AIG Creation Scientist’s Grand Canyon Lawsuit

We have exciting news from Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum. It’s titled Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of AiG Scientist Facing Viewpoint Discrimination. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

For over three years now, AiG’s Dr. Andrew Snelling, a qualified geologist with many years of experience in the field, has been denied a permit to remove rock samples from the Grand Canyon. Though other scientists with similar requests have been granted permits, Dr. Snelling’s permit has been denied due to his religious beliefs.

We’ve written before about Andrew Snelling — most recently Plate Tectonics and the Flood. At the end of his articles at Hambo’s website, he’s described as “Geologist, Speaker, Author, Researcher, Editor-in-chief of Answers Research Journal.” They say he’s AIG’s director of research. AIG’s biography page on him says his PhD is in Geology from the University of Sydney, in Australia. Let’s get back to Hambo. He says:

To protect Dr. Snelling’s religious liberties, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, pro bono group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit against Grand Canyon National Park on behalf of Dr. Snelling.

That outfit used to be called Alliance Defense Fund, but they recently changed their name to Alliance Defending Freedom, keeping the same initials — see Alliance Defense Fund Changes Its Name. They were involved in the David Coppedge litigation — see David Coppedge vs. JPL (10 Jun 2010), and the John Oller litigation too — see Ken Ham Supports John Oller’s Lawsuit.

Hambo tells us:

Authorities are stonewalling Dr. Snelling in his attempt to do good observational research on Grand Canyon rocks. Scientists should not be forced to change their beliefs to match the government’s beliefs in order to conduct their research. Sadly, this is an example of viewpoint discrimination against a highly qualified scientist who holds biblical beliefs.

Snelling is being stonewalled by the Grand Canyon. Hey — there’s no better place for it. Hambo ends his post with this:

You can read more about the lawsuit in this press release. As this case goes to court, please be praying that the government will protect Dr. Snelling’s right — and the right of other scientists like him — to practice the free exercise of religion.

That press release link takes us to another article at the AIG website: Discrimination Lawsuit Filed by Christian Geologist Against Grand Canyon Park Officials. It’s very long, so we’ll give you just a few excerpts:

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order last Thursday to protect religious liberties, a test case of those freedoms has entered the federal court system. A lawsuit was filed today in a US District Court in Phoenix, Arizona, by the civil liberties group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of a scientist with Answers in Genesis (AiG). The suit alleges that the civil liberties of geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling were violated when he was twice denied a permit by Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) to continue his research at the canyon due to his religious and scientific views.

We went to the court’s website. They say the suit was filed today, 09 May, titled Snelling v. United States Department of Interior, et al. It’s case number CV17-08088-PCT-ESW, but they don’t provide any other information without a PACER account. We then went to the Justia site, but it’s not listed there yet. Addendum: They have it now — see Snelling v. United States Department of Interior et al.

Addendum: AIG links to a copy of the complaint at the lawyers’ website. You can read it here. It’s a 22-page pdf file.

Okay, back to AIG. They say:

Apparently, Dr. Snelling’s most recent research project on behalf of a high-profile group like AiG was deemed a threat to the prevailing viewpoint of the canyon’s formation and timing. The language used by park officials and its reviewers to describe Dr. Snelling’s proposal decries that a Christian and creationist seeks to do the research. Dr. Snelling’s proposed study could yield results that will undermine an idea that is heavily promoted inside the park: namely, the argument that the canyon’s strata were formed over millions of years. With his intended research, Dr. Snelling seeks to gather samples at folds inside the canyon where all the layers were bent but were not shattered because the rocks were still soft as they folded — supposedly remaining soft over a period of 450 million years.

Here’s one more excerpt:

With his executive order on May 4, President Trump announced that a priority of his administration is to reinstate many lost religious liberties. His order declared it will “be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom.” The primary defendant in the Snelling lawsuit is the Department of the Interior, which manages America’s national parks. The DOI falls under the purview of President Trump’s executive branch of government.

That’s enough for now. This thing is just beginning. It should provide us with entertainment for months — perhaps much longer. Stay tuned to this blog!

