Creationists are infiltrating US geology circles in an attempt to push the theory that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old and that recognised geological phenomena which appear to contradict this idea can be accounted for by Noah's Flood and similar Bible stories.
The attempt by creationist "scientists" to present themselves as part of mainstream US geology is described in the July edition of Earth, the magazine of the American Geological Institute, by Steven Newton of the National Center for Science Education – an organisation whose mission is to ensure that evolution continues to be taught in US schools.
Newton describes the way in which so-called "Young Earth" creationist geologists – who sometimes hold advanced degrees in geology despite believing that the planet Earth is only a few thousand years old – work within the mainstream US geology scene. The creationists will attend conferences, organise field trips, present papers and give lectures. They will often use the language and refer to the theories generally accepted by geologists, even going so far occasionally as to refer to timespans in the millions or billions of years: though if pressed they will admit that they personally don't believe that the planet has existed for anything like so long.
According to Newton, these exercises serve two purposes. They allow the creationists to claim in frequent press releases and other publicity materials that their ideas are gaining acceptance in the scientific community, and they allow doubt to be subtly cast on the theories generally accepted for why and how given rock formations etc have come to be. Often an alternative view will be presented that the given formation might instead have come about due to a lengthy immersion in water at some time in the recent (less than 10,000 years ago) past: but no specific mention of Noah or the Flood will be made.
Newton describes a field trip led by several creationists as an excursion organised at last year's meeting of the Geological Society of America. The creationists presented their credentials in such a way as to obscure their beliefs, and while many hints were dropped that perhaps the geology visited might result from something very like the Flood, no overt mention of Young Earth ideas was ever made. The preferred science-friendly phrase for the Flood employed by the creationists is "massive marine transgression", apparently: one of the trip leaders is known to believe that this can explain the formation of the Grand Canyon.
Creationists will continue to promote Flood Geology and their radical interpretation of Grand Canyon strata because a young Earth is critical to their rejection of evolution. As in Field trip 409, observations are often made that are indistinguishable from standard geology, but young-Earth conclusions drawn from them are unwarranted.
Newton also notes that mainstream scientists criticising the creationists tended to come off as rude and confrontational, in sharp contrast to the god-botherers' excellent manners and polished conduct. He suggests that in this respect if no other, proper scientists could learn something from the infiltrators, and he cautions against any move to ban the creationist pseudo-geologists from conferences and meetings.
Let a thousand flowers bloom, weeds and all. The best ideas from the meetings are further subjected to peer review in journals, which is where theories are built; conferences are more freeform. Geology will not suffer if creationists participate in our meetings, but the public relations damage from the misperception that we are systematically hostile to any view — especially religious views — is real.
You can read the full Earth article here. ®