Training Park Interpreters: Some Guests are Less Welcome than Others
In a sad commentary on intolerance in our society, parks personnel in Canada and the United States have identified some citizens from these two countries as unwelcome influences. An article with suggestions on how to handle these unwelcome "guests" was printed in the Newsletter of interpretation Canada (Alberta Section): vol. 10, no.3, November 1989, p.7. It was based on a United States National Parks training paper. The message of the article was that parks' interpreters must never lose the upper hand in dealing with creationists.
A naturalist, when faced with someone who objects to his/her remarks about dinosaurs, or the age of rocks, is advised not to say that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. No, No! That is too conciliatory. The interpreter is rather to "evaluate" the creationist. Is the person a "gentle, soft-spoken" type who is easily cowed? The article recommends that the interpreter allow this person to speak at the end of the proceedings, when most of the crowd will have dispersed and will not hear him/her. The important thing, says the article, is that the interpreter has not backed down or "equivocated one inch." Appearances of credibility are so important.
If, alternatively, the creationist is an "aggressive shouting bully who is looking for a fight," then the interpreter is to be more aggressive too. The "bully" is to be told firmly that he must be quiet. If that does not work, the creationist is to be pushed into agreeing to some compromising definitions. Try to get him to define religion in general the article advises: "With a bit of prompting, you can get something like 'a person's concept of the Order of the Universe and his place within it, based on the written or spoken word of other people.'" Then prompt the audience to define science, the article recommends, in terms like: "Science is a concept of the Order of the Universe, and one's place within it, based on observation, experiment, and closely controlled logic." Faced with these definitions it is hoped that the "bully" will be robbed of any desire for further confrontation, presumably because he has been outmaneuvered
If the creationist persists in his remarks, the interpreter is advised to call the police to "protect the group." Another possibility is to go later with the individual to a quiet place, where no one else can hear. There the interpreter can listen to the creationist's remarks. First, last, and always the interpreter is to maintain control of the situation. Psychology is such an important aspect in the manipulating of public opinion.
It goes without saying that park interpreters are there to serve all taxpayers and all those who have paid admission to these facilities. If the interpreters solicit questions (they almost always do), then they are bound to treat each query in an equally polite manner. If the concerned citizens confine themselves to questions dealing with science, then the interpreters will have no excuse whatsoever for a hostile reaction. Questions like: "Could you review the assumptions which scientists must make in order to come to a conclusion such as you have just mentioned ... ?" or "How do you explain ... in view of the work of ... who found out ....?" How will the interpreters identify unwelcome guests then, and how will they deal with situations in which they lack convincing answers? Will they call the police?
Editor's Note: Reprinted from Creation Science Dialogue, Vol. 17, No. 1
("Spring Dialogue," March 1990),
p.3, published by Creation Science Association of Alberta, Box 9075, Station E, Edmonton, Alberta T5P 4K1, Canada.