Open to Agnosticism

imageWell this, by Adam Frank, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Rochester, Hubble Fellow and NPR “13.7 Cosmos & Culture” blogger caused a bit of a stir in NPR land:

So, to be clear, I am not agnostic because I hope that my soul will ascend to Science Heaven, where I could spend eternity learning more about thermodynamics and quantum information theory (and where Firefly ran for 100 seasons). I am not agnostic because I hope souls exist. I doubt they do. I am agnostic about what happens after biological functioning because neither I, nor anyone else, understands consciousness and its fundamental relation to biology, chemistry and physics.

Adam Frank is a nonbeliever in God. Get that straight. He authored The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate; he has given the subject a lot of thought. This was just too close to sounding religious for some others. The message was clear: if you don’t have evidence that there is afterlife then you must, from a scientific worldview, presume there is not. I am reminded of the old Bertrand Russell teapot argument.

Then again, I am reminded that so many skeptics take this position on the shroud: if you can’t prove it is authentic then you must assume it is not. Why? Because it is a religious object? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone like Adam Frank examining the literature on the shroud.

Open to thinking: You And Your Brain. On Agnosticism And Consciousness.

Thoughts for a Sunday Morning

Yannick Clément reacts to A Moderate’s View on the Shroud of Turin

In my mind, the most dramatic failure of Christianity, and specially these days, is that it was not able to convince the majority of people that “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)

Watching the man of the Shroud (and particularly his peaceful face despite his suffering body) can be quite helpful to discover that this awesome message of LOVE his TRUE !!! If the Shroud have a purpose, I’m sure that’s what it is…

A Moderate’s View on the Shroud of Turin

I thought that rapture accounts were over, at least until we got closer to the updated forecast for the end of the world on October 21st. And so I at first ignored this article altogether. But it isn’t about rapture or end of the world or anything like that. It is about a very modern moderate take on God and religion. Not that I agree, but it worth reading. The reference to the Shroud of Turin is what caught my attention. So be sure to read Rapture Postponed: The Consolations of Moderate Belief at THE NEW MODERATE:

It could well be that Yahweh, the God of the Bible, is a creature of manmade myth. Personally, I find it hard to believe that the God of nature — the inscrutable moving force that may (or may not) have created atomic particles, the elements and all the billions of galaxies out there – would worry about whether his Jewish followers on Planet Earth ate shellfish or trimmed their forelocks. If God exists, surely he’d have to be more vast and brilliant than the often petty, jealous and judgmental male deity who purportedly reigned over the Hebrew tribes three thousand years ago. Our earthbound mammal minds simply aren’t equal to the task of imagining anything as great as a bona fide God.

Picture Caption: The negative image of the face on the Shroud of Turin. Are we looking at the founder of Christianity? Who or what was he?

That’s my belief. I have nothing to verify it other than my own fumbling grasp of the universe and how it works. I entertain no certainty of an afterlife, blissful or miserable. I like to believe we can tap into the essence of God, but don’t ask me for evidence. A hopeful inner voice tells me that the face on the Shroud of Turin actually belongs to Jesus, but I wouldn’t bet my life savings on it. I’m skeptical about the doctrine of salvation — that the Crucifixion somehow cleansed us of our sins, or that we even need to be cleansed — yet I’m also convinced that our society is the poorer for having thrown Judeo-Christian morality out the window. In short, you could say I’m stranded in the religious equivalent of No Man’s Land, midway between the warring factions of believers and atheists.

If I weren’t such a strong believing Christian, I’d agree with so much of this. And in ways, I do. Bravo on the shroud.

No, NASA Didn’t Test the Shroud of Turin

imageChristine, I enjoyed reading your posting, The Real Presence in your Catholic Expression blog. However, there is a significant error in your footnote in which you write. I have read it many times. It is an error that is going around that must be corrected.

In 1978, a group of scientists from NASA performed an intensive examination on the Shroud of Turin, using all the sophisticated scientific equipment available to our Space Agency at that time. Among the many findings the scientists made in support of the authenticity of the Shroud, a very significant discovery was found regarding the blood type on the Shroud. It was AB positive.

It was not a group of scientists from NASA. I have included (below the fold – read more) the list of researchers from Barrie Schwortz’ website at Only two were from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is a NASA facility. The rest of the members of the team represented many different organizations.

I also disagree with the statement that they were “using all the sophisticated scientific equipment available to our Space Agency at that time.” The tests were performed with sophisticated equipment brought from the United States, but it was a far cry of what was available.

