Andrew Snelling's Grand Canyon rock study

It looks like Andrew Snelling has published the results of his Grand Canyon research:

It turns out that it’s a study of the rock formation that he claims isn’t fractured even though photos clearly show that it is. He seems to be trying to refute the idea that it has undergone plastic deformation, but if I understand the issue correctly, plastic deformation would only be necessary to explain the folding if the formation hadn’t been fractured, and as can be seen from the photographs, quite clearly it has.

I’d be interested to know if the geologists among you have any specific observations to make about it. Any thoughts?


Rather than download 58MB, did you see if it includes the picture of people standing in front of the rock cracks he says aren’t there?


It doesn’t. It includes a different picture, which is also badly focused but in which the cracks in the rock are still clearly visible nonetheless.


@KNelstead posted a really good summary on Facebook:

We’ve been waiting for four years for Dr Andrew Snelling to publish the results of his Grand Canyon folding study, and Answers in Genesis just published a 96-page paper that basically says, “I didn’t find anything.” This is not the “the ground breaking paper” young-Earth creationists were hoping for.

One of the main reasons Dr Snelling collected samples from the Tapeats Sandstone in the Grand Canyon was his hope to demonstrate that the sediments were soft when folded. He was hoping to see signs of soft-sediment deformation in thin sections, and it is clear that he did not see that evidence. His lengthy section on thin sections (pp. 204-231) concludes with “Thus, it is likewise concluded that the Tapeats Sandstone is unmetamorphosed in all places where it was examined in the Grand Canyon.” This is not a surprising conclusion, as geologists have not been claiming that the Tapeats has undergone even low-grade metamorphism, or that the folds in the Tapeats occurred under metamorphic temperature or pressure conditions.

The Discussion section of the article, likewise, does not even touch on the topic of folding. The “Future Work” section lets us know that more research and more papers are coming. This petrology paper was just preparation for “detailed studies to determine the nature and timing of the folding of this sandstone unit.” Snelling states, “This will require scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging of selected samples to closely examine the cement crystals which would show evidence of brittle fracturing and healing if the folding occurred after lithification, but would be still pristine if cementation occurred after soft-sediment deformation and before lithification.” Apparently Snelling did not find what he was looking for in the thin sections, so he is going deeper. That sometimes happens in research, so I am not going to fault him for this.

What the paper shouts out loud, however, is that Dr Snelling has not yet found clear evidence that the sediments were soft when folded.


@jammycakes this reminds me of the infamous photo from a YEC that concealed cracks in the folds.

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The iconic Tappeats outcrop of the Kaibab monocline is seen about one mile up Carbon Canyon, on the north side of the Colorado at river mile 65. I took this photo in 2018, Fractures are obvious; up and above from the central bush you can see that the fractures mostly trend about 50 degrees from the bedding planes. This is consistent with intrabed shear during fold formation of the solid rock.


Thanks for posting that, @BrushyCanyon. The cracks are even more evident at that high resolution.

Incidentally there’s another photo of the same formation on Google Maps showing it from a different angle.

That was Andrew Snelling himself. It’s the one on AIG’s “ten best evidences for a young earth” page.


Are Dr. Snelling’s efforts an attempt to show that the Grand Canyon was formed by Noah’s flood?

If so, I’m trying to understand the case he’d like to make. Is it that metamorphism present in layers at the canyon floor would support a “Grand Canyon was formed by a catastrophic flood” hypothesis? And that fracturing would support a gradual forming of the canyon by the Colorado river?

I’m sure I’m missing something. But, It seems like either a gradual process or a sudden process could expose metamorphic rock.

Apologies if this is nonsensical. Any clarification is much appreciated.

No, he’s saying that there are no fractures, which would indicate non-plastic deformation. Thus there was plastic deformation. There are two sorts he considers: deformation of soft sediments and deformation of rocks under heat and pressure due to deep burial. Since deep burial often results in metamorphism, his failure to find metamorphism convinces him to reject plastic deformation due to deep burial. Therefore he supposes that there was deformation of soft sediments, which makes his flood theory of deposition more tenable. That has nothing to do with the actual formation of the canyon, just of the folds in the rock.


So, how do flood geologists deal with the actual presence of fractures? Do they claim that they aren’t really fractures?

In many cases they ignore them or, as @swamidass has mentioned, take photos in which somebody is standing so as to block your view of them.


Forgive my untrained eyes but I can’t see nada. Some circles or arrows would help.


I don’t understand why soft sediment deformation in this sandstone would have any bearing at all on the veracity (or otherwise) of a Biblical Flood.

All sandstones originate as soft sediments. Depending on their subsequent history, some can be deformed whilst still soft, others can deform after consolidation, and yet others may never deform at all.
What is the issue?

Because lithification takes time, and deformation of soft sediment saves time. Further, one can imagine (well, if you squint hard) soft sediment being deformed during a flood, which is of course supposed to be the flood that deposited it in the first place. Again, saves time.

Time. If the earth is 6000 years old, and most sediments were deposited in a single year 5000 years ago, everything needs to happen faster.


Yes, but just demonstrating that one particular sandstone was deformed before lithification doesn’t disprove thousands of others all over the world with clear evidence of brittle deformation. So, the logic of this attempt still escapes me.

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It’s all moot, as the sandstone wasn’t deformed before lithification.

As a non-geologist I second this request. I see plenty of what looks like cracks and scratches, it’s just that I have no idea whether those are the things I’m supposed to be looking for.


Here you go gents.

Original bedding (deposition planes) in white, fractures (brittle breaks in lithified sediment) in red. These are harmonic folds, where the fold geometry is echoed in adjacent beds.

Take a book or a deck of cards and bend it. Note that shear occurs along the existing planes.

The shear couples create the “cleavage” that is the fractures. Best seen in the right above the words “bedding slip”. Note the orientation of the fractures vs the orientation of the beding.

For contrast, here are two pictures of soft-deformation of sandstone.

Some original bedding is perserved but the folds are chaotic and and are disharmonic folds where folds are not seen in adjacent beds.
Hope this answers your questions.


Are those water escape structures?

Paging @Mr_Wilford for this one.

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