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Confirmation bias comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes and is a ubiquitous thorn in the side of anyone chasing truth. In fact, more accurately, it is a sure sign that someone isn’t really chasing truth. That said, we are all victim to cognitive biases to varying degrees. Knowing this, though, should motivate us to mitigate them wherever and however possible.

Yesterday, I posted the first in my Debunking the Exodus series, and the regular Christian commenter, eassa, provided a number of YouTube links by way of refutation. Of course, these links supported their view that the Exodus accounts in the Bible are literally and historically true. The problem is, even the most cursory glance at the first documentary linked clearly indicates that the TV show is the poorest standard of fraudulent apologetics.

Just skipping through to one particular point, the first claim that I come across, shows a whole section on the chariot wheel supposedly found at the bottom of the red Sea by Ron Wyatt. The whole claim sounds particularly dubious to me as, like many skeptics, I have developed a pretty fine-tuned bullshit radar.

What is the claim? Basically, that iron chariot wheels and bones have been found at the bottom of the Red Sea, thus supposedly proving the truth of the Exodus account (of the parting of the Red Sea). This claim is as a result of the “archaeological work” of the aforementioned Ron Wyatt. Or, as ScienceBlogs titles their article on him: “Ron Wyatt: Colossal Fraud”. As the pieces says:

Oi vey. Are there people out there who still take Ron Wyatt seriously? Con men simply don’t get much more transparent than this guy. Wyatt was a nurse anesthetist (now deceased) who claimed not only to have found Noah’s Ark, but to have found virtually everything in Biblical archaeology that might be important to Christians – Noah’s Ark, the exact place where the Red Sea was parted to allow the Israelites to escape Egypt, the true location of Mt. Sinai, the Ark of the Covenant and, most ridiculously, the actual blood of Jesus Christ!

Snopes report this claim as largely originating from a satirical news website, which should tell you something:

On 24 October 2014, the web site World News Daily Report (WNDR) published an article reporting that chariot wheels and the bones of horses and men had been discovered at the bottom of the Red Sea, thereby supposedly proving archaeological proof of the Biblical narrative about the escape of the Israelites from the Egyptians. According to the Book of Exodus, God parted the Red Sea long enough for the Moses-led Israelites to walk across it on dry ground, but closed the waters up again upon the pursuing Egyptian army and drowned them all:

Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry announced this morning that a team of underwater archaeologists had discovered that remains of a large Egyptian army from the 14th century BC, at the bottom of the Gulf of Suez, 1.5 kilometers offshore from the modern city of Ras Gharib. The team was searching for the remains of ancient ships and artefacts related to Stone Age and Bronze Age trade in the Red Sea area, when they stumbled upon a gigantic mass of human bones darkened by age.

The scientists lead by Professor Abdel Muhammad Gader and associated with Cairo University’s Faculty of Archaeology, have already recovered a total of more than 400 different skeletons, as well as hundreds of weapons and pieces of armor, also the remains of two war chariots, scattered over an area of approximately 200 square meters. They estimate that more than 5000 other bodies could be dispersed over a wider area, suggesting that an army of large size who have perished on the site.

However, if one is looking for news of an important scientific or historical discovery, World News Daily Report is not the place to look. WNDR is fake news site whose disclaimer notes that the site’s articles are satirical in nature:

World News Daily Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental, except for all references to politicians and/or celebrities, in which case they are based on real people, but still based almost entirely in fiction.

Despite WNDR’s framing of the alleged “discovery” as recent and newly announced, reports of divers finding chariot wheels and the like under the Red Sea are a hoax that has been promulgated for many years now.

The WNDR article’s use of language such as “this morning” and its claims that a team of “underwater archeologists” in Egypt responsible for the discovery were planning to recover more artifacts from the site reinvigorated interest in the long-discredited rumor, but those details were not only fabricated, they had simply been recycled from past claims and infused with more recent dates. In October 2015, the equally dubious web site Disclose.TV once again jump-started the phony rumors by republishing the year-old fake WNDR article.

But people take this nurse “archaeologist” seriously. They shouldn’t. Christian Gary Amirault decimated Wyatt in his article “A Great Christian Scam“:

Christians of all different persuasions have developed the “tickled ear” syndrome. They are so busy chasing the things of the world while claiming to be seeking the things of the kingdom, there is not enough time to really study, search, and pray. We’ll just find a nice looking man or woman who, for a little of our money and a couple hours on Sunday will keep us informed of what we need to do to be ready “when the Lord returns.” And most of those who live like this do not realize that because of their own attitude about how to spend their time, they have prepared themselves to be a perfect candidate to attend a church with the same kind of leaders as Ron Wyatt.

What can I say to you to make you see the seriousness of this situation? Father, please do something to the one who is reading this right now to turn to You in a fresh way, to seek you with all their heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. Father, raise up leaders who do not seek to sit in Moses seat, but who desire to lift your people up to you. Raise up servants who can bring forth teaching which will make your people desire to study and seek your face in a deeper way than ever before. Oh, Father please, deliver your people. Set us free to enjoy receiving your wisdom so that we will no longer be taken in by charismatic cons who know how to manipulate our senses.

Addendum: I, Gary Amirault, wrote this article many years ago. Today, February 2013, I note that the internet is still buzzing with this fraud, Christians are still being scammed, major Television cable companies are still playing these videos. Internet sites are still selling Ron Wyatt videos, books and sulfer balls. Let me tell you, the television industry, has no regard for truth. It’s all about money. Anyway, as the famous circus owner P.T. Barnum once said, “The show must go on.” Scams, in religion, whether Judaism, Christianity, Islam or otherwise, will run on right to the end.

