Whitewashing time in the South...

I really haven’t spent much time in the South - Florida doesn’t count. I didn’t expect what happened when I visited Tallulah Gorge State Park.

It’s a beautiful place, a great view of the gorge, nice trails (some made of recycled tires), well-maintained bridges and stairs, and a very nice visitor center. I looked at the geology exhibit, and I was surprised to see that although the exhibit claims it’s one of the “oldest geological features on the East Coast” there’s no mention of geological time in the exhibit. In fact, no mention of time scales at all.

At the information desk, about four people were hanging out - rangers and volunteers, so I asked about how old the gorge was thought to be.

They all looked at me like I had asked “where are all the black people?”

No one would fess up to knowing about how old the gorge was. One ranger took one of the volunteers to the back office to “find if we had anything.” They were gone for about ten minutes (I think they tried to wait me out). In the end, they gave me a pamphlet on human history where no dates prior to Columbus are mentioned. Unbelieveable! Are young-earth creationists so powerful in Georgia that you can’t get geological information at a state park!?

You’d think that this would be a very common question.

So it beats me why it stumped the staff.

But should we chalk it up to general incompetence before we invoke creationist ignorance?

I didn’t thoroughly explore the Web site you linked to. Is the answer there?

Did the pamphlet explain the dissing of Ms. Bankhead’s tender parts? Maybe that’s what they were embarrassed about. :stuck_out_tongue:

I thought “Whitewashing time in the South” was when Tom Sawyer made his profit.

Well, yeah, it’s really old. As old as 6,000 years.

I was there a few months ago and don’t remember anything describing the geology of the gorge either (there’s a museum of sorts, but it’s devoted to the flora and fauna of the region). IIRC, there are other parks in Georgia that do provide timescales for geologic formations— Panola Mountain is one, I think— so I’m not sure I’d assume a creationist conspiracy right off. It is a pretty curious omission, though, and the fact that nobody there knew the answer either isn’t reassuring.

That’s what I would have thought also. I’m surprised they weren’t prepared - to make a claim that something is “oldest,” and to be unable to answer the question “about how old?” stretches credulity.

Possible. But that would require incompetence both on the part of the exhibit designer and the rangers present. IME, other parks seem to be pretty upfront about age in geological exhibits.

Nope. I looked. (before I posted, too! :slight_smile: ) Another site makes some vague claim about “millions of years,” but it’s not a Georgia gov’t site.

Wow. I went to high school across the street from the gorge, and have hiked it many times. I have no idea how old it is. I don’t know if they never taught us about it, or if I have just forgotten.

It is beautiful, though. We used to hike down into the gorge to go swimming at the bottom before there were any of those nice trails; we started some of them!

This is about creationism, no?

Then there’s the Grand Canyon controversy where the Park was ordered to sell a book stating the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s Flood less than 6,000 years ago.

The geological formation through which the falls cuts is on the order of half a billion years old or so.

You’re welcome.

It wasn’t a case of creationist propaganda. They just didn’t know, and hoped you’d go away. Unless they were park interpreters or scientists, I wouldn’t look for lots of nuggets of naturalistic wisdom from any park rangers or volunteers, pretty much anywhere.

“How old is that gorge?”
“I don’t know. It was here when I started working here.”

Don’t forget that PEER originally falsely claimed that rangers were forbidden to give the standard scientific account. Skeptic » eSkeptic » January 17, 2007

This doesn’t disprove PEER’s later contention, but I think the context is important.

OTOH, this may have happened here and should be checked into. Or perhaps the whole Tallulah Gorge park management and staff may have decided amongst themselves not to talk about the geologic age for their own personal religious beliefs or just to avoid confrontations with creationists.

Either way, we should get the facts and avoid the PEER fiasco.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

Well, I agree it’s not propaganda - but I think it is suspiciously close to either censorship or self-censorship.

I’ve worked in a variety of parks - including Yosemite and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the displays are often as specific as possible about geological processes. This display discussed folding in the creation of the Appalachians and the subsequent capture of a river, and the formation of metasedimentary rocks - all without giving so much as a “millions of years later…” or even “In the Cambrian era…”

If they didn’t mention the relative ages of features in the display, they could have in a brochure or pamphlet, if they didn’t in writing, they could have verbally. It’s not that the people at the desk didn’t know off the top of their heads - it’s that they couldn’t even find out - that’s what makes me suspicious.

Well sure, but that’s Yosemite and Golden Gate. I used to work as a scientist in a group of small, Southeastern national parks (Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMR, Little River Canyon NP, Shiloh NMR, and Russell Cave NM,) and let me tell you, I lost count of the times I got a call from the VC’s, asking me about various and sundry scientific facts having to do with the parks.

It could just be a difference between the areas, but at least I would have expected that somewhere in the office they’d have a copy of Roadside Geology of Georgia or something similar. I left them with my email address, so it’s possible they’ll follow up, but I’m not holding my breath.