We thought Freethought Today readers would enjoy the "inside scoop" about the initial claims made by Sun Productions in defending "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark," which aired on CBS in February, 1993.
The following is excerpted from the ofÞcial news release sent out by Sun Productions last summer, following a leak by TIME Magazine that "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark" featured a phony story of the Ark's "discovery" by George Jammal. Since then, Jammal, a Foundation member, has gone public to expose CBS and the series.
Following his speech at the 15th annual Freedom From Religion Foundation convention last October, The Los Angeles Times publicized Jammal's revelations, resulting in cancellation by CBS of future religious programming by Sun Productions. (See Freethought Today, November 1993).
The following is our research staff's response to the article in the July 5th issue of Time magazine, and to a similar story released by Associated Press on June 29th. Both articles asserted that George Jammal, one of our 50 expert interviewees used in The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark, fabricated his eyewitness account of seeing Noah's Ark on Mt. Ararat.
In examining the controversy generated by these articles, four issues must be addressed. First, who is making the claim that Mr. Jammal fabricated his Noah's Ark account? Secondly, did Sun perform due diligence in its research to determine whether Mr. Jammal's account was reliable? Thirdly, was the alleged Ark wood shown at the end of Mr. Jammal's interview authentic or a piece of doctored California pine? And fourth, is Mr. Jammal's expedition account of seeing the Ark still factual?
Who is making the claim that Mr. Jammal fabricated his Noah's Ark account?
Dr. Gerald Larue, professor emeritus of biblical history and archaeology at the University of Southern California says in Time that he "coached George Jammal, an acquaintance, to perpetrate the hoax, intended to expose the shoddy research of Sun International."
It seems from this statement that Dr. Larue is probably conducting some type of a vindictive campaign against Sun. This may be the result of his appearance as a skeptic in our show, "Ancient Secrets of the Bible I" which aired on May 15, 1992. According to Time magazine, Dr. Larue felt he was "set up as a straw man."
Dr. Larue, despite having taught both biblical history and biblical studies at USC, is a very outspoken individual on a number of controversial issues including being a frequent Bible critic. . . .
Did Sun perform due diligence in its research to determine whether Mr. Jammal's account was reliable?
One news interviewer went so far as to say we pulled Mr. Jammal off the street swallowing his tale without investigating the account for reliability. This is certainly not true as we investigated all of our Noah's Ark eyewitness accounts with due diligence before using them in the show. This is the investigative procedure followed in the Jammal eyewitness account:
1. We examined his Þrst and only known interview account given on June 10, 1986, to geologist and Ararat explorer Dr. John Morris. We then made our own extensive search to locate Mr. Jammal for a research interview. . . .
2. After locating Mr. Jammal in Long Beach, California, we conducted our own two-hour, audio taped, interrogative interview. We asked him a wide range of questions looking for ßaws and inconsistencies in his account.
3. We compared Mr. Jammal's 1986 and 1992 interviews and found excellent consistency between the two accounts, although the interviews were given six years apart.
4. We then gave Mr. Jammal's interview tapes to Dr. Paul Meier, a well-known California psychiatrist, co-founder of the 28 Minirth-Meier clinics across America, and author of 40 books on human behavior. Dr. Meier, who also served as the Þeld physician on Astronaut James Irwin's Noah's Ark expedition to Mt. Ararat, was asked to provide a psychiatric and content analysis of Mr. Jammal's account.
Here are Dr. Meier's comments from a July 10, 1992 letter addressed to Sun's Chief Researcher, David W. Balsiger:
"I have listened to the tapes you sent of the interviews you did with Ed [Davis] and George [Jammal]. I Þnd both of their accounts totally believable; and having been there myself, I know that their descriptions of the customs of the people and of the precise locations are all extremely accurate.
"Ed and George deÞnitely have different personality types and yet are very credible. Given George's personality type, I Þnd it logical that he would keep his discovery of Noah's Ark a secret after the death of his guide and after his disillusionment with God for allowing that to happen. . . ."
Dr. Meier also gave us the following on-camera interview regarding Mr. Jammal's account which ended up not being used due to show time restraints:
". . . So, he craves attention and when he and his friend Vladimir found the Ark, they were absolutely delighted. They felt special--special to God. George's childhood dream of being acceptable and deserving his father's attention was fulÞlled because God chose him to Þnd the Ark.
"They were delighted and they took pictures of each other. George took pictures of his friend Vladimir and then Vladimir took both cameras and moved back as far away from the Ark as he could to get a full view of the landscape so that if there was avalanche, they could still Þnd it and get back to the Ark.
