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Friday, December 06, 2013

Have you ever seen the Grand Canyon? Did it make you believe in god?

Last year we took a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon [The Magic Canyon Ride ]. None of us converted to Christianity or any other religion.

We may be the exception. According to Time magazine, "It’s hard to be an atheist when you’re looking at the Grand Canyon."

See what Friendly Atheist has to say about this: Time Magazine Says ‘There Are No Atheists at the Grand Canyon,’ Claims that ‘Awe Equals Religion’.

My son and daughter-in-law took a mule ride down into the Grand Canyon. I don't think they were converted either.

Are there any former atheists out there who were converted by the Grand Canyon? Which god(s) did you choose?


  1. can this god-soaked world get any dumber?

  2. I wasn't converted to religion by the Grand Canyon, though I did see it at age six or so -- the same year I saw Halley's Comet. I was, I think, already a nonbeliever of some flavor at that age. Like most American kids in the 1980s, I was keen on dinosaurs and paleontology; my parents were YECs, and even at age six I could feel deep time at work in the Grand Canyon, and finding aquatic fossils on mountainsides in New Mexico, whereas my father would point to the biblical Noah's flood as the cause.

    I don't think I felt 'awe' at the Grand Canyon as much as I ought to have. I more recall feeling upset that we were only spending a couple of hours there, while I desperately wanted to hike all the way down and back... ah, childhood.

  3. Well, contemplation of a waterfall converted Francis

    1. I suppose he was already converted and was merely looking for a suitably scenic spot where he could fall to his knees and perform the final ritual.

  4. Been to the canyon many times. While standing among the fossil beds of ancient coral reefs I converted to being like a little atheist kid in a candy store.

  5. We were at the Canyon three years ago. Though it was August, it was an unusually cool day, so we were able to hike the 12 mile round trip along the Bright Angel Trial to Plateau Point. Ordinarily that is inadvisable in the summer, so we were lucky. It allowed us at least a distant glimpse of the Colorado River. Going back and doing the full hike down to the bottom is definitely on my bucket list!

    The following morning we took a sunrise bus tour along the rim. As the guide was telling us about the geological history of the canyon and its formation, she interrupted herself to add "Now, I am only talking about the scientific understanding of how the canyon was formed and how old it is. There are other understandings having to do with religion and the Bible, and I don't mean to contradict any of that." I can't remember her exact words, but it was something to that effect. At the next stop I asked her about the comment and she said that in the past people would often complain she was offending their religious beliefs by saying the canyon was older than 6000 years, so she now adds the disclaimer. She was obviously unhappy and a bit embarassed about this. I told her that, for my part, I would have enjoyed the tour more without the disclaimer. I think she appreciated that, but I doubt I was as insulting and obnoxious as the God botherers had been, so she has probably kept on adding that bit. Sad.

  6. I've been to the Grand Canyon and it's an awesome hole in the ground, but I didn't find any god(s) there. I've been to a lot of other awesome places too and I didn't find any god(s) there either. My god(s) detector must be broken. ;)

  7. For anyone capable of hiking down and up -- it's quite a climb -- definitely do. I did it years ago and found that what truly impressed on me the scale of the place was getting down and past the point where it really got steep and the canyon narrowed. That I'd gone down some 3500 feet and still had 1500 to go was mind blowing.

    (A friend did a week hiking through the canyon, which is hardcore, and saw one person the whole week.)

    Didn't make me religious in the slightest sense. The people who say things like that are either insecure in their religious belief and want no "outsiders" or are just bereft of any imagination.

    1. For anyone capable of hiking down and up -- it's quite a climb -- definitely do.

      Did you do that in one go? The day I was there, there was a young couple who did that. As I said, under normal summer weather conditions that would have been a seriously death-defying feat, but when we were there it was a very pleasant 70 degrees with a cooling mist. Even so, these two looked almost dead at the end of it.

    2. When I was in my early 20's, driving to California, I did that. I'm not very proud of it-- I did it in the dumbest way possible. I started down the Bright Angel Trail at 1:30 in the afternoon(!) in September, without a water bottle (!) nor flashlight. Yeah, very stupid, I was not an experienced hiker.

      I ran downhill and got to the Colorado River about 3:45 or so, so that was slightly over two hours down. Then I had to walk out. I drug myself out around 8:30 pm in the dark with my knees wrecked, so about 4 hours and change going up.

      Going down, I had the very distinct feeling that I was going backwards in time like Doctor Who.