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48 responses to “AIG Creation Scientist’s Grand Canyon Lawsuit

  1. Hans Weichselbaum

    Dr Snelling seems to have two personalities: http://www.noanswersingenesis.org.au/realsnelling.htm
    He should try getting samples by taking his creationist hat off. Perhaps he can squeeze two papers out of his study, one supporting a 6,000 year history and one with tens of millions of years.

  2. Michael Fugate

    I sincerely doubt that any “research” done by AiG could undermine any scientific idea and especially any idea about the formation of the Grand Canyon.

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    AIG says: “As this case goes to court, please be praying that the government will protect Dr. Snelling’s right — and the right of other scientists like him — to practice the free exercise of religion.

    You know, I think Ken Ham is really on to using this “free exercise of religion” ploy. Could reconfigure our entire view of science and education. Why, right down my block there is already an oppressed Tarot Card reader who passionately wants the religious right to explore the science of using potions such as “Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog” as a remedy for the falling test scores of our public schools.

  4. I hope the government stand firm against pseudoscientific crackpots wanting to deface and vandalize the grandest national park in the world. There’s tons of places were this doofus can collect samples that don’t disturb protected sites. He’s definitely not a qualified geologist or even a scientist. To assert that structural folding proves the rocks were soft is to dismiss all of rock deformation science. He knows what solid-state deformation is, so he’s lying. He’s also lying about why he’s been denied a permit. It’s nothing to do with religion. He was denied because his “science” is demonstrably wrong.

  5. Ross Cameron

    Ah, James, but he is a qualified geo. However, he can post articles embracing radiocarbon dating in scientific journals while simultaneously writing articles in AIG knocking RC dating. Delusion knows no bounds.

  6. Derek Freyberg

    AIG’s article does have the complaint.
    I’ve no sympathy for AIG or its minions, but it does seem from the complaint that NPS has basically decided that they don’t want Snelling doing the research and just thrown up roadblocks. He’s qualified, he’s not asking for a lot of samples, and other people have been allowed to take more without such a fuss – he may have a decent case. But until we see the NPS answer, it’s hard to be sure what the facts are: lawyers do exaggerate in pleadings, though they’d be wise not to lie outright.

  7. Thanks, Derek Freyberg. I added an addendum to the post with a link to the complaint. To save everyone from searching for the addendum, you can read the complaint here. It’s a 22-page pdf file.

  8. paul collier

    Nobody has more contempt for YECs than I, but Snelling should get his permit. AiG is right in contending that this is a freedom of expression/ religion issue. Denying AiG research rights because of its religious basis just validates their belief that they are discriminated against by an intolerant scientific community. Besides–whats the harm?

  9. You may be right, paul collier, but I want to see what the Dept. of Interior has to say in their answer to the complaint. They might have something better than “the guy’s a creationist.” If that’s all they’ve got, then Snelling ought to win.

  10. Snelling is a crackpot and a clown. Nothing more.The Grand Canyon’s geology has been EXTENSIVELY and SCRUPULOUSLY investigated by actual geoscientists. As opposed to crazed , crackpot, pseudoscientific religious kooks like Snelling the Ignoramus Creationist. Hambone’s mentally ill article has zero scientific credibility as displayed by Snellings TOTAL FAILURE to get his pseudoscientific crazy creationism flood geology garbage published in an actual science journal. Wretch.

  11. Wasn’t this park obligated at one time to allow creationist literature to be distributed alongside with real scientific literature in the park, like in a gift shop or info booth?

  12. I am not certain about rock samples per se, but generally material collected on Federal property for research must be eventually stored in a bona fide repository such as university or museum collections to be available to other researchers. I am not sure that AIG has an accredited repository for research materials.

  13. James already said it, but if Snelling thinks that geologists thinks that rocks were soft over 450 million years, then he’s doesn’t know very much about geology.

  14. “However, he can post articles embracing radiocarbon dating in scientific journals while simultaneously writing articles in AIG knocking RC dating. Delusion knows no bounds.”

    that very fact right there, shows that one way or the other, he is dishonest and willing to lie for his viewpoint. Which should cause him to be censored. What I suspect is that he wanted the samples so that he could lie about what the “lab” (whoever he gets to fake results) had to say.

  15. Dave Luckett

    Snelling is a sad case, but he should be allowed to take his samples. Ham has already given the game away: Snelling is seeking to freely exercise his religion, not conduct a scientific investigation. Anything he writes about his “research” will be contemptuously dismissed by real geologists as soon as it appears – but not on the basis of religion, his, theirs or anyone’s. Rather, it will be because his methods, premises, assumptions and data are an absurd parody of the facts.

    The trouble will be that the refutation of Snelling’s misconceived untruths must be technical and lengthy, so none of the target audience will read it. Creationists have been trading on that comfortable certainty for generations. Whatever nonsense Snelling comes up with will be shrieked by the creationist noise machine forever. Cripes, they haven’t given up on Arkansas Man yet. I confess, I have no idea how to counter this. In my country we have a saying: “Bulls**t baffles brains”. It’s true.

    Did anyone see Aron Ra’s comprehensive take-down of David C Pack’s compendium of lies on Youtube? Pack’s another clown from the crazy end of the boonies, runs something called The Restored Church of God, a splinter off Herbert Armstrong’s freak show, yet.

    Pack’s product has the usual window-dressing: spiffy pro-quality production values; a shill (Pack himself) in gent’s natty suiting in front, asserting with great assurance the usual blather, evilution is a rival religion, there are no intermediates, all the evidence is fake, and besides, Hitler, yadayadayada.

    Ra is nothing if not succinct, but to utterly demolish Pack’s cataract of disinformation he needs no fewer than 28 videos averaging 20 minutes each. The result is the utter reduction of Park to soggy punk, and a demonstration that this well-dressed follower of Christ is a pathological liar of monumental proportions, but it takes five times as long as the original material. The marks won’t sit through the first five minutes, and they can’t follow the reasoning anyway. The Gish gallop still works. A lie can still circle the Earth before the truth can get its boots on.

    I ask all present: What on Earth are we to do about this?

  16. Dave Luckett

    My last comment is awaiting moderation, I suspect because I quoted the folk-wisdom of my people in its original pungent language. Take pity. Oh mighty One!

    [*Voice from above*] All is well … now.

  17. Michael Fugate

    Did AiG post a copy of the research proposal?

  18. > AiG is right in contending that this is a
    > freedom of expression/ religion issue.
    ——————–
    No – freedom of expression/religion does not extend to defacing a protected and unique site that belongs to everyone.
    ——————–
    > Denying AiG research rights because of its
    > religious basis just validates their belief that
    > they are discriminated against by an
    > intolerant scientific community.
    ——————–
    Research is for science, not religion – that’s justification enough. The scientific community already stands against anti-science advocates. They can stand with us once they follow the rules of science. They are already irrational when it comes to their perceptions of the scientific community. This can’t add to the infinity of insane that’s already present.
    ——————–
    > Besides–whats the harm?
    ——————–
    Grand Canyon is a “limited resource”, to use bureaucratic-speak. Wasting it on nonsense does a disservice to everyone. Besides – Curmy and many others have done an excellent job of documenting all the real-life harm that cretinous creationists have done over recent decades.

  19. I prefer to look at this as creationists’ attempt to discriminate against the more rigorous standards of science.

  20. Pending more info, I’m with AiG. Snelling is deluded but he is a competent geologist who has published in peer-reviewed journals. There is a great deal of Grand Canyon; no risk of running out of material. I assume there are protocols in place for removal of material for study, and provided Snelling complies with these I see nothing but harm coming from denying him the same privileges as any other geologist.

  21. Bad methodology that’s bound to produce zero reliable results imo is a good reason to deny Snelling that privilege. I don’t know if Snelling is guilty of that so await the reaction of the Department of Interior.

