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Aussie creationist sues the Grand Canyon for religious discrimination

Australian scientist Andrew Snelling is suing the Grand Canyon for not granting him a permit to collect rock samples.

Snelling has PhD in geology from the University of Sydney, and is known as a “young-Earth creationist”, which encompasses the belief that the entire Bible is true and the Earth is only a few thousand years old.

Snelling and his fellow-believers think that the Grand Canyon was formed after the Great Flood and he is suing the National Park Service (NPS) for denying him access to the rocks contained within. That’s religious discrimination according to Snelling, who works for a non-profit called Answers in Genesis.

If you are curious about just how literally young Earth creationists interpret the Bible, Answers in Genesis is run by Ken Ham (also an Aussie), a man so committed to his cause that he has built a museum depicting humans cohabiting with dinosaurs and a “life-size” Noah’s Ark.

You just know a YouTube video is gonna be good when you see “comments are disabled for this video”, right? I came across that a lot while checking out young Earth creationist archives.

A Christian legal advocacy group called Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the lawsuit on behalf of Snelling. In an accompanying press release, the ADF accused the NPS of denying Snelling the research permit because of his Christian beliefs.

But the park’s administrators have their own side of the story.

“I think the NPS has felt a bit stung by past creationist research in the Grand Canyon,” Steve Newton told The Atlantic. Newton teaches geology at College of Marin and serves as the programs and policy director for the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit that opposes teaching creationism in public schools.

The Atlantic reports that in an email to Snelling a park officer said the project was not granted because the type of rock Snelling wanted to study can also be found outside of the Grand Canyon.

On top of that, the park solicited peer reviews from three other geologists. All three denounced Snelling’s work as “not scientifically valid”, which is a criterion the NPS uses to evaluate proposals.

It’s hard to imagine how a young Earth creationist’s beliefs can be reconciled with modern science.

Everything a scientist is taught these days goes against the idea that the Earth was created a couple of thousand years ago and Darwin’s popular Theory of Evolution requires living things to mutate over an agonisignly long period of time.

Geologists still hotly debate the actual age of the Grand Canyon, but you’d be very hard-pressed to find one who says “The Great Flood made it 2000 years ago”. Using sophisticated laboratory techniques most geologists have put the age of the canyon somewhere between 70 million and 6 million years old.

Unsurprisingly, young Earth creationists and scientists don’t get along so well. Earlier this year, American science personality Bill Nye the Science Guy took a tour of Ham’s Ark Encounter. Grab some popcorn and check out some of their spicy exchange below:

It’s not just a battle between non-religious scientists and young Earth creationists either.

Religious geologists have also entered the ring, publishing a book aptly titled: The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? In it, the authors – who are all scientists and Christians – argue that the creation of the Grand Canyon via the Great Flood simply isn’t possible.

As another great science personality says, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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