David Balsiger Press Release

David Balsiger issued the following press release in early January 1994. To my knowledge, no media outlets took any notice of it, and rightly so. I (Jim Lippard) criticize this press release and John Morris's January 1994 Acts & Facts response to the Jammal Ark Hoax in my article "Update on the Noah's Ark Hoax" in Skeptic vol. 2, no. 4, 1994.

Comments in brackets are mine.

Writeway Associates, 1055 East 5800 South, Ogden, Utah 84405-4919

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE              CONTACT:  David W. Balsiger (801) 479-0164

Exposes Actions to Discredit Noah's Show       Humanists Hoaxed TV Interview


   After a six-week investigation that ended in August 1993 into the
people behind an article in _TIME_ magazine which asserted that one of
50 expert interviewees used in the TV show _The Incredible Discovery of
Noah's Ark_, fabricated his eyewitness account of seeing Noah's Ark, and
that the show made claims not supported by modern science, the show's
field producer David W. Balsiger announced that the article was an
effort by humanists to advance their anti-biblical agenda.

   Nationally known humanist Dr. Gerald Larue, who pontificates from behind
his title as Professor Emeritus of Biblical History and Archaeology at the
University of Southern California, claimed in _TIME_ (July 5, 1993) and a
copycat Associated Press wire story that he unconscionably planned and
coached interviewee George Jammal to execute a hoaxed interview on network
television.  The hoaxed interview appeared within the _Noah's Ark_ show
that aired as a CBS-Television Network Special in February 1993.

   "The hoax was all 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," says
Balsiger, who worked on the show for Sun International Pictures.
[Balsiger omits to mention that his reputation is that of an unreliable researcher, and that this has been observed not only by skeptics and humanists, but by evangelical Christians who have examined his work. (See, for example, the numerous references to Balsiger in Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott's Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke (1993, Cornerstone Press), a book which exposes the bogus claims made in Mike Warnke's book The Satan Seller, which Balsiger co-authored and claims to have ghost written. (I suspect Balsiger was the primary author on the book, but the book itself claims to have been written by Mike Warnke "with Dave Balsiger and Les Jones." Balsiger lists numerous books in his Who's Who in America entry with no mention of any co-authors, despite the fact that many of the books themselves state on their covers that he is second author or editor.))

Balsiger also overlooks the fact that the Jammal hoax was blatantly obvious, and that he had been warned by at least two Ark researchers (Bill Crouse and David Fasold) that Jammal's story had no credibility well in advance of the show's completion. -jjl]

   "There is something wrong with the ethics of the news media when they
glorify the acts of humanist hoaxers who intentionally and successfully
deceive 40 million TV viewers, and then blame the show's production
company and CBS for not discovering their elaborate hoax," says Balsiger.
"This is not a case in which the producer or the network is guilty of
deceiving viewers, but rather one more example of humanists who tout
themselves as 'Ethical Humanists' being neither ethical nor honest when
it comes to advancing their hidden agenda."
[This quotation, with only minor modifications, is a perfect description of Balsiger's own actions. The shows that Balsiger has been involved with contain misrepresentations, intentionally omit contrary evidence, and engage in fanciful speculation. Despite repeated criticisms, Balsiger, Sun International Pictures, and CBS have continued to air the same unfounded claims. Sun's 1976 film, "In Search of Noah's Ark," was the source of at least 20% of the most recent Ark show, but no recognition was made by Sun of the numerous published criticisms of that material. -jjl]
   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.  "These people are clearly opposed
to anything that's biblical," says Balsiger.
[The hoax began as a practical joke by Jammal (acting on his own) in late 1985. Larue got involved when Sun contacted Jammal about being in their show. Kurtz's only involvement, so far as I know, was to help distribute Larue's March 1993 press release about Jammal's hoax, which was completely ignored by the media. Only Free Inquiry, edited by Kurtz, published it. The Time article in July came about because Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society mentioned the hoax to James Randi, who in turn mentioned it to Time's Leon Jaroff, who was present at Randi's libel trial (the Eldon Byrd lawsuit, which ended with Byrd being awarded nothing). -jjl]
   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_.
[The 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, so there's really only one organization involved there, which publishes Free Inquiry. It has indeed published several criticisms of the Ark show, including a very good critique of the show in general (quite apart from the Jammal hoax) by Richard Fox (Summer 1993)--which Balsiger never mentions or responds to in any way. CSICOP publishes the Skeptical Inquirer and is connected in some ways to CODESH. It had published nothing on the Ark hoax until its Winter 1994 issue, which came out at about the same time as 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. AHA publishes The Humanist, which has published nothing about the Ark hoax. 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 is no orchestrated conspiracy here. Balsiger also omits to mention the negative coverage of his Ark show which appeared in Ararat Report (May 1993), Reasons to Believe (Spring 1993), Does God Exist? (September/October 1993 and May/June 1994), Christian News (several 1993 issues), and other Christian publications. -jjl]

