I have promoted a comment from a previous posting to address the issue cazab raised. It is a valid point, one that we all need to struggle with: the value of the opinion of experts. Here is the comment:

I’d like to know what do you think of the expert opinion of Prof. Mario Capasso when he declares the inscriptions are corresponding to an handwriting made between -50 to 50.

Is this well-known papyrologist wrong and how, according to you, is it possible ?

According to you, what is the probability for this classic pareidolia to be well-made enough that it can abuse an expert in his field ?

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

The Swiss criminologist and forensic pollen specialist Max three was certainly an expert. He found pollen that strongly suggested that the Shroud of Turin had been in the environs of Jerusalem at some time. However, there were good reasons to question his conclusion.

Avinoam Danin, a botany professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Uri Baruch, a pollen specialist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, tried to overcome objections to Frei’s work. At a conference sponsored by the Missouri Botanical Society in St Louis, Missouri, Danin, speaking about the pollen evidence (and floral images that he saw on the Shroud), reported that "In the light of our findings, it is highly probable that the shroud did in fact come from this part [the Jerusalem area] of the world."

But the problem was only compounded. The subject of floral images that Danin believed he saw on the shroud was being mixed up with Frei’s pollen observations because some of the plants were the same. That would be fine but many people doubted that Danin was really seeing these images of flowers. Danin wasn’t delusional. Others saw what seemed to be the same flowers. But some of the flower shaped coincided with banding noise on the fabric. When the banding was mathematically filtered out, some of those images disappeared.

I have met Danin. I have the highest respect for him and his expertise. I’m just not prepared to accept his opinion without more evidence.

Baruch, every bit as much an expert as Frie, could only confirm what Frei had observed but at the genus level and not a species level. That wasn’t very helpful for it greatly expanded the geographic area. A flower particular to a specific area in Frei’s expert interpretation might be found elsewhere in the world according to another expert. In 1991, Danin clarified his position on the pollen evidence. It could not be used to show that the shroud had been in the Middle East.

Now consider the expert opinion of Walter McCrone. He was undoubtedly one of the world’s leading authorities in the world of microscopy. He was reknowned art forgery expert. He identified paint particles on the Shroud and declared it a fake. Is this well-known microscopist wrong?

In fact, attempts to verify McCrone’s observations showed that what he thought he saw could not be what he thought it was. This was especially true of tests conducted by one of McCrone’s own staff. Mark Anderson proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that McCrone was wrong. So did mass spectrometry tests conducted at the University of Nebraska. The expert was wrong.

Ray Rogers used to say over and over, “I think I see is not a scientific statement.” Any claim—coins over the eyes, flowers, pollen identification, lettering, paint particles, etc.—needs to be independently verified and peer reviewed. When enhanced photographic images are used, the enhancements must be reproducible. The enhancement work done on the Enrie photographs (five levels of contrast enhancement with orthochromatic film) is not reproducible because no two pieces of film are identical. Digital enhancement is always reproducible if the detailed work is documented. This has never happened.

Skeptics of the shroud love to claim that the expert McCrone found paint and dismiss the claims of any experts that argue that the shroud is real. Proponent of authenticity love to use the claims of experts that support their view and dismiss skeptics like McCrone. That is why independent, reproducible verification as well as peer review is essential.

I’m not saying a well-known papyrologist is wrong. I’m just saying that we need more information before we can rely on his opinion.