  22. mnbo, do we really want the DoI (or any other branch of government, seeing how Trump perverts them) to have the responsibility of deciding on the quality of a scientist’s methodology, given that the scientist has (and Snelling has) proper credentials? What if a Trump appointee (or, let’s be really pessimistic, a Pence appointee) were to object to the methodology of a climate scientist or an evolutionary palaeontologist, and deny them the right to collect specimens for that reason?

    But of course,

  23. Paul Braterman asks: “do we really want the DoI (or any other branch of government, seeing how Trump perverts them) to have the responsibility of deciding on the quality of a scientist’s methodology, given that the scientist has (and Snelling has) proper credentials?”

    It depends on the guidelines the Park Service is required to work with. I assume they have guidelines. For example, they probably shouldn’t give access to some UFO enthusiast who wants to dig all over the place to find an alien space craft. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re required to allow access only after they determine that a request is from a legitimate scientist who proposes to do actual scientific research. That means they have to make some kind of peer review of all requests to see if they are for a proper scientific purpose.

  24. Agreed. We need to know exactly why permission was refused

  25. @Dave Luckett: “I ask all present: What on Earth are we to do about this?”

    Simple. I should be ILLEGAL to knowingly present false facts/information/science. Once you have been corrected on a topic, and refuse to give up, you should be put in jail. They are just con-men hiding behind religion to dupe the believers… I don’t see why they get away with being con-men.

  26. I have not seen Snelling’s proposal. However, if he proposed to take a bulldozer and shovel and take tons of rock or deface the area in any way, or endanger people in any way, including himself, then there’s definitely justification to tell him no and the park certainly has restrictions and requirements that must be followed. However, if he’s only going to take a few samples, and it likely doesn’t take much to date the samples, then likely there’s no harm and he can publish his nonsense in AiG’s pseudo-journal.

  27. Then again, perhaps Snelling has been a pest over and over and has overtly tried to push his religious views on people in the park service or on other park visitors. Because of that he’s become a persona non grata as far as they’re concerned. Then this case is just another religious persecution case by those damned atheistic scientists who oppose free speech and freedom of religion.

  28. Why do people make money with Three-Card Monte? This occurs to me because a 12-year-old of my acquaintance just showed me that he knows how to pull that con game.

  29. Kosh, Snelling is apparently sincere, and surely you don’t want to use the law courts to esablish issues of scientific truth anyway. Would you have locked up Fred Hoyle for his refusal to give up on Continuous Creation in the face of overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang? Or Agassiz (of whom Darwin spoke respectfully) for his obstinate refusal to accept evolution?

    I see the emergence within what I think of as my own team of a nasty self-righteous punitive intolerance of dissent, and it scares me.

  30. @PB: I do not know what we want with the DoI, because I can’t read the minds of other people, so I don’t speak for them. That atttempt of yours to get inclusive always backfires on me, because there are precious few people with less tribal instincts than me and I see it as nothing but a rhetorical cheapo. Generally I know what I want, but in this particular case not even that is the case, because I have no idea who the DoI are and if they are qualified to evaluate methodologies.
    I just brought up a point I hadn’t read in any comment yet: that bad methodology is a good reason to deny access. So you can go answer your own questions – I won’t, thank you very much.

  31. Thankyou mbno for that display of courtesy. I will know better in future than to engage with you

  32. I have now learnt that it was because his research proposal of 2013 was rejected. One would need to read the proposal and the reviewers’ comments to judge. But if the proposed interpretation (soft rocks) was integral to the proposal, then I would have to reverse my opinion and say that rejection was warranted.

  33. @Paul Braterman

    I completely understand what you’re saying. But this is an obvious case of an organization systematically plotting to deceive (and indoctrinate) people (and kids) using psueudo-science that is demonstrably wrong. Surely there is something the legal system should do about this?

    (And yes, I think Scientology should be dealt with too!)

  34. Kosh says: “systematically plotting to deceive (and indoctrinate) people (and kids) using psueudo-science that is demonstrably wrong. Surely there is something the legal system should do about this?”

