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Noah battles Darwin in Australian courtroom

HDN | 4/14/1997 12:00:00 AM |

At the centre of the legal wrangle is a boat-like formation at Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey which Allen Roberts - former teacher and elder of a church that believes in the biblical account of creation - claims is the last resting place of Noah's Ark Compiled from news agencies Sydney - Creationism and the theory of evolution were at the centre of a court room battle in Australia Thursday for the fourth day running as an eminent geologist and a fundamentalist Christian slugged it out over the existence

  • At the centre of the legal wrangle is a boat-like formation at Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey which Allen Roberts - former teacher and elder of a church that believes in the biblical account of creation - claims is the last resting place of Noah's Ark

    Compiled from news agencies

    Sydney - Creationism and the theory of evolution were at the centre of a court room battle in Australia Thursday for the fourth day running as an eminent geologist and a fundamentalist Christian slugged it out over the existence of Noah's Ark.

    At the centre of the legal wrangle is a boat-like formation at Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey which Allen Roberts - former teacher and elder of a church that believes in the biblical account of creation - claims is the last resting place of Noah's Ark.

    The claim is being challenged by Professor Ian Plimer of the University of Melbourne under trades practices and consumer protection legislation.

    At the beginning of a trial billed by some as a battle between God and the "devil of science", Plimer said: "As a geologist, it's time to say this is codswallop".

    Roberts is also being sued in the same court by David Fasold, the American author of The Ark of Noah, over breach of copyright on drawings of the remains of the Ark contained in the book.

    Roberts told the court that he spent 75,000 U.S. dollars and nine years of his life trying to authenticate what he thought were the remains of the Ark on a Turkish mountainside.

    "I stopped throwing money into this site, this hole in the ground, in February 1995. I was very concerned that a mistake had been made," said Fasold, now a car salesman.

    The archaeological site believed by some Christians to be Noah's Ark was being used as Turkey's equivalent of the Loch Ness monster to raise research funds, Plimer claimed.

    Plimer, an Australian geology professor, said the site on Mount Ararat, which he believes is nothing more than a large mound of mud, was being used as an "income-generating mechanism" by the Turkish geologist in charge of the site.

    "I am sympathetic to the financial position he is in, but I am certainly not sympathetic to the scientific fraud," Plimer told the Federal Court of Australia.

    After visiting the Turkish site in 1994, Plimer said he challenged the site project leader about its authenticity. According to the Bible, Noah built the Ark to rescue his family and animals from a 40-day flood called down by a wrathful God.

    "He said he was using this site to raise funds from Christian fundamentalists. He said he doesn't believe in Noah's Ark and that this is his equivalent of Loch Ness," Plimer said referring to the mythical Scottish lake monster.

    "He has supported the views of various Christian fundamentalists that yes, this is the site of Noah's Ark. As scientist to scientist, in essence he apologised and said to me, 'Sorry, this is the only way I can fund my research'."

    Plimer and U.S. marine salvage expert David Fasold are suing creationist Allen Roberts for "misleading and deceptive conduct" in Australian lectures on his explorations of the Turkish site.

    Creationists believe the world was created over six days, as in the Book of Genesis, some 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

    The protagonists say the trial is not about the Biblical story of creation, but fair trading laws -- although many in the court including the judge see a battle between science and creationism just below the surface.

    Roberts, held hostage for three weeks by Kurdish separatists in 1991 after visiting the Turkish site, does not say he believes the Turkish site is Noah's Ark.

    "If this is not Noah's Ark, then what is it?" Roberts would ask in concluding his lectures.

    Plimer said he had found a golf tee and bits of plastic at the Turkish site, adding: "If Noah's Ark was 4,000 years old, the ancient game from St Andrews would not yet have been around."

    In the witness box, Plimer alleged that public lectures Roberts gave contained false and misleading information.

    "I was fearful that the young people who I saw in this lecture may have been misled by this person calling himself 'doctor'," he said.

    Roberts has a doctorate in Christian education from "Freedom University" in the United States.

    The case the world's first in which creationists have been challenged under consumer protection legislation.

    The courtroom drama has also been dubbed Monkey Trial II after the famous 1925 U.S. legal battle in which John Thomas Scopes, a high school science teacher in Tennessee, was tried for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution.

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