did not try to explain how a mile-high stack of saturated sediment remained standing without slumping into the growing chasm—or how all the loose sand and clay later turned into solid rock. The book simply stated that, according to the Bible, Noah’s Flood formed the Grand Canyon and all the rocks through which it’s cut in under a year. There was no explanation for the multiple alternating layers of different rock types, the erosional gaps in the rock sequence that spoke of ages of lost time, or the remarkable order to the various fossils in the canyon walls. The story was nothing like the tale I read in the rocks I had spent the day hiking past.That is one of so many problems with the creationist view (for example, why did the walls of the canyon not collapse, since they were composed of mud and clay and less than a year old?) that it is difficult to take it seriously.
Given that Vail's book was placed in the Science section of the Grand Canyon Bookstore, we can only hope that this one will be placed right next to it.
P.S. anyone with an interest in this area of geology should pick up David Montgomery's The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood, from which I quoted above. It is a great read.