Talking Truth with the Geophysicists

Revolutionary Worker #1264, January 16, 2005, posted at

We received the following correspondence from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The American Geophysical Union held a major conference in San Francisco in December. An estimated 11,000 scientists from all over the world came to present papers and to learn from recent discoveries on the cutting edge of a wide range of important scientific topics relating to the earth and the solar system. These included presentations on the recent discovery of the Martian Rover of a rock which could only have been formed underwater—proving that there was at one point a large amount of standing water on Mars, which makes more likely the possibility that life may have developed there.

The book that lists all of the papers, seminars, panels, and authors who made presentations at the conference is nearly 400 pages long. To list just a few: recent analysis of the very dangerous and growing ozone hole high in the earth’s atmosphere; studies of the possible impact of wobbles in the earth’s rotation on the evolution of human life; and the latest debate over the causes of the great dying—a time 250 million years ago when nearly 90% of the species of life on earth were killed due to a cataclysmic event.

At the very core of geophysics and related disciplines is the understanding that the earth, the sun, and the planets are billions of years old and that all life on earth evolved over several billion years. The entire field is increasingly in conflict with the creationist madness which is being promoted by Christian fascists from the White House on down and which has taken leaps in the wake of the last election. Just one expression of this conflict is the controversy that erupted this year at the Grand Canyon around a book written by a creationist attacking the scientific fact that the Grand Canyon was created over millions of years and was cut into rocks that go back nearly 2 billion years. This book claimed instead that the whole Grand Canyon was created just a few thousand years ago by Noah’s flood. Though this book claimed to be presenting a "scientific" theory for the flood, there is no evidence for it at all. And in fact the real aims of the book and those behind it were about attacking science and replacing it with blind obedience and blind faith.

This was made clear on a creationist website which quoted the author saying, "Without an earth that is millions of years old, the entire evolutionary house of cards falls apart, and think about what that would mean to those that have been trying to ‘prove’ this theory their whole careers. Not only does their theory crumble, but their worldview crumbles with it." Of course this is true in reverse as well: a scientific understanding of the origins of the geology of the earth cuts the legs out of religious fundamentalism. The guy goes on to quote the Bible: "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." He concludes, "This was the core scripture in compiling this book."

The chilling thing is not that some wacko wrote a book like this—but that it was placed in the official U.S. government gift shop at the Grand Canyon with the scientific books about the canyon. And when this was sharply criticized by high-level scientists (including the president of the American Geophysical Union), the Bush administration intervened and insisted that the book be carried in the gift shop. The book was listed on the Grand Canyon’s official web site as "natural history."

This incident was widely known and was a particular jolt to geologists and geophysicists, but it is just one small example of the theocratic thrust of the Bush administration and of its assault on the separation of church and state. And it’s an example of a point made in the new RCP statement, "The Battle for the Future will be Fought from Here Forward!": "Unless they can use it to make money or make weapons, Bush’s people hate the scientific spirit of trying to figure out how the world really works. Science calls into question their dogmatic interpretation of the Bible that prepares people to sacrifice for ‘God and country’—and never ask why."

We were in the midst of making plans for the distribution of the RCP statement when we heard about this geophysicists conference. We felt that we had to find the ways to get the statement out very broadly among the scientists at the conference. And we felt that we would find many among them who had been jolted by the election and by everything that the Bush administration represents and is doing, and that we would find receptivity to the statement’s message of resistance and a revolutionary way out—and to our Chairman’s radically new envisioning of socialism. We wanted to do this in a really mass way, to capture the moment and to cut through some of the social barriers surrounding science and scientists, and to bring out to them the urgency of the times, the importance of utilizing this statement to engage in political battle with the Christian fascists, and the need to engage with Bob Avakian.

We came up with "Father Noah Nothingism." When we went out to the conference with the leaflet and the Revolutionary Worker newspaper, Father Noah—a lunatic fundamentalist priest, came out with a big sign saying "Noah’s flood created Grand Canyon—Bush said it, I believe it, that settles it" on one side. And on the other side: "The earth created in 7 days—Geophysicists go to hell." He ranted and raved about god and creationism, but at times he did make a certain chilling sense—like when he told the scientists: "Our day is coming. We have the White House—do you remember Galileo? [Galileo discovered moons circling Jupiter, which showed that the earth was not the center of the universe. The Catholic Church threatened him with torture, causing him to recant his discovery.] Does anybody see the word think in the Bible? I don’t think so."

He especially urged people NOT to take up the RCP statement and the work of Bob Avakian: "Don’t take up that leaflet—that man is trying to get you to take a bundle so that you can go back and pollute your community. Father Noah blasted the leafleters for promoting communism as the solution, and being followers of Bob Avakian, hollering out that "Christianity and capitalism have gotten along fine for five or six hundred years, things are fine. Half the population makes over two dollars a day, what’s wrong with that?"

Father Noah and the leaflet of the RCP statement created a sensation among the scientists. Dozens took pictures of "Father Noah," and one of the geophysicists put the pictures on a website in less than a day. Though we really just scratched the surface of what was possible, thousands of leaflets went out, with quite a few people taking bundles to get out back home, some with plans to make more copies when they got there. One woman took a small bundle back to Texas, telling an RW seller, "They need it there." She wanted the seller to understand that "there are people there like us." A biology teacher from Houston talked about how hard it was teaching evolution there — including that students infected with creationism had a hard time with it.

Some scientists who had gotten the leaflet the previous day read the entire leaflet and came back and said they were intrigued and think it is important to get it out further. A number of them wanted to learn more about our whole thing and got RWs as well.

It was clear that many scientists were particularly concerned about the advances the creationists have made in getting creationism taught in schools. One scientist commented on how he sees a threat of fascism from what Bush is doing: "The demise of science education, the disallowance of quality science to be taught in the classroom. It’s as simple as that. It can’t get any more fascist than that." Another scientist from Boulder, Colorado talked about how he and others had been very active combating the religious right, including reaching into areas like Colorado Springs, "which is the bastion of the religious right." He explained how upset he is at not just Bush but also the Democrats: "Kerry and Bush were blood-related... That is why I am upset with the Democratic National Committee, because I don’t think they are managing the situation well. I think almost anybody could have beaten Bush. And why we didn’t do it is surprising to me and it scares me that we can’t rally enough people to support when we have an actual criminal in office, an actual felon who has taken us into wars illegally and destroyed the environment, the education, and the economy—the ‘three E’s’—and he has failing grades on all those and still over half the population that voted for him. I am appalled and amazed. I appreciate the effort to still try to get the word out. We have to make people aware. I have some of your literature, I will take it back to Colorado, and I will make copies and hand them out."