May 17, 2017

"A Creationist Sues the Grand Canyon for Religious Discrimination/The national park wouldn’t let him collect rocks for research."

Writes The Atlantic.
Last week, [Andrew] Snelling sued park administrators and the Department of Interior, which administers the national parks program, because they would not grant him a permit to collect 50 to 60 fist-sized rocks. All research in the national park is restricted, especially if it requires removing material. But the Grand Canyon does host 80 research projects a year, ranging from archaeology digs to trout tracking....

Exactly why the park did not grant Snelling’s application is, of course, now the subject of a lawsuit. His project did involve collecting a sizable number of rocks, which can invite more scrutiny. In an email to Snelling filed as part of the lawsuit, a park officer said the project was not granted because the type of rock he wanted to study can also be found outside of the Grand Canyon. The park solicited peer reviews from three mainstream geologists. One mentioned the rocks could be found elsewhere; all three overwhelmingly denounced the work as not scientifically valid, a criterion the park also uses to evaluate proposals.....
Here's Snelling lecturing about the Grand Canyon:

68 comments:

n.n said...

Spontaneous vs intelligent creationists.

Quaestor said...

If Snelling is allowed to exploit public property for religious ends, particularly in a way that damages the park (unless you have a research permit nothing can be legally removed from the Grand Canyon National Park, including rocks) then where would this end? I'll wager Snelling was disgusted by that asshat "muezzin" yodeling his prayer to Allah on the National Mall last January.

The same applies to you, Andy.

Original Mike said...

Creationism is hooey and his rocks can be collected elsewhere, but creationism is politically charged. 50 rocks is nothing. Let him collect his rocks.

Dave from Minnesota said...

I gotta go with the Park Service on this one. Kind of like fake cries of racism, if you make a big deal on this, then stories of real religious bigotry are less credible.

Unknown said...

I'll wager that if the Creationist claimed he was Islamic that he'd have been allowed to remove the rocks. Islam gets a pass, doesn't it?

--Vance

Earnest Prole said...

The video you linked (part 1) is pretty much Geology 101; parts 2 and 3 are the ones with the true old-time religion.

Ann Althouse said...

I embedded the video the nyt linked to. It's religion-y in the end.

The Godfather said...

I hiked across the Grand Canyon years ago. There are a LOT of rocks there. I can't see how removing a few would do the canyon any harm, and that should be the issue, not whether his "science" is legit or not.

Paddy O said...

Not removing anything is a general National Park rule, so it's not unique to here, and once you widen the exception, more and more clamor to get through the loopholes.

I don't know much about geology, but I know the Bible and theology fairly okay. I can't help but think he's a bit of a huckster who is using this to make a name for himself and get on the "Christians are persecuted!" bandwagon that opens the door for speaking gigs.

He sounds all "Bible is authoritative!" at first, but he's making the Bible answer questions the Bible never cared about asking. The Creation story is used a lot in the Bible, as is Creation in general. And never, not once, is it concerned about the 'when?' question. It's always about lordship and sovereignty. That was the issue at hand for the original readers. And still the more important issue today, but folks get easily sidetracked to their own obsessions, and start putting their faith in the wrong people.

Original Mike said...

"I can't help but think he's a bit of a huckster who is using this to make a name for himself and get on the "Christians are persecuted!" bandwagon that opens the door for speaking gigs."

I have little doubt that's the case. Deny him his wagon; let him collect his rocks.

Quaestor said...

I gotta go with the Park Service on this one.

Agreed. For every more or less harmless religious dog and pony show, there are ten thousand atrocities waiting in the wings, impatient for some crackpot's lawsuit to set a precedence. The loonies ruined Sedona decades ago because the Park Service allowed them to congregate, chat, and burn incense in honor of the Harmonic Convergence. Now they virtually own the place. Where once you went to fish the best steelhead streams in North America you now can go hardly ten feet before encountering a coven of withered hippies engaged in nude tantric yoga or something yet more obnoxious.

Fernandinande said...

Foreigners should not be allowed in NATIONAL parks, otherwise what's the point?

"The only natural enemy of the hole is the pile."

mockturtle said...

"But the Grand Canyon does host 80 research projects a year"

Do some of these projects entail rock removal? If so, I'd say he has a good case.

readering said...

You can never give too much court work to lawyers.

mockturtle said...

Foreigners should not be allowed in NATIONAL parks, otherwise what's the point?

I have spent a lot of time in a lot of national parks and have observed that a large proportion of park visitors are foreigners. It's an enjoyable experience for all concerned.

tim maguire said...

