Archive for the ‘Other Blogs’ Category

More on Charles Freeman’s Article

October 27, 2014 147 comments

imageStephen Jones reacts to Charles Freeman’s article The Origins of the Shroud of Turin in History Today. He unfortunately begins with an inappropriate barrage of ad hominem.

He subtly questions Freeman’s credentials as a historian. “Freeman has never held a actual historian position in any university,” he writes. He elaborates (see Jones’ blog posting) and then states, “This should be borne in mind when assessing the headline ‘…historian says.’”

He implies motive:

Freeman is evidently an atheist/agnostic having published papers critical of Christianity in the New Humanist online magazine, the subtitle of which is "Ideas for godless people", and is "produced by the Rationalist Association … dedicated to reason, science, secularism and humanism."


. . . so presumably Freeman was once a Catholic but is now a non- (or even anti-) Christian. If so, then according to Freeman’s presumed personal atheist/agnostic philosophy, there is no supernatural, so Christianity must be false, and the Shroud of Turin must be a fake.

“I hasten to add that I am a Protestant evangelical Christian . . . ,” Jones writes. Well, so am I. I’m a Christian anyway, Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian, and I feel compelled by my belief to respect Freeman’s worldview and not try to use it as a weapon against him.  I don’t agree with much of anything he said in the article but it was not because of his worldview.

The intelligent reader can only see that this is what Jones is doing. I am so reminded of the words of another atheist/secular humanist, Christopher Hitchens, speaking out about such attacks . . .

whereby if your opponent thought he had identified your lowest possible motive, he was quite certain that he had isolated the only real one. This vulgar method . . . is designed to have the effect of making any noisy moron into a master analyst.”

Okay, it sounds like I’m doing the same thing. Maybe. But I’m not calling Jones a moron. No, I’m not. I’m thinking about his methods. Maybe he will think about them, as well.

Jones moves on. He spends time arguing against the 1988 carbon dating results with his amazing conspiracy theory (does anyone else on the planet buy into this?):

But [the carbon dating] is explicable if the Shroud sample dates were computer-generated. E.g. by a computer hacker, whom I have provided evidence in my soon to be completed series, "My theory that the radiocarbon dating laboratories were duped by a computer hacker," was Arizona Radiocarbon Laboratory physicist Timothy W. Linick (1946-89), aided by self-confessed KGB hacker Karl Koch (1965–89), who both died of suspected `suicide’ within days of each other, presumably executed by the KGB to ensure their silence.]

Jones does spend time, appropriately as I see it, challenging other aspects of Freeman’s article. However, in a response to Freeman pointing out that the church officially regards the shroud with an open mind he falls into a trap of speculating to explain speculation (pretty much the way Freeman does in his article):

As I have stated before, the Vatican is dishonest in this. From its actions in spending the equivalent of millions of dollars preserving the Shroud and holding exhibitions for millions of people to see it, clearly the Vatican regards the Shroud as authentic. So presumably the reason it refuses to confirm or deny that the Shroud is authentic is that the Vatican would then have to say which of its other relics were authentic or fakes, and most of them would be the latter. It might be good church politics to suppress the truth in this matter but it is not Christian (Rom 1:18; . . . ).

The Vatican is dishonest, the church is suppressing the truth . . . is not Christian? And Jones, points to Romans 1:18, not as a citation but as a threat. It reads: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

All quoting by me is in accordance with doctrines of Fair Use defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, Chapter 1, Section 106. This grants me the right to limited copying for commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.

Colin Berry: Maybe It’s A Maillard Reaction After All

October 27, 2014 18 comments

Oh, and go boil your head.

From the blog postings of Colin Berry:

It has clear advantages over Mode 1, [discussed above]. in that ANYTHING with 3D properties can in principle be imprinted, not having to be heated. That might be bas relief templates and/or fully 3D statues.  It may even conceivably have been a person, living or dead.  All that was needed was a coating of white flour (or a comparable dry powdered substance providing reducing sugar and amino groups), probably with a binder material to ensure even coating (the vegetable oil in the present modelling, but other options exist).

But I don’t see how with 3D statues, bodies and whatnot, we are not facing the well-understood contact-wrap-around problem. What am I missing?

But there’s a tricky step in the procedure – namely the final roasting of the flour-imprinted linen that has to convert the coating to tan-coloured melanoidins (Maillard reaction products) without too much dicoloration of the linen. It can be done in  principle, on a small scale laboratory basis, given the exceptional chemical and thermal stability of cellulose, by far and away the major component of linen fibres, relative to the starch, proteins lipids etc of wheat flour.

There’s a great deal to think about right now. Best to stop here and post the experimental results. Maybe others can see things I have missed that might offer a way forward through this thicket of new possibilities, each with its own unique difficulties.

To those who claim I select and/or manipulate experimental data I say this. Go boil your heads (old English expression of endearment).

High Definition

October 22, 2014 4 comments

Colin writes:

Well, would you credit it?  There we were, assuming that HD Shroud 2.0 was only available on iPads, at a price, when all the time it was there at the click of a laptop key on good ol’ Auntie BBC, going way back to 2010.

Well, not exactly. The image from the BBC is not the HD image available on iPads. It is a low grade, non-HD, 786 by 2973 pixel, 96 dpi JPEG copy of what is available on the iPad. The real, HD image is bigger than life. You can see all the threads. So when Colin says . . .

Maybe resolution is critical to spotting the two-tone effect. Maybe that’s why it’s been missed previously, by myself and others.

. . . I’m confused.  Does Colin mean low resolution? I’ve been looking and looking at the iPad image, even cranking up the contrast. I don’t see the two-tone effect Colin sees. I, do, however, see some pink in the epsilon-shaped bloodstain on the forehead. See:


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Is the Shroud Evidence for God’s Existence?

October 11, 2014 50 comments

not from the conference

imageI like Fr. Dwight Longenecker, former Evangelical Christian, former Anglican priest and now Roman Catholic parish priest, with a wife and children, no less. I like reading his blog, Standing on My Head! This week Longenecker posts, Evidence for God’s Existence in which he writes:

It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, of course, which is the one miracle that rules them all, and I am more and more convinced by the evidence of the Shroud of Turin.

[ . . . ]

Whenever I am now in dialogue with an atheist I skip all the philosophical arguments and simply therefore point to the shroud.

My  challenge to the atheist is, “I dare you to seriously study the shroud with an open mind in an objective manner.”

I’m reminded of David Rolfe’s challenge to Richard Dawkins.

Okay, but . . .  Being skeptical about the shroud (or not) and being an atheist (or not) are not the same things. I’ve met an atheist who believes the shroud is real. And I know many Evangelicals, Anglicans, Catholics and Christians of all kinds who are skeptics of the shroud, just as I know many who are not.

Should it be skeptics of the shroud rather than atheists who we should be daring “to seriously study the shroud with an open mind in an objective manner”?

But then again does that work? Hugh Farey is an example to consider. He is the Editor of the British Society for the Turin Shroud (BSTS). He has studied the shroud for years. He is one of the more knowledgeable and articulate students of the shroud. He knows the facts but remains skeptical of the shroud’s authenticity. He happens to be Christian. In fact, he is Catholic. But he remains a skeptic. Would it be different if he was an atheist?

I doubt it.

Longedecker writes:

If atheists really want evidence for the existence of God, then they should seek genuine evidence of a miracle, and they should do so objectively, carefully and with an open mind.

There’s plenty of excellent scientific evidence for the shroud out there. They should take a look.

I just know too many open-minded skeptics of the shroud to agree. Some are Christian, some not. Some are atheist, some not. All have taken a serious look at the excellent scientific evidence but, typically, I think, that’s where it ends.

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Put that in your pipe, Luigi Garlaschelli, and smoke it

October 8, 2014 6 comments

imageA reader from Tel Aviv writes:

. . .  I nominate Colin Berry as the best, most qualified, most creative scientist skeptic in the history of the shroud.

I agree. Put that in your pipe, Luigi Garlaschelli, and smoke it.  What was the name of that Chuck Berry song? “Roll Over McCrone”?  No, Joe Nickell only wears a white lab coat like all the other PhDs in English Lit.

And I’m thankful for Colin’s work. And I’m enjoying his new explorations in the area of Maillard Reactions using lemon juice and milk.

Now, I’m not saying he isn’t wrong about a lot of things. I think he is.

And he can be something of a junk yard dog at times.

And I still think the shroud is the burial shroud of Christ. Who knows, maybe Colin will prove me wrong some day. Maybe he’ll come around to my way of thinking.

No, that is not a picture of Colin. It is Luigi. For a picture of Colin visit Colin’s About Me page in Blogger

Moreover, I trust Colin. He doesn’t want me to quote the following paragraph from his very public blog. But it says a lot, so let him be pissed. It is one reason why I trust him:

. . . There is no such thing as an expert in the field of sindonology (or shroudology as I prefer to call it. We are all beginners. Some begin better than others. The TS is a test of our ability to separate the wishful thinking that comes with appealing imagery from that of cold hard reality. Sadly there is no part of the human mind that is devoted to detecting CHR. The human mind is programmed to respond on a more immediate like/dislike response to what it sees. It’s part and parcel of the human condition to instantly add layers of fancy to what cunningly or otherwise seduces, or attempts to seduce the eye.