   Although Jammal has stated verbally and in writing that he was telling
the truth regarding his Noah's Ark eyewitness account, Sun researchers
concluded during their August investigation that he would eventually
confess to committing a hoax in conjunction with Dr. Larue and their
humanist advocacy groups.  "Jammal waited until the humanists could
maximize the publicity from his public confession, and extract any
financial gains that people might pay for his flip-flop story," explained
Balsiger.  The confession came in late October and resulted in CBS
canceling all of Sun's biblical and secular shows in production.
[Jammal was probably paid for his appearance on "Inside Edition"--but then, Balsiger was also probably paid for his appearance on the same show. Otherwise, I don't believe Jammal has received any financial rewards from his hoax. -jjl]

   "In addition to their humanist agenda of getting biblical shows off
network television, it seems that Dr. Larue was probably also conducting
some type of a vindictive campaign against Sun International Pictures,"
says Balsiger.  "This may be the result of his appearance as a skeptic
in Sun's show 'Ancient Secrets of the Bible I' which aired on May 15,
1992.  According to _TIME_ magazine, Dr. Larue felt he was 'set up as
a straw man.'"
[Larue *was* set up as a straw man. See Larue's Free Inquiry article (Fall 1993), in which he gives the details. Also see articles by Tom Malone and Farrell Till in Freethought Today (April 1993 and September 1993, respectively), which document Sun's practice of giving skeptics prewritten straw man scripts in many cases, and when skeptics write their own scripts, the most significant content is edited out of what finally airs. -jjl]
   "In our show, he was a critic of the Walls of Jericho falling down,"
explains Balsiger.  "As these TV Specials were critic-proponent shows,
he was followed by two proponents of the biblical story--Dr. Amos Nur,
chairman of the Geophysics Department at Stanford University, and Dr.
Bryant Wood, a Syro-Palestinian archaeologist who has written extensively
on Jericho for the professional peer journal _Biblical Archaeology
Review_.  They refuted Larue's argument based on their own extensive
scientific studies."
[Larue responds to this in the Fall 1993 Free Inquiry. -jjl]
   Since 1982, Dr. Larue has served as chairman of the Committee for the
Scientific Examination of Religion, a committee of the national Council
for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH) dedicated to refuting Bible
claims; was the consulting editor (1987-1989) and Emeritus President of
the National Hemlock Society, America's foremost euthanasia advocacy
organization well known for its book on how to commit suicide; and is the
senior editor of _Free Inquiry_, the humanist magazine published by
CODESH--both entities dedicated to removing religious beliefs from
society and Bible-oriented programs from public broadcast.
[All true. And Balsiger's point? Sure, Larue has a bias. But the facts are pretty clear regarding the shoddiness of Balsiger's productions. Balsiger, by the way, himself has been the founder, leader, or organizer of a number of fringe Christian organizations, and his biases are quite clear in his work. Despite this, Sun's press releases regarding the Ark hoax claimed that its shows do not present a particular viewpoint. -jjl]
   "It is also more than coincidental that _TIME_ magazine writer Leon
Jaroff was the author of this Noah's Ark news hit piece.  Mr. Jaroff,
science editor for _TIME_ magazine, is prominently listed as a 'Fellow
of the Committee' of CSICOP, which is a sub-organization of CODESH,"
explains Balsiger.  "He and Dr. Larue are associated together on
CSICOP's magazine _The Skeptical Inquirer_.  Dr. Larue serves as the
technical advisor to the magazine while Mr. Jaroff is listed on the
magazine's masthead page.
[CSICOP is not "a sub-organization of CODESH." CSICOP predates CODESH, and is a more-or-less independent organization (sometimes less independent than many skeptics would like, I'm afraid--CSICOP and CODESH do share a building and are both run by Paul Kurtz). Larue is not "the" technical advisor to SI, he is one of numerous technical advisors to CSICOP. Jaroff isn't on the magazine's masthead, he is listed as a CSICOP Fellow. Neither has anything to do with SI itself. -jjl]
   "Humanist Jaroff, a listed official of CSICOP which is totally
controlled by its parent organization CODESH--both well-known humanism
advocacy organizations--was exercising bias [sic] reporting, pushing his
own personal humanist views, and promoting the goals of CSICOP-CODESH
in the _TIME_ article on Noah's Ark," claims Balsiger.
[This is totally false. CSICOP is NOT a humanist organization, and Jaroff has no connection with CODESH. CSICOP's Executive Council, Fellows, Advisors, and subscribers are probably mostly *not* humanists. I don't know whether Jaroff is a humanist or not, but I have no evidence that he is. -jjl]
   Sun's "Letter to the Editor" of _TIME_, stating the facts surrounding
the alleged hoax and exposing Jaroff's article errors and bias did not
get printed.  "It seems _TIME_ can dish out the inflammatory accusations,
but cannot take the heat when asked to print a simple 'Letter to the
Editor' exposing their bias [sic] reporting," says Balsiger.  "Instead,
they may have executed a coverup for Jaroff and his embarrassing
criticism of our scientific information sources which substantially
came from _Feats and Wisdom of the Ancients_, Library of Curious and
Unusual Facts, published by _TIME-Life_ Books."
[Balsiger has a point here. Time should have published Sun's response. Both Skeptic and Free Inquiry *did* publish Sun's response, and then demonstrated how weak it was. Skeptical Briefs published Balsiger's previous letter to the media. Any suppression of views cannot be placed at the feet of the skeptics and humanists. Sun International Pictures, on the other hand, is at least as guilty as Time magazine in suppressing the views of critics. -jjl]
   "The vicious and vindictive attacks against the Noah's Ark show,
CBS-TV, Sun, and myself by _Los Angeles Time_ [sic] entertainment
critic-columnist Howard Rosenberg also was not a coincidence," says
Balsiger.  "It turns out Mr. Rosenberg and Dr. Larue are long-time
friends and apparently work together hand and glove to achieve the
humanist agenda.  In this case, it not only ended biblical-themed shows
on network TV, but the cancellation of all Sun's shows being produced for
CBS, and the termination of numerous production employees."
[I have no evidence that Rosenberg is a humanist, but his articles about Sun were right on target. There is no question that CBS did the right thing by cancelling Sun's shows, though I'm not sure they did so for the right reasons. -jjl]
   Balsiger has asked corporate officials at both _TIME_ magazine and
the _Los Angeles Times_ to fire Jaroff and Rosenberg for bias [sic]
reporting, pushing their own humanist views, and not disclosing their
affiliations with humanist advocacy groups and officials of such groups.
[This is more projection by Balsiger, who isn't forthright about his own affiliations, and one of the serious criticisms raised against the Ark show is that many of its "experts" were young-earth creationists whose affiliations were not disclosed (and in some cases, whose credentials were misrepresented to make them seem more impressive). -jjl]
   "Although the hoax was committed by Mr. Jammal, it's sad and
unfortunate that Dr. Larue, a distinguished USC professor, would
victimize Mr. Jammal and his family to execute a third-party hoax
in which he was the primary benefactor--the person who says he coached
Mr. Jammal into lying on network television, and then exposed him
claiming credit for exposing his own hoax," says Balsiger.
[Balsiger doesn't explain how Larue has "victimize[d]" Jammal by exposing Jammal's own hoax. He also omits to mention his own legal threats directed at Jammal, which were cited by CBS as a reason for canceling their future Sun projects. -jjl]
   Balsiger says he also objects to the characterization by the news
media and Dan Rather that our entire Noah's Ark TV Special was a hoax.
Mr. Jammal was only one of 50 experts that provided authoritative
interviews on a wide range of subjects relating to the Noah's Ark
mystery.  Additionally, the TV Special told the Noah's Ark story as
recorded in the Bible along with the presentation of historical data,
scientific experiments, and Ararat explorer accounts.

   "Furthermore, Mr. Jammal was only one of four filmed eyewitnesses
who claimed to have had an on-the-ground encounter with the Ark,"
explains Balsiger.  "No one has come forward with claims or evidence
that any of these remaining eyewitness accounts are perpetrated hoaxes
on CBS.  We also stated in the show that it was up to the audience to
decide whether their accounts were believable or not!"

[What Balsiger says here is simply untrue. The May 1993 Ararat Report contained substantial evidence that other alleged Ark eyewitnesses on the show also are hoaxers. Even more substantial evidence regarding these people being hoaxers has been published in earlier issues of Ararat Report, and all back issues were in Balsiger's possession prior to the completion of the show's production. Further, Balsiger was specifically warned that the people he was using were not credible. -jjl]