    We have laws about false advertising and commercial fraud, and those who are convicted of fraud can go to jail. On the other hand, false (or dubious) ideology is omnipresent and protected by the right of free speech and freedom of religion. It’s somewhat fuzzy in the academic world, but fortunately universities can refuse to hire or promote shoddy or crazy promoters of creationism and other crackpot “science.” I wish standards were more rigorous in the social sciences, but things aren’t always as I would like them to be.

  35. docbill1351

    It’s not just the Grand Canyon, but ALL geology was caused by the Flood. If Snelling wants to research deformation in folds, there are rock folds all over the world. No need to go to a national park. He could go to a ranch in Montana or a farm in the Alps or open land in Spain to find his samples.

    Clearly, Snelling is just a gadfly trying to stir up a little trouble and publicity.

  36. Snelling has a geology degree, but he’s employed as an apologist, not as a scientist

  37. I think this is an apt analogy: Someone from one of the Christian sects that advocates prayer rather than medicine studies hard and gets a real medical degree. Subsequently this person opens a practice but only administers prayers. Does Donald Trump’s new and improved freedom of religion cover that too?
    From the legal brief:”The actual reason behind the rejection was because of Dr. Snelling’s Christian faith and scientific viewpoints informed by his Christian faith.” Once your scientific viewpoint becomes “informed” by your “faith” it ceases to be science.

  38. @Troy
    I suggest that it doesn’t make any difference where one’s theories come from, as long as they are formulated as scientific theories, they are science.
    The standard example is Kukule’s dream of snakes which was the source of his theory of the ring structure of benzene.

  39. I disagree. James Hutton’s work was informed by his belief that Providence had so arranged things that the Earth would renew itself from the ravages of time.and in any case, the motivation of a piece of work has nothing to do with its scientific merit.

    What you are quoting its Snelling’s lawyers’ claim. If it were true, and if Snelling’s proposal would have been regarded as of merit if its religious connotations were set aside, they would be in the right. However, this seems me extremely improbable.

    The Park service, and by implication the scientific establishment, stand accused of discrimination based on attitude to religious belief. I am surprised that so many defenders of science respond by saying that such discrimination is warranted.

  40. Michael Fugate

    It really is a lose-lose situation. If the proposal is accepted and Snelling gets his rocks, Ham can crow about the “real” research being done by AiG. If the proposal is denied, Ham can crow about religious discrimination and file a lawsuit -whether warranted or not. He gets his publicity either way.

  41. Steven Schafersman

    Legitimate scientists can remove rock and fossil samples from national parks for legitimate scientific research by obtaining a permit. Dr. Snelling would have been obligated to justify his request for a sample removal permit by stating the scientific goals of his investigation and why samples from national park property were necessary to achieve those goals. We still don’t know the content of his permit request and whether his justifications met scientific standards. The AiG press release and news article don’t go into that level of detail but clues suggest that Snelling’s goals were not scientific but religious. If the latter, the NPS was quite justified in denying the permit. If his request mentioned the idea that, “where all the layers were bent but were not shattered because the rocks were still soft as they folded—supposedly remaining soft over a period of 450 million years,” then the NPS was really justified in denying the permit because that quote is complete nonsense. Andrew Snelling–or whomever interpreted his request and wrote the sentence–doesn’t have the slightest concept of how rock deformation occurs and his research goals can be judged to be nonsensical from the start. It should be obvious to a reviewer whether Snelling’s permit request had goals oriented to supporting science or pseudoscience and I’m pretty sure it was the latter.

  42. This document, p 19, track record of the proposal: reviewer recommends rejection because the proposal is scientifically inadequate, would not show what it sets out to show, has been anticipated, and could be performed as well or better outside the Park. This is sufficient, and remarks by other reviewers regarding his creationist motivation are irrelevant::https://www.dropbox.com/s/d9xg9yoquefsmf6/SnellingExhibits.pdf?dl=0

    Snelling has absolutely nothing to complain about. Yet another example of a creationist claiming that they are being discriminated against because of their beliefs, when the treatment that they are complaining of is due, on the contrary, to their professional incompetence.

