Just in time for Easter and the 2015 Shroud Exposition
John the Baptist is an artifact?
If, like half the world, you have been watching CNN during the last couple of days, you may have seen a frequent ad for an upcoming series of shows starting in March. The ad, in a quick succession of screens says: Faith, Fact, Forgery and Finding Jesus March 2015.
Google produces little information except a nearly empty page from Carmel Communications saying:
Finding Jesus: Faith, FACTS, Forgery, a CNN relics series – coming to television on March 1, 2015; a 6- week series.
More information coming soon!
Amazon tells us about a soon to be released book called, Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery.: Six Holy Objects That Tell the Remarkable Story of the Gospels by David Gibson (Author), Michael McKinley (Author). It will be available sometime around February 24th in Hardcover, Kindle, Audio CD and Downloadable Audio. The description reads:
As featured in the 6-part CNN SERIES "Finding Jesus"FINDING JESUS explores six major artifacts, including the Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, and John the Baptist, that give us the most direct evidence about the life and world of Jesus. The book and attendant CNN series provide a dramatic way to retell "the greatest story ever told" while introducing a broad audience to the history, the latest controversies, and newest forensic science involved in sorting out facts from the fiction of would-be forgers and deceivers. The book and the show draw on experts from all over the world. Beyond the faithful, the book will also appeal to the skeptical and to curious readers of history and archaeology, while it takes viewers of the primetime TV series deeper into the story.
I blogged about this last April writing then:
BREAKING: Jon Creamer of Televisual Media UK tells us about an upcoming six-part series on Jesus:
Nutopia is to make a ‘forensic’ drama doc about the life of Jesus in a six-part commission for CNN called Jesus Code.
Jesus Code will look at “forensics, biblical archaeology and forgery, exploring their connection to the real life of Jesus by questioning the authenticity of sacred relics.”
The show will use drama reconstruction and interviews with scholars to re-examine six objects connected to the Biblical Jesus.
Executive Producer, Ben Goold (The Story of US, Mankind, The British) said “These are compelling and astonishing stories of relics such as the Turin Shroud and the True Cross that not only capture the imagination, but also offer real revelations about one of the most important figures in human history.”
Jesus Code will be produced by Nutopia in association with Paperny Entertainment. Filming will start in October in Europe, the US, North Africa and Middle East. Executive Producers are Ben Goold for Nutopia and Lynne Kirby for Paperny Entertainment and it will be distributed internationally by DRG.
Jesus Code forms part of CNN’s new documentary strand in the ET 9pm primetime line-up.
Rodney Ho of The Atlanta Journal Constitution gives the story a bit more punch with a bit less detail as part of a story on 9 p.m. time slot that Larry King occupied for a quarter century and Piers Morgan attempted to fill. The story is mostly about the big guns CNN is bringing into the hour:Mike Rowe (‘formerly of Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs’), Lisa Ling (formerly of “Our America with Lisa Ling”) and John Walsh (formerly of Fox’s ‘America’s Most Wanted”). And the icing on the cake:
Finally, how could the most famous man in history have left almost no trace behind? Bringing the most compelling artifacts together for the first time, The Jesus Code will take viewers on a thrilling high-stakes journey through forensics, biblical archeology and forgery in history, exploring the evidence of Jesus’ existence by questioning the authenticity of sacred relics.
Let’s see, six relics? (1) Shroud of Turin, (2) True Cross, (3) Holy Grail ???, (4) Veronica’s Veil ???, (5) Seamless Garment ???, (6) ???.
Can you guess what the other three artifacts will be?
Angelo Paratico has a nice quick synopsis of the modern day study of the shroud in Beyond Thirty-Nine, a blog he co-authors from Hong Kong. The posting is called The Turin’s Shroud – a Mystery hidden into a Riddle.
In Hong Kong we have one of the world’s great experts in the science of Sindonology, which is the study of the Shroud of Turin, known as Sindone in Italian. A Hong Kong resident since 1970, William Meacham, is an archeologist and a professor at HKU. He has many books published under his name and in particular there is one which is often cited by sindonologists: The Rape of the Shroud published in 2005.
In 1978 a special commission received permission to investigate scientifically this mysterious fabric, which appeared out of nowhere in Lirey, France, in the year 1353. This commission was called STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project). It started well, but soon descended into a factional war between bickering scientists and reluctant cardinals. Being these the basis, it is not surprising that the results, instead of clearing the waters, made them even murkier.
The book of Prof. Meacham is an highly scientific and well researched work, as he was one of the experts summoned to Italy and involved in the dating project of the Shroud, but was later sidelined by a group of people with a narrow view of what they were examining and, perhaps, lacking the necessary expertise. . . .
[ . . . ]
The validity of the C14 radiocarbon dating was put in doubt from the very beginning, and for a number of good reasons. We’ll limit ourselves to the most basic ones, noting only that it is hard to believe how scientists could act so clumsily. . . .