The problem with "not scientifically valid," of course, is that they don't consider it valid because they don't consider creationism valid.

What strikes me as most curious is that he is defending the research as scientific, but suing over religious discrimation? How does Snelling square that circle?

Limited blogger said...

I didn't even want my kids to touch anything at the Grand Canyon.

Fernandinande said...

tim maguire said...
What strikes me as most curious is that he is defending the research as scientific, but suing over religious discrimation?


His thesis is that radioactive decay isn't constant and the "official" dating of some layer of rock ("Cardenas Basalt") by different means varies between 500 to 1100 MYA, but it's supposed to be only .0045 MYA.

USGS and such say the dates varied because of some layers contaminating each other. God was unavailable for comment.

Original Mike said...

"His thesis is that radioactive decay isn't constant ..."

Ha! Good luck with that one.

harrogate said...

Lolz

Fernandinande said...

mockturtle said...
It's an enjoyable experience for all concerned.


I don't like foreigners criticizing our canyons, especially the Grand ones, but other than that I'm pretty sure I was kidding.

Quaestor said...

Why does Snelling insist on removing fifty rocks? Could he not just document them in situ? If he's trying to be scientific, he should know that the most important part of science involves giving your critics equal access to the data. If fifty rocks removed to some other location are claimed as proof of God or the Garden of Eden, how can a critical analysis of the claim be made, given that the rocks are no longer in their natural context?

It's like the fabled "jewels of Helen of Troy". Schliemann claimed the gold diadem proved the basic truth of the Illiad. Today's archaeologists dismiss the jewels entire. They could be real or fake, but it doesn't matter since the context has been obliterated.

The Godfather said...

"I gotta go with the Park Service on this one. Kind of like fake cries of racism, if you make a big deal on this, then stories of real religious bigotry are less credible."

I don't get this. The Park Service denies this guy's request to collect some rocks because the Service thinks his religious opinion about the creation of the earth in unscientific. If they let him collect his rocks, how would that make "stories of real religious bigotry less credible"?

Original Mike said...

"Why does Snelling insist on removing fifty rocks?

You've seen the Grand Canyon, right?

Cog said...

Snelling is a qualified geologist who wants to do observational research on Grand Canyon rocks in support of his religious beliefs. By denying him a permit, the authorities are discriminating against a scientist because his beliefs do not match that of the government’s. Also, the government's reason to deny the permit-- that he can substitute rocks from outside the Grand Canyon for his research on the Grand Canyon --is preposterous.

Quaestor said...

His thesis is that radioactive decay isn't constant...

Fifty rocks aren't sufficient to support that notion or even fifty tons of rocks. You must plot a lot of points before the curve can be fitted.

Yep. I'd say the Park Service won't have much trouble in court from this joker.

mockturtle said...

I don't like foreigners criticizing our canyons, especially the Grand ones, but other than that I'm pretty sure I was kidding.

I know you were, Fernandinande. But others may not.

Jersey Fled said...

I'm betting if he wanted to remove the rocks in order to disprove creationism, it would have been approved in a flash.

If he wanted to remove the same rocks in order to prove climate change, they would have given him a grant.

Original Mike said...

"Also, the government's reason to deny the permit-- that he can substitute rocks from outside the Grand Canyon for his research on the Grand Canyon --is preposterous."

Why?

Freder Frederson said...

The problem with "not scientifically valid," of course, is that they don't consider it valid because they don't consider creationism valid.

Why is this a problem? Creationism is not scientifically valid, hell its not even Biblical. There are two separate creation stories in Genesis, both of which cannot be accurate because they contradict each other.

Quaestor said...

Snelling is a qualified geologist...

Even if true that is irrelevant. If Snelling is hoping to undermine radiometric dating his degree in geology is mostly useless. The age of the Earth is not a matter of geology, it's a matter of quantum physics, and it will take entire new theoretical work to even begin to cast doubt on its accuracy.

Snelling probably knows this. I suspect he has no real ambition except to make a comfortable living by passing the hat in churches and Christian day schools where his half-assed lectures will be in constant demand.

Original Mike said...

Freder, why don't you leave the science to those more qualified?

Bad Lieutenant said...

Quaestor said...
Why does Snelling insist on removing fifty rocks? Could he not just document them in situ?


Maybe the tires on his cyclotron are flat.

Static Ping said...

I am not going to watch an 18 minute video about rocks. I watch 18 minute videos about movies, board games, cartoons, video games, and occasionally politics. I draw the line on rocks. This rock. No further.

