The following has been submitted for publication in _Skeptic_ vol. 2, no. 4:
Update on the Ark Hoax
There have been a number of noteworthy comments on George Jammal's Noah's
Ark hoax since I wrote my article on the subject for the last issue of
_Skeptic_ (Lippard 1994). Of these, two have come from individuals
criticized in my article. (Others are listed below.) First, John Morris
of the Institute for Creation Research published an article in which he
admitted that he had been hoaxed (Morris 1994). Second, David Balsiger
issued a press release in which he claimed to have uncovered evidence
that the hoax was part of a massive humanist conspiracy to discredit
Christianity in general and Sun International Pictures in particular
(Balsiger 1994). Both of these commentaries are highly misleading.
Morris's article, far from being the repentant apology and
retraction which was warranted, makes the following claims:
(1) His initial response to the hoax charges pointed out "certain
inaccuracies" in the _Time_ magazine article, in particular that "LaRue
[sic] could not have made up the story himself, as he claimed." _Time_
did err in reporting that Larue initiated the hoax, but this does not
appear to be something Larue has ever claimed. This is the only error in
the _Time_ article Morris pointed out, so he is mistaken to speak of
(2) "Many have subsequently charged me in print and on the nationally
syndicated TV show 'Inside Edition' with impropriety, claiming that since
I had placed Sun in touch with Jammal, I must take full responsibility."
I have read numerous articles on the Ark hoax and viewed the "Inside
Edition" show, but nowhere have I seen anyone claim that Morris "must
take full responsibility." Instead, I have seen claims that he must bear
some responsibility, and that is certainly true. Nowhere in Morris's
pseudo-retraction does he accept any responsibility.
(3) Jammal's story "differed remarkably from those of all other
eyewitnesses, and I suspected he was mistaken." Morris doesn't say what
he thinks Jammal was mistaken about, and he omits to mention his
statement to Sun International Pictures that "It is my impression that
[Jammal] was on Mt. Ararat. He seems to know Lake Kop and described in
reasonable detail the area nearby." Morris made no public criticisms of
Jammal's story until after the hoax allegations surfaced, and even then
his first reaction was to defend Jammal.
(4) "It is only when Dr. LaRue [sic], a man who certainly knows better,
got involved, that the story escalated to the sensational, for without
the doctored wood, Jammal's story would probably not have been used."
This is mistaken. Jammal had already prepared his wood independently of
advice from Larue. Morris also conveniently forgets that it was Sun
International Pictures that escalated the story to the sensational.
Morris concludes that "If nothing else, this event shows the depth
to which some people will stoop to try to discredit those who believe in
the Bible." In fact, it is Morris and Sun International Pictures who have
discredited themselves by demonstrating excessive carelessness about the
facts. It is amazing to me that Morris bends over backwards to avoid
accepting the slightest responsibility for the success of the hoax, or
even acknowledging that any criticisms of Sun International Pictures
might be deserved.
Former Sun International Pictures researcher David Balsiger's
press release also neglects to take any responsibility for the airing of
the hoax, and makes numerous claims including that:
(1) Jammal's hoax "was part of a fully orchestrated effort in the news
media by atheists and secular humanists with their advocacy organizations
to discredit the entire Noah's Ark TV Special, the CBS-Television Network
for running biblical-themed shows, and my reputation as a TV researcher
and field producer-director of family and biblical-themed shows." As my
article in the last _Skeptic_ showed, the only person involved in the
original hoax was George Jammal. Gerald Larue got involved when Sun
International Pictures became interested in Jammal, and no one else got
involved until after the pseudo-documentary was aired.
(2) "Balsiger has determined that the entire media discrediting campaign
was orchestrated by Dr. Larue and his well-known humanist associate, Dr.
Paul Kurtz, the president, chairman, or editor of several humanist
organizations and publications." Paul Kurtz's only involvement was to aid
in the distribution of a press release revealing the hoax and to publish
several excellent and accurate articles about the hoax.