Anyway, thanks for an interesting posting. I enjoyed reading The Real Presence « Catholic Expression.

Continue reading “No, NASA Didn’t Test the Shroud of Turin”

Now A Short Review of Robert Cariola’s Book “SHROUD:art images”

imageIn March, I mentioned a book by Long Island artist Robert Cariola called, SHROUD:art images. I also stated that I could not find a review of the book anywhere on the Internet. At $82.00 for the hardback edition and $72.00 for the paperback, I was not about the buy the book sight unseen.

Now I have heard from Martha Horman, who wrote a comment on this blog:

I have seen the book and it is wonderful. It’s chuck full of high quality color plates of his work inspired by the Turin Shroud.

So, now, maybe I’ll put it on a hint list for Fathers’ Day or my birthday. You may visit the authors blog at SHROUD:art images. From his blog:

imageRoberts’ new book, SHROUD:art images is now available at, and soon at and, pending a deal with the 2 internet book giants.

The Shroud – an ancient imprint on linen cloth believed to be the face of Christ, fascinating Christians and men for centuries. Its rich religious and cultural history has sparked inspiration in Robert Cariola as well.

Behold SHROUD: art images, a showcase of the superb outcomes of that inspiration.

Comprised of Roberts images and passages from the Bible, Robert has put together a collection depicting the face of Jesus Christ and the Shroud of Turin.

Thanks, Martha. See Robert Cariola’s Book “SHROUD:art images” « Shroud of Turin Blog

Bedazzlements and Whodunits Posed to Us by the Shroud of Turin

imageDavor Aslanovski asks us to realize and perhaps even take heart in that . . .

One does not need to consider John of Damascus to be a saint, or to accept that his writings on Christian images partook of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church to greater and greater knowledge. That would be overstepping the boundaries of historical research. But one cannot refuse this notion either, because that too would entail crossing those boundaries. And, most importantly, one must, when he reads a passage like the following:

‘A certain conception through the senses thus takes place in the brain, which was not there before, and is transmitted to the judicial faculty, and added to the mental store.’ (John of Damascus, Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images, Book I)

recognize that the author’s idea of the creation of meaning is not far removed from that of contemporary academic thought on art. He is speaking here of how images provide for our need for sensible things to render what is beyond sense, a notion that he borrowed from Pseudo-Dionysius.

. . . in his one new article in his new blog. (I mentioned this blog back on January 17, saying then that we were waiting content.) He welcomes us thus:

You are cordially invited to read once and reread as many times as you like, this little chronicle of je ne sais quoi. Dip into and splash about the lines that follow, or riff through them like you’re reading The Value of Pi to 750 000 Decimal Places

Together, we will read, ponder, and weep over, the following themes:

  • Theology of art in Abrahamic religions
  • History and character of the Early Christian Church (particularly as it is revealed in its visual art and iconography)
  • Current state of affairs in art historical research, methodology, intrigues and chicanery and, above all:
  • The brainteasing conundrums, bedazzlements and whodunits posed to us by the Shroud of Turin, the Sudarium of Oviedo, the Abgar legend, the Mandylion, the Veronica, the Uronica, the Holy Face of San Silvestro, the Holy Face of Genoa, the Holy Face of Lucca, the Holy Face of Montreuil, the Mannopello image, and various other images and relics, originating from the periods so wonderfully unrelated one to another as to include everything from the earliest Christian times all the way to AD 1934 and Saint Faustina’s Image of Divine Mercy.

See and read: Deum Videre: I am an art historian, therefore I believe: I.

More on Another Take on the Urfa Mosaic

imageYannick Clément agrees with the reader who wrote Another Take on the Urfa Mosaic. I must add that I think Yannick is right:

I fully agree with this comment. I don’t trust at all this comparative image technique. It’s not a very scientific technique in my mind. Way too much suggestive. In fact, if the author took the Shroud face as the main image and use his technique again to compare it to other Jesus depictions, he would probably get the same result and the Shroud face then would be consider as the primary source for ancient Jesus depictions and not the ISA mosaic ! If he used one of the oldest Jesus fresco from the Roman catacombs, he would surely get, again, the same result and this fresco would be consider the primary source, etc., etc.