Maybe he’ll come around to my way of thinking? Probably not, but I think he is honest. Thanks, reader, for writing.

Jerry Coyne Once Again

October 6, 2014 7 comments

imageJerry Coyne, this past Saturday in Why Evolution is True, asks, Once again: Was there a historical Jesus?

Again, the question is not whether Jesus was the son of God/part of God as Christianity alleges, but whether there was even a historical person around whom the Jesus myth accreted. While people like Bart Ehrman give an adamant “yes,” others, like Richard Carrier (and our own Ben Goren) are “mythicists,” claiming that there’s no convincing of any real person who could have been the model of the Jesus figure.

I have to say that I’m coming down on the “mythicist” side, simply because I don’t see any convincing historical records for a Jesus person. Everything written about him was decades after his death, and, as far as I can see, there is no contemporaneous record of a Jesus-person’s existence (what “records” exist have been debunked as forgeries). Yet there should have been some evidence, especially if Jesus had done what the Bible said. But even if he was simply an apocalyptic preacher, as Ehrman insists, there should have been at least a few contemporaneous records. Based on their complete absence, I am for the time being simply a Jesus agnostic. But I don’t pretend to be a scholar in this area, or even to have read a lot of the relevant literature. I haven’t even read Richard Carrier’s new book promoting the mythicist interpretation, though I will.

The next day, yesterday, Vincent Torley, over at Uncommon Descent (Serving the Intelligent Design Community), responded:

Jerry Coyne has written a post in which he states that he is inclined to believe that Jesus never existed, although he hasn’t made up his mind yet. And on what does Coyne base his tentative opinion? An article in the Huffington Post by a biopsychologist named Nigel Barber, a self-published book by a systems engineer, Michael Paulkovich, which Coyne admits he hasn’t read, and finally, another book which he hasn’t read, written by atheist activist Richard Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history, but who (judging from his Wikipedia biography) has no teaching or research position at any accredited institution. [Update: according to his C.V., Carrier teaches classes at the Center for Inquiry Institute Online (a think tank founded in 1987) using a Moodle interface, and is also an online instructor with Partners for Secular Activism. As far as I can tell, the only accredited program offered by CFI is an Ed.M. program in Science and the Public, in partnership with the Graduate School of Education of the University at Buffalo. However, Carrier does not teach this course.]

I wonder what Coyne would think of a critique of Darwin’s theory of evolution, written by a biopsychologist, a systems engineer and finally, a prominent evolution critic with a Ph.D. in biology, who had never taught the subject at any university. Not much, I think. I find it odd, then, that he is prepared to set aside the opinions of all reputable historians with relevant expertise in the field, on the question of whether Jesus existed.

Coyne seems to be click baiting. Torley takes the bait and resorts to expertise bashing. Hoping for sanity in the comments and not finding it, we do find bornagain77 using the Shroud of Turin to settle the argument (here on October 5, 2014 at 9:13 am, October 5, 2014 at 9:14 am and October 5, 2014 at 9:15 am)

That the image was formed by a quantum process, and not by a classical process, also adds significant weight to the fact that the Shroud is not a medieval forgery.

If the shroud is not a medieval forgery then of course Jesus existed and Coyne is wrong. That means, also that dogs are better than cats since Coyne is a cat lover. Never mind that the above, based on a brief paper by Fazio and Mandaglio is far far away from being theory. It sounds good, we can want to believe it, and we don’t need to stop with the Jesus of history. Move over Einstein:

Moreover, I personally hold that since the image was formed by a quantum process, and not by a classical process, then the shroud provides empirical evidence that General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics/Special Relativity (QED) were unified by the resurrection of Christ from death into the much sought after ‘theory of everything’.

Ain’t blogging wonderful.

New Discussion Facility on the St. Louis Conference Site

October 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Your comments were heard.

imageThe Discussion Facility has been revised so that it is restricted to discussion about papers and presentations at the conference. The site now reads:

This discussion forum has been initiated to provide an opportunity for speakers to interact online with the attendees and the general public. The discussions consist of questions and comments from the attendees to the conference speakers and the speakers’ responses. Naturally, we cannot guarantee that all speakers will agree to provide answers, but we hope that many will participate. If a speaker chooses not to respond, there would still be the opportunity to at least make comments about the presentation. Anyone can read the various replies that are made on a topic, but one has to register to make comments. Reference the Program to learn about each topic.

Seems like a good idea.

Categories: Other Blogs, St Louis 2014

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