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Journal of No. 118

September 24th, 2014

Gerald Larue, RIP @ 10:41 pm

I got word that Professor Gerald Larue passed away recently at the enviable age of 98. There's a certain irony, I think, in the first president of the Hemlock Society living so long. I can't claim to have really met him, but I did bump into him at a debate on evolution/creationism between libertarian creep Mike Shermer and liar for Christ Duane Gish, 25 years ago at UCLA.

Larue was an interesting fellow. An early life of faith led him to study the bible and to profess biblical history and archaeology at USC for many years. But by that point, he had become decidedly skeptical.

One particular stunt stands out, and it's hard to untangle, since so many stories tell it out of order.

In 1985, a certain George Jammal wrote a letter to creationist Duane Gish, announcing that (after many travails) he had obtained a piece of Noah's Ark. Many, even in the creationist camp, had doubts, but...

In the early 90s, when Sun International Pictures wanted to make a documentary about the ark, Henry Morris of the Institute of Creation Research, gave them Jammal's name.

Sun's documentary, "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark," which included Jammal's claims, aired on CBS.

Larue declared the whole thing to be a hoax.

Sun International Pictures doubled down. Quoting Talk Origins:

The secondary defense consisted of four parts: (1) That Sun had examined Morris' interview with Jammal. (2) That Sun had conducted their own two-hour audio taped interview looking for inconsistencies in Jammal's story. (3) That Sun compared the two interviews and found them to be consistent with each other. (4) That Sun gave Jammal's interview tapes to psychiatrist Paul Meier, who pronounced Jammal credible. By late September, Sun added a fifth defense: (5) That Sun had Jammal's hand-drawn map of Ararat and his expedition routes examined by Ararat expeditioneers who "assured us that it could not have been drawn by anyone who did not have experience with the mountain."

Reaction from CBS and the ICR was similar: "CBS, Sun, and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) set out to control the damage to their credibility by defending the program against the criticisms of Larue. Since Jammal was continuing to defend his story, at first the three organizations went on the offensive against Larue. CBS Entertainment President Jeff Sagansky stated that "There was clearly a hoax perpetrated ... we're not sure whether it was on Sun International and CBS or whether it was on Time magazine." A press release from Sun called it "sad and unfortunate that Dr. LaRue [sic], a distinguished USC professor, would victimize Mr. Jammal and his family to execute a third party hoax in which he was the primary benefactor." John Morris, the Administrative Vice President of the ICR, made much of Larue's "long association with humanistic and anti-Christian organizations" and concluded that "This is hardly the resume of an objective critic." All defended the overall quality of Sun's research."

In 1993, "the Long Beach Press-Telegram--Jammal's hometown newspaper--ran a story about the hoax. In the story, Jammal did not admit to a hoax, but stated in response to a question about his religious background that "If I told you that, you'd know the secret." The reporter noted in the article that a poem framed in glass on Jammal's piano begins, "Humanism is a philosophy for people who think for themselves ....""

And so, eventually, Jammal revealed the deliberate hoax, and that Larue had been in on it with him from the beginning. They offered up a chunk of railroad tie marinated in teriyaki sauce, and creationists either bought it, or were happy to let other 'liars for Christ' perpetrate a fake on the public.
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Date:September 25th, 2014 06:24 am (UTC)

That's outstanding. Love it! I also love:

In the letter, he reports the names of those who assisted him. The man whose family aided him was "Mr. Asholian." His companion who died was a "Polish friend" of Mr. Asholian's son-in-law, named "Vladimir Sobitchsky." The son-in-law, whose full name is conspicuously absent from Jammal's later accounts, is given in the Gish letter as "Allis Buls Hitian."

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Date:September 27th, 2014 11:11 pm (UTC)
Oh my god. This is amazing.

I grew up on ICR material, including this documentary! Henry Morris, John Morris, and Duane Gish were fed to me with a spoon!

I am STILL to this day unlearning the details of the "earth is 6000 years old" creationism I internalized as a kid.
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Date:September 28th, 2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
Glad this made your day. And also good to hear you're excited about the new job.

Journal of No. 118