And another thing I want to underline is the fact that this article don’t give us any proof at all that the Shroud and the Mandylion are one and the same thing. It’s a preconception in the mind of the author. In fact, even if the ISA mosaic hypothesis is true and was made around the time that the Mandylion came to Edessa, how can we be sure that this Mandylion wasn’t just another artistic depiction of Jesus (maybe or maybe not based on the Shroud) ? It could well be the case ! In EVERY surviving copies of the Mandylion, Jesus is ALWAYS depicted has a living men without any traces of blood or injury in the face. And another thing this article don’t give us is the real age of the ISA mosaic. If we don’t have a true age for this mosaic (and also an absolute authenticity proof), then I found the author hypothesis to be really week…

In fact, one of the only good thing about this article is to point out the fact that, surely, there is a primary common source for the ancient depictions of Jesus and that this source was so important that it came to be THE source for every Jesus depictions… But the question remain unanswered : What was the primary source ? We still don’t know. And I still think the first source (the original one) was the Shroud but, as the author of the article point out, it could well be a fact that the Shroud was a primary source for just one artistic depiction of Jesus and then, this artistic depiction (the Mandylion ?) became THE main source for other Jesus depictions. In my mind, this is a possibility as good as the hypothesis put forward by the author…

Ye old leading them astray tactic or how to make an issue out of anything

imageA modern example might be a preoccupation with the Shroud of Turin or yesterday’s predicted Rapture, generated through Harold Camping’s fixation with numbers in Scripture rather than the clear teaching of Scripture that “no man knows the day or time of His coming.”

You can imagine the issue, right? One group within the Christian community starts focusing so much on these strange teachings that they start leading others astray and also become uninterested in the core Gospel acts of ministry and mission.

You could have substituted anything for Shroud of Turin, anything you don’t agree with: The Simpsons, dancing the Lindy, Calvinism. Read Good Shepherd Sermons: Internal Issues (1 Timothy 1.1-17)

Abstraction Thinking

imageInteresting paper. For those of us interested in comparing images to the face on the Shroud of Turin (or if we are just plain interested in this stuff as we should be) it is worth the several minutes to read. Studies in Art History: The Thinking Behind Abstraction; Tessellated Transcendence and the Philosophy of Islamic Filigree

This paper examines the similarities and differences between Platonic Pythagoreanism(1) and Abrahamic(2) Pythagoreanism within the art and doctrine of Islam, Judaism and Christianity with particular reference to Islamic Art.

From a footnote:

Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452 –1519 CE) devotion to this principal is evident throughout his works. An example of this can be seen in the Mona Lisa’s face which fits perfectly into a golden rectangle, and rest of the painting is structured around similar rectangles. Even the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin adheres to the same proportions as the Mona Lisa, they match perfectly.

Taking Ockham’s Razor to Ockham’s Razor

imageThere 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.

imageWhat 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 Ockam  as a weapon of choice, it seems, in every debate.

A MUST READ: Razoring Ockham’s razor

How is Chez Pazienza Like Joe Nickell?

[chez.jpg]Shouldn’t we expect more from Chez in Deus Ex Malcontent and as run in the Huffington Post Religion Section this Sunday morning?

Still, there’s something really worth pointing out in the wake of the non-Rapture. While it was easy for most of us to handily dismiss the lunatic predictions of Pastor Harold Camping and his merry band of messianic misfits, what shouldn’t be forgotten is just how unremarkable their basic belief-system is. Sure, even a lot of hardcore Evangelicals ridiculed Camping’s assertion that Jesus was going to appear out of the sky today, but make no mistake: Whether they choose to say it loudly and publicly right now, as far as they’re concerned the only thing Camping got wrong was the exact date. There are millions of people still going about their business today convinced that at any moment they can be beamed up to heaven while the rest of the Earth falls into a period of tribulation that ends in its ultimate destruction. And by the way, these people aren’t considered crazy — they’re just called faithful, and deserving of having that faith respected and lent credence by the rest of us. It’s fascinating that, really, the only thing that puts Pastor Harold Camping and his followers one step over the line into the world of the insane outlier is that they thought they had figured out the time of Jesus’s return, not that they believed absolutely in the notion of a divine entity called Jesus — or that he would magically appear to us — in the first place.

If you need it put in more reductionist terms it can be summed up like this: Believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrected son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals not-crazy; believing that you know when Jesus Christ will make that triumphant return equals crazy. See how, well, crazy that is?

