Snelling's Doublethink Seeps into the Young-Earth Creationist Literature
Kevin R. Henke, Ph.D.
The following material may be freely copied and distributed as long as it's not altered, edited or sold.
Scientists, politicians, journalists and other public professionals must be very careful about the contents of their written works and how their names are used. For example, if a scientist feels that statements within the draft of a paper are inaccurate, confusing, contain questionable results, or misrepresent his/her personal views, then she/he MUST decline co authorship until the problems are corrected. Competent individuals never want to be associated with false and sloppy work or statements that offend or misrepresent their personal beliefs.
Many would argue that ethics in writing and other forms of public communication are largely based on "common sense". However, sometimes writers have strong desires for personal achievement and these desires may cloud their abilities to make proper decisions about their manuscripts. The following website "Writer of All Trades" by Joyce Lavene has some excellent advice for authors in general, including:
Ethical writing is more than just not taking someone else's work. PERSONAL ETHICS REQUIRE THAT WE WRITE IN SUCH A MANNER THAT WHAT WE WRITE IS A REFECTION OF WHO AND WHAT WE ARE. [my emphasis]
There are many things to consider:
Who are you? Do your words give your readers a picture of who you are and what you believe? I'm not saying you should write sidebars about your personal beliefs. But if a reader asks you about a grisly death scene or an animal torture scene from your book, what will you say?
Are you comfortable with your words? Is what you're saying something you agree with or is it just to spice up the book?
Do your words reflect your values? If you are a pacifist, are you going to like reading long passages about a murder to your audience? If you truly believe that rape is wrong, do you want your hero to rape your heroine in your book?
Certainly, the advice at this website may not always apply to geologists and other technical writers. However, there are countless other sources that deal with technical writing and writing ethics for scientists. For example, Bishop et al. (1978) contains some excellent advice on ethics and writing styles for geology authors and editors.
Unfortunately, young-Earth creationists (YECs) are not always careful with their words. For example, in Will the Real Dr. Snelling Please Stand Up?, Dr. Alex Ritchie documents several inconsistencies between the geology and religious articles of YEC Dr. Andrew A. Snelling. Dr. Snelling has a legitimate Ph.D. in geology and sometimes does secular consulting and research in ore geology. As effectively demonstrated by Dr. Ritchie, Dr. Snelling frequently relies on radiometric dates and other aspects of the geologic time scale in his secular articles, which clearly conflict with his YEC views.
In his response to Dr. Ritchie's article, Dr. Snelling argues that he had no choice but to use terms from the geologic time scale in his secular articles, in particular a chapter (Snelling, 1990) that he wrote for Hughes (1990). Snelling feels that he can escape this moral dilemma by simply referencing any statements that he doesn't personally agree with:
When I came to write the paper [Snelling, 1990] on the Koongarra uranium deposit, it was at the request of the mining company who knew exactly where I stood. The paper was for a book on Australian ore deposits with an editor who had strict guidelines as to how the papers should be written. When I wrote the paper I had no option but to take the standard conventional terminology, and what all the critics have overlooked is that I fully reference all the comments that they are slamming me with. In other words, as far as I was concerned I was making it perfectly clear that this is what everyone else believes, and what is the standard wisdom about this ore deposit and its geological setting.
However, by simply adding references to obviously anti-YEC statements in his 1990 chapter, Snelling did not "make it perfectly clear" to all of his readers "where he stood." As Dr. Ritchie shows, the discussions in Snelling (1990) mention weathering and erosion periods of 150 million years, regional metamorphism lasting from 1870 to 1800 million years ago, and other ancient dates. Unless Dr. Snelling immediately refutes all of these dates in his writings, the reader will assume that when Dr. Snelling wrote his manuscript he considered the dates to be reliable state-of-the-art. While YECs might be able to redefine the Archean or Precambrian to fit into their mythical time frames, geologic dates of 150 million or 1870 million years cannot be similarly twisted. Numbers must be accepted or rejected. Simply citing a reference after a sentence (like he also does in the examples below) is NOT enough to signal to a reader that this information does not represent the actual views of the writer. That is, if authors cite a statement from the literature that they disagree with, they have the ethical RESPONSIBILITY of immediately indicating that their views vary from those in the citation. Because Snelling presents contradictory views in his science and YEC articles without consistently providing clear explanations to his readers, he is being sloppy and misrepresenting his true views. In contrast, other YECs are much more meticulous in disclaiming any geologic time units and radiometric dates when they refer to them in their manuscripts here, here and here.
Dr Snelling continues:
The problem is that these hard-line evolutionists are so blinkered that they can't see how a person like myself in such a situation IS FORCED to use their evolutionary terminology whether we like it or not. In other words, even though I could have appealed to the editor of the monograph it would have been to no avail, because the reviewers would have also insisted on the conventional terminology, particularly as one of the reviewers was one of the researchers having done the standard work on the regional geology of that area. It is ludicrous to suggest any hypocrisy or two-facedness. [my emphasis]
However, Snelling's actions aren't just offensive to "hard-line evolutionists." He has violated standards of conduct required by all scientists. In a free society like Australia, NO ONE can force a geologist to write a manuscript that violates his/her personal beliefs. Many of us have been in situations where our job securities or friendships have been strained because we refused to submit to peer-pressure from individuals that wanted us to sign a document or author a manuscript. Although situations may become stressful, at least our clear consciences allow us to sleep at night. So, Snelling has no excuse for authoring a paper that contradicts and misrepresents his true beliefs.
Snelling also claims that his geology colleagues and co-authors knew about his YEC beliefs and that he never tried to hide his beliefs from them. Although his co-authors and close colleagues may know and respect Snelling's true beliefs, the vast majority of individuals that just read Dr. Snelling's science reports or perhaps rely on his consulting services might not. Indeed, geologists are sometimes hired as experts to testify in court about environmental, economic, or safety issues related to their investigations of ore deposits. What mining company with a radon or radioactive waste problem would feel comfortable once they discover that they have hired a YEC to explain long- and short-term radioactive decay to a jury? Clearly, Dr. Snelling's readers and clients expect him to fill his scientific articles with information that he can fully support, even under oath. Again, if Snelling summarizes the views of other individuals that he disagrees with, his readers expect him to at least identify those statements and hopefully explain why he disagrees with his colleagues.
Like many scientists, Snelling appears to have written generic secular summaries of the geologic histories of his various field sites. These background sections can then be copied into articles and reports, as needed. As shown below, Snelling does not always "creationize" these sections when he uses them in his YEC articles and the contradictions become painfully obvious.
YECs generally believe that the Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old. However, Snelling and Woodmorappe (1998) favor an even narrower range of 6,000 to 7,000 years. A review of Dr. Snelling's YEC reports on the Ngauruhoe volcano of New Zealand shows that he has not always carefully disavowed scientific statements that blatantly conflict with his 1998 claim for a 6,000 to 7,000 year old Earth. For example in his YEC article The Relevance of Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Pb-Pb Systematics to Elucidation of the Genesis and History of Recent Andesite Flows at Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, and the Implications for Radioisotopic Dating (PDF) Snelling states:
This volcano-tectonic depression (the Taupo-Rotorua Depression... [reference omitted]) comprises rhyolitic volcanic centers (Rotorua, Okataina, Maroa and Taupo), plus the calc-alkaline Tongariro Volcanic Center. The latter is part of a young (<0.25 Ma) andesite-dacite volcanic arc with no associated rhyolitic volcanism extending along the eastern side of the zone [reference omitted].
Because Dr. Snelling believes that the entire Universe is no older than 7,000 years, why does he refer to the arc as simply being less than 250,000 years old? I recognize that he references these scientific statements, but how has he properly disavowed the claims in this paragraph as required by his religious beliefs and good writing ethics? At the same time, Dr. Snelling's manuscript also contains the following statement:
Ngauruhoe is the newest cone of the Tongariro Volcanic Center, and has been active for at least 2.5 ka...[references omitted].
