Theoretically, the scientific method includes the ability by other scientists to repeat experiments and thus reproduce results or disprove claims. There are instances when this is quite impossible such as when CERN publishes results no other facility could possibly reproduce. Yet another manner whereby to keep claimed results from being reproduces is to keep scientists from access to certain chemicals, bones, fossils or, in this case, locations as in the site in which unique samples may be found.
The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit in behalf of Dr. Andrew Snelling against the United States Department of Interior; National Park Service; Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, in his official capacity; Michael T. Reynolds, Director of the National Park Service, in his official capacity; Sue Masica, Regional Director, Intermountain Region of the U.S. National Park Service, in her official capacity; Christine S. Lehnertz, Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, in her official capacity.
The following is from US District Court for the District Of Arizona case 3:17-cv-08088-ESW Document 1 Filed 05/09/17.
“Dr. Snelling has a Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Sydney, Australia’s oldest and one of its most prestigious universities, which is highly ranked in the top 100 among universities throughout the world. Dr. Snelling has substantial field and laboratory experience over the last 45 years relating to numerous aspects of theoretical and practical geological research. He conducts his scientific research in accord with his profession’s ethical and scientific standards…has published a number of professional articles in peer-reviewed geology journals.”
A key point is that he is also “Editor-in-Chief of the Answers Research Journal, a professional, peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research” and the “Geology spokesman for the Creation Science Foundation” and is employed by Answers in Genesis.
Moreover, Dr. Snelling is a Christian “who believes in the truth of the Old and the New Testaments.”
The lawsuit is:
…a civil rights action to protect the statutory and First Amendment rights of an individual to perform geological research in a public park. Defendants have unlawfully restricted these rights by policies and practices, which involve content-based and viewpoint discrimination, are vague, and are inappropriately enforced. These constitutional defects give rise to both facial and as-applied constitutional challenges to Defendants’ discriminatory policies and practices.
This turned into an issue of free speech and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Now, “Dr. Snelling has successfully completed 3 prior research projects, without complaint from any NPS official within the Grand Canyon in the past 18 years. Since 1992, Dr. Snelling has functioned as the geologic interpreter on more than 30 river trips through the Grand Canyon.”
The reference to “prior” pertains to that “In November of 2013, Plaintiff requested permission to study the folding of Paleozoic sedimentary structures at four locations within the Grand Canyon.” Subsequent to the submission of the application, Dr. Snelling was asked to “submit two peer reviews evaluating his research proposal” and he submitted three.
These were submitted to the University of New Mexico’s Dr. Karl Karlstrom and this is where the issues arose as “Dr. Karlstrom’s responses briefly addressed a few scientific issues while demonstrating antipathy for Dr. Snelling’s religious faith and the religious views of the scientists who provided peer reviews on behalf of Dr. Snelling.” Moreover, “By letter…Dr. Karlstrom dissected Dr. Snelling’s faith in the Bible and his association with his ministry, and indicated that ‘alternate sites’ were available to do Dr. Snelling’s research, without suggesting a single actual location.”1
Well, “On February 8, 2016, Dr. Snelling submitted an amended research proposal which systematically responded to the alleged scientific ‘concerns’ raised in the prior reviews, including Dr. Karlstrom’s February 10, 2014 letter, and provided extensive citations to relevant scientific literature to support his request…Dr. Snelling also supplied three peer reviews.”
“When no permit was forthcoming through the balance of 2016 despite ongoing contacts between Dr. Snelling and Park personnel, Dr. Snelling through counsel notified Ms. Lehnertz [Christine S. Lehnertz, Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park] on December 22, 2016 of the legal concerns arising from the stonewalling and again requested that the permit be issued…Ms. Lehnertz did not acknowledge or respond…Dr. Snelling, again through counsel, sent a second copy…to Ms. Lehnertz via overnight mail. Ms. Lehnertz did not acknowledge or respond…Congressman Trent Franks contacted Ms. Lehnertz via facsimile…As of the date of filing this Complaint, Ms. Lehnertz has not acknowledged or responded.”