      Going up, I had the very distinct feeling that my destination was at the height of the clouds. When you go up a vertical cliff formation, like the Redwall Limestone, looking up, you see the edge of that formation and think it's the top edge of the Canyon and you're "almost" there. It's not-- when you get to the top of that formation, you find you have another 1,000 or so feet to go, and your destination is still at the height of the clouds.

      If you do that, I recommend learning some geology before you go, so you can know which formation you're in and when it was formed, and take water bottles and survival gear, just in case. People still die there.

  8. Replies
    1. Talking to mules is probably a lot like trying to have an intelligent conversation with creationists ... except that mules are smarter.

    2. Larry- you're so mean to people you don't agree with. You come across like your trying to make yourself feel better by bashing creationists. You seem pretty smart, why the need to be so pejorative? Just refute them if they're wrong.

    3. It would be a joy to live in a world where all you had to do to get rid of creationists is to show them why they are wrong. It would be wonderful if creationists would stop insulting biologists. As long as creationists insist on attacking the honesty and integrity of scientists I'm going to insist on describing them exactly as they behave.

      If you are truly "concerned" about people who telll lies then the ones you need to talk to are the liars and not those who call them "liars."

    4. I guess I thought you only wanted to prove them wrong not to get rid of them. This sounds even more concerning from an intellectual.
      I'm not saying creationist's are liars. That's not my concern. My concern is the pejorative comments saying they 'telll lies' and are less intelligent than mules sounds like the sort if comments people make if they have an emotional issue. Do you think that describing their behaviour in these terms helps them to understand they're wrong? I a world where this works the comedian would be king. Again, I'm concerned you enjoy making fun of people you disagree with and don't like. Is this the way to proceed as an intellectual?

    5. "Concerned" says,

      My concern is the pejorative comments saying they 'telll lies' and are less intelligent than mules sounds like the sort if comments people make if they have an emotional issue.

      Hmmmm .. I can accept that. I have an emotional issue with creationists.

      Do you think that describing their behaviour in these terms helps them to understand they're wrong?

      That's a difficult question to answer. We've debated it many times on these blogs and there are two different answers. I tend to think that the answer to your question is "yes" with limitations. I think creationists, like mules, sometimes have to be whacked over the head in order to get their attention.

      The one thing we know for certain is that being nice and polite to them in face of their nasty attacks has not worked. They haven't stopped.

      Again, I'm concerned you enjoy making fun of people you disagree with and don't like.

      For the record, I do not make fun of everyone who disagrees with me. Only the stupid and nasty ones.

      Is this the way to proceed as an intellectual?

      Yes, I actually think it's working. More and more people are hearing that creationist arguments are stupid and ridiculous and that creationists are liars. I think that's a good thing and I intend to continue spreading the word.

    6. Hi again! I'm still concerned about your wanting to get rid of creationists - what do you mean by that?

      Interesting link to psychology today although the article suggests that a whack on the head does no good for humans so is contra your approach.

      Do you define an intellectual approach as merely one that works? Are you so pragmatic about your methods that insult is ok if it works? Again, is this the approach an intellectual / academic should take?

      The more I read your replies Larry, the more I think they contain intolerance. Disagree with people yes but taking the higher ground always seems like the more noble thing whether it works or not. I think this Christian apologist has a salient point when he critiques the mock and ridicule approach:
      It seems to me that at best people will learn to mock those they disagree with (and think stupid and nasty) and at worst people will stop analysing creationist views looking for possible strengths and weaknesses and just think they're wrong because of the cheap shots. None of this develops substantive debate or a healthy intellectual culture.

    7. I'm so worried about what's happening today
      In the Middle East, you know
      And I'm so worried about the baggage retrieval
      System they've got at Heathrow

      I'm so worried about the fashions today
      I don't think they're good for your feet
      And I'm so worried about the shows on TV
      That sometimes they want to repeat

      I'm so worried about what's happening today
      And you know
      And I'm worried about the baggage retrieval
      System they've got at Heathrow

      I'm so worried about my hair falling out
      And the state of the world today
      And I'm so worried about being so full of doubt
      About everything anyway

      I'm so worried about modern technology
      I'm so worried about all the things
      That they dump in the sea, I'm so worried about it
      Worried about it, worried, worried, worried

      I'm so worried about everything that can go wrong
      I'm so worried about whether people like this song
      I'm so worried about this very next verse
      It isn't the best that I've got

      And I'm so worried about whether I should go on
      Or whether I shouldn't just stop

      I'm worried about whether I ought to have stopped
      And I'm worried because it's the sort of thing I ought to know
      And I'm so worried about the baggage retrieval
      System they've got at Heathrow

      I'm so worried about whether I should have stopped then
      I'm so worried that I'm driving everyone round the bend
      I'm worried about the baggage retrieval
      System they've got at Heathrow

    8. Another reason to prefer conversations with mules is that with mules the excrement comes out of the back end.

    9. Steve,

      I'm a little bit "concerned" about you and your preference for mules over creationists. :-)

    10. Oh Larry, you are so mean to mules, I am concerned that you are just trying to make yourself feel better by being mean and pejorative to them.