So going into this a bit cold, I would think the question would be whether Snelling is going to do actual worthwhile science is the question here. How he will use that science is not relevant. If they denied him simply because he is a creationist, then they are in fact discriminating on a religious belief and should lose in court. If they denied him his rocks because they don't give rocks to anyone, or because the actual science (as opposed to the desired conclusion) is dubious, or because this has been done before and he has nothing new to add, then they have a point.

Bob Ellison said...

They say Paul Bunyan accidentally made the Grand Canyon when he walked through Arizona with his axe dragging behind.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Plus which, to make them available to other researchers, he has to have control over them. Let's say he analyzes fifty rocks and then throws them back into the GC, or into the geyser, or even puts them back exactly where he found them, geotagged. With wind, rain, tourists tripping over rocks, what chance the fifty can be found again?


I have little love for jimbino but if the national parks are everyone's, then why shouldn't everyone have a chance at a piece of the rock? Not tons, but he doesn't ask for tons, he asks for what, a hundred pounds?

300M Americans @ 100lb = 30 billion pounds = 15 million tons of rock.

Specific gravity of rock:

Sandstone 2.2 - 2.8 1.85 - 2.36 tons/cu yd

say ~2 tons/u yd.

~= 7.5M cu yd of rock

= a cube ~196 yards on a side = .111 mi /side


Grand Canyon National Park/Area: 1,902 mi²
The Canyon itself:
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters).

I think the park can take it.

Besides, by definition if you REMOVE rocks the Canyon can only get BIGGER. He's doing us a favor.

Achilles said...

But the Grand Canyon does host 80 research projects a year, ranging from archaeology digs....

Does this need to be repeated?

Archaeology digs typically remove material. Some would call them rocks. I also wonder if they check packs for rocks when visitors leave?

It is clear the people in charge of the maintaining the park are not acting fairly in making these decisions. Questioning radioactive decay rates is silly. They are ridiculously consistent. But it is completely antithetical to the scientific method to make a determination of what the results of an experiment will be like this before it is done. The peer review comes after the experiment. Either way this is not equal treatment. Only a liberal in judges clothing would side with them.

tim maguire said...

Fredersen, it's ok because you don't consider it valid either? And if you did consider it valid, what does that change? Does so much really ride on your personal beliefs?

mockturtle said...

"Also, the government's reason to deny the permit-- that he can substitute rocks from outside the Grand Canyon for his research on the Grand Canyon --is preposterous."

Original Mike asks "Why?"

Well, maybe because he's studying the Grand Canyon. How valid would his findings be if the rocks did not come from said Canyon?

Original Mike said...

"But it is completely antithetical to the scientific method to make a determination of what the results of an experiment will be like this before it is done. The peer review comes after the experiment."

No, this isn't how science is done. Whether applying for funding, telescope time, or access to public lands, peer review occurs up front. The research proposal has to have a credible chance of success in order to grant access to public resources.

Original Mike said...

@mockturtle - If the same geological formation he is studying is available elsewhere, and it probably is, he doesn't need to collect rocks in the Grand Canyon.

Nick said...

The same arguments against creationism are the same ones uses in promoting climate change: Settled Science!(tm) SO WHAT if his thesis is religiously based? They've found countless archeology sites from less. Let the man do his research and then let science do what it is supposed to do: fisk the results, NOT prevent potential results that are out of fashion.

Original Mike said...

I should probably reiterate I think they should grant this guy access, not because his science is legitimate, but because I think he should be denied his soap box.

n.n said...

So, The Atlantic is a bigoted organization, hoping that the park service will deny any challenge to their assumptions/assertions about human origin and evolution (i.e. chaotic processes). It's a battle of faiths. The limits of science in both time and space are too conservative for atheists, and leaves them vulnerable to conflation of logical domains. They want to believe.

Limited blogger said...

Bob Ellison - funding for the research of the world's wonders created by Mr. Bunyan and his Ox also seems appropriate.

n.n said...

Is the "science" in observation, modeling, assumptions/assertions, correlations, or interpretations?

It seems that the protests are premature, and will foster consensus "science."

stever said...

As a geologist - not sure I'm qualified - I am not seeing how the rocks in the Grand Canyon can be used as o disprove anything about radiometric dating. Unless you are working from the answer backwards

Grant said...

The orthodox establishment prevents access to information/objects/places/whatever because the orthodox line is not toed. Where's the surprise in that?

eric said...

He wants to remove 50 to 60 fist sized rocks?!

Are you freaking kidding me?

