The Plimer/Roberts verdict*
Ian Plimer, anti-creationist campaigner, Australian Humanist of the Year (1995) and Professor of Geology at the University of Melbourne, brought action against Dr Allen Roberts in the Federal Court of Australia under the Trade Practices Act, seeking an injunction against Roberts’ making claims about Noah’s Ark having been possibly found, and seeking damages against him. Dr Roberts is an elder in good standing in an evangelical church, and an educator with an active interest in Biblical archaeology. Plimer claimed that Roberts had used misleading and deceptive conduct in the course of trade — hence the action under the Trade Practices Act. A co-litigant in the case was David Fasold, an American marine salvage expert, who claimed that Dr Roberts had breached copyright in copying one of Fasold’s published drawings. See The Main Points About the Noah’s Ark Trial and Ian Plimer for a pre-trial summary of the issues, and this press release for a refutation of some faulty claims before the verdict.
A summary of the verdict
Plimer lost his case against Roberts under the Trade Practices Act, since Roberts had not engaged in ‘trade or commerce’ under the meaning of the Act.
The judge, Justice Ronald Sackville, considered in detail 16 allegations by Plimer of falsehood, misleading statements, etc. Of these, only 2 were upheld. It could be said that the score was Roberts 14, Plimer 2.
Both of the ones which were upheld involved the use of the word ‘we’ in reference to tests which had been done, which the judge considered gave the impression that Roberts had personally done the tests, when in fact it was others in the de facto ‘team’ who had done the tests. However, these two indiscretions were regarded by the judge as apparently so minor, that he stated clearly that, even if the Trade Practices Act had applied to Roberts, he would not have granted Plimer any damages, nor issued a restraining injunction.
The judge indicated that Allen Roberts was perfectly entitled to use the term ‘Dr’. The Plimer camp had widely generated the false impression that Roberts’ doctorate in Christian education was obtained by simply paying for it, which was patently untrue.
(David Fasold won his copyright infringement case against Allen Roberts and was awarded a relatively nominal $2500 damages. Roberts commissioned an artist to draw a picture, but it was very similar to the one in Fasold’s book.
We appreciated the professionalism of the judge involved in confining the matter to the issues. It appears that several of Plimer’s planned ‘show pony’ witnesses (including an evolutionary liberal theologian, and the leading anti-creationist campaigner in the U.S.) were disallowed as irrelevant to the matters before the court.
We regard Allen Roberts as a fellow Christian — we also recognise many believers in evolution as fellow Christians (despite the tremendous inconsistencies of theistic evolution). We sympathise with Allen Roberts and his family for the enormous strain and trauma this whole vendetta by Ian Plimer has undoubtedly inflicted on them and we have certainly been praying for them.
The personal defamation case by Roberts against Plimer, which started all this, is still to be heard in the next few months. We believe that Plimer’s suit against Roberts, in spite of being portrayed as having ‘noble’ motives, would not have occurred if not for the perceived need to defend the defamation suit.
Is this a ‘win for creationism / creation science’?
No. Nor would an opposite verdict have been a ‘loss for creationism’, because:
We have all along stated that to portray this as a case against creation science or creationism is highly misleading, since none of the protagonists has been, or has claimed to be, involved with this movement in any way.
CSF actually distanced themselves from Roberts in 1992 when Creation magazine published Dr Andrew Snelling’s 13 page article, Noah’s Ark Exposé (see Creation Ex Nihilo 14(4):26–38, 1992). Allen Roberts sincerely (though incorrectly, in our view) believed that a particular site in Eastern Turkey was likely to be the remains of what would have been a significant Biblical relic.
The only sense in which creation/evolution was on trial was via a phoney ‘trial by media’, with misleading attempts to link the Roberts claims with (and thus try to discredit) those ministries presenting the considerable evidence for Genesis creation/Flood.
If the outcome was a ‘win’ for anyone, it was for commonsense and the Australian judicial system, which showed itself unwilling to be cynically manipulated in support of a blatant attempt to stifle freedom of expression.
Plimer has tried to portray a stance sympathetic to Christianity/religion. However, he was Australian Humanist of the Year in 1995, and a member of the Victorian Humanists. Their membership application form requires a commitment to work towards a society ‘free from supernatural beliefs’. So he is opposed to any Christianity containing supernatural beliefs. See why humanism is a religion!
It is left to readers to decide who should wear the charge of deceptive and misleading conduct. Several of Plimer’s comments were framed in such a way as to give the distinct impression that the findings by the judge of ‘false and misleading statements’:
- Were in relation to the nature of Roberts’ evidence itself.
- Implied serious and deliberate deception to strengthen Roberts’ case.
- Were related to the issue of whether Biblical creation is true or not.
- Had a connection to the creation science movement in general.
None of these claims stand up to scrutiny of the published verdict. The validity of the evidence was not at issue. We do not believe that the evidence upon which Roberts relied points to the conclusion he drew. However, there is no way in which his use of the word ‘we’, even granting that it could be construed as Roberts having done the testing himself, would in any way bolster the nature of the claimed evidence.
Nor, if his intention had been to deceive people into thinking it was the Ark, would he have achieved this by using ‘we’ in that way. Presumably this is why the judge stated that he would not have granted relief to Plimer, even if Roberts had been defined as carrying on trade or commerce.
And of course the truth of the biblical account of creation and the Flood were not on trial, and the whole thing had nothing to do with the mainstream creationist movement anyway.
However, Plimer and his Skeptic/humanist cohorts continue to promote a false and highly misleading linkage between this case and creation ministries in general. Even at the date of latest revision of this article (8 March 2001), Plimer had recently claimed in a letter to (Glasgow), March 5, 2001, Pg. 15:
Judgment in a court case in Australia in 1997 ruled that the creationist leaders steal the work of others, tell lies under oath, and engage in misleading and deceptive conduct.
This could only be referring to this courtcase, so, as shown above, this is deceptive on many counts:
- It had nothing to do with creationists per se, but one man not affiliated with any creationist organisation. No leaders of any creationist organisation have been involved in any such case. So it’s deceptive to claim that what was ruled in that case was a judgment on creationists or creationism.
- The ‘stealing the work of others’ was a nominal copyright violation by this supposed representative of creationism. Actually, Plimer himself plagiarized Noah’s Ark Exposé in his attacks on Roberts — see Who really sunk the ‘Noah’s Ark’ site?
- There was no judgment of perjury against the supposed representative.
- The actual ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ by this supposed representative was of the most trivial nature, and had not the slightest to do with the creation/evolution issue.
For more fascinating information on the background to the trial, and information on Ian Plimer’s campaign tactics, the ethical inquiry which discredited his book’s ‘charges’ against us, and his scientific and other ‘bloopers’, see our website page: The Ian Plimer Files
Note* The full verdict can be obtained from the Internet at: