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Thoughts for a Sunday Morning: Tinfoil Hats

November 7, 2010

It is enough to make you want to become a skeptic.

In recent years, we have seen a world of craziness when it comes to skepticism about the Shroud of Turin. Perhaps none was as historically dyspeptic as a great conspiracy theory woven by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince: Leonardo da Vinci created the images on the Shroud.

image This wasn’t their only conspiracy theory. In The Stargate Conspiracy we learn that the CIA and MI5 are actively manipulating a secret cult of powerful and rich leaders, including leading scientists who believe that they are in direct contact with extraterrestrial intelligent beings from the star Sirius. These extraterrestrial beings are claiming to be the gods of ancient Egypt, the very gods responsible for an image of a face on Mars. Why are secret American and British agents, with help from NASA, doing this? To create a new insidious mind-control religion. As icing on the cake P&P tell us:

We reveal the ground-breaking research that provides a plausible answer to the most enduring questions about the ancient Egyptians’ achievements and beliefs – and, explosively, uncover the true nature of the gods themselves . . .

In How Leonardo da Vinci Fooled History we learn from P&P that the greatest painter and polymath in all of history secretly invented photography and then created a gigantic camera obscura. He discovered how to make film out of linen, how to chemically develop pictures and fix them. He was, after all, they remind us, a genius. He understood the camera obscura. So did many educated people, even for several centuries before Leonardo. He had experimented with chemistry. That, too, was a passion of many educated people in his day. Moreover, the authors tell us, he was, “[a] known joker, conjuror and illusionist, and a Church-hating heretic.” Is all of this not proof enough? Not even if it were true, which it isn’t.

A big problem for Picknett and Prince was the fact that Leonardo was born a century after the shroud was exhibited in Lirey. It was therefore necessary that he have an opportunity to replace one fake shroud with another fake shroud of his own making. He might have been welcome at the Savoy family palace, P&P tell us. After all they may have owned one of his drawings. Not only did he do all these things, say the conspiracy duo, he dabbed on blood in all the right places. He replaced the head of the crucifixion model with a photograph of his own head. P&P figured this out by comparing the head on the Shroud to a drawing of Leonardo and found, generally speaking, that the eyes and the nose and the mouth of both men were all in about the same place on their respective faces.

There were other strange skeptical theories about the image. There was the Shadow Shroud, a dust painting of a corpse lit by candlelight in a tomb, and another photograph theory sans Leonardo. On and on, theory after theory.

But hasn’t that been the problem of the proponents of authenticity, as well? To some extent, yes. You could say ‘yes’ and leave it at that. But there has been a stark difference. Proponents of authenticity always seemed a bit more reserved, somber, tentative. They spoke mostly of hypotheses and philosophical notions like Occam’s Razor. They sought and obtained publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

image The skeptics, on the other hand, at least some of them, tried not to get too close to science. According to Joe Nickell, not being a scientist is advantageous as researcher or investigator. In an article entitled, “An Interview With Joe Nickell,” Eric Krieg of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking, describes Nickell (using Nickell’s own words) as an “investigator” and formerly an “undercover detective, teacher, draft dodger, river boat manager, carnival promoter, magician and spokesperson.” 

“Joe [Nickell] impressed on me the difference between being a scientist and an investigator,” Kreig continued:

Joe seems to have no significant credentials . . .  Joe remarks that a scientist tends to approach an investigation from the narrow view of his own specialty – where as a ‘jack of all trades’ would come up with more avenues of investigation.

But the skeptics always sounded confident and certain. “It happened this way,” they seemed to say. That sounds admirable, of course, until you realize that that no two skeptics were saying the same thing.

Lest you think that such nuttiness is reserved for skeptics, it ain’t so. The tinfoil hat crowd has arrived from wherever, perhaps from the star Sirius, to tell the world that the Shroud is real. It’s hard to pin down when all this started, but the publication of Frank Tipler’s The Physics of Christianity seems defining. Tipler is a professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University, a theoretical physicist, a quantum cosmologist. But . . .! In his newest book, The Physics of Christianity, he suggests that the Shroud of Turin is the key for figuring out how to save the universe from ultimate collapse so that brilliant minds can build and sustain a computer simulation of our past lives, including consciousness and free will, thereby giving us immortality. Heaven is a virtual reality. There is more. Here I must quote from Martin Gardner’s review of Tipler’s book to touch on one other aspect of the Shroud:

All conservative Christians believe Jesus was free of the original sin that resulted from the Fall, which has been passed on to all descendants of Adam and Eve. Catholics think that Mary, too, escaped original sin. (It is a Catholic heresy to reject the Immaculate Conception.) How does Tipler explain the way Jesus and Mary differ in this manner from all other humans?

Tipler’s answer is wonderful. There must be genes that carry original sin! This could be verified some day, he writes, by first identifying the gene. Thus, failing to find evidence of the gene on the Shroud of Turin would explain the sinlessness of both Jesus and his mother.

