Volume 2, Issue 8
April 24, 2012
Peer review for the archaeological evidence of Noah's Flood and Ark
AJS cover diluvian page 
The American Journal of Science (AJS), America's oldest scientific publication 



In the last newsletter I pointed out that however different their understanding of geology and the Bible, mainline and Creationist science share the same understanding of archaeology. Because both kinds of science fail to see the manifest archaeological evidence of Noah's Flood, neither will be able to explain NAMI's discovery though it appears to date from the time of the Flood and was discovered at the resting place of Noah's Ark given in the Bible. The problem is the confused archaeological understanding shared by both schools of science. 


The chronology used for prehistoric archaeology is based on Charles Lyell's stretched out geological eras which he created to accommodate his uniformitarian science and obscure what was previously understood as being from the Flood. Importantly, the older geology where a diluvian stratum was understood as belonging to a recent period of earth history differs entirely from the geology of today's Creationists. Creationists silently embrace Lyell's destruction of the diluvian because they want to see the Flood responsible for petrified fossils, more than 99% of the fossilized animals being creatures from the sea. Notice E.J. Pictet's reference to the diluvian in the article pictured above right from the 1861 issue of the American Journal of Science (AJS). America's  oldest scientific journal, edited by 19th-century America's most eminent scientists, was founded as a journal of Flood science!


The AJS now holds the position as the highest-ranked peer-reviewed earth science journal for the general publication of scientific knowledge. Peer review is having one's work reviewed by those capable of making an independent judgment. It is vital for determining whether claims are based on truth. It is likewise important for creating the communities necessary for advancing particular or even entire classes of truth. Those with scientific and scholarly training are aware of the importance of peer review. So is the Bible:
The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.[Prov. 18:17]


Peer review must be conducted in a forum that is truly open, free of dogma and from hidden interests that might bias the result. If something is true, it need not depend on institutional or government protection or the loyalty of those who support various schools of established opinion because it can withstand the most severe criticism. But what is claimed as peer review might not be truly independent or by those capable of expert judgment. Today, scientific endeavors from medicine to climate science are experiencing a crisis due to problems with supposed peer review. Knowing what constitutes authentic peer review assists not only in understanding those problems, but also for determining the proper procedures for review of the evidence that I have presented as due to Noah's Flood and that NAMI has presented as likely the remains of Noah's Ark. I hope this newsletter initiates a better discussion of this important subject.


Calls for scientific review of NAMI's discovery appeared from the day of their announcement. They came from fellow Ark searchers, from America's scientific establishment, from the Creationist community, and have since come from a group of Chinese pastors incensed that some of their brothers would tell the world what their own eyes had seen before obtaining scientific approval. The President of the prestigious American Schools of Oriental Research noted that NAMI was a rare Ark searching group in that they were working with the archaeological authorities, but he too called for peer review. (Click to hear Timothy Harrison's comments on NAMI's discovery in this interview for Canadian Television.) Numerous bogus claims for the discovery of Noah's Ark from the merely interesting to the highly ridiculous never obtained such a chorus calling for scientific review. How careless (or disingenuous) of these sanctimonious calls to ignore that NAMI's original announcement included an invitation for scientific confirmation.


Though NAMI was assisted by archaeological professionals prior to their announcement, they didn't need them or anyone else to understand what their eyes could see. NAMI had independently confirmed the discovery made by members of their team sufficiently to know what they had probably uncovered. Neither mainline archaeologists nor Creationists are particularly qualified to understand this discovery because as I explain above and as events have also demonstrated they are trained not to see Noah's Ark at such a place and just a time as one might expect from reading the Bible. Demands for such peer review is like insisting that all visual inspectors obtain their certification from the school for the blind. 


This explains why few of the great archaeological finds were made by professional archaeologists. The most famous archaeological discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls were precisely things that those trained in archaeology did not expect. Not only was NAMI's announcement in every way proper, it was essential for obtaining the attention and acquaintance of those most suitable for peer review of this discovery. It is the same reason that I published my book on the archaeological evidence of Noah's Flood, using much of my last two chapters calling for peer review.