    It his creationism had played a major role in the decision, I would have stuck by my earlier defence of his position. But it did not.

  43. Steven Schafersman

    Wow. Thank you, Paul, for providing the link to the litigation exhibits. The NPS quite correctly denied the permit for scientific reasons and that’s how they will defend their decision in court. There is nothing unusual about this. Because of clauses in the Constitution, American government at all levels must be secular and not show preference for or animosity against religions or religious doctrines. Federal agencies, at least, are aware of this legal requirement and follow it religiously (or face the consequences). Nevertheless, the pseudoscientific nature and intellectual perversity of Young Earth Creationism is not irrelevant. Remember, the AiG YECs believe they are practicing true science and our university-based mainstream science is “science falsely so-called.” So here Science is again on trial against Creationism. Lawsuits like this are a means to keep the pressure on scientists and scientific institutions, to continue having relevance in modern society, to keep being recognized as legitimate in the eyes of millions of citizens. So regardless of the views of reviewers regarding Snelling’s Creationist motivation, his religious motivation will be a major part of the litigation where it will be presented as scientific motivation. Most of us reading this blog may think that religion is being established, but Snelling and AiG think that their free exercise of religion is being infringed. Fortunately, federal judges are usually educated enough to see through this controversy and not be misled by rhetoric and sophistry.

  44. Panda’s Thumb Matt Young has weighed in on this issue:
    A tale of two parks: Ark Park sues National Park
    https://pandasthumb.org/archives/2017/05/tale-of-two-parks.html

  45. Christine Janis

    What would be useful to know here is what percentage of applications to take samples in the Grand Canyon get turned down, and for what reasons. If, say, they only approve of 20% of applications, then Snelling has little or no case. However, if they usually approve of these then Snelling would be in a better position to claim that he is being made an example of prejudice.

  46. Many thanks, Paul, for providing the exhibits. I only needed to get to page 3 to smell a rat.

    As most know, Snelling is an Australian (as am I). He lived in the state of Queensland and practiced in OZ. I refer to AIG bio for Snelling (https://answersingenesis.org/bios/andrew-snelling/) under the heading”Personal Information”. Para 4: “In June 2007 Andrew’s employment began with Answers in Genesis USA as their Director of Research. He initially resided in Brisbane, Australia and commuted regularly as necessary to the USA. But in mid-2011 he moved with his wife to live in northern Kentucky.”

    Now the original application, the one commencing on page 3, was lodged in 2014. What was the name of the institution conducting the research? Geo-Research Pty Limited. And where in the world is this organisation located Springwood, QLD. Australia.

    So it appears, at face value, that at a time that Snelling was a resident of the USA, he was ostensibly conducting research under his old practice entity located at his old home in Queensland. Hmmmm.

    [*Voice from above*] Rescued from the spam filter.

  47. Thanks, Dave, for posting the attachments. I only needed to get to page 3 before I smelled a rat.

    Snelling is an Aussie (as am I, FWIW). His practice used to be in Queensland. The AIG bios for Snelling says that he commuted for the first few years with AIG, “[but] in mid-2011 he moved with his wife to live in northern Kentucky”, and then later, “Andrew and his wife Kym now reside in northern Kentucky, USA. ”

    Now, regard the application commencing on page 3. Snelling applies in the name of Geo-Research Pty Ltd of Springwood, Australia. This is Snelling’s old practice company and home address IN AUSTRALIA.

    Hmmm… Snelling lives and works in Kentucky, the research is being conducted for and on behalf of AIG (in Kentucky), but the applicant uses an address in Australia for which they are professionally known/reknown. Not only that, the application says that the materials taken from the canyon will be kept in Australia.

    You know, I would have sworn that there must be some small lab, somewhere in the USA, who could help out with that research. But no, it’s the Aussies to the rescue. Well, let’s call it a small repayment on our debt to the Yanks for the Battle of the Coral Sea.

  48. So not only is Ham-slime trying to undermine the science education of our youth, he’s also importing even MORE of the Aussie con-men to the U.S.?