Where, exactly, is the logic in this? Appeal by ridicule? Is there not also a certain amount of conclusion running around begging to be the premise? Straw man, of sorts, anyone? Could we not simply use this same argument to first lambast pseudo-science and then argue that there is a distinction without much of a difference when it comes to science?

As one HuffPo reader nicely put it:

. . . Strictly logically speaking, one could amend the author’s take home message to say the following: "Believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrecte­d son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals crazy; NOT believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrecte­d son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals not-crazy.­" I’m sure many would protest that there is of course a difference between these views (which ultimately probably reveals little more than what one personally believes) — and yes, that’s exactly my point. There are also VERY important difference­s in the two beliefs the author discusses, and his differenti­ation only has cash value among those who already want to see anything that they don’t believe in as lunacy. Summing them up in the reductioni­st way the author does, does not get us very far, nor does it clearly differenti­ate from ANY set of beliefs, at least not without assuming a certain level of what OF COURSE is crazy and is not (laugh, laugh, snort, snort).

Students of the shroud will quickly see the Joe Nickell in this. Nickell likes to tell us there are many fake relics throughout the world, bits of the true cross etc.. He then tells us that to think they are real is crazy. Thus believing that the Shroud of Turin is authentic . . . “See how, well, crazy that is?”

Another Great Image of Jesus

There is a lot of similarities between the Urfa Mosaic on the left and a catacomb fresco. More details to follow as additional information is gathered. But, I sense both images may have been sourced directly or indirectly from what eventually came to be known as the Shroud of Turin. Meaningful images continue to accumlate.

Hat tip to Diana Fulbright who provided the fresco image.




Larger version of the fresco after the fold (Read More).

Continue reading “Another Great Image of Jesus”

But Wait a Minute, That was Ten Minutes Ago and CNN Isn’t Reporting Anything

Tina Dupuy in The Atlantic:

imageThe end of the world will be at exactly 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011, says Camping (pictured), who along with his organization, Family Radio, are behind those billboards across the country forecasting the Rapture this Saturday. The Rapture, the Last Days, Armageddon and the Final Days of Judgment are all interchangeable. It’s when God will destroy the Earth to show his love for humanity.

Is that Eastern Standard or Pacific Standard Time?

Neither, says Camping, whom I interviewed recently for my online news show TYT Now. The Rapture is at 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011, where ever it’s 6 p.m. first, with the "fantastically big" world-ending event taking place on a time zone by time zone basis.

That means we can expect the Rapture to start when it hits 6 p.m. at the International Dateline at 180 Longitude — roughly the between Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Nuku’alofa, Tonga. We’ll know it’s Judgment Day because there will be an earthquake of previously unprecedented magnitude, Camping predicts.

So, according to these calculations, the Rapture will actually begin like a rolling brown out across the globe at 11 p.m. PST on Friday, May 20th. "Everyone will be weeping and wailing because they’ll know in a few hours it’ll come to their city," said Camping.

This also means that, if Camping is right, his signs littering California and in his current hometown of Oakland — not to mention thousands of atheists throwing Rapture parties — have the date wrong. It’s Friday, Friday…gotta get down on Friday.

But wait a minute: that was ten minutes ago and CNN isn’t reporting anything.

PZ Myers Has a Gem

imageAs many of you know, I don’t like PZ Myers. It’s not because he is an Atheist. It’s not because he is a militant new Atheist. It’s because I think he is mean and immature in the way he conducts his never-ending campaign against religion. Even so, I read his blog religiously. There is some interesting stuff about evolutionary biology and his criticism of religious extremists is mostly on target. And every now and then there is a gem:

The Buffalo Beast has an interview with sadly delusional Harold Camping, the senile old man who is predicting the end of the world on the 21st. I say "Pshht!" and "Humbug!" — it’s no big deal to get an interview with that loony attention hog on the 19th; I will be impressed with the fellow who gets the first interview on the 22nd.

I bet Camping’s phone will be ringing like mad on Sunday.

Will he answer? See Pharyngula

More on Professor Hawking on Heaven but Really About the Shroud of Turin

Tiro objects — ‘not so keen’ were his words — when I said, in regards to him calling himself a new Roman pagan, “I guess new as opposed to old who we could burn at the stake.”

I was joking. You wrote:

I’ve long given up wondering how otherwise-pious Christians reconcile the peaceful message Jesus is said to have taught with their apparent desire to see unbelievers burned at the stake. I can only say that these are the Christians least likely to convince me of the merit of their belief system. . . .

