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Answers in Genesis (Australia)
Subject: Court case Plimer/Fasold vs Roberts/Ark Search
In April 1997, a court case was held in Australia which attracted international media attention as one of ‘creationists (or creation science) being taken to court’.
This release is from Australia’s leading creationist group, and one which has often been the target of the chief plaintiff in this case. It seeks to set the record straight concerning this and a series of related misleading claims.
For example, this court case has even been labelled, by its chief anti-creationist crusader, as the ‘Monkey Trial Mark 2’ (referring to the wellknown Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925 concerning the teaching of evolution).
As we will see, there is very little substance to this and other related claims. We think that much, if not all, of the media attention to what is really a rather trivial case bordering on pathos is only because of the misinformation involved.
The chief one of the protagonists gaining media attention is:
Ian Plimer, professor of geology at Melbourne University, recently named Australian Humanist of the Year, and a member of the Victorian Humanists, whose membership form involves a signed commitment to work to "help create a society...free from supernatural beliefs" (thus against any idea of the Christian God).
This is the same Ian Plimer whose book, Telling Lies for God, was squarely aimed against Creation Science Foundation in Australia. Apart from lampooning, it consisted largely of a series of dramatic and allegedly ‘documented’ charges against the ethics of the Foundation (a non-denominational Christian ministry) and its directors. Presumably Plimer, in brazenly supplying documentation references which, when checked, would deny his charges, was counting on the majority of readers taking his word, as a leading academic. He had already boasted in print of having made himself a ‘man of straw’ in anticipation of being sued by us when his book came out.
In fact, each one of these ‘charges’ was carefully checked by a prominent committee which the Foundation invited to form. This committee was composed of Christians with a high public profile, from a range of denominations, people who had substantial public reputations independent of the Foundation.
The Chairman was Clarrie Briese, former Chief Magistrate of the State of New South Wales, where he is still a household word for his dogged fight against public corruption which ended the career of a State Chief Magistrate, and an Australian High Court judge and former government minister.
The committee found strongly against the fabrications in the Plimer book, which book Plimer had widely touted across Australia. A clever media performer, he had engaged the services of a naive but wellknown Archbishop who was also a wellknown media figure to help in his publicity campaign, which was aimed at wiping out the Foundation’s credibility (and support) among Australia’s Christians once and for all.
As it turned out, the Plimer campaign served to strengthen our support substantially and permanently; as people saw the depths to which someone would sink in an effort to discredit his philosophical opponents, they drew some obvious conclusions.
The committee’s findings, and its makeup, were published widely in Australia’s 2 leading newspapers (we took out large display advertisements). Press releases were sent to all media outlets.
On the one side, Ian Plimer and David Fasold; on the other, Allen Roberts and the organisation Ark Search. As we understand it, some years back, Roberts launched an action for defamation against Plimer because of public comments made by Plimer about Roberts. We think that the case by Plimer etc against Roberts and Ark Search began as a defensive counter-measure to attempt to neutralise the defamation case against Plimer. It involves two components:
To the best of our knowledge, neither Roberts nor Ark Search have ever held themselves out to be ‘creation scientists’ or part of the creation science movement, nor would we or any other creation science organisation have labelled them as such.
We understand that Ark Search was formed purely to promote the excavation of a site in Turkey which they believed was likely to hold the remains of the Ark.
Ark Search is/was composed of Christians who believe the Bible, and its account of the global Flood - but so does a huge chunk of the US population, for example, without being part of ‘the creationists’ or being involved in pressure aimed at overturning any teaching in schools, or being part of any creation science or anti-evolution ministry, or whatever.
Naturally, the claim by Roberts/Ark Search, though not made by anyone in the creation science movement, was of interest to the creation/evolution issue, so we investigated it. In 1992, our staff geologist Andrew Snelling (Ph.D, University of Sydney) authored a lengthy report showing why the peculiarities of this site could confidently be diagnosed as features of a natural geological formation. See Could this be Noah’s Ark?
We are of the view that various ‘researchers’ made misleading claims upon which Roberts and Ark Search relied in good faith.
One of these ‘researchers’ was David Fasold, who has now repudiated the site as the Ark, and has joined forces with Plimer, claiming that Roberts used much of his material without permission. Another upon whom they appear to have relied was a Ron Wyatt of Tennessee, who has made a series of ‘amazing discoveries’ in the realm of Biblical archeology, none of which has any real independent support (eg, he claims to have also ‘found’ the Ark of the Covenant, the chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea, and so on).
It is this same Ron Wyatt, with his propensity for the outlandish (whose claims are not accepted as true by any reputable creationist group of which we know anywhere in the world) who is being asked to come and testify at the forthcoming trial. We are given to understand by one of the other witnesses who has been subpoenaed, that Wyatt is being flown to Australia ‘all expenses paid’ by the Plimer camp. It is not hard to see the tactic - any bizarre claim Wyatt makes on the stand can be attributed to ‘creationist’ belief, relying on the media not to be highly motivated to point out the difference.
That Plimer has had eight lawsuits initiated and withdrawn by creationist organisations in Australia and America - he is allegedly ‘sick of being sued’.
We know of not one lawsuit against Plimer by any creationist organisation known to us - and all of the major, even the minor players worldwide are in close contact with us. This is consistent with previous attempts by Plimer to paint himself as a persecuted victim of powerful, sinister forces.
That this case is somehow linked to a sinister political campaign to compel the teaching of creation in the schools. Plimer’s self-portrayal (aided by compliant fellow associates of the Australian Skeptics and Humanists in prominent media positions, eg Phillip Adams) has been that of a lone, courageous stand which, if not supported with enough cash donations, could end up with ‘the creationists’ triumphantly able to brainwash innocent schoolchildren with sectarian dogma.
As previously indicated, the defendants being sued by Plimer have not had anything to do with a campaign for creation in science education. At most, they claimed to have evidence which suggested to them that they had located a significant relic which, if the claim were substantiated, would give strong support for the history of the world given in the Bible.
Plimer’s previous efforts at neutralizing his real target in all this, i.e. the actual creation science movement in Australia, have repeatedly involved this sort of scaremongering to arouse public sympathy for his obsessional crusade - the spectre of religious extremists targeting public schools, especially via the political route. Ironically, such an assault on public schools exists purely in Plimer’s lurid descriptions. We believe that our primary mandate is towards churches, to help and support Christian believers. We will speak in public schools if specifically invited, with the permission of the principal, but we never request entry or lobby for it in any way whatsoever. In fact, it is extremely rare for us to address a public school audience. Our aim is to see the church in general (not limited to any one denomination) recover its Biblical roots, and through such reformation once again revive society and see a great resurgence of trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, we believe that changing hearts and minds will change society, including education, the law, etc., not the other way around.
That Plimer’s ‘disproof’ of this alleged ‘Ark-site’ is somehow tantamount to disproving the Biblical description of the Flood and the Ark. If Plimer can succeed in showing that Roberts has made misleading claims, then creationism will have been ‘tried and found wanting’.
It has proven particularly difficult to encourage people, particularly in the media, to think logically in this matter.
Assume that a group was claiming to have found Cleopatra’s palace, selling booklets to help fund further excavations. A court case is launched alleging that their claimed discovery is mistaken, and that their booklets mislead. Whichever way the court eventually finds, it is clear that at no stage is the case in any shape or form about whether or not Cleopatra really did have a palace! Equally, the accuracy of whatever claims Roberts or anyone else may have made concerning one location does not bear on the question of whether or not there once was an actual Ark.
Having said all this, if Plimer’s case were to succeed concerning the Trade Practices Act, he may feel emboldened to attempt to apply it to other Christian claims. For instance, it is not inconceivable that a court, confronted with a string of ‘expert witnesses’ could find that resurrection of the dead were impossible, therefore anyone selling a Bible and saying that its contents were true would be liable under the same Trade Practices legislation.
While Plimer has announced that if he wins this case, his next target will be ourselves, his ultimate aim in attacking creationism is, we are convinced, the same as the stated aim of the Humanist Society to which he belongs. That is, to eliminate any vestiges of real Christianity from our society. He would have no qualms about liberal, evolution-based Christianity; most informed people are aware that this is merely humanism with a clerical face, having abandoned the very absolutes upon which historic Christianity has always been grounded.
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