A Creationist Is Demanding That The Park Service Allow Him To Do ‘Research’ At The Grand Canyon

Answers in Genesis (AiG), Ken Ham’s fundamentalist Religious Right organization, is at it again. This time, the group is making claims that officials at the National Park Service discriminated against an AiG staff member because of his religious beliefs.

Represented by the Religious Right legal organization Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), AiG’s Dr. Andrew Snelling filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming that officials at the Grand Canyon denied him a research permit to collect rock samples and alleged that their consultants belittled his beliefs.

“The actual reason behind the rejection was because of Dr. Snelling's Christian faith and scientific viewpoints informed by his Christian faith," the complaint asserts.

The complaint continues, noting that Snelling was granted access to do work in the Grand Canyon in the past, but this time, researchers who reviewed his proposal deemed it “outlandish” and “dead end creationist material.”

They made the right call. AiG as an organization has little regard for sound science. On its website, AiG argues that “Biblical creation is supernatural as opposed to some long naturalistic process. The Creator did not need matter, large amounts of time, energy, or anything else.” This is theology, not science.

And Snelling’s proposal? He wanted to collect some Grand Canyon rocks in his effort to prove the world was created by God in six days a few thousand years ago.

Of course, people have the right to believe that as they like, but creationism simply does not pass muster as legitimate science. Lots of people would like to do research at the Grand Canyon, and Park Service officials can’t honor all of these requests. They have to prioritize work that will advance scientific understanding.

Park officials should prioritize real scientists for research permits.

Research consultants who reviewed Snelling’s application did what they were supposed to do – they raised concerns about how much scientific weight his claims hold. They concluded that the project would be of no use.

Nonetheless, Snelling’s attorney Gary McCaleb insists that creationists are on the same level as evidence-driven scientists.

"The scientists should be debating the science and the government should not be coming in and saying, ‘Well, you’re a Christian, you’re not the right kind of scientist,’” McCaleb said. “They are discriminating against a good scientist because of his faith and because of who he associates with.”

But the fact is, the government makes scientific judgments like this all of the time. When deciding how to respond to a pandemic, for example, the Centers for Disease Control doesn’t give equal time to discredited approaches.

In a May 9 ADF press release, McCaleb said that “such disagreement [over scientific data] is how science works. But when the government starts refusing access to even collect the information because it dislikes one scientist's views, it undercuts science and violates the law.” (Actually, what undercuts sound science is denying evidence-based scientific theories like evolution, which AiG does.)

McCaleb also references to President Donald J. Trump’s “religious freedom” executive order that aims to attack women’s access to birth control and weaken the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, a federal law that bars tax-exempt entities, including houses of worship, from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates.

“This case perfectly illustrates why President Trump had to order executive agencies to affirm religious freedom, because park officials specifically targeted Dr. Snelling’s religious faith as the reason to stop his research,” he asserts.

Not quite. They rejected Snelling’s “research” because it’s useless. Creationists have the right to believe what they want, but real scientists should be first in line when it comes to access to government facilities and research help.