"They made plans to secretly go down the mountain and not tell anyone until they got a Þlm crew because they wanted credit for Þnding it -- which you and I would too. Let's be honest! But, while Vladimir was taking a picture after backing up, he slipped and there was a rock slide and I know this is accurate. George wept while he was talking about it--and this was eight years later. Losing his friend Vladimir was devastating for him.
"Vladimir was crushed by a rock slide and fell into a crevasse and George was able to avoid [falling in] even though he was hit by some of the rocks. He lost his friend. I believe that on an unconscious level, George then, decided, 'I was right the Þrst time. I don't deserve my father's attention. I don't deserve to be a chosen one. Why me? Why did God choose me to Þnd the Ark? Maybe God doesn't want me to tell anyone it's here.'
"He became bitter and depressed. He developed anxiety and withdrew into himself for years. Then, he went to a debate a number of years later where he saw people arguing about whether or not the Bible was true and he thought: 'This is bigger than me. I need to get out and let people know that I saw the Ark and not just be withdrawn into myself any longer.'
"I Þnd this to be extremely credible. He felt ecstatic, special and overwhelmed with joy when he found the Ark. Then, when Vladimir died, he felt depressed for years afterwards.
"Professionally, the impact of Vladimir's death on George Jammal Þts a post-traumatic stress disorder and with therapy, he could work his way out of this. But he still has a lot of buried emotions which showed in his weeping during the interview and his very honest grief over the loss of his friend.
"Some of his descriptions were especially remarkable. His description of the Ark Þts exactly what I know to be true about the Ark from the secret government reconnaissance photos.
"I found Jammal's account to be very detailed, very accurate and very humble. He was vulnerable. He was honest and said he wanted the fame and yet he feels like he's wasted his life searching for fame.
"I just Þnd his story extremely credible and of the four accounts I analyzed, I believe his to be the most credible. His descriptions of the customs of the people, of the Ark itself and its location, are very accurate. These are things he could not have known from outside sources. He had no access to the reconnaissance photos and prior to that year, this information was not well-known. So, I totally believe George Jammal's account."
5. We also had Mr. Jammal's hand drawn map of his three Ararat expedition routes studied by Ararat/Ark expeditioneers and climbers. They conÞrmed the accuracy of it, and assured us that it could not have been drawn by anyone who did not have experience with the mountain.
Regarding Mr. Jammal's account of his eyewitness encounter with Noah's Ark, we as a production company did far more investigative research than normally undertaken by "reality shows" or most news shows. Based on the outcome of our investigative research on Jammal account, we included it in the show. For the record, we also did the same type of background research on the other eyewitness accounts before including them in the TV show.
Was the alleged Ark wood shown at the end of Mr. Jammal's interview authentic or a piece of doctored California pine?
Frankly, we do not know the answer to this question as Mr. Jammal's show segment had to do with his visit to the Ark and not whether the wood was authentic.
It has not been the practice of Sun or other production companies to spend money or time testing and documenting artifacts shown on the air by interviewees. If Sun undertook to test every artifact shown by our various experts we would be out of the entertainment business and stepping into the news side of TV broadcasting. This was not the direction or directive for this television network special.
Dr. Larue somehow believes it should have been our obligation to run carbon-14 tests on the wood apparently expecting us to "create news" instead of entertaining viewers by telling them what people have to say about this ancient mystery. Besides the carbon-14 test would not necessarily have proven that the wood was a forgery or anything else as the sample according to the Time article was contaminated by baking and juices. This would have prevented obtaining accurate carbon-14 dating results.
Is Mr. Jammal's expedition account of seeing the Ark still factual?
We still stand by Mr. Jammal's expedition account as being accurate based on the due diligence research we have conducted. . . .
We also take objection to the characterization by the news media that our entire Noah's Ark TV Special was a hoax. Mr. Jammal was only one of 50 experts that provided authoritative interviews on a wide range of subjects relating to the Noah's Ark mystery. Additionally, the TV Special told the Noah's Ark story as recorded in the Bible along with the presentation of historical data, scientiÞc experiments, and Ararat explorer accounts.
Furthermore, Mr. Jammal was only one of four Þlmed eyewitnesses who claimed to have had on-the-ground encounter with the Ark. Similar due diligence research was done on these other three Ark eyewitness accounts before including them into the show. No one has come forward with evidence that any of these remaining eyewitness accounts are perpetrated hoaxes on Sun International. We also stated at the end of the eyewitness accounts that it was up to the audience to decide whether their accounts were believable or not!