Update (7 July 2017): Snelling has dropped the lawsuit because the Park Service reversed their decision.
A young earth Creationist, Dr. Andrew Snelling, is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, in a civil rights action, stating that he was unlawfully restricted from doing geological work in the Grand Canyon national park because of religious discrimination.
According to the claim, Snelling, from Australia, has authority to be in the U.S. and has previously worked for Answers in Genesis and Creation Science. He has a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Sydney. In November of 2013, he applied for permission to collect 30 lbs of rock samples from an area of the park. Because, by law, you are not allowed to take material from a national park, the permit application is reviewed by the park service who decides for or against the approval. The Research and Planning coordinator asked Snelling for peer reviewed recommendation for his work, which was received. Upon consulting other experts, the NPS determined that suitable locations for the samples could be obtained outside the park. This is one of their criteria for evaluating requests according to their website information. However, it’s not clear if this current list is the same as back in 2013. The NPS also asked Snelling to provide additional GPS locations for samples to be taken that, he says, places an onerous burden on him.
Grand Canyon National Park Research Permitting Policy
It is the policy of the National Park Service (NPS) to guarantee that management of parks is enhanced by the highest quality scientific information. Understanding our natural and cultural resources is vital to improving park management and expanding scientific knowledge. Research will be allowed as long as it can be conducted in a manner that does not threaten or diminish the resources for which Grand Canyon National Park was established.
There are a number of assumptions packed into this claim by Snelling against the NPS. But his main beef is that “The Department actions… demonstrated animus towards the religious viewpoints of Dr. Snelling.” And, he asserts they violated his rights “by imposing religious tests to his access to the park.”
Dr. Snelling, however, is not disallowed from accessing the park. The problem is seemingly because of a fair assumption by the NPS that Snelling will use his work to further the idea that the earth is not 4.6 billion years old and that the Grand Canyon was formed by a flood in accordance with the Bible. He’s done it before. That is not conducive to science in service to the public. And it’s not information that enhances the park.
He certainly does not hide that he has strict religious intentions and pushes his religious identity heavily in the claim. President Trump’s Executive Order “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Freedom” is even cited in the case. (Odd, for a “resident alien”.) This citation is rather absurd since an EO would not change the process of the NPS to approve permits to research in the park. It’s basically just Trump making a show to his conservative constituents. But a key factor may be the distinction between religion and science. Creation science is NOT science; it’s pseudoscience. There is case law for this. I wonder if a ruling (if it ever gets that far) will use that clarification. Can they discriminate against non-science? If the goal is sound science, that seems to be ‘yes’. But I’m not a lawyer and I can’t say how this will go.
It is dangerous to promote one scientific view and restrict others. However, research that promotes a young earth is not a scientific view, it has been discarded almost unanimously by the scientific community decades ago. (There will always be those who hang on to these discarded ideas without sufficient evidence except in their own minds.) Young earth and Biblical creation ideas are pointless because there is no knowledge value in such an endeavor; it is strictly to advance a religious position. Snelling can not logically argue that his research premise about the earth is reasonable nor does it meet the test of sound scientific research. Note that Snelling did not disclose his YEC ideas in his application but reviewers must have gotten suspicious and checked it out. Was that fair?
Snelling did prepare a suitable application, it appears, which is often beyond the capability of most amateur. Snelling is no amateur. That the NPS strung him along may be a problem. If they are rejecting the request because it’s not science and not worthwhile research, they could have done this right away. So, they may be partially at fault here. But, their ultimate intention, to prevent every joker from getting into the Grand Canyon to grandstand about their “research” that shows nonsense, may be justified. They have a duty to protect the park, including its reputation.
It’s a tough situation. Now they are mired in a different attention-grabbing action by Snelling who may have felt that now is a good political climate to push his ridiculous agenda. You can spout whatever nonsense you like but when you are SO obviously touting an absurd claim that goes against various lines of solid evidence regarding the subject you brag about having expertise in, you look like a complete fool and the facts march on.
Addition: There are two Dr. Andrew Snellings? Or is there? Weird. (Thanks, Loren P.)
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