I agree with you. But, we shouldn’t give up wondering about this, particularly those of us who are Christians. It is a challenge to theology and our interpretation of scriptural mandates about morality. The author of the Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus said:

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

But somehow we find ways to make the yoke hard to bear by ignoring his teaching. I like to think we have made some progress. But I’m wary. (The stained glass window immortalizes burning Jacques DeMolay at the stake).

My point about the eleventh century was that the carbon dating results concluded that the fibers originated between 1260 and 1390. That is mid-thirteenth to late fourteenth. There never, ever was a qualified scholarly claim, scientific or historical, that the cloth originated in the eleventh century. That was my only point because you specifically called yourself a nitpicker. I was just nitpicking with you. So may I nitpick some more? You wrote:

My understanding is that there’s dispute over the carbon dating of the shroud, with a suggestion that the fibres so tested were taken exclusively from a handy piece of mediaeval patch work. Which I guess is a good hypothesis for those whose faith is founded largely on assumptions about the provenance of this piece of cloth. But I’d have serious concerns if I thought my faith was dependent on so many assumptions. Would it not be strong enough to withstand the possibility that this is a mediaeval hoax, or an artwork unrelated to Jesus, or even an early experiment in photography? Let’s not forget that the mediaeval period saw a massive, truly massive, trade in spurious religious ‘relics’. There was *serious* profit to be made from bits of the True Cross, nails, and so on.

Actually, sir, it is more than “a handy piece of mediaeval patch work” and more than “a good hypothesis.” There is enough evidence of a “reweaving repair,” all nicely documented in peer-reviewed scientific journals, confirmed and reconfirmed, to challenge the carbon dating sufficiently enough to say there is reasonable doubt. The carbon dating needs to be redone and hopefully that will happen someday soon.

And so what if it comes back medieval? Then so what? I hope my faith and the faith of all Christians would be strong enough to withstand that possibility. I have been a Christian all of my life. I’m now 68. I only heard about the shroud about fifteen years ago. For five of those years I remained skeptical of its authenticity. What you say about the “serious profits” being made from fake relics was one of the chief reasons I remained skeptical.

Here is something I wrote several years ago:

I remember being surprised that I knew so little about the Shroud of Turin. Then in my mid-fifties, I had always been an avid reader of history, particularly early church history. I could not recall ever reading anything about the Shroud of Turin. It was so far from being something I cared about that I never paid it any attention. Thus, when in 1979, Walter McCrone, a world renowned forensic microscopist, claimed that he found paint on a few Shroud fibers, I didn’t notice the story. McCrone, having noted that the shroud had suddenly appeared in 1356 in the hands of a French knight who would not say where it came from and that a local bishop soon thereafter claimed that an artist “cunningly painted” it, declared it a painted fake. Had I noticed the story in 1979, I would have certainly accepted his conclusion. It would have made sense to me.

A decade later, when three radiocarbon dating laboratories, using carbon 14 dating, supposedly proved the Shroud of Turin was medieval, I didn’t notice. Had I, I would have certainly accepted the conclusion. I trust science. I did then, and more than ever, I do now.

Moreover, I am naturally skeptical about any relic with a historical footprint in medieval Europe. The year 1356 was a time of unbridled superstition in demons, witches, magic, and miracle-working relics. It was a time of frequent famine and the Black Death plague. It was a time of extreme economic and political turbulence and of war. The same year that the Shroud was first displayed publicly in the small French village of Lirey, nearby, at the battle of Poitiers, England’s Black Prince defeated the French and captured King John II. Adding to the political turmoil, the Pope was in Avignon, not Rome. Indicative of the thinking in this age, some believed that the plague was God’s retribution on the whole world because the Pope was not in the eternal city. In this climate of superstition, naiveté and disorder a lucrative market in false relics flourished. And though the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, acknowledged the problem, church authorities did little to curb the market in them. Our knowledge of this time in history rightly conditions us to be suspicious of any relic that might appear in Europe at this time. But I had not noticed its history, either. In metaphoric parlance, the Shroud of Turin was never a blip on my radar screen. And it would have likely remained that way were it not for a single enigmatic fact that Cahill* mentioned: the picture on the Shroud of Turin was a negative.

*That is Thomas Cahill in Desire of the Everlasting Hills

I am much more interested in truth than assumptions. I can’t tell you why I have so much faith in Christianity. But the shroud has nothing to do with it. I’m just fascinated with it.

