From Skeptic vol. 2, no. 4, 1994, p. 25.

The following article is copyright © 1994 by the Skeptics Society, P.O. Box 338, Altadena, CA 91001, (818) 794-3119. Permission has been granted for noncommercial electronic circulation of this article in its entirety, including this notice. Subscribe to Skeptic. For more information, contact Jim Lippard ([email protected]).


By Jim Lippard

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. Of these, two have come from individuals criticized in my article. First, John Morris of the ICR published an article in which he admitted that he had been hoaxed. Second, David Balsiger issued a press release in January, 1994, 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. 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 "inaccuracies."
  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:
  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 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. "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. 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).
The failure of Balsiger and Morris to admit their errors, to accept 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.

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