The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

The (Not So) Lost Ark?

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 3, 2009

Last week, I saw an article over at the humorously nutty World Net Daily website – ‘Ark of the Covenant’ about to be unveiled? In the article, the claims of the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, Abuna Pauolos, are laid out as follows:

Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that God delivered to Moses and the center of searches and studies for centuries. …

The Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia for many centuries.  As a patriarch I have seen it with my own eyes and only few highly qualified persons could do the same, until now.

Now, when I read this article, my inner skeptic-meter (a.k.a. my Baloney Detection Kit) started to buzz in a big way.  Whenever such grandiose claims about a supposed religious relic are made, such as with the now infamous (and completely fake) Shroud of Turin, it is worthwhile to treat said claims with much more than a grain of salt.

And it seems that I was wise to be so skeptical of such an extraordinary claim (after all, recall Carl Sagan’s adage that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”)  Because within a day of making the original announcement, and thereby garnering a huge amount of press, Abuna Pauolos backed off his claim to show off the actual Ark…

The leader of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church today backed off on a much-anticipated announcement about the Ark of the Covenant — the ancient container holding the Ten Commandment — which he claims to have seen.

But no other evidence or, indeed, even any announcement, was made public today when word had been expected.

Ark hunters and Bible enthusiasts have been buzzing for two days on the report from the Italian news agency Adnkronos that Patriarch Abuna Pauolos, in Italy for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI this week, said, “Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that God delivered to Moses and the center of searches and studies for centuries.”

He had suggested the possibility the artifact might be viewable in a planned museum.

“I repeat (the Ark of the Covenant) is in Ethiopia and nobody … knows for how much time. Only God knows,” he said in the Adnkronos report available online.

The report said Pauolos reported the artifact “is described perfectly in the Bible” and is in good condition.

So, that’s it?  Nothing… not even a photograph… or perhaps a piece of wood from the Ark… anything?  All we get are useless arguments from authority and lame statements that “we really do have the Ark” and that “God has kept it in good condition”?

And this begs another question: if it is the real Ark, then why not allow archaeologists & other scholars to examine it?  Anytime such a grand claim is made, and then the door for potential analysis of said claim is slammed shut, we should view the claim as highly dubious, at best.  This is because, by not allowing independent investigation of the claim, the claim itself is essentially unfalsifiable.

The sad thing about this is that I forsee this following the same path as earlier claims about numerous other “relics” or “artifacts” – there will be people who will, usually due to their intense religious faith, want to honestly believe that this is the real Ark.  And, as such, they will make themselves vulnerable to all manner of hucksters & con-men (many who wear priest’s robes) who will take advantage of their gullibility.

One Response to “The (Not So) Lost Ark?”

  1. The response to national disaster is noble but it’s a damn shame that so many citizens take advantage of the sad situations.

    I mean everytime there is an earthquake, a flood, an oil spill – there’s always a group of heartless people who rip off tax payers.

    This is in response to reading that 4 of Oprah Winfreys “angels” got busted ripping off the system. Shame on them!
    http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/08/19/crimesider/entry5251471.shtml

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