Eventually, Dr. Snelling “was obligated to conduct a preliminary reconnaissance trip to obtain and supply on-site GPS data to locate potential sampling sites” even though “Based upon comprehensive records of all scientific research permits issued during 2014 through 2016, no other researcher” was requested to do so. Also, this actually “directly contradicts the Park’s own guidelines for applications” and “The Park has routinely authorized applications proposing far more aggressive sampling without the demand that the researchers first conduct an independent trip to locate each sampling site with specific GPS data.”
Then “a second peer review” was requested of the University of Wyoming’s Dr. Peter Huntoon “condemned Dr. Snelling’s proposal by stating it ‘is not a question of fairness to all points of view, but rather adherence to your narrowly defined institution mandate predicated in part on the fact that ours is a secular society as per our constitution” (emphasis in original). He also recommended an “internal screening processes [that] should include an examination of the credentials of the submitters so that those who represent inappropriate interests should be screened out” and noted, “[r]eviewing is fine, just not processing the dead end creationist material.”
Then another review was requested of Northern Arizona University’s Dr. Ron Blakely, “who summarily stated that ‘it is difficult to review such an outlandish proposal.’ No actual analysis was provided.”
Four months after the initial application, the Chief of the Science and Resource Management Research Office denied Dr. Snelling’s “permit stating that ‘it has been determined that equivalent examples of soft-sediment folds can be found outside of Grand Canyon National Park.” Thereafter, “Dr. Snelling repeatedly asked Ms. Hahn and Ms. Newton for the locations and details of these alternate folds Ms. Hahn had indicated were elsewhere in Arizona and the Colorado Plateau within easy driving distance, but his legitimate requests were met with silence.”
Dr. Brian Clark had been granted to collect samples “with the locations specified as “[a]long the mainstream Colorado through the Grand Canyon National Park.” The statement is that it was “locations specified as” yet the point is how generic the application was and yet, it was granted.
“Mr. Donald Bills (a non-Ph.D. qualified researcher)” received permission to a location which he stated as “RM25 to RM 60; Havasu Creek…. North Rim from the Rim to the River …; Horseshoe Mesa in and around the Grapevine Mine; Horn Creek Drainage; Salt Creek Drainage; 150 Mile Canyon; Tuckup Canyon” (ellipses in court document).
Dr. Karl Karlstrom himself was allowed based on “[a]long the mainstream Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park.”
The lawsuit alleges that “By demanding precise GPS locations and photos for each sampling spot via a preliminary scouting trip, the Defendants are at least doubling the cost of the research, and potentially delaying it for a year” and “There is no assurance that the demanded GPS data can be obtained in a single trip.”
The lawsuit’s conclusion is that “The actual reason behind the rejection was because of Dr. Snelling’s Christian faith and scientific viewpoints informed by his Christian faith…imposing inappropriate and unnecessary religious tests to his access to the Park” which denotes:
…content-based and viewpoint discrimination…the restriction of scientific research based on the religious views of the research applicant…Defendants’ policies and actions expressly discriminated against Dr. Snelling because of his religious faith…[the] Defendants’ activities are motivated by hostility towards Dr. Snelling’s viewpoints and sincerely held religious beliefs…Defendants’ practice of not responding to Dr. Snelling’s request for a permit and/or refusing to grant him a permit, while routinely and consistently issuing permits to other geologic researchers, treats Dr. Snelling differently from other similarly situated individuals and groups on the basis of the content and viewpoint of speech and sincerely held religious beliefs.
Overall, such actions are characterized as being an “unprecedented demand…onerous burdens…draconian proposal.”
This is all as of June 2017 AD and so it leaves to be seen what comes out of it all. Hopefully, it will be a victory for the scientific method and a fail for those who seek to oppress it via prejudice and censorship.
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- 1. Dr. Karlstrom himself “has been controversial in the ongoing debate over the age of the Grand Canyon by proposing a significantly younger age for the Canyon—only 5 to 6 million years—versus the more commonly proposed age in the range of 70 million years.”
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