An important question concerns just who are the "peers," those  independent investigators qualified to review NAMI's discovery?  My reason for weighing in was a twenty year investigation of the archaeological evidence of Noah's Flood, the first worldwide study ever done, also acquainting me with the many claims for the discovery of Noah's Ark, all of which I had rejected as unworthy of mention in my 400-page book. I didn't believe the remains of the Ark existed because I supposed that a ship that size would be hard to hide from so many searchers on this mountain. My mind was not closed to such a discovery and I was delighted to investigate their announcement. I have no rival theory to defend and however highly I regard NAMI, I am an independent voice. 


Many have questions about what I write but don't ask them either because they don't have the expertise or time and resources to investigate. I trust that everyone would like to hear from those who do have expertise in the multitude of fields that I address in radically new ways. So would I. The problem when it comes to the subject of origins is the fact that it engages so many fields.


Consider evolution, the reigning dogma of mainline science. There is no field or speciality called evolution. There are only biologists of various kinds, paleontologists of various kinds, geneticists of various kinds, geologists of various kinds, and so forth. There are surprisingly few books covering the world's evolutionary origins and those that do exist are mostly written by journalists. Few are written by genuine scientists because responsible scientists are reluctant to write about fields outside their expertise. We tend to forget that even the best scientist is but a layman outside his specialized field(s). Keep this in mind when you hear the pronouncements of Richard Dawkins or the opinions of Francis Collins, however much esteem the latter deserves for decoding the human genome.


This must also be true of the present writer whose chosen field is difficult to characterize. One might use prehistorian, a term I don't like because I don't believe in prehistory. I can count with my fingers the great prehistorians from the last two hundred years since this field was conceived. But they are disappearing. My work also encompasses ancient and general history. Unlike the great world historians of the past such as James Breasted, Oswald Spengler, and Arnold Toynbee, those writing ancient and general world histories today are just surveyors of specialized historians. The new general histories are terribly boring because they never add any new insight and I rarely learn anything from them that I don't already know. Toynbee may have been the last to think about the history that he surveyed, but he was severely rebuked by specialists who easily demolished his favorite theories with details and facts which they better knew. How much more danger I face for venturing into the natural historical sciences! But my profession of system engineering accustoms me to require specialists to defend their foundation assumptions and to know that few of them will be able to do so.


The Creationists have a better term for what I do: origins. My peers in the field of origins include young and old earth Creationists together with the evolutionists so long as they possess integrity and demonstrate independence of thought. In my last newsletter, I expressed admiration of members from all these fields either for their integrity or for independent thinking. I neglected to mention an old earth Creationist, but I should mention Hugh Ross among those who think independently about origins. So long as they are willing to entertain questions about their own school's dogma, these and those who work with them are peers in the greater field of origins and should be capable of criticizing some of the things that I have written on the Flood and related matters.

For the reason I explain above, none among these peers concerned with origins venture into archaeology and ancient history to the depth necessary to review my book. Those more familiar with this subject would be members of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). ASOR is the covering organization for a multitude of archaeologists and institutions concerned with archaeology related to the Bible. They work closely with the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL), the covering organization for biblical scholars. Some of this group have looked into the various claims for the discovery of Noah's Ark and made public comments or criticisms of NAMI's first announcement. Among these are ASOR members Eric Cline, Robert Cahill, and ASOR President Timothy Harrison (see above). Though I disagree with his approach to archaeology, I regard Cline, associate director of the Megiddo excavation pictured on the cover of my book, as possessing integrity. I do not personally know Robert Cahill, but position alone is sufficient to know that Timothy Harrison is highly esteemed among biblical and secular archaeologists.
I agree with Eric Cline that the searching for sensational discoveries related to the Bible has begotten an industry of nonsense and fraud. Still, I discover that many of those who have long studied the various claims and traditions have important knowledge and are probably better equipped than Cline, who relies too much on dogma, for spotting problems with bogus claims. With regard to the peers for evaluating NAMI's discovery, everyone should respect Gerrit Aalten and John MacIntosh who have a long interest and knowledge of the various claims for Noah's Ark, especially on Mount Ararat. All archaeologists should value those with knowledge of local area and traditions relevant to this discovery. NAMI's value of the knowledge possessed by Kurdish locals and Turkish scientists was key to their discovery.