They found that where the image appeared there were no traces of pigments or colors, and it was certainly not obtained by heating or printing. . . .
Did anyone tell Charles and Colin?
Here is some show off trivia:
This relict had remained a property of the royal house of Italy, the Savoy, until 1983 when it was finally bequeathed to the Vatican by the last king of Italy, Umberto II, in his testament. Curiously this donation had been challenged, because what did belong to the last king should have been taken over by the republican government of Italy in 1946 but this matter is still taking dust in the Italian Parliament, as more pressing matters concerning the economy are at hand.
The obvious question to ask about Ockham’s razor is: why?
On what basis are we justified to think that, as a matter of general practice,
the simplest hypothesis is the most likely one to be true?
This past week I was reading an excerpt-as-an-article in Salon. It was taken from Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart by Lex Bayer (left) and John Figdor (right). Salon packaged the excerpt as The new atheist commandments: Science, philosophy and principles to replace religion. Therein, the authors argue that “Atheism need not be reactionary — it can offer constructive rules to live by.”
“Stand back, Moses: Here’s our shot,” Bayer and Figdor say in the Salon lead.
Bumptious pompousity, if not part of stand up comedy, is reactionary; I guess they don’t get it. Or maybe they are just being flip. Anyway, it was a turn off. I thought about powering down the laptop for the night but the next sentence caught my attention:
We begin by suggesting a framework of secular belief. It begins with the simple question, How can I justify any of my beliefs?
I had to read on.
[W] e quickly realize that every belief is based on other preexisting beliefs. . . .
. . . Instead of presuming source beliefs are beliefs based on faith, let’s instead regard them as the starting assumptions for a logical proof. We can put forth a set of core assumptions and then develop a broader system of belief based on those assumptions. If the resulting system fails to create a cohesive and comprehensive system of belief, then we can start over. The initial assumptions can then be reformulated until a set is found that does lead to a consistent, meaningful “theorem of life.”
One method is . . .
to favor simplicity. This is called Ockham’s razor, after the fourteenth-century philosopher and theologian William of Ockham. The “razor” refers to any principle that helps narrow possibilities. This principle states that the answer that requires the fewest assumptions while explaining all of the facts is most likely to be correct.
But the authors caution us about this:
If we apply the razor to our search for source beliefs, it follows that a system of beliefs that requires fewer source beliefs has a greater likelihood of being valid. In other words, the fewer leaps of faith (unjustifiable source beliefs) required in order to create a system of belief, the less faith we need and the more confident we can be in the outcome.
Of course, it’s possible to misuse this concept—typically by ignoring the requirement to explain all the facts. For example, the hypothesis that height alone determines a person’s weight is a lot simpler than the notion that the complex interplay of a few dozen genes, diet, and exercise does so. But the simpler explanation fails to explain all the facts—namely, the stunning range of actual variation we see in real-life height-to-weight ratios. The five-foot-five sumo wrestler who weighs a hundred pounds more than the six-foot-nine basketball player presents an instant (and fatal) problem for the simpler answer. Thus, simpler is better so long as it explains all the facts.
Not being able to justify is not parsimonious unless you can be certain that you have all the facts. It’s not just not explaining all the facts. It’s knowing what the facts are that can be the problem.
How often do we invoke Ockham’s Razor in this blog? In just the first half of this month we have have encountered:
- Charles Freeman responding to John Green:
I still cannot see why you think the Shroud is outside the ordinary as a physical object other than that it was kept rather than being thrown away as we know most linens were after their colours had faded. Still please go on with your researches. You are certainly not into Occam Razor country!
- John Klotz reacting to Charles Freeman:
Amid all the tumult an debate, I think that applying Occam’s razor, the simplest solution, requiring the fewest assumptions is that the Shroud is what it purports to be, the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
- Colin Berry addressing Charles Freeman:
It’s the subtlety of the TS image , both as-is, and the way it responds to modern technology that should have told you the TS was no ordinary image, certainly not painted. Flaked-off paint? The onus is on you to deal with Occam’s Razor.
- And Colin Berry addressing the lack of directionality in the images:
Is it any wonder that some see the subject itself as the source of radiant energy, wavelength usually unspecified, albeit with handy orthogonal projection and ability to ‘scorch’ linen across air gaps, provided (a) they don’t exceed 3.7cm and (b) Occams’s razor is kept in its protective sheath.
Two and a half years ago I posted the following:
Taking Ockham’s Razor to Ockham’s Razor
There is a whole lot of wisdom in a brief paper by Massimo Pigliucci over at Rationally Speaking:
. . . Philosophers often refer to this as the principle of economy, while scientists tend to call it parsimony. Skeptics invoke it every time they wish to dismiss out of hand claims of unusual phenomena (after all, to invoke the “unusual” is by definition unparsimonious, so there).