Why doesn't he just to ahead and dig himself another grand canyon while he is at it?

I mean, sure, one guy removing that many won't make a dent. But what if thousands of people wanted to remove that many? Then you might end up with a hole deep enough to bury someone.

We can't have that! Because science!

If the law were based off of rational rules to guide all of us and judges weren't human, I'd say he has a simple case to win here.

But since religion, especially Christianity, is hated by all the right thinking people, he will probably not get his rocks.

Phew. We are all saved.

eric said...

Blogger stever said...
As a geologist - not sure I'm qualified - I am not seeing how the rocks in the Grand Canyon can be used as o disprove anything about radiometric dating. Unless you are working from the answer backwards


Exactly. We already k ow the answers. And if we can't see why you might doubt our answers and force us to do all that icky science stuff, well, then you're just doing it backwards. Unlike the rest of us, who would never do it that way. Because science.

Original Mike said...

Blogger stever said..."As a geologist - not sure I'm qualified - I am not seeing how the rocks in the Grand Canyon can be used as o disprove anything about radiometric dating. Unless you are working from the answer backwards."

I can't see it either. You'd need an independent determination of age for formations hundreds of millions of years old. I'm not aware of any.

readering said...

Damn, and just when the Creationists were on the verge of a scientific breakthrough . . . .

Char Char Binks said...

God destroyed the dinosaurs in the flood so they wouldn't harm us, a Christian child once told me. It's cute when a child believes that: it's not so cute when their parents teach them that.

Jim S. said...

I wish they'd say "young-earth creationist". I mean, I'm a creationist -- I believe that everything other than God was created by God -- but I accept evolution, 13.5 billion year-old universe, etc. I believe that when God created everything, this sometimes involved him working through the natural processes that he set up. This isn't a new idea, incidentally, it's something Jews, Christians, and Muslims have always believed.

Bad Lieutenant said...

No, Jim, I believe Islam holds that the universe is eternally, constantly created and recreated by Allah and if he wants to flip the sun to go west to east, north to south, or in and out, or to make hamburgers eat people, no sweat. Apologies, I'm making a hash out of whatever piece it was I read about this, but I did kind of remember that part.

n.n said...

It's cute when people conflate logical domains. Science, however, is a philosophy defined by the understanding that accuracy is inversely proportional to time and space offsets from an established frame of reference. This limits inference (e.g. prophecy) not just forward but also backward in time.

Also, evolution is a chaotic process. The nature of the process precludes statements about origin, whether "big bang" or "intelligent" creation. Ironically, it does not prevent our observation of human evolution from conception (i.e. source), which remains a highly controversial topic in liberal societies.

Jim S:

"young-earth creationist"

That's one interpretation. That is not, however, the only interpretation of the articles of faith recorded in your book of philosophy, religion, and history ("bible"). As with most modern "science", there are unstated, assumed, characteristics that, with superior knowledge and skill may be proven.

We are on a clear and progressive path to reestablishing the flat-Earth society (i.e. social or political consensus). Establishment of the Pro-Choice quasi-religion has been remarkably progressive.

bagoh20 said...

Maybe the canyon was created by people taking rocks home over the millennia. So more likely a result of unintelligent design or human erosion, if you will.

Zach said...

"But it is completely antithetical to the scientific method to make a determination of what the results of an experiment will be like this before it is done. The peer review comes after the experiment."

Eh. Geology is a very large body of knowledge that tries to explain every rock, found anywhere on Earth, ever. You can collect your 50 rocks and do whatever you want with them, but if your conclusions differ from the body of knowledge that other people have built up from studying 50 million rocks over centuries, nobody's going to believe you. The review committee is explicitly asked to judge based on this criterion, and they use it for every proposal that comes their way.

If the guy wants to claim that radioactive decay rates vary with time, he's got a very steep hill in front of him. The processes involved in radioactive decay are well understood, and calculations agree numerically with experiment. See, for example:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gamow#Radioactive_decay

So if you want to come up with a new theory of radioactive decay, people are going to insist that you show it calculates the rate of alpha decay from a nucleus at least as well as the current state of the art, which doesn't allow rates to change over time. And even then, they're probably not going to believe you until you make measurements of the rate changing over time, or persuade an experimentalist to make those measurements for you. Until you can do that, collecting rocks isn't going to help you prove your theory.

For what it's worth, this issue doesn't just come up when creationism is being discussed. The Burgess Shale

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgess_Shale

has some of the earliest and strangest fossils ever found. But the actual fossil bed is on a national park, and taking samples is very limited.