Your full comments are below the fold. Click on Read More

Continue reading “More on Professor Hawking on Heaven but Really About the Shroud of Turin”

Another Take on the Urfa Mosaic

A reader writes:

The Urfa mosaic (Paper Chase: Face of the God-man) is interesting. I think some people would say it looks like Jesus. If it is ca. 1st or 2nd century, that would be truly amazing. But I suspect that if it is from Edessa, it is no earlier than middle to late 3rd century when Christianity first came to the city-state.  It could be much later, even as late as the 13th century if sourced from the shroud.  There is a real possibility that this thing is a forgery; think unsophisticated museum, Urfa, an untraceable claim. Too bad the IAA wouldn’t be welcome in Urfa.  And there is the possibility that this is not Jesus. No, really!

Partial opaque overlays on a computer are not a good way to compare images. It fools us because it is so suggestive. If you think the method is useful then you need control experiments to show this. I don’t think you will find many experts who will accept this method.

Transparent film is better but that is hard to duplicate with graphics software. Points of congruence is a bit dubious, as well. It is useful for finger prints where precise rules are pre-defined. It could perhaps be useful for comparing faces with the rules that have been developed for facial recognition software. But the method in this paper will probably not be accepted by image analysts.

One good method is to use outlining as was done with the lead codex (another fake) and the Zippori Venus. See Jesus’ Mona Lisa Smile at

Maybe Dayvalt is onto something. But he must first establish the mosaic’s provenance. Then he must find a solid method of comparing images that everyone can agree on. Even then, I have doubts that this mosaic was a source for other images. For one thing it is too coarse. For another it is in a city that was often ruled by a puppet king or caliph, quite outside Byzantine control for most of the 1st millennium.

I suspect that there were a lot of portable images in circulation, perhaps derived from the shroud. Many were probably lost to iconoclasm or disaster or are yet to be found. I suspect that the Urfa mosaic is just another really cool image of Jesus (or maybe somebody else). I congratulate Dayvalt for bringing it to the world’s attention. I hope he will continue to study it and engage other experts to work with him to help us all learn more about it.

What Stephen Hawking doesn’t understand about heaven – On Faith – The Washington Post

imageAnglican Bishop of Durham, historian, Biblical scholar and theologian, N. T. Wright: What Stephen Hawking doesn’t understand about heaven – On Faith – The Washington Post:

It’s depressing to see Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds in his field, trying to speak as an expert on things he sadly seems to know rather less about than many averagely intelligent Christians. Of course there are people who think of ‘heaven’ as a kind of pie-in-the-sky dream of an afterlife to make the thought of dying less awful. No doubt that’s a problem as old as the human race. But in the Bible ‘heaven’ isn’t ‘the place where people go when they die.’ In the Bible heaven is God’s space while earth (or, if you like, ‘the cosmos’ or ‘creation’) is our space. And the Bible makes it clear that the two overlap and interlock. For the ancient Jews, the place where this happened was the temple; for the Christians, the place where this happened was Jesus himself, and then, astonishingly, the persons of Christians because they, too, were ‘temples’ of God’s own spirit.

Hawking is working with a very low-grade and sub-biblical view of ‘going to heaven.’ Of course, if faced with the fully Christian two-stage view of what happens after death — first, a time ‘with Christ’ in ‘heaven’ or ‘paradise,’and then, when God renews the whole creation, bodily resurrection — he would no doubt dismiss that as incredible. But I wonder if he has ever even stopped to look properly, with his high-octane intellect, at the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection? I doubt it — most people in England haven’t. Until he has, his opinion about all this is worth about the same as mine on nuclear physics, i.e. not much.

On the Shroud of Turin Blog, rude demands will be ignored

The Bridgeman Art Library makes photographic reproductions of numerous works of art from museums around the world. It is their business. On their website, we read:

Founded in 1972, the Bridgeman Art Library works with museums, art galleries and artists to make the best art available for reproduction. The result is an outstanding archive of images drawn from collections throughout the world, all of which are available for licensing.

Many, if not most of the works they have photographed are works that were in the public domain, which generally means the works are older than the life of the artist plus seventy years (more or less in different countries). This is true for all icons, paintings and mosaics from antiquity. They are, unquestionably, in the public domain.

A number of years ago, the Corel Corporation used many of Bridgeman’s reproductions to produce an educational CD-ROM without seeking permission or paying Bridgeman.  Bridgeman claimed copyright infringement. Not only had they purchased rights to some photographs, they had made many of them.