(I am, dear reader, doing my best to keep a straight face while I summarize Tipler’s convictions.)

image image There is, of course – I say ‘of course’ because everyone follows crop circle reports – the account, just this year, 2010, of two crop circles in Wickham Green, just South of the M4 highway, near Hungerford, in Buckinghamshire, in England, in the United Kingdom. There are images in each of the crop circles. If you overlay these two images after flipping one of them around left to right, and you squint, it is obviously the face seen on the Shroud of Turin. This discovery left one pundit to suggest that there were only two possible explanations: either extraterrestrial beings – may I suggest Picknett and Prince’s friends from the star Sirius – are trying to tell us something or some very talented pranksters used the image on the Shroud for some chicanery.

More recently we have been entertained by a pseudo-chemistry and pseudo-history that proposes that the shroud was a Jewish tallit. Now there is a soon to be released book that argues that the images are quantum bio-holograms. If that is not enough there is a published report from The Urantia Book crowd:

image It [=UB] says that Jesus’ resurrected body was like that of angels and that his physical body still lay in the tomb after the resurrection and that the angels were given permission, upon request of an archangel,  to cause the accelerated dissolution of his physical remains. This permission was requested and granted so that they would not have to witness the decay of his body. The correlations have primarily to do with the superficial nature of the image and current theories about corona discharge and nuclear medicine  imaging.

It helps to understand that the UBers believe that Jesus was the name that the most senior angel, Michael, the ruler of Nebadon, used, temporarily, after the incarnation and before the resurrection. The administrative angel Gabriel, his second in command, ruled the universe while Michael, a.k.a. Jesus, was visiting this planet. He is currently using the name Michael, not Jesus.

And finally – well for now anyways – from a book called Lost at Sea, we have explanations for errors in the carbon dating that defy human comprehension:

They label this skull fell back into dust in the radiocarbon year 5020 bc where this soul ate the fruit of this tree around the calendar ring—that is 6000 years before Christ rose into light: Here this ancient temple wall fell back into dust, around this soul on this raised mound, these doctors call Broca’s area, named after a brain surgeon, where they discover these tongues of many language begin to speak out through these gates and where they look for the Creator of the word— in this wilderness from this historic cross over  point through time—with the AMS. . . . The image locks in the location where this seed buried in the ground rose up into light and left its image to prove that the AMS can’t count the number of times this ancient body rose up into light and it circled these souls —lost at sea—as shown on the stump . . .

(Yes, AMS stands for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, the method used to date the Shroud of Turin.)

Get out your tinfoil hats. It is only going to continue. It’s enough to want to become a skeptic.

  1. November 7, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Hi, Episcopalian.

    You state that Prof. Frank J. Tipler “suggests that the Shroud of Turin is the key for figuring out how to save the universe from ultimate collapse …” That is incorrect.

    Prof. Tipler isn’t claiming that the miracles of Jesus Christ are proven to have taken place by physics, simply that they need not have violated any known laws of physics. Tipler proposes tests that can be performed on particular relics which, if the relics are genuine, could verify whether in fact said miracles took place via the proffered mechanism. This mechanism uses baryon annihilation, and its inverse, via electroweak quantum tunneling (which is allowed in the Standard Model of particle physics, as baryon number minus lepton number, B – L, is conserved) controlled by the final cosmological singularity via the Principle of Least Action.

    And the collapse of the universe into a final singularity within finite proper time is necessary if life is to continue forever in experiential time. The known laws of physics provide the mechanism for the universe’s collapse. As required by the Standard Model, the net baryon number was created in the early universe by baryogenesis via electroweak quantum tunneling. This necessarily forces the Higgs field to be in a vacuum state that is not its absolute vacuum, which is the cause of the positive cosmological constant. But if the baryons in the universe were to be annihilated by the inverse of baryogenesis, again via electroweak quantum tunneling, then this would force the Higgs field toward its absolute vacuum, cancelling the positive cosmological constant and thereby forcing the universe to collapse. Moreover, this process would provide the ideal form of energy resource and rocket propulsion during the colonization phase of the universe.

    If the miracles of Jesus Christ did in fact happen, and if they occured through the above-stated electroweak quantum tunneling mechanism, then mankind possessing genuine relics of these miraculous events would be very important. By studying them they could provide clues as to how to technologically harness this Standard Model mechanism, which would provide enormous energy at very low cost, as ordinary matter could then be entirely converted into pure energy.

    You go on to state “… so that brilliant minds can build and sustain a computer simulation of our past lives, including consciousness and free will, thereby giving us immortality. Heaven is a virtual reality.” If by “brilliant minds” you mean superintelligent immortal minds, then that’s correct. In Biblical language, these would be the saints beheaded by the Beast government who take part in the First Resurrection. The general resurrection of the dead isn’t possible at the time of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, since for almost all the dead their brains will be far too decomposed to be readable. Hence the Second Resurrection, which is the universal resurrection of the dead (both wicked and saint alike), must wait until enough computational resources come online within the universe, as eventually any desired amount of computational resources will be available, diverging to infinity.

