The Grand Canyon is a creationist’s nightmare. Not that there’s any form of science that doesn’t help prove that the world is 4.5 billion years old, mind you, but this famous 1.84-billion-year-old landmark is a ginormous geological slap in the face for those of such a contrarian conviction.
Nevertheless, Answers in Genesis, a nonprofit run by Ken Ham – a man who has built a museum depicting humans cohabiting with various predatory dinosaurs – has long considered the Grand Canyon to be a wonderful showcase of the Biblical account of the manufacturing of Earth.
One of its top acolytes, Andrew Snelling, has been attempting to gather rock samples from this particular National Park and, being prevented from doing so, he’s decided to sue the Grand Canyon’s guardians.
Andrew Snelling is actually a scientist; he has a doctorate in geology from the University of Sydney and has published peer-reviewed research in academic journals. He is also, somehow, an ardent creationist.
Being a scientist and a creationist is incredibly difficult. Believing that the world is merely thousands of years old, that humans magically appeared, and Darwinian evolution is a crock of shit is in direct conflict with almost every single scientific field out there.
A geologist who is also a creationist, however, is an example of cognitive dissonance par excellence. Everything you are taught as any kind of geoscientist disproves every aspect of creationism so thoroughly that you simply have to choose a side – you cannot fight for both. Doing so would be akin to a physicist that considers gravity to be mythological.
So it’s deeply disappointing, really, that Dr Andrew Snelling is trying to gather samples to attempt to disprove all of geology. It’s not going to happen, whether he gets the samples or not.
He seems pretty angry that the park administrators won’t let him chip away at this protected landmark, however, which is why he’s taking them to court with the overzealously named legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom.
Academic research is permitted in the Grand Canyon, but it’s carefully monitored and requires top-level approval. Snelling’s request to take around 60 geological samples was denied because, despite his scientific background, he would be using these precious samples disingenuously, and he would view his results through the incompatible prism of creationism.
As reported by the Atlantic, the Grand Canyon’s administrators solicited the help of three highly qualified geologists to review Snelling’s application. While he didn’t explicitly say that he wanted to use his work to prove that the giant crevasse was an act of God’s creation, his controversial reputation was enough for the application to be rejected.
Some have argued that he should be given a chance to gather his samples, in case the establishment is accused of censorship. There’s absolutely no chance that his analysis of the rocks would disprove everything we know about the world, so this might not be such a bad idea.
There’s the worry, though, that letting a creationist work in the Grand Canyon will lend the intellectually repugnant movement legitimacy. It’s a tough call, but we can only presume this was the concern that led to Snelling’s application being turned down.
“Scientists should not be forced to change their beliefs to match the government’s beliefs in order to conduct their research,” a statement by Answers in Genesis reads. Of course, it’s not government policy that everyone should accept geological facts – but we would argue that no respectable geoscientist would be a creationist in the first place.
Everyone has the right to believe anything they want. The great thing about science, though, is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.