“Alternative facts” are not new. Young Earth creationist groups such as Answers in Genesis believe that the Earth is no older than 6,000 years despite real mountains evidence to the contrary, and they’ve been playing the “alternative facts” card for years. Instead of admitting irrefutable geological evidence, they sidestep it by saying, “Well, we just look at those facts differently.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Grand Canyon, which young-earth creationist groups have long had a crush on. A long geological record (covering nearly 2 billion years in all) can be seen in the strata of the Grand Canyon thanks to the work of the Colorado River. But many creationists argue instead that the canyon rocks—besides the spectacular erosion they reveal—are actually the product of the Biblical “great flood” several thousand years ago.
Andrew Snelling, who earned a doctorate in geology before joining Answers in Genesis, continues to work on interpreting the divide in a way consistent with his views. In 2013, he applied for permission from the National Park Service to collect some rock samples from the canyon for a new project to that end. The Park Service may grant permits for the collection of otherwise illegal material.
Snelling gathers wild rocks from structures in sedimentary formations known as “soft sediment deformation” — basically tortuous stratification disturbances that occur long before the sediment solidifies into rock. While solid rock layers can fold (bend) on a larger scale under the right pressure, young Earth creationists argue that all folds are soft sedimentary structures, as they do not take long to form.
The National Park Service sent Snelling’s proposal for review, and had three academic geologists who study the canyon look at it. Those reviews were not kind. No one felt the project offered any value to justify the collection. One reviewer, Karl Karlstrom of the University of New Mexico, pointed out that examples of soft sediment deformation can be found everywhere, so Snelling didn’t have to collect rocks from a national park. In the end, Snelling did not get his permit.
In May, Snelling filed a lawsuit claiming his rights had been violated, believing his application had been rejected by a federal agency because of his religious views. The complaint refers, among other things, to President Trump’s executive order on freedom of religion.
That lawsuit was dropped by Snelling on June 28. According to a story in The Australian, Snelling withdrew his lawsuit because the National Park Service relented and granted him his permit. He will be able to collect about 40 fist-sized samples, provided he makes the data of any analyzes freely available.
Not that everything he collects matters. “Even if I don’t find the evidence I think I will, it wouldn’t affect my core beliefs,” Snelling said. The Australian. “We already have evidence consistent with a major flood that swept the world.”
Again, in reality, that hypothesis contradicts the entire geology of the Earth’s surface.
Snelling says he will publish his results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. That probably means Answers in Genesis’ own Answers investigative journalof which he is editor-in-chief.