(3) "Through the influence of Larue, Kurtz, and various overlapping
members of directors and advisory boards, several humanist organizations
and their publications played a role in the discrediting media blitz
against the Noah's Ark TV Show. These included the Los Angeles Skeptics
Society, the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH), the
Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, the Committee for
the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the
American Humanist Association, the National Center for Science Education,
and their various house publications including _Skeptic_, _Free Inquiry_,
_The Skeptical Inquirer_, _The Humanist_, and the _NCSE Report_." Skeptics
Society, which publishes _Skeptic_, had not published an article about
Jammal's hoax at the time of Balsiger's press release. It had, however,
published Sun International Pictures' press release and a summary of John
Morris' defense of Sun's program in the Institute for Creation Research's
_Acts & Facts_ (September 1993). CSER is a subcommittee of CODESH, not an
independent organization. CODESH's _Free Inquiry_ indeed published several
articles criticizing the Ark show, including an excellent critique by
Richard Fox (Summer 1993) authored without knowledge of the Jammal hoax--
which Balsiger neither mentions or responds to. CSICOP, which does have
some connections to CODESH, published nothing about the Ark hoax in its
_Skeptical Inquirer_ until its Winter 1994 issue, which came out at about
the same time (possibly after) Balsiger's press release. CSICOP's
_Skeptical Briefs_ published some letters regarding Sun's program,
but nothing about the Jammal hoax to date except a letter from Balsiger in
its December 1993 issue (an open letter from which many of Balsiger's
self-quotations in this press release were taken.) The AHA publishes _The
Humanist_, and I'm unfortunately unaware of what coverage it has had of
these events. The NCSE publishes _NCSE Reports_, and its coverage has been
more or less independent of the others (there are no connections between
the NCSE and the other organizations listed here, except perhaps common
members, and the fact that the NCSE purchased the journal
_Creation/Evolution_ from the AHA a few years ago). There was no
orchestrated media conspiracy by skeptics and humanists, and Balsiger
fails to mention the negative coverage of his Ark show which appeared in
Christian publications such as _Ararat Report_ (May 1993), _Facts & Faith_
(Spring 1993), _Does God Exist?_ (September/October 1993), _Christian News_
(several 1993 issues), and the _Bible-Science News_ (31:5, 1993).
(4) "No one has come forward with claims or evidence that any of these
remaining eyewitness accounts are perpetrated hoaxes on CBS." Balsiger
has made this claim numerous times, and it has been false every time he
has made it--and he knows this. The May 1993 _Ararat Report_ (as well as
earlier issues of that publication) gave substantial evidence that Ed
Behling, Ed Davis, and Fernand Navarra are not eyewitnesses of Noah's
Ark. Balsiger was also personally warned (and given the evidence) long
before Sun's program aired by Bill Crouse, the editor of _Ararat Report_,
that these alleged witnesses were unreliable.
The failure of Balsiger and Morris to admit their errors, to take
any responsibility for the success of Jammal's hoax, or to even attempt
to address the substantial criticisms which have been raised against
Sun's Ark program demonstrates that they are unreliable sources of
information on the subject of Noah's Ark. Creationists in particular and
Christians in general would be wise to avoid reliance on either of them,
and to publicly distance themselves from inaccurate claims of these men.
Anonymous (1994) "CBS to Withdraw Projects with Sun International," Free
Inquiry 14(1, Winter 1993/94):24.
Balsiger, David W. (1994) "Noah's Ark TV Show Field Producer Exposes
Humanist Efforts To Get Biblical Themed Shows Off Network Television,"
January press release.
Bloomberg, David (1994) "Noah's Ark Hoax Update," REALL News 2(1,
Frazier, Kendrick (1994) "The Sorry Saga of CBS and Ark Pseudoscience:
Network Drops Two Sun Programs, Keeps One," Skeptical Inquirer 18(2,
Larue, Gerald (1994a) "Update on Noah's Ark," Free Inquiry 14(1, Winter
--- (1994b) "When Will They Ever Learn?" Free Inquiry 14(2, Spring):40.
Lippard, Jim (1994) "Sun Goes Down in Flames: The Jammal Ark Hoax,"
Morris, John (1994) "Special Report: Noah's Ark: Setting the Record
Straight," Acts & Facts 23(1, January):2-3.
Sun International Pictures (1994) "The Incredible Nondiscovery of Noah's
Ark," Freethought Today 11(1, January/February 1994):10. (The same Sun
press release published in Skeptic 2(2):14-17.)
Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU
Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721