    Nor is the term “virtual reality” all that accurate to describe this state, as it is a term used to describe the toy-type of 3-dimensional worlds that can be rendered with today’s current computer power. As Jesus accurately said, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21, NKJV). That is, we each posesses reality-generators in the form of our brains, as the entire reality that we experience is a computer-generated reality within the wet-computers of our brains, i.e., the images that we see, the sensations that we feel, the sounds that we hear, the flavors that we taste, and the fragrances that we smell are all being generated by our brains from electrical impulses sent via our body’s nerves. It is our brains that interpret these electrical impulses and construct a coherent whole: what we call reality. Yet the reality experienced by superintelligent immortal beings–in Biblical language, the saints who have obtained their resurrection bodies–will be far more convincing, far more real, than the reality our comparatively feeble brains can generate, as they will possess vastly more computational resources than our mortal brains.

    Given an infinite amount of computational resources, per the Bekenstein Bound, recreating the exact quantum state of our present universe is trivial, requiring at most a mere 10^123 bits (the number which Roger Penrose calculated), or at most a mere 2^10^123 bits for every different quantum configuration of the universe logically possible (i.e., the powerset, of which the multiverse in its entirety at this point in universal history is a subset of this powerset). So the Omega Point will be able to resurrect us using merely an infinitesimally small amount of total computational resources: indeed, the multiversal resurrection will occur between 10^-10^10 and 10^-10^123 seconds before the Omega Point is reached, as the computational capacity of the universe at that stage will be great enough that doing so will require only a trivial amount of total computational resources.

    For much more on that, see Prof. Frank J. Tipler’s below paper, which in addition to giving the Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model Theory of Everything (TOE) correctly describing and unifying all the forces in physics, also demonstrates that the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model of particle physics) require that the universe end in the Omega Point (the final cosmological singularity and state of infinite informational capacity identified as being God–of which is a different aspect of the Big Bang initial singularity, i.e., the uncaused first cause):

    F. J. Tipler, “The structure of the world from pure numbers”, Reports on Progress in Physics, Vol. 68, No. 4 (April 2005), pp. 897-964; available at Tipler’s website. Also released as “Feynman-Weinberg Quantum Gravity and the Extended Standard Model as a Theory of Everything”, arXiv:0704.3276, April 24, 2007.

    Out of 50 articles, Prof. Tipler’s above paper was selected as one of 12 for the “Highlights of 2005” accolade as “the very best articles published in Reports on Progress in Physics in 2005 [Vol. 68]. Articles were selected by the Editorial Board for their outstanding reviews of the field. They all received the highest praise from our international referees and a high number of downloads from the journal Website.” (See Richard Palmer, Publisher, “Highlights of 2005”, Reports on Progress in Physics website.)

    Reports on Progress in Physics is the leading journal of the Institute of Physics, Britain’s main professional body for physicists. Further, Reports on Progress in Physics has a higher impact factor (according to Journal Citation Reports) than Physical Review Letters, which is the most prestigious American physics journal (one, incidently, which Prof. Tipler has been published in more than once). A journal’s impact factor reflects the importance the science community places in that journal in the sense of actually citing its papers in their own papers.

    See also the below resource for further information on the Omega Point Theory:

    Theophysics: God Is the Ultimate Physicist (a website).

    Tipler is Professor of Physics and Mathematics (joint appointment) at Tulane University. His Ph.D. is in the field of global general relativity (the same rarefied field that Profs. Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking developed), and he is also an expert in particle physics and computer science. His Omega Point Theory has been published in a number of prestigious peer-reviewed physics and science journals in addition to Reports on Progress in Physics, such as Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (one of the world’s leading astrophysics journals), Physics Letters, the International Journal of Theoretical Physics, etc.

    Traditional Christian theology has maintained that God never violates natural law, as God, in His omniscience, knew in the beginning all that He wanted to achieve and so, in His omnipotence, He formed the laws of physics in order to achieve His goal. The idea that God would violate His own laws would mean that God is not omniscient. In traditional Christian theology, miracles do not violate natural law–rather, they are events that are so improbable that they can only be explained by the existence of God and His acting in the world.

    That is, traditional Christian theology has maintained that if we had the ultimate physical law, then we would be able to explain how God’s existence and His miracles are possible. We now have that ultimate physical law, the Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model Theory of Everything (TOE) correctly describing and unifying all the forces in physics, and so we are now able to explain God’s existence and His miracles.

  1. November 8, 2010 at 11:45 am
  2. February 15, 2011 at 5:13 pm
  3. August 22, 2011 at 10:50 am
  4. January 16, 2012 at 5:31 am
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