Should a Creationist Be Allowed to Remove Grand Canyon Rocks?

Most scientists concur that the Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years by a steady flow of water from the Colorado River.

Dr. Andrew Snelling isn’t one of those scientists. The geologist believes the Grand Canyon was created by biblical floods. As a young-Earth creationist, Snelling takes the Book of Genesis literally, believing the planet is only 6,000 years old and all life was created in six days.

“The crystalline basement formations are believed by most creation geologists to have been set in place on Day 3 of the Creation Week,” he wrote on the website for Answers in Genesis (AIG), the fundamentalist Christian ministry for which he works. (AIG owns the controversial Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky.)

To prove his theory, in 2013 Snelling asked Grand Canyon National Park administrators for permission to remove about 60 half-pound rocks along the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon. The administrators denied his request last month. So now Snelling is suing them, the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior for religious discrimination.

Snelling made no mention of his religious beliefs in his request to remove the rocks, according to the New York Times, but park officials know who he is. Snelling has conducted previous research at the park and has offered Bible-themed rafting trips on the Colorado River through the canyon.

Snelling’s lawsuit claims that park officials forced him to meet “cumbersome requirements, such as providing coordinates and photographs of each of the places from which he planned to collect rocks and submitting his proposal to peer reviews,” the New York Times reports.

But in peer reviews commissioned by Grand Canyon National Park, three geologists agreed that Snelling’s request was not scientifically valid and that similar rocks can be found outside of the Grand Canyon. And according to the park’s Science Research – Permits webpage, research proposals must currently be accompanied by at least two peer reviews.

Park administrators allow about 80 research projects a year in the Grand Canyon. “Research will be allowed as long as it can be conducted in a manner that does not threaten or diminish the resources for which Grand Canyon National Park was established,” according to the webpage. Materials can be removed from national parks only if no other alternatives are available.

So it seems pretty clear that Snelling’s request was denied because his project didn’t meet scientific as well as Grand Canyon National Park requirements, and not because of discrimination due to his religious beliefs. Speaking of which, Snelling is a member of the Geological Society of America (GSA), a nonprofit group dedicated to the advancement of the geosciences. The GSA’s position statement notes that creationism is not science “because it invokes supernatural phenomena that cannot be tested.”

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Snelling’s lawsuit. Prior to January 2017, it probably wouldn’t have stood a chance. But considering that Trump’s administration includes members like EPA Director Scott Pruitt, who supported the distribution of Bibles in public schools, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who once said her desire was to “confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom” — and newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who has consistently ruled in favor of plaintiffs (like Hobby Lobby) arguing on the grounds of religious freedom – that’s not such a sure thing.

Photo credit: By John Kees - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Joan E
Joan E17 hours ago

Real geologists are interested in facts.

Philip W
Philip W5 days ago

"A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self." - Eric Hoffer, Author of The True Believer

Noah's Ark is just a mythological epic tale. An omniscient god cannot have emotions. For example if I came home to find that my spouse has been having an affair. I would become angry or sad because it is new information something I've now learned. If you have all knowledge there would be nothing for you to learn you would have known everything for as long as you existed. An emotional omniscient god nullifies itself. So an omniscient god repentant of previous actions who eventually destroys everything in a flood because of anger is ridiculous and stupid (Genesis 6:6).

This would be like feigning surprise at your surprise birthday party that you threw for yourself and then wrecking the place in a fit of anger because it turned out exactly as you knew it would."

natasha s
natasha s6 days ago

Simply Nooooooooo.

Bill E
Bill Eagle6 days ago

It is against the law to remove any rocks from National parks without permission.

Carl R
Carl R6 days ago


Margie F
Margie FOURIE8 days ago

Well perhaps he has a point, but he shouldnt be allowed to remove rocks. If everyone took 15 kg of rocks for the grand canyon, it would become even grander.

Carl R
Carl R8 days ago


Berny p
Berny p8 days ago

It always surprise me that supposingly intelligent people are so gulable!

Will Rogers
Will Rogers8 days ago

6000 years old? And you lot take people like this seriously? He should be ridiculed and mocked. And gets whose permission? Europeans wiped out the natives and think they have a right to remove rocks. They owe the natives rent and royalties for the theft of their lands. Look...I don't dislike Americans! They are warm and generous.'s just a shame that there's only a few million of them and they mostly live on reservations. The worst thing to happen to that beautiful country was the European invasion. They weren't invited in and have outstayed their welcome. Stories like this prove that it's time for them to leave.

Julie W
Julie W8 days ago

No, of course not! Patricia H: " God did NOT put them there for greedy so- called humans ". Well actually, God did not put them there at all - it was Nature, the movement of water acting on the rock.

Herbert C "It's a couple of buckets full of rocks! Ever been to the Grand Canyon? Who cares!" If every tourist took a bucket of rocks there would be no Grand Canyon - he is not the only one. YOU should care!