. . . The obvious question to ask about Ockham’s razor is: why? On what basis are we justified to think that, as a matter of general practice, the simplest hypothesis is the most likely one to be true? Setting aside the surprisingly difficult task of operationally defining “simpler” in the context of scientific hypotheses (it can be done, but only in certain domains, and it ain’t straightforward), there doesn’t seem to be any particular logical or metaphysical reason to believe that the universe is a simple as it could be.
What proof is there that the philosopher Franciscan friar William of Ockham (1288-1348) was right? How much science has been decided by taking leap of faith in Ockham?
Both sides in the Shroud of Turin debate invoke Ockham as a weapon of choice, it seems, in every debate.
A MUST READ: Razoring Ockham’s razor
It has been mentioned at least twice in comments to postings in this blog. So here is a good article by Greg Carey (pictured) that appears in the Huffington Post:
Just this week another Jesus hoax has appeared in the media. Media producer Simcha Jacobovici has collaborated with a professor named Barrie Wilson on a book called, "The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene." I don’t wish to be rude, and I will freely admit I haven’t read the book yet, but the entire premise is utter hogwash.
[ . . . ]
We might begin with the book’s title. "The Lost Gospel" suggests the discovery of a new literary source, one that is either recently discovered or has been largely neglected. Instead, the "lost gospel" is actually an ancient Jewish (perhaps Christian) novel we call "Joseph and Aseneth." It’s well known, and it’s received quite a bit of scholarly attention. Joseph and Aseneth is included in the standard collections of ancient Jewish literature that all biblical scholars consult. This month’s Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, the most significant gathering of biblical scholars in the world, will include two papers devoted to the story. Just type "Aseneth" into your Amazon search window, and you’ll find quite a few books devoted to the story, including monographs by leading scholars.
Unfortunately, Jacobovici and Wilson describe the text as "Gathering dust in the British Library" and suggest they have "uncovered" it. Unfortunately, the media has bought into that narrative. . . . In fact, Duke University professor Mark Goodacre created his Joseph and Aseneth home page in 1999 — quite a bit before its recent "uncovering."
The new book’s subtitle reveals a second problem: "decoding." The authors claim this ancient novel carries a secret meaning. Joseph and Aseneth makes perfect sense without decoding.
[ . . . ]
It is always bad form to attack a theory by condemning its proponents, but Simcha Jacobovichi is a notorious peddler of misleading theories. He promoted an ossuary as containing the bones of Jesus’ brother James, a theory that has been disconfirmed. He also developed a documentary that claimed to unveil the Jesus family tomb, also refuted by experts, and even claims to have uncovered the nails used in Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s a shame that the media ever pays attention to him, at least when he’s talking about Jesus.
It is interesting. But I wonder how significant this is as evidence. And specifically, of what?
There is a new academic publication on the Manoppello Image, available in both polish and english version as Ikona z Manoppello prototypem wizerunków Chrystusa and The Manoppello Icon. The prototype of images of Christ. There is a table of contents ("spis treści") available for download. The authors are Karolina Aszyk, an art specialist, and Zbigniew Treppa, professional photographer as well as theologian and lecturer at the University of Gdańsk, which released this work. The price of it is 36.75 PLN, roughly 10 $ without a shipping fee.
Having familiarized with a polish version, I can say a few words about it. It is an interesting study of visual properties of the Veil when photographed during different lighting conditions,as well as of the influence of the Veil on Byzantine, medieval, and renaissance art. Yet I think that the arguments presented are not strong enough to convince declared sceptic, and further researches in those directions (including those I try to perform myself) is necessary.
John Klotz pens out some thoughts about what two people are saying about his book in A critcal response to a critic. For instance, on what Hugh Farey, the editor of the British Society for the Turin Shroud (BSTS), wrote, John writes:
As an author, I suppose that I should not be too sensitive to criticisms. It comes with the territory. However, Hugh Farey’s criticism posted on shroudstory.com that I did not devote enough space and energy to explaining why Picknett-Prince theory that DaVinci forged the Shroud 100 years after it was first exhibited in Lirey, France is nearly as supercilious as the theory itself (which Hugh apparently rejects also).
And on what Ms. Underwood had to say over at Amazon, John tells us:
[Her] review was enlightening and helpful to me:
"Excellent account of the history of Shroud research and presents a very good case for its authenticity! I was a bit disappointed that it did not delve into how the findings of quantum physics may provide a possible mechanism for the image formation."
I will be preparing a revision to answer Ms. Underwood’s comment and if anyone has already purchased the book, I will provide the revision gratis. Actually, the revision of the one chapter will include a discussion of a 2010 presentation by Andrew Sullivan and Nigel Kerner[iii] which argues that consciousness was an elemental power that along with gravity pre-existed the universe and engendered it. That’s my very brief summary and/or conclusion.
You will want to read A critcal response to a critic.