1 Noah's Ark in Court
2 Plimer: Down But Not Out
NOAH'S ARK IN COURT
( Investigator 55, 1997 July)
"It's just a mud flow which by sheer coincidence is 300 cubits long. The site is a perfectly normal geological formation." (Professor Plimer – Today Tonight Channel 7 Adelaide June 2)
The Noah's Ark case of April 1997 lasted seven days. The case heard in the Federal Court in Sydney was about infringement of the Trades and Practices Act and about copyright.
Dr Allen Roberts had been billed in tapes as archaeological research consultant to an organization called Ark Search founded in 1992. At lectures on a fundraising tour he showed pictures of a boat-size hill which he said scientific tests showed contained the remains of Noah's Ark. (Investigator 1992 May)
He said for example, "I could see several evenly spaced vertical, ribbed, columns on the starboard side..." (Today Tonight June 2)
At a Melbourne meeting Ian Plimer, professor of geology at Melbourne University, protested against Roberts' interpretations. Brawny security guards tried to remove Plimer. After further public criticisms including the claim that Roberts' credentials are false, a writ was served by Roberts for defamation.
Plimer, however, got Roberts in court first. He claimed that Roberts and Ark Search had traded in manifestly false claims.
In April Plimer said in a radio interview, "It is a consumer case concerned with the education of our kids… I don't think we should be teaching creation science to children as science."
The Bulletin quoted Plimer as saying, "The science the creationists use is my science, geology, and it is codswallop." (April 18)
The Creation Science Foundation centred in Queensland was not involved but claimed Plimer wants to discredit it. Chief executive officer Dr Carl Wieland said on radio, "We believe the Bible to be true. We believe the book of Genesis is fundamental to the gospel. We believe its teachings were not meant to be parable or myth ... but were confirmed by Jesus Christ as truthful." (April 8)
However, Wieland distanced himself from Ark Search: "Just as there are hardly any Viking ships left today you wouldn't expect a boat to last 4,000 years especially on a mountain with glaciers."
An article in The Weekend Australian said, "No recent or contemporary Biblical scholar of any probity has ever argued that the books of the Bible are scientific texts." (April 12-13) The article claimed that Christian schools get Federal funding yet: "seal off students...from all but a narrowly religious interpretation". This can lead to "confusion" and "disaster" later at tertiary level.
According to The Bulletin (March 18) Australia has 300 Christian fundamentalist schools teaching 60,000 students this being "8% of the non-government school sector." About 2/3 of the schools are entitled to receive government grants.
David Fasold, a former Ark believer of Oregon, USA, joined Plimer's action. He claimed that diagrams of Noah's Ark in his 1988 book The Ark of Noah were published in a book by Roberts without permission.
Popular Mechanics magazine (1996 December) said Fasold headed an investigation of a ship-size hill 20 miles from Mount Ararat. The writer claimed: "The radar imagery at about 82 ft. down from the stern is so clear that Fasold could count the floorboards between the walls." Apparently this information was out of date and Fasold now thinks differently.
John Heininger of the Religious Freedom Institute expressed concern that if Plimer won then all religious leaders who received money or material benefits from religious beliefs would be at risk of having to prove those beliefs in court. The Institute is made up of people concerned about attacks on religious freedom. (The Advertiser April 27)
Some observers saw the case as a personal feud – Plimer wanting to publicly refute Ark claims as being anti science and false and using the law as his means. Roberts' defence counsel Malcolm Duncan called the case a stunt to attract publicity and put "creationism on trial".
Colourful characters were cross examined in court by barristers of opposing sides. There was some mention of the great issues of Genesis and of the alleged Ark. According to testimony the "petrified animal dung" at the supposed site of Noah's Ark are really spherical boulders common to the area; "drogue stones" (anchor stones) are simply boulders; and "slag" from a supposed smelting process are lumps of basalt. There was even a written affidavit from Ronald Wyatt of Tennessee (USA) who called himself the "discoverer of Noah's Ark"! But most emphasis was on legal aspects.
The judge – Justice Ronald Sackville – expressed concern that if ideological disputes are taken to court it threatens "freedom of discourse". In summing up on April 17 he said, "You don't need to see very far ahead to see how the litigation process can be used to stifle those who put forward views that may seem to be, to their opponents, ridiculous or even offensive." (The Australian April 18)
Ark Search went into liquidation a week before the trial.
On June 2
the judge found
that Dr. Roberts'
claims to have personally carried out scientific tests were false but
could not be prosecuted under the Trades and Practices Act.
PLIMER: DOWN BUT NOT OUT
(Investigator 55, 1997
"Creation science is synonymous with fraud, theft and lies," said Ian Plimer. "They never appear in a public debate. They target pubescent children."
Professor Plimer, geologist at the University of Melbourne, spoke to about 150 at a fund raising event in Adelaide on June 21.
In 1992 a Christian elder, Dr Allen Roberts, claimed he did research at the site of Noah's Ark in Turkey. He raised funds at public meetings where, "hired goons with truncheons" tried to remove Professor Plimer and other scientists. At question time a student asked, "How did the blind marsupial mole find its way back to Australia?" This met with cries of "Satan."
Professor Plimer spent $320,000 during 4 years preparing to take Roberts to court for "misleading and deceptive conduct" under the Trade Practices Act.
In June the judge found that Dr. Roberts made "false and deceptive claims" but was not in breach of the Act.
The Professor said, "This gives the green light to every snake oil salesman."
Present at the fundraising function was the Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Reverend Ian George. Claiming support of most scholars he called Noah's Flood an "etiological myth" which originated from a range of sources.
Next, Brian Miller, a wine marketer, listed the Bent Spoon recipients from 1982 to 1996. The Bent Spoon is awarded annually by the Australian Skeptics to an outstanding proponent of nonsense and went to Dr Roberts in 1992.
Next Professor Ian Gibbons, biologist at Flinders University, provided a "biological viewpoint of Noah's Ark":
The Ark needed to carry 5,000 species of mammals; birds 8,700; molluscs 120,000; worms 30,000; etc. All "clean beasts" would include 25,000 fish! All "creepings things" would include 30 million insects! The column of beetles marching into the Ark would have been 240 kilometres long!
Survival of pathogens/bacteria/parasites required each human on board to carry 100 diseases from anthrax to syphilis! Viruses supplied 400 diseases!
And what about waste disposal? Oxygen requirements through only one window? Methane production poisoning the air? Precise food and environmental requirements for all species? Disembarkation onto a dead earth?
reappeared and protested
the June decision: "We have to challenge the judgment! Otherwise it