Because this quotation refers to a volcanic history of about 2,500 years, it's possible that Dr. Snelling could accept this history as real. However, like the sections of this report that contain dates in excess of 7,000 years, this statement is simply referenced without comment. So, the reader has no way of knowing whether or not Dr. Snelling really believes what he has written about the age of the Ngauruhoe volcano.
In another statement from the same article, Snelling writes:
Nearly all vents active within the last 10,000 years lie on a gentle arc which extends 25 km north-northeast from the Rangataua vent on the southern slopes of Ruapehu through Ruapehu summit and north flank vents, Tama Lakes, Ngauruhoe, Red Crater, Blue Lake and Te Mari craters.
If Snelling believes that the Earth is only 6,000 to 7,000 years old, why does he suggest that the vents may be up to 10,000 years old? Again, where is the disclaimer in this paragraph? Why does he make this statement as if he recognizes it as factual?
Snelling also claims in the same report:
The Tongariro volcanics unconformably overlie LATE MIOCENE marine siltstones beneath Hauhungatahi. A minimum age for the onset of volcanism is indicated by the influx of andesite pebbles in EARLY PLEISTOCENE conglomerates of the Wanganui Basin to the south ...[references omitted]. Wilson et al. ...[reference omitted] suggest a maximum LATE PLIOCENE age of 2.0 Ma, based on K-Ar dating of the earliest lavas of the Hauhungaroa cone ...[reference omitted]. The oldest dated lavas from the Tongariro Volcanic Center are hornblende andesites: exposed at Tama Lakes between Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, dated at 0.26 ± 0.003 Ma; from Ruapehu, dated at 0.23 ± 0.006 Ma; and from Kakaramea, dated at 0.22 ± 0.001 Ma (all potassium-argon dates) ...[reference omitted]. [my emphasis]
As quoted earlier, Dr. Snelling claims that he was "forced" by the editor to use "evolutionary terminology" when he wrote Snelling (1990). So, what YEC is now "forcing" Dr. Snelling to use "evolutionary terminology" like Miocene, Pleistocene, Pliocene and dates of two million years in this YEC article? If Snelling really doesn't believe in radiometric dates or geologic epochs, why does he even bother mentioning them in this supposedly YEC background section on the Ngauruhoe volcano? Even if analytical data and epochs are widely accepted by other individuals, why print any of them if you think they're deceptive fiction? How do these numbers and epochs serve Snelling's YEC agenda?
Snelling also makes similar or identical remarks in Andesite Flows at Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, and the Implications for Potassium-Argon "Dating". Clearly, the statements in Snelling's YEC reports blatantly contradict other parts of his reports and Snelling and Woodmorappe (1998). His contradictory statements border on schizophrenia.
Because Dr. Snelling makes unqualified statements about the history of the Ngauruhoe volcano that are utterly inconsistent with his young-Earth creationist views, what else has Dr. Snelling written that conflicts with his actual beliefs? If Snelling is willing to cite statements from the literature that he really doesn't believe just to please his editor and geology readers (e.g., Snelling, 1990), how many of his YEC statements are not consistent with his real views and were simply written to placate his YEC readers? As Dr. Ritchie correctly states: "Will the Real Dr. Snelling Please Stand Up?!"
Bishop, E.E., E.B. Eckel, and others, 1978, Suggestions to Authors of the Reports of the United States Geological Survey, J.H. Eric, Coordinator, 6th ed., U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, USA.
Hughes, F.E. (editor), 1990, Geology of the Mineral Deposits of Australia and Papua New Guinea, The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Melbourne, Australia, Monograph n. 14.
Snelling, A.A., 1990, "Koongarra Uranium Deposits", in Geology of the Mineral Deposits of Australia and Papua New Guinea, F.E. Hughes (ed.), The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Melbourne, Australia, Monograph n. 14, p. 807-812.
Snelling, A.A. and J. Woodmorappe, 1998, “The Cooling of Thick Igneous Bodies on a Young Earth”, Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism, Aug. 3-8, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, Technical Symposium Sessions, R. E. Walsh (ed.), Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, USA 15229.