      This christian apologist has a salient point: that helps to develop substantive debate and a healthy intellectual culture.

  9. I've been to the Grand Canyon, and as a nonbeliever I think I experience more awe in the natural world than if I were religious.

    Rather than thinking that God just poofed what I'm experiencing into existence, I actually have to contemplate how what I'm viewing was formed geologically, cosmically or through evolution, giving me a much richer appreciation of the depth and scope and beauty of the universe around me.

  10. It is true that the grand canyon show not awe more then ones own body. Biology is far more complicated then geological events or physics generally.
    A hole in the ground is not as great as the holes in heads for eyes, ears, and mouth, and nose.
    The GC does show a quick great event yet its not from God.
    Its from Satan.
    That is its from the last acts of water coming off the continent during the great flood. Concentrating and carving out the hole.
    I don't think its a post flood event as its too big.
    Its just what it looks like. A great hole created by great flowing water and so a moment in time and not obout long time.God takes responsibility for the flood but it was Satan who did the work to destroy all life.

    1. Do you understand at all what you are writing here...? I'm a very reasonable person, but....There are limit....

    2. I think that what booby really needs is not a course in evolutionary biology but a course in creative writing. Mostly what we get from him are word salads.

    3. Actually, I think his writing is very "creative."

  11. The YECs like Byers have many arguments asserting that e.g. the Grand Canyon was carved in a couple of days by lots of water. They consider these arguments to be winners, and indeed they even lead rafting tours of the GC to indoctrinate people.

    In reality, every geological strata in the GC refutes Young Earth creationism. For example, the YECs say that perhaps the strata were all soft and gooey during Noah's Flood, like chocolate pudding, and that made it easy to carve quickly. But of course, several of the strata of the GC have vertical cliff walls (like the Redwall Limestone), and you can't carve a vertical cliff 300 feet high out of chocolate pudding when it has a million tons of rock on top of it. It would squish.

    In addition, several of the limestone strata have karstic formations at their upper edges, analogous to e.g. those above ground in Guilin, China, hills eroded into highly complex shapes over a long time. Karsts don't form underwater, and the walls of the internal karsts are often nearly vertical.

    In the Surprise Canyon formation, which fills in the eroded depressions in limestone formation underneath it, there are clastic boulders that include solid rocks and marine fossils that broke off of the limestone formation underneath it. But the creationists say all these strata were soft like pudding until after they were carved out by Noah's Flood. This would require that the limestone be simultaneously both hard (so it could be included in clastic boulders of the Surprise Formation) and soft (so it all could be carved at super-speed). No rock can be both hard and soft at the same time.

    The Coconino Sandstone formation is clearly aeolian, that is, it was formed from sand dunes in a dry desert. It has the footprints of amphibians in it. The creationists say the sand dunes were made at the bottom of the ocean, but that never happens for this type of sand dune. Moreover, the sand itself is "mature", highly rounded, meaning it's the result of erosion and rolling around for a long time. Creationists can't explain the composition of the sand, or how or where all that quartz came from in the first place, that is, how it got eroded off the continent (which itself takes a long time) before it got to the GC.

    As for the footprints of the amphibians, creationists say that amphibians were walking around leaving footprints at the bottom of the ocean, in the midst of 200 mph currents which supposedly eroded enough quartz out of granite somewhere else (!) to make a layer of sandstone 300 feet thick, but didn't strip flesh off the bones of an amphibian, nor even disturb their footprints.

    And at the bottom of the Grand Canyon are several hundred feet of pre-Cambrian layers like the Vishnu Schist and others, which kill creationism. You see, the creationists hypothesize that the post-Cambrian, fossil-bearing layers were laid down at hyper-speed as chocolate pudding during Noah's Flood-- but the pre-Cambrian layers have no fossils, oops!-- so they were created directly by God as granite, or as the tricky, deceptive simulacrum of sedimentary and metamorphic layers. At any rate, even in the creationist hypothesis, the pre-Cambrian granite was rock hard long before Noah's Flood.

