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I Guess the Debate Offer Was BS

imageI suspect that I got off on the wrong foot with William Skyvington when having read his words on his blog . . .

But there exist indeed hordes of crazy individuals—known as Roman Catholics—who are prepared to believe in such bullshit.

. . .  I wondered on this blog if this was Ignorance or Bigotry or PZ Myer-ism. Not exactly friendly of me, but I stand by my words.

Well, William Skyvington then wrote on his blog:

Maybe we’ll have a profound debate on my humble Antipodes blog about the alleged authenticity of the Turin Shroud.

Apparently he didn’t mean it. It was, to use a favorite word of his, “bullshit.” You can read his blog post and his comments here and his latest comment here. Here is part of it:

In the region of France where I live, not far away from Chambéry, people are aware of the early days of the alleged shroud of Jesus. It so happens that the ecclesiastic historian Ulysse Chevalier [pictured] wrote about this strange object in several interesting French-language articles (which can be downloaded today from the Gallica database). Chevalier’s articles constitute, to my mind, a splendid presentation of the legendary background of the discovery and context of this object. Today, personally, I would not wish to waste too much time talking emptily with anybody who has not examined closely these comments of the great regional historian Ulysse Chevalier, who happens to be my constant reference in everything that concerns the ancient history of my adoptive home in the Dauphiné.

I am familiar with Ulysse Chevalier (1841-1923) and I will grant that he is an important regional historian. But I would hardly consider him the final word on the Shroud or on ecclesiastics in his part of the world anymore than I would consider Mark Twain (1835-1920) the final word on American culture. One would certainly want to read historian Emmanuel Poulle who argues convincingly that Chevalier was intellectually dishonest. One would certainly want to read historian and medievalist Daniel Scavone, as well, for he expresses significant doubts about Chevalier. Chevalier seems to have ignored many papers that challenged the veracity of the single document he relied on so heavily, the d’Arcis memorandum.

Skyvington continues:

As for more recent analyses of this cloth, I have nothing to add to what has already been exposed abundantly.

And what would that be?

And he continues on:

For everything concerning allegedly "miraculous" manifestations of certain facets of Humanity (as interesting as they are), I recommend strongly the reading of books by Richard Dawkins, who is a brilliant and serious dispeller of bullshit.

There we go with that oh so forceful substitute for reason: bullshit. Having read Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene (interesting), The God Delusion (Atheist fundamentalism) and The Greatest Show on Earth (excellent), I could simply say, using Skyvington’s own words, “I would not wish to waste too much time talking emptily with anybody who has not examined closely” . . . oh, let us say, Cambridge’s John Polkinghorne (FRS, Quantum Physicist) or Oxford’s Alister McGrath (Biologist) who know and meet Dawkins in debate. Polkinghorne and McGrath are highly respected theologians, as well. They, like Skyvington’s favorite historian, Ulysse Chevalier, are priests. But they are Anglican priests. Chevalier was a Roman Catholic priest, which doesn’t fit with his biased remark about crazy people called Roman Catholics who are prepared to believe “bullshit.”

This quote by McGrath from Richard Dawkins own website seems relevant.

The God Delusion is similarly full of misunderstanding. Dawkins simply presents us with another dogmatic fundamentalism. Maybe that’s why some of the fiercest attacks on The God Delusion are coming from other atheists, rather than religious believers. Michael Ruse, who describes himself as a ‘hardline Darwinian’ philosopher, confessed that The God Delusion made him ’embarrassed to be an atheist’.

Actually, the entire article by McGrath should be read at

Skyvington declines to debate:

As for me, I must state "graciously" that I have nothing more to add to any eventual debate about the so-called Shroud of Turin… which bores me infinitely. . . .

That’s too bad. My willingness to accept his suggestion of a debate is still on the table.

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