Most telling as to the apparent authenticity as well as importance of NAMI's discovery is that criticism came from groups normally opposed and unwilling even to regard one another's opinions before this discovery. There were atheists groups quoting as their authority an "archaeologist" formerly known from televangelist programs and conferences devoted to end-time prophecy. The televangelist archaeologist in turn quoted as his authority, David Hume, history's most famous skeptic of the miracles of the Bible! That's a diverse group wishing to be part of peer review for NAMI's discovery.


Just as opposition to NAMI's announcement created strange bedfellows, I predict the same will be true of those who treat this discovery with the seriousness and dignity it deserves. Respect for NAMI's discovery has come from both mainstream scientists and Creationists, from Ark searchers, and from those like myself who belong to none of these communities. It has come from Christians who believe that their faith is based on historical truth and from those who have previously dismissed faith for the same reason. It is these Christian leaders, scholars, and gentlemen who demonstrate that they are not wedded to dogma and are committed to truth who are the peers for investigating NAMI's discovery. However much opposition they face from skeptics and dogmatists, their work will be long remembered. 


Best regards,
Philip Williams
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In this issue
Peer review for the archaeological evidence of Noah's Flood and Ark
Why the new silence about searches for Noah's Ark?
The importance of integrity and dignity in the search for truth
Dogma versus peer review
Formal credentials and their limitations


Why all the silence about searches for Noah's Ark?
Because charges and criticism are also subject to peer review  
The most effective way to oppose a claim or objection is to ignore it whenever possible, especially if difficult to refute. That was the fate of the last world-class geologists and biologists who offered powerful evidence and arguments in response to the geology of Charles Lyell and the biology of his even more famous student, Charles Darwin. It remains the fate of any who would challenge current science in favor of the Bible.


That strategy is not possible when those working with archaeological authorities produce photos and videos from the heights of Mt. Ararat of what appears the remains of Noah's Ark. That interests people holding all types of beliefs and is something that even children can understand. It is also an opportunity for those claiming special knowledge or expertise related to such a claim. Despite their rhetoric, professional archaeologists and those who would be experts love sensational claims because it gives them badly needed attention from the media. What explains the recent silence, whether of claims or criticisms of searches for Noah's Ark?


The biggest reason of course is waiting on NAMI's next announcement, which is like waiting for Apple's next big thing. Another is that the ordinary type of Noah's Ark claims and discussions no longer seem interesting even to Ark searchers and to those who deeply believe in Noah's Ark. But there is a third reason why, aside from this newsletter, there is so little recent mention of NAMI's discovery. It is because the original accusers and chief critics have discovered that they will be held accountable for their own speculative claims and specious criticisms.


The point here is that peer review is a two-way street. Those who engage in it also make claims if they have any serious criticism. Those claims are no less subject to criticism and peer review as those who offer remarkable evidence for things that are remarkable. This explains why those continuing to make charges against NAMI's discovery at least avoid publishing their charges. Notwithstanding this lack of courage for publishing, the gossip that has replaced it manifestly lacks integrity.


