2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


MILLER, Marli B., Geological Sciences, Univ of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, millerm@uoregon.edu

Most of the public remains unaware of the overwhelming evidence for the depth of geologic time. Consequently, this concept has been attacked by biblical literalists who regard it as a contradiction of God's word. It has also been ignored by advocates of Intelligent Design, who claim to accept geologic time, but subtly undermine the concept in their disregard of the scientific method. Unfortunately, scientists generally remain uninvolved in clarifying the issue. This lack of involvement seems to stem from lack of time and recognition from their home institutions, or from their inability to find an appropriate venue to bring geologic time to the public.

Evening programs at national parklands provide one such venue. These programs are typically slide show presentations that inform the visitor about specific aspects of the national park, such as its mining history, wildlife, or geology. Although typically led by park service interpreters, other people with expertise in a given field can volunteer to lead a program. Many parks welcome this type of volunteerism, especially in geology, because it lends diversity to the park's list of program offerings. As most national parks display a variable rock record in typically spectacular settings, they are conducive to programs about their geologic history and a discussion of geologic time. Parks of the North American Cordillera that display Precambrian basement and Phanerozoic stratigraphy are especially appropriate.

I have given evening programs at Death Valley and Grand Teton national parks. Both programs employ photographs of cross-cutting relations and simple diagrams to detail the regions' geologic history. In this way, I can satisfy the visitors' desire to see and learn more about the specific park while introducing them to the evidence for deep time. Significantly, I explicitly avoid radiometric dating, relying instead on features people can actually see. I end the program with an explicit discussion of geologic time and why it provides an important perspective for Earth resources, environmental degradation, and one's personal take on humanity. Attendance to these programs ranged from 50 to 300 visitors.