A close encounter with a travelling Arkeologist.
New Zealand was recently treated to a visit by what was proclaimed as “probably the best known archaeologist in the world”, a chap by the name of Ron Wyatt. He was claiming to give us evidence that he had found the site of Noah’s Ark, among many other things.
It sounded interesting and, as I had never heard of this fellow, I thought I would go along to his meeting in Thames for a good stir. However, I first took the precaution of doing some poking around on the Internet to see what I could find out about this world-famous man.
First of all, it turns out Wyatt has had no formal qualification in archaeology (he has, however, apparently trained as a nurse anaesthetist in the US), yet we were expected to believe he had solved single-handedly all the great mysteries that have eluded the world’s real archaeologists for hundreds of years. As well as Noah’s Ark, these include the discovery of the lost cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the site where the Red Sea parted to allow the Hebrews to escape from Egypt, the chest containing Moses’ tablets with the Ten Commandments, et cetera.
It also turned out that his site for the ark was the same one on Mt Ararat in Turkey where Australian geologist Ian Plimer had been involved in a lengthy court case with another “arkeologist” last year. His battle had been partly funded by the Australian Skeptics, but the outcome was not quite as positive as most skeptics would have liked.
It also emerged that his “ark” was nothing more than a natural rock formation, albeit an unusually shaped one. During the extremely well attended presentation, we were shown a video of a ground penetrating radar survey being undertaken at the site and listened to the excited comments of the scientists as they performed the tests. Yet we were not told that these same scientists later did further tests for Wyatt, including core drilling inside the “ark” (this was 10 years ago). The drilling consistently failed to find any of Wyatt’s “petrified wood” or “rivets” from the ark, just normal volcanic rock (basalt).
Statements they made after the drilling included the following:
I am absolutely convinced that the site contains no remains of Noah’s Ark
(geophysicist Baumgardner, 1996)
any statements made claiming this site as Noah’s ark…are at best wishful thinking and at worst outright deception
(geophysicist Fenner, 1992).
Yet Wyatt chose in his presentation to ignore these comments made by those qualified individuals who had worked on the site with him.
As a skeptic and geologist I obviously had lots of questions I would have liked to ask at the meeting. However, the audience microphone conveniently broke down at question time, so questions from the floor had to be repeated and sanitised by Wyatt for the benefit of the audience before he answered them. Each questioner was allowed only one question — pressure of time was the excuse given, but this actually meant stifling possibly critical questions and he needed plenty of time to sell his promotional books and videotapes at the end of the meeting.
I did manage to get my one question in concerning the geological findings on the site, but I would have loved to ask many others. Creationists believe that all fossils were created by the great flood, so at least two each of the various species of dinosaurs, mammoths, etc. would have to have been on board the 150m ark for the year it was at sea. Feeding them or growing enough food on the decks during all that rain would have surely been quite a problem.
I would have loved to ask Wyatt how all the moas, kiwis, koalas, etc. on the ark managed to get to their present homes. One can play around with drifting continental plates and land bridges all you like, but it seems to me that they would all have had to get their feet very wet at some stage of their journey.
I think the message for Skeptics is that we must be quick off the mark when these people come into our midst. We should let other skeptics know so we can get as many members to the meetings as possible, each with their one question. Notification of someone on the committee would be a good place to start, possibly through email if time is short. The Web can be an extremely useful source of information on these people, as they will often have spoken at meetings elsewhere and, as in Wyatt’s case, may even have their own Web site. Their opponents may also have sites.
Publicity stunts such as this tour do a great disservice to those scientists who undertake real archaeological exploration as well as those theology scholars who are searching for some real truth in the Bible stories. We must be vigilant and proactive.