Importance of integrity, humility, and dignity in the search for truth
The sine qua non of peer review 
Integrity is just another word for truthfulness. It means believing the same thing on Monday as on Sunday. It means telling the same account to all parties. It means saying the same thing in public as one tells in private. No one is without error, but integrity means quickly correcting rather than covering up mistakes and errors of judgment. It means that one doesn't close his ears to charges concerning integrity whether or not published. They must either be acknowledged or refuted, or one must separate himself from those refusing to do so.
Regardless our relevant knowledge and experience, peer review requires the integrity of all involved. Though scandal upon scandal reveals that all types of institutions lack it and though becoming uncommon in a world that is ever more dominated by profit-seeking and opportunism, integrity remains essential for peer review. Scientists and scholars put great stock in integrity because it is essential for fair judgment and reasoning. If there is but one reason to suspect integrity, as in the case of one rotten apple in a barrel, his entire work becomes suspect. One must never trade integrity for short-term success because integrity is the sine qua non of peer review.
Not surprising, whether it be individuals or all those engaged in a common enterprise, those who lack integrity avoid peer review. They may have something they wish to hide, including motives other than the discovery of truth. Or they may not wish for their inadequacy to be exposed. In truth, all of us are inadequate in some areas and none of us enjoy seeing that exposed unless we really love truth. It is an important reason for seeking the maximum peer review before publication and for teaming with those with different but important relevant knowledge and skills. If we are wise, we will seek peer review privately before we obtain it publicly. If we avoid peer review, we limit the influence of our hard work because open peer review must occur for any matter to become widely accepted. Instead of making history, we may just create but another school or cult founded upon some new dogma.
Great scientists and scholars seek knowledge because they are unimpressed with what they presently know. Humility causes them to listen more carefully and seriously to more kinds of people. Humility also comes from having one's work criticized as happens through peer review. It pays to be humble because we are all human and therefore we all make mistakes. Pride not only leads to mistakes, it also keeps us from admitting and correcting them.
Some may be surprised at my mention of the importance of kindness in the search for truth. One reason is that both asking questions and asking for questions are vital in the search for truth. Unkind responses causes people to avoid both. All of us will stumble, and we will then need assistance because the road to truth is the way of repentance or self-correction. People need to know that it is OK to make mistakes so long as we confess and correct them. What this also means is that all those who complete their journey will be understanding, kind, and grateful to all who have shown them kindness.
Kindness and graciousness are essential ingredients in something else that is necessary for the search for truth, the matter of dignity for all involved. Sadly, respecting the dignity of one's opponents is too missing in a world that is becoming increasingly coarsen. Discussions of origins become a circus as each side appeals to their own with sound bites and jokes at the expense of their opponents. That is foolish because due to not listening, it causes them to ignore their opponents better evidence and arguments. Many academics feel they must joke just to license their involvement in discussions about Noah's Ark, but from the era of Billy Sunday and Harry Rimmer, there have been Christians and Creationists who build ministries making jokes about evolutionists who hold beliefs from honest conviction. That led to the circus of the Scopes Trial which damaged our world's understanding of origins more than any arguments. When Christians do that we place our confidence in culture that is soon to change instead of the great and holy Lord God of the Bible. 
Everyone should know that the question of origins is serious, the answers affecting the very direction of our world. Those involved with these discussions should exemplify all the fruits of the Spirit from sincerity and humility to treating all their opponents with complete dignity. Together with good answers, doing this will surely change the present direction of our world.
Dogma versus peer review
The first from the religion of the pagans, the latter from the God of the Bible *


Today, we associate dogma with religion and peer review with science. To a great extent, this is accurate though science is increasingly dominated by dogma. Likely, moderns are also unaware that testing and peer review, now associated with the scientific method, are rooted in the Bible. Peer review was only introduced to the world of science in the 17th century by biblical-oriented scientists to replace dogmatic Aristotelian science. The word dogma ('correct opinion') derives from the ways of the ancient Greek schools of philosophy which allowed their students to be exposed to no teachings but their own. It was natural that they would do this because the Greek philosophical schools developed from competing pagan religious cults. Keep in mind that ancient religion, especially pagan religion, did not separate science from religion or either from practical knowledge.


Polytheistic paganism was unlike faith in the God of the Bible where there is only one God and one truth. In the case of biblical faith, disputes that could not be locally resolved were brought to the one place designated by God for conflict resolution and where resided his priests. Those allowed to go there had to have clean hands and motives, but what was resolved there enjoyed universal respect among believers. Since the God of the Bible is also the God of truth, there was no concern that his teachings would be endangered by exposure to truth. This explains why the Lord God forbade worship at high places which only led to divisions of polytheism and idolatry. An essential feature of biblical faith is prophetic criticism which might come from any believer regardless his position. Prophetic criticism is essentially open peer review.