Jim S. said...

Bad Lieutenant said...
No, Jim, I believe Islam holds that the universe is eternally, constantly created and recreated by Allah


Yes you're right, and I should have known better. In Judaism and Christianity the creation of the universe and the conservation of the universe are different concepts, but Islam accepts an occasionalism where God recreates the universe every moment.

n.n said...
That's one interpretation. That is not, however, the only interpretation of the articles of faith recorded in your book of philosophy, religion, and history ("bible").


That God often works through the natural processes he set up is an uncontroversial claim in Judaism and Christianity. It's accepted doctrine in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant theology.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

The Young-Earth Creationists have one insurmountable problem when they suggest that nuclear decay rates have changed, and thus only *appear* to indicate great age. Usually they claim such decay rates were altered by The Flood [Noah].

My first two degrees are in geology and I worked for several years in a geo-chronology lab in the 1970s. My work was with K-Ar, but we also did Rb-Sr and several uranium and lead techniques. One the greatest joys of that time was to have done the K-Ar on a couple of Moon rocks. These were maria basalts and thus a rather young 3,200 million years old. Rocks from the highlands of the Moon are about 1,000 my older.

The Moon, however, was never flooded, and thus decay rates could not possible have been altered. In fact, observed [i.e. measured] decay rates in lunar material match those for the same radioactive elements on Earth. The same is true of meteorites seen as they fell to Earth. The concept of changing decay rates is clearly utter bunk.

Interestingly, it has only been a few generations since we really began to understand the age of the Earth. Prior to development of early geo-chron methods about a century ago, Earth's age was estimated using sedimentation rates, and was commonly believed to be only 20 to 40 my, total.

But here's where geology and theology come together for this particular Old Earth Creationist. All people of faith hold that God is Truth. Science is the search for truth. Therefor ... good science and good scriptural understanding [exegesis] will *support* each other. For example, the Genesis creation account makes absolutely no sense is your perspective is somewhere out in space, but yet the Spirit "brooded" at the surface of Earth.

We geologists are fairly sure that in the early years of Earth's history the atmosphere was not only toxic, but so full of volcanic dust, gasses and debris that it was opaque. In fact it's called the Hadean period, as in Hades. Once you understand the perspective, then to me as a former geologist it's actually a remarkably close account of what we only came to understand in the 20th Century. Close, not perfect, but for the era in which it was recorded astoundingly close. Perhaps even inspired.

The Young Earth folks, in contrast, are such wooden literalists that their interpretation of Genesis is the equivalent of looking for a knob and hinges when Jesus says "I am the door."

Bad Lieutenant said...

The Young Earth folks, in contrast, are such wooden literalists that their interpretation of Genesis is the equivalent of looking for a knob and hinges when Jesus says "I am the door."

They must hate Trump. Wooden literalists-good tag for the Dems, that.

Bad Lieutenant said...

n.n.,

the articles of faith recorded in your book of philosophy, religion, and history ("bible").

Never pegged you for an atheist. Although that fits, for a commie.

Fritz said...

Original Mike said...
"His thesis is that radioactive decay isn't constant ..."

Ha! Good luck with that one.


Curiously, there might be exceptions.

https://astroengine.com/2008/09/02/a-strange-connection-could-nuclear-decay-rates-be-influenced-by-distance-from-the-sun/

Todd said...

Char Char Binks said...

God destroyed the dinosaurs in the flood so they wouldn't harm us, a Christian child once told me. It's cute when a child believes that: it's not so cute when their parents teach them that.

5/17/17, 6:55 PM


You are so right. It is so much better when their parents teach them that there is no God and no soul and we are all just "clumps of cells" so it is no big deal that mommy got rid of your baby sister before she was born cause after all what difference does it make?

readering said...

What's more interesting is what the child thinks when he or she realizes God also destroyed all the people on earth save one family.

Freeman Hunt said...

In an email to Snelling filed as part of the lawsuit, a park officer said the project was not granted because the type of rock he wanted to study can also be found outside of the Grand Canyon.

This seems decisive if he's studying whether or not radioactive decay is constant. You don't have to use Grand Canyon rocks for that. Why not use rocks from a similar formation? I guess I'd have to read his proposal.

readering said...

I assumed his proposal was to test rocks at various depths of the canyon and show a lack of correlation between radioactive decay and depth of layer.

Be said...

One Thing, among many others, that seriously turned me off of Southern KS was the number of times I'd seen park displays showing Geologic Ages defaced, with things like 5686-7 or 6000, as commentary.