Hope Springs Eternal for Arkeologists

A WHANGAREI computer programmer is spearheading an expedition to prove Noah’s Ark exists, and that it lies about 2000 metres above sea level in Turkey (NZPA, 17 August). Ross Patterson is convinced that a mound of earth about 12km from Mt Ararat in Turkey contains the remains of the Ark, and says there is strong evidence that the events depicted in the Bible occurred. He had twice visited the site, almost 2000m above sea level and said a need to prove the theory and the associated religious implications had taken over his life.

Together with two other Northlanders, Geoff McColl and Des Palamountain, he is fundraising to revisit the site before the end of October, the end of the northern summer. The expedition hopes to add weight to earlier research by controversial American author, the late Ron Wyatt, who claimed to have identified petrified timber and rivets made of iron, as well as structures resembling bulkheads, by scanning with radar. Large stones found at nearby villages also resembled anchor stones, Mr Patterson said.

The mound also matched measurements of the ark described in the Bible and a drilling operation revealed animal hair deep inside the mound. The Turkish Government had since acknowledged the site, Mr Patterson said. “What we intend to do … is to place a small camera into the hole to see if there are any man-made structures under there,” he said. Any evidence pointing to man-made structures beneath the surface would add credibility to Mr Wyatt’s research, he said.

If the expedition did not shed any light on the subject then those on the team would be the first to accept it. “People can make up their own minds. The public are a jury. Our job is to present the evidence and the case. They make up their own minds. It’s like in court; you have to prove things beyond reasonable doubt,” Mr Patterson said. “We expect to find something but, if we don’t find something, we have to be fair. ”

New Zealand Skeptics spokesman Denis Dutton was critical of the expedition. He said the great flood legend was older than the Old Testament itself. It went back to a pre-Homeric epic originating from the ancient civilisation of Mesopotamia. “It’s a shame that people can’t appreciate the rich literary and moral teachings of the Old Testament for that. Moral information, yes; literal history … get a grip,” he said.

Abduction Researcher Dies

John Mack, the Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry who conducted research on people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, has died (Waikato Times, 2 October). He was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver while attending a TE Lawrence Society symposium in Oxford, England. He was 74.

Dr Mack won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, and also wrote two books, Abduction (1994) and Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters (1999) detailing his work with claimed alien abductees. He reported they came from all walks of life, generally had no evidence of mental illness, and often had a heightened sense of spirituality and environmentalism.

In 1994 the Harvard Medical School established a committee to review his clinical investigation and initiated proceedings to determine whether he should retain tenure. After the 14-month investigation the school “reaffirmed Dr Mack’s academic freedom to study what he wishes”.

Maori Spiritual Concerns Sink Inlet Proposal – or Do They?

It’s always interesting to see media reports of events which have a personal connection. This writer had a small role in assembling and assessing some of the ecological evidence at the Environment Court hearing into the plan to put floodgates across the mouth of the Manukau Harbour’s Pahurehure Inlet, and was somewhat surprised at the prominence given in newspaper articles to Maori spiritual concerns as a reason for the court’s finding against the plan (NZ Herald, 29 July).

The proposal, which would have seen the inlet, near Papakura, flooded for up to four days at a time for recreational purposes, was opposed by the Ngati Tamaoho Trust. Although concerns for the “wairua” of the inlet and wider harbour were a factor, the court found the plan’s long term ecological effects had not been adequately addressed in the proposal. Changes to the inlet are being driven by siltation from terrestrially derived sediments, and reducing water flows by closing off the inlet will only exacerbate this. There was also no mention in the newspaper report that it was Council, not Maori, who decided to pull out of mediation and take the case to the Environment Court. Another reminder, if one was needed, that media reports of anything need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Healing Tape Comes Unstuck

Darrell Stoddard, founder of the US-based Pain Research Institute, invited sufferers of severe knee pain to take part in a free double-blind placebo-controlled study at a Wellington hotel, which he hoped would show his knee treatment, Biotape, works (Dominion Post, 22 July).

Only 40 people were needed, many others were turned away. There was an excited buzz as knees were shaved by Mormon elders before they strapped on the black tape. When asked why Mormons were there, Mr Stoddard said they were helping him.

A sheet of Biotape strips, which costs about $15, is described as a “space-age conductive mylar that connects the broken circuits that cause the pain.” Mr Stoddard said it worked on the chi or energy force.

Commerce Commission director of fair trading Deborah Battell, however, said Mr Stoddard and American company Smart Inventions had been accused by the US Federal Trade Commission of making false or unsubstantiated claims that Biotape treated or cured severe pain.

Volunteers were told they would get the trial results in three days, but four days later they were still waiting (Dominion Post, 26 July).

“There was very little explanation but we were told we would be informed in three days’ time whether we had been given placebo or the tape,” said volunteer Peter Kidd. “The funny thing is one of knees with the tape on does seem to feel less painful. Though I suppose it could be psychological.”

Mr Stoddard said he could not provide the information until a “distinguished local doctor associated with the study” – former Cook Islands prime minister Sir Tom Davis – returned from Auckland.

Psychic Scam Given Short Shrift

Dominion Post journalist Fran Tyler was unimpressed by “internationally renowned” psychic Maria Duval’s latest mailout (Dominion Post, 11 August). Ngaio woman Chrissy Bell was presumably one of thousands who received a letter from Ms Duval promising to make her rich beyond her wildest dreams – for just $39.95 (plus $10 postage and handling).

Out of all the billions of people on planet Earth, Ms Duval, who has given up a very lucrative career foretelling the future, had chosen Ms Bell for one final selfless act, the letter said.

The letter did not point out that its author featured on such websites as Consumer Online’s scams page, and the NZ Consumer Affairs Ministry’s Scamwatch. And why did someone who claims to be the “only clairvoyant granted an audience by a representative of Pope John Paul II” choose Ms Bell?

“I did some research,” says the letter. “I faced thousands of cases. People working really hard to earn just enough to live on… I can tell you it wasn’t an easy decision. But it’s you I’ve chosen…”

That doesn’t explain how she got Ms Bell’s name, Fran Tyler comments. Perhaps it was in a vision.

Ms Bell said she was not tempted at all. “If she’s so good, why doesn’t she just do the [Lotto] numbers herself instead of sending out letters asking for money?”

The Dominion Post tried to contact Ms Duval to give her the opportunity to prove her psychic ability, but her Auckland address, listed as a suite in a building in Newmarket, turned out to be just a mail box. Should’ve had a Bravo Award, this one.

Door knocking Ghost Closes College

A ghost who knocks on doors and leaves the scent of aftershave in corridors has forced a prestigious college for statisticians to close (Waikato Times, 27 September). Students of the Indian Statistical Institute said the ghost of a dead classmate had knocked on doors, jostled them on staircases and left traces of aftershave lotion and cigarette smoke. Students linked the aftershave aroma to a first-year student who died recently.

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