The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


Gerald Larue Dies at Age 98

Sep. 22, 2014 by | Comments (6)
Portrait of Gerald Larue

University of Southern California religion and gerontology professor emeritus Gerald A. Larue. Image provided by David Knight Larue

The Los Angeles Times noted yesterday evening that University of Southern California religion and gerontology professor emeritus Gerald A. Larue (b. June 20, 1916, d. September 17, 2014) has died at age 98. He was a long-time supporter of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism, heading the latter’s Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion from its founding in 1983 until handing over the reins to R. Joseph Hoffmann in 2003. Larue was also on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine from its founding in 1992 to its most recent issue.

Larue was the author of numerous books and articles on biblical history and archaeology, criticism of religion, and death and dying. He had been an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, leading congregations from 1945 to 1953. In 1958 he joined the USC faculty as a professor of biblical history and archaeology, and joined the gerontology faculty in 1981, retiring in 2006. From 1980 to 1988, he was the first president of the Hemlock Society, a position he was asked to take after being the only other person at the organizing meeting besides founder Derek Humphry to be willing to join an organization that explicitly argued for the right to assisted suicide.

In June 1993, Larue went public with the exposure of the Noah’s Ark hoax of George Jammal, which was the centerpiece of CBS’s “The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark” which aired on February 20 of that year. When Larue exposed the hoax in the pages of Time magazine, Sun International Pictures, the production company which made the film, argued that it was Larue who was engaged in a secular humanist plot to discredit Jammal. Sun issued a press release which complained that it was “sad and unfortunate that Dr. Larue, a distinguished USC professor, would victimize Mr. Jammal and his family to execute a third-party hoax in which he was the primary benefactor.” John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research pointed out that he had interviewed Jammal back in 1986, and that it was unreasonable to believe a hoax would have been carried out for that long.

But Larue, of course, was correct. Jammal had hoaxed Sun International Pictures and the Institute for Creation Research, and they had either missed or been unwilling to accept the numerous clues which he had planted in the content of his claims, such as the names of the individuals who had helped him on his alleged quest for Noah’s Ark: “Mr. Asholian,” “Vladimir Sobitchsky,” and, best of all, “Allis Buls Hitian.”

Jammal’s sample of wood from the Ark was actually a piece of railroad tie he had found behind his house and made to appear old by cooking it in his kitchen with a mixture of blueberry and almond wine, iodine, sweet-and-sour barbecue sauce, and teriyaki sauce. As Larue pointed out, carbon dating the wood would have given the game away, but none of the creationists or show producers bothered to do so. The producers also ignored the criticisms of Jammal’s account given by Bill Crouse, a regular critic of Noah’s Ark claims.

I had two interactions with Prof. Larue–once was a lengthy telephone conversation regarding the Jammal hoax in 1993, during which he was very generous with his time to answer my questions and provide the details of his involvement for my article on the subject. The other occasion was nearly a decade earlier, when I had the pleasure of meeting him at my first CSICOP conference (its second), held in November 1984 at Stanford University. I was a 19-year-old college sophomore who had just subscribed to the Skeptical Inquirer a year earlier. I wanted to see what a skeptical conference was all about, as well as learn how I might start a local skeptical group in Phoenix. In 1984, the makeup of attendees at a skeptical conference was very white, very male, and very mature–if I wasn’t the youngest person present, I thought that I was. I encountered a group of men discussing religion in the lobby, and at one point decided to jump in with a comment about the gnostic gospels. One person in the group seemed to think I was making some kind of nonsensical suggestion about “agnostic gospels,” and began to give a negative reaction, but Prof. Larue interrupted to say no, he is talking about the gnostic gospels, and it’s something you should know about. I was happy at his intervention in support of my statement, and I ended up talking with him about what I had read, what else I should read, my undergraduate program, and my future plans.

It was no surprise to me to read in Prof. Larue’s L.A. Times obituary that his former wife described him as frequently saying, “We don’t live in days or years—we live in moments,” and that he lived what he taught.

Jim Lippard

Jim Lippard is a long-time skeptic who works in the information security field. He founded the Phoenix Skeptics in 1985, and has contributed to Skeptic, Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Skeptical Briefs, The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Joe Nickell’s book Psychic Sleuths, and Gordon Stein’s Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Read Jim’s full bio or his other posts on this blog.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get eSkeptic

Be in the know!

Subscribe to eSkeptic: our free email newsletter and get great podcasts, videos, reviews and articles from Skeptic magazine, announcements, and more in your inbox twice a week. It’s free. We never share your address. Unsubscribe any time.

Sign me up!


Skeptic cover art by Pat Linse

Art of the Skeptic

In celebration of Skeptic magazine’s 100th issue, we present sage graphic art advice for skeptical groups and a gallery of art reflecting more than 47 years of skeptical activism from Skeptic’s long time Art Director, Pat Linse

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

FREE PDF Download

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

Copyright © 1992–2021. All rights reserved. | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. The Skeptics Society is a non-profit, member-supported 501(c)(3) organization (ID # 95-4550781) whose mission is to promote science & reason. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Privacy Policy.