Pagan religion was both polytheistic and local. As pagan religion shifted from local observance to schools of philosophy, dogma replaced local cults as a means of protecting pagan doctrines from the challenge of conflicting teachings. Though schools of dogma already existed when the Roman government obtained control of the Church, certain dogma became instituted within Christianity. The Roman state had replaced the power of righteousness and truth for establishing Christian belief, but that kind of power corrupts truth. Neither does the great and living God of the Bible, need the support of kings in the manner of idols and pagan gods.


The great difference between ancient philosophy and modern science was the replacement of the way of dogma by allowing the presentation and discussion of ideas free from the control of authorities, even allowing criticism of established beliefs. Some may wonder how freedom of belief could have arisen among Christians, all of whom were committed to the authority of the Bible. The reason is precisely that all were committed to authority of the Bible though they disagreed over the interpretation and in some case even the translation of the Bible. 


One may forget that criticism requires some body of beliefs by which to judge new claims, even if various things in that body of belief continues to be challenged. Science has such a body of beliefs as do those who trust in the Bible. The truth of the Bible has been often challenged by those who trust in various bodies of scientific knowledge. Our problem today is that the foundations of our scientific knowledge has not had faced such challenges. That is, until now.

*Line drawings by Hogarth
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Formal credentials 
They are important for many things in our world, but relevant expertise and independence are more to the point  for peer review*


Hogarth's Scholars

A great problem in peer review is knowing just who is qualified to judge particular claims. Even guessing who might be best qualified requires considerable knowledge of the applicable subject. Possessing advanced degrees in higher education is not sufficient. Thus, various fields have professional organizations, certifications, and policing, some which are mostly academic, but others, as in medicine and engineering, that have social and industrial importance. Those pertaining to historical sciences such as archaeology are chiefly academic. To the extent and for the very reason that they are academic, they may also be insulated from the kind of accountability that occurs in issues immediately affecting our world.


The best peer review within the historical science occurs in fields that are rapidly advancing, producing results that obtain the world's attention. Here peer review works well because those working in these fields know who are producing important results. Those who study under the stars that advance particular fields are more esteemed among their peer group than those with formal qualifications. The particular professor or school that one's tutelage belongs is more important than degree. For those advancing the state of the art, formal qualifications often stand in the way of obtaining the services of some of their most promising workers and students.
No matter how sophisticated the field, formal training should be seen as instilling basic skills and discipline. Aside from the practical advantages of institutional and bureaucratic recognition, the value placed on formal credentials, as with one's book learning, are inversely proportional to education and accomplishment. Esteem for them restricts one's independent thinking and appreciation for whatever is outside the box of his training. 
A problem with all formal credentials is that authentic peer review requires a truly independent forum, but institutions that bestow and police formal credentials have sponsorship or control either by secular governments or religious institutions. With regard to scientific issues, sponsorship is overwhelmingly from secular government. Recognizing this, Western universities developed a system of tenure for professors. But as Creationists and advocates of Intelligent Design have discovered, the system of tenure is less than perfect for those questioning reigning dogma. Independence is not just a matter of secular dogma. A Creationist school would not be happy giving tenure to a Darwinist professor.

Ultimately, just as in the case of faith, credible peer review must demonstrate independence from all earthly governments and regulatory authorities as well as from all religious establishments or schools that provide "credentials." Not only must one's work stand for itself, to the extent that formal credentials and associations continue to exist, one must demonstrate that his judgments are in fact independent of whatever establishment either gave or recognize them. It is because power corrupts, aside from the power that comes purely from righteousness and truth. A price, perhaps a heavy price if one is presently well established, must be paid for pursuing and witnessing to truth. It was such price as gave credentials to the prophets and apostles of the Bible.
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Christian Leaders & Scholars is the newsletter and publication site of Philip Ernest Williams, author of The Archaeological Evidence of Noah's Flood (2011). The site is also a ministry not only to Christian leaders and scholars but all who are interested in the more difficult issues pertaining to the Bible and its implications for science and history. (Read more)