Monday, May 15, 2017

Is This Religious Discrimination?

Case in point, a recently announced lawsuit little kennie ham and Co. filed against the Grand Canyon, claiming religious discrimination.  Answers in Genesis (AiG) has a press release about it: "Discrimination Lawsuit Filed by Christian Geologist Against Grand Canyon Park Officials".  When I first heard about the lawsuit, my initial thought was let him have some damn rocks.  I mean, it doesn't sound all that unreasonable.  However, what if everyone who visited the Grand Canyon wanted to take rocks home with them?  Why it might be twice as big as it is and the natural formations and beauty might be ruined.  So I assumed there was a vetting process for approving such requests.

So just a tiny bit of digging, and I found the following:  the evaluation criteria used in determining whether or not to approve research proposals:

  • Is the proposed research in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and federal administrative policies?
  • Will the proposed activity result in degradation of the values and purposes of the park?
  • Could the proposed research be performed outside of the park?
  • Is the proposed research important to the stated scientific resource management goals of the park?
  • Does the proposed research unreasonably disturb park resources or visitors?
  • Has the proposed research been peer-reviewed by recognized experts and recommended as scientifically valid? (copies of at least two peer-reviews must accompany the proposal)
  • Does the proposed research require additional state, federal, or local permits? Have those permits been obtained?
  • Does the proposed research require collection of specimens or artifacts? What will be the disposition of any collected specimens?
  • Does the proposed research encumber NPS resources that may be limited (e.g., government housing, equipment, or logistical support)?
Now, regardless of the opinions of Answers in Genesis, who claims 'religious discrimination' for every slight, real or perceived, my initial question is did the Park Service apply their evaluation criteria on Snellings proposal?  And, according to Exhibits (Here's a link to the 115 page pdf file), it looks like they did.  Now the AiG is claiming that they made Snelling jump through hoops others didn't have to jump through, and I really don't care about that.  I am sure the rules are different for scientists who have a history with the Park and who have been approved multiple times.  The question for me is did they apply this criteria, and it sure looks like they did.

AiG's complaint seems focused on a couple of things.  First off this criterion:
  • Has the proposed research been peer-reviewed by recognized experts and recommended as scientifically valid? (copies of at least two peer-reviews must accompany the proposal)
Snelling submitted three peer reviews, but he and AiG seem to have a problem with the idea of 'recognized' experts.  Apparently the park Service rep, Rhonda Newton, didn't recognize the people who reviewed Snelling's proposal.  So instead of dismissing his proposal out-of-hand, she asked a couple of actual recognized experts the review it.  I would call that due diligence, but I am sure little kennie and Co. see it differently because they didn't get the answer they wanted.

The original three 'peer' reviewers were not only 'not recognized' experts, but were well-known creationists, as is Snelling himself.  The recognized reviewers had a number of things to say about 'creation' scientists that were certainly not very flattering.  The also addressed the fact that Snelling hasn't done much science since getting his degree back in 1982 . . . here's a quote:
With a pedigree like that, I am not surprised the proposal got turned down.  The other reviewer pretty much said much the same thing.  The last line "would not need to be done in the Grand Canyon" addressed something earlier in the review, about how the proposal's samples could be found at a number of other sites and didn't have to be done at the Grand Canyon.  Which means the proposal also failed on this criterion:
  • Could the proposed research be performed outside of the park?
As a result, regardless of the opinion of the recognized reviewers of pseudo-scientists such as Snelling, the proposal was refused on grounds set in the evaluation criteria  Now if I had been the reviewer, I would have denied them for an additional reason.  According to the National Park Service website:
"A researcher must be an official representative of a reputable scientific or educational institution or governmental agency." (Science Research Permits).
Did Snelling qualify?  Well, it's kinda funny.  In his application there was no mention of Answers in Genesis.  Seriously, here is a shot from his proposal application:

Mailing address in Australia, international phone number for . . . Australia.  And yet the lawsuit is being brought forth from AiG in Kentucky?  And . . . buried in the Exhibits (page 86) is something different:
According to this Snelling does not live nor work in Australia, but Kentucky.  Gee, did he move suddenly?  I don't think so.  I think he was hiding his affiliation because he knew that AiG does not meet the requirement of being a "reputable scientific or educational institution or governmental agency".  AiG is a ministry, it says so on their own website:

But after being refused for failing to meet the evaluation criteria, suddenly his religious affiliation is important and becomes the basis for his lawsuit.  Does that sound a little funny to anyone else?

OK, let's sum up.  We have a proposal that seems to

  • misrepresent the principle researcher affiliation with AiG,
  • fails at least two of the evaluation requirements for a permit (lack of recognized expert peer review and samples can be obtained outside the park), 
  • and whose stated agenda can be met from other locations.  
In addition, when his affiliation is uncovered it further justified a permit denial (because he's not part of a scientific, educational, or government agency), he's suing for religious discrimination.  Funny how the lawsuit happens right after a certain hamster-haired serial misogynist and liar signed an executive order that can be (mis)used to allow religious organizations be more discriminatory. Timing is everything!

Yea, that's how I see it, Trump gave them an inch and little kennie is trying to turn it into the universe.  If this wasn't happening in Kentucky I would assume the lawsuit would die a quick death.  But this is the state who let a government employee fail to perform her job in the name of her religion and the state that recently let a judge recuse himself from adoption proceedings involving gay parents -- even though it is legal in Kentucky.  So who knows what will happen?  Luckily the Grand Canyon isn't in Kentucky or the Governor would try and pander more voters by making an executive decision of his own.

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