In Judaism, for example, did you know one could buy dirt from the Mount of Olives for $25 to sprinkle on your grave (that is if you are Jewish), so that your bones when they have to travel through the earth to get to Jerusalem at the resurrection won’t hurt so much from the burrowing? Yep, I have a bill from a Jewish funeral service to prove it. Magic dirt from the Mount of Olives to heal your bones from the pain of having to burrow your way back to the land of Israel in time for the resurrection. You see, there are con artists in every religion. And the people will continue to waste their money on these cons, and the Rabbis, Priests, Ministers who profit from them will continue to perpetuate these myths for money’s sake, and the media? Well, it’s really all about entertainment, isn’t it? After all, the “show must go on.”

If these articles and even a Snopes refutation don’t cut the mustard for you, how about an actual Christian archaeological organisation, the Biblical Archaeological Report, who take Wyatt to the cleaners, with the chariot wheel being the number one example in their piece “Fake News In Biblical Archaeology“:

In a world of fake news and internet hoaxes it’s important to carefully check your sources before you inadvertently spread misinformation.  The world of archaeology is no exception to sensationalistic stories and purported “discoveries” that turn out to be flat-out false.  This is especially true in the world of biblical archaeology, which has seen its fair share of fake finds.  Unfortunately, this sometimes takes in undiscerning Christians and occasionally even “experts” who are overly invested in the news.  So, to help clarify things and to put an end to the urban myths I continually hear touted by well-meaning people, here are five archaeological discoveries that are simply not true.

1) Egyptian Chariot Wheels in the Red Sea

This is probably the “discovery” I hear people repeat most often.  Maybe you’ve heard it to: “Archaeologists have discovered Egyptian chariot wheels and bones in the Red Sea, which proves the story of the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea in the Bible.”   This claim seems to have originated in 1993 through a newsletter put out by the “Wyatt Archaeological Research,”1 which sounds impressive until you learn that:

a) Ron Wyatt was not an archaeologist (he was a nurse anesthetist).  This, in and of itself does not mean that he could not make a discovery.  It means that he had no training to interpret that discovery.   One archaeologist has said archaeology is 10% excavation and 90% interpretation.

b)  Ron Wyatt was never carried out a systematic excavation that was licensed by the Israeli government. Joe Zias, the former Curator of Archaeology and Anthropology for the Israel Antiquities Authority said, “Mr. Ron Wyatt is neither an archaeologist nor has he ever carried out a legally licensed excavation in Israel or Jerusalem…We are aware of his claims which border on the absurd as they have no scientific basis whatsoever nor have they ever been published in a professional journal. They fall into the category of trash which one finds in tabloids such as the National Enquirer, Sun etc. It’s amazing that anyone would believe them.”2

c) Ron Wyatt never published any of his supposed finds in a peer-reviewed archaeological journal.  Publishing something in your own newsletter or on your own website does not pass the checks-and-balances peer-review.  Dr. Scott Stripling, the Director of Excavations at Shiloh, led by the Associates for Biblical Research, says that the goal of archaeology is not excavation, but publication.

d) Ron Wyatt never made any of his supposed discoveries available for trained archaeologists to examine.

e) Ron Wyatt never adequately addressed inconsistencies in some of his stories, such as how he discovered the supposed chariot wheels at a depth of 200 feet using scuba equipment designed for depths of 125-130 feet.

Despite these serious deficiencies, those who uncritically follow Ron Wyatt continue to promote his almost 100 biblically-related “discoveries,” (all of which were made within a decade!  Clearly these people don’t know how archaeological excavations are conducted in the real world.).  These alleged discoveries include:

  • Noah’s Ark
  • the fire and brimstone balls from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
  • The tower of Babel
  • The Ark of the Covenant
  • The original 10 commandment tablets
  • Goliath’s sword
  • The site of Jesus’ crucifixion, including the blood Jesus in an “earthquake crack” beneath the crucifixion site that he claims he had analyzed and showed it only contained 24 chromosomes instead of 46.

The list of fantastical discoveries should, in and of itself, raise questions about any discovery Ron Wyatt claimed to have made.  This didn’t stop his “discovery” of chariot wheels spreading.  It has been repeated in articles and books and documentaries though.  In actual fact, Ron Wyatt’s work has universally debunked by respected archaeologists and scholars.   In fact, even two ministers in his own denomination (Seven Day Adventist) wrote an entire book called, “Holy Relics or Revelation: Examining the claims of Ron Wyatt” to show his work was largely a hoax.

The Egyptian chariot wheel story gained new a new life when it appeared in an online article in World News Daily, which claimed, “Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry announced this morning that a team of underwater archaeologists had discovered that remains of a large Egyptian army from the 14th century BC, at the bottom of the Gulf of Suez, 1.5 kilometers offshore from the modern city of Ras Gharib.”4  Those who were taken in by this hoax obviously didn’t read the disclaimer at the bottom of the article which read, “World News Daily Report assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content.”

To be clear, no chariot wheels from the Egyptian army that drowned chasing Moses and the children of Israel as described in Exodus 14 have ever been found.

Seriously, as the article points out, if some random guy had found all of these different, exclusively biblical things in only a decade, he would be the single greatest archaeologist, and source of Christian evidence, in history.

He’s a fraud and documentaries that use his work are equally fraudulent. They should be removed from the internet so gullible types like eassa don’t get sucked in.

Future warning: if you are going to comment here, do a better job of checking your sources.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...