In 1999, the U. S. District Court for Southern New York ruled against Bridgeman. The ruling stated that “exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality. Even if accurate reproductions require a great deal of skill, experience and effort, the key element for copyrightability under U.S. law is that copyrighted material must show sufficient originality.” (quoted from Wikipedia)

In other words, if you take a picture of an ancient mosaic, and you give me a copy or you make a copy publically available, I can use it without your permission.

Is this fair? You would probably think not if you are the photographer or someone owning a copyright claim. Bridgeman still makes copyright claims and insists that use of their photographs be licensed. Many such works today, particularly those that are licensed to commercial concerns, contains invisible or visible “digital watermarks,” to detect copying. But that is not effective. Typical blogging software simply strips away digital watermarks and facilitates automatic cropping, resizing and corrections to contrast and color as thousands of pictures get posted every hour.

Does Bridgeman vs. Corel apply to photographs of the Shroud of Turin? Perhaps not, for it has not been determined that the shroud is a work of art. But the courts might not see it that way. The precedent established by Bridgeman vs. Corel stipulates that a photograph show sufficient originality. The more accurate the photograph the less copyrightable it is. It is often said that the courts have ruled that “sweat of the brow” (for example, the act of photographing a public domain work) is not the “creative spark” which deserves copyright. I agree.

However, having said that, I disagree, too. I fully support STERA’s right to claim copyright of photographs. If a book publisher wishes to include a Barrie Schwortz or STERA owned photograph, they should be required to obtain permission and perhaps pay a fee. But what about newspapers and television stations? I think they should be required to do so as well. These larger organizations make money by virtue of the fact that they are using the reproduction. And I think this should apply to smaller commercial websites, including blogs, run for significant profit.

For the most part, everyone plays along. For instance, on’s homepage you will see:

All Rights Reserved, unless otherwise noted. Images of the Shroud of Turin and related photographs appearing on this website are ©1978 Barrie M. Schwortz Collection, STERA, Inc., unless otherwise noted. Access to this site does not grant any rights to copy, publish, sell, license, distribute or use any included materials, including photographs, text, backgrounds or design elements in any form or media, without the expressed and written permission of the individual copyright holders.

No one objects. Commercial organizations pay. Some makers of things like beach towels, not wanting to pay, seek other images that are more unquestionably in the public domain, such as the original Secondo Pia photographs. But in the end, a challenge in the courts by STERA or anyone who owns a photograph of the shroud might fail because of Bridgeman vs. Corel.

imageWikipedia has taken a lead in this matter and has enough case law behind it to be confident in their assertions. Shown here is a poster advertising the 1898 exhibition of the Shroud of Turin. It is obviously a photograph of the poster and it was lifted from and added to Wikipedia’s massive image library. And it doesn’t  matter who took the photograph or when. Wikipedia states, “This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.” By that, they mean the poster, not the photograph, not the image lifted from the PDF file. Once a paper, PDF or otherwise, lands on the web, it is fair game for Google and others to extract images. Google will do it quickly. Wikipedia will generally add it as soon as someone uploads it. Often, text added to the image, which makes unsupportable copyright claims, is cropped away automatically, not to avoid copyright of the photograph but because the added text itself can be copyrighted. Silly, perhaps, but that is what happens.

But what about blogs like this. What should I do. This blog is not intended to make any money for the author. The images that I display are low resolution (72 dpi) that are generally unsuitable for the book publishing industry. I almost always get them from image libraries on the web. Though I do not take the time to chase down every source of an image, it’s copyright situation or find credits – no one among bloggers really does – I will honor polite and reasonable requests to give credit to an image or even echo a copyright claimant’s claim.

If an image, in my opinion, is legitimately protected by copyright (not merely, “sweat of the brow”)  and the copyright owners asks me to remove it and I am persuaded that it is the right thing to do, I will remove it. When I do so, I will explain who, what and why for the benefit of the blog’s readers.

Rude demands, however, will be ignored.

Professor Hawking on Heaven « The Wild Road

imageA sort of new Roman Pagan (I guess new as opposed to old who we could burn at the stake) writes nicely, and I think correctly, of Hawking on Heaven:

. . . We see the Universe as we do, regardless of whether our perception of it is objectively correct. But for the purposes of science, these are untestable propositions, so science rightly dismisses them. That is to say, it puts them aside, and declares them ‘unscientific’. A