    So, they need the magic holy water of Noah's Flood to carve several hundred feet of pre-Cambrian granite in a day or two.

    A very good, non-technical, introductory-level essay with photos, on why every strata in the Grand Canyon refutes creationism, see Jon Woolf's refutation of creationist Steve Austin. Highly recommended.

    1. Those are all good points but the "deluge model" is much weaker than even you seem to recognize. Imagine a time when the mountains were covered with water after god decides to kill everything on Earth (with the exception of a few people and animals in a boat).

      Now imagine that the waters begin to go somewhere and the level drops quickly over a period of several weeks. Gradually the tops of the mountains appear, then more and more of the high ground becomes exposed as the water level falls uniformly over the entire planet.

      At what point in this scenario would there be a whole lot of water rushing down the side of a mountain in a narrow stream carving out a canyon?

    2. Creationists have counter-arguments to that, and we should know their counter-arguments, even if they're ridiculous.

      Creationists always say the GC was carved by "receding waters of the Flood" and they don't go into detail. Steve Austin points to some canyons upstream from the GC and says they held big lakes of water, which broke free as the waters of the Flood "receded."

      But as Jon Woolf points out, those canyons are smaller than the GC, so even if all the water went into the GC, the total couldn't carve out the GC.

      And only a small fraction of the "receding waters of the Flood" would go into the GC anyway. The Colorado Plateau started out as a plain, so if any water broke loose from a dam, most of the water would flow over the plain around the canyon for hundreds of miles, so only a small fraction of the water would go into any GC, even if the strata of the Colorado Plateau was soft as pudding, which it couldn't be.

      At any rate, real catastrophic floods of this sort leave very distinctive marks, which the Colorado Plateau doesn't have. One famous example of real catastrophic flooding is the Channeled Scablands of Washington State, and another is the Eastern Mediterranean near the Black Sea. In the Channeled Scablands, a vast Ice Age lake east of Washington State broke loose presumably when an ice dam melted; geologists have identified the contours of the ancient lake. Geologists can recognize catastrophic flooding from the distinctive evidence it leaves, as in the Channeled Scablands-- but the Grand Canyon just doesn't have evidence of catastrophic flooding; its evidence points the opposite way.

    3. Never mind the simple issue of, when the water was receding, to exactly where did it go?

    4. YEC has answers for everything because its not difficult to figure out geomorphology.
      As i said god didn't bring flood, I don't think so, but rather it was satan. God just takes responsibility for his own agenda.
      All layers in the geology columns are exactly what they look like. layers from layering or rather segregated water flows moving sediment loads during the first weeks etc.
      Why not?
      Everything can be better explained by mechanisms of fast moving water carrying sediments in hugh accumulations.

      IT was just a last act of concentration in areas on earth that allowed flows to quickly carve out previously laid layers. So the GC was carved in weeks or days at the end of the flood year.
      the water was going into the NEWLY deep ocean. This created by the movement of the continents after splitting up in a rush.
      it all works.

      Yet it still is the truth that geology or geomorphology or any physics is a poor cousin to the glory of biological complexity and diversity in nature.
      The world is prejudiced towards newton and einstein yet they just figured out the easiest things
      biology is the most intellectually complicated and thats why its not figured out or fixed .
      The awe of god is in our mirrors and not looking over great canyons however cool big.
      I want to see it myself one day but my single finger typing is more complicated and awe inspiring.

    5. I hiked down the Grand Canyon in college. On the descent I was an atheist. But on the hike back up I was a full-blown Satanist. Only the devil would design such repetitive steep switchbacks on the South Kaibab. I held out for as long as possible, but the tedium of trudging and turning had me eventually kneeling before the Dark Angel himself.

      Given what Byers noted, if Satan caused the flood, why not give credit where credit is due: those who hike the canyon should emerge as Satanists, not Christers.

    6. By why this cover-up in the Bible? God told Noah he would personally send rains upon the earth to kill all terrestrial life except the ark's crew and cargo. Either the Bible lies, or Byers is a blasssphemer!

    7. In the last book called revelation its explained more. Its coomon in the bible for God to take responsibility for something because of his being the big boss but actually all bad things come from Satan. The flood was from Satan to kill the prophecy of the messiah who would destroy him.
      An equation of cause and effect.
      It should be obvious god would not himself kill or destroy the planet. Hes a nice guy.

    8. Oh yeah, he's a nice guy. He's the big boss so he has the magnanimity to accept the responsibility for any shit that happens, but it was actually his enemies that did it. Wait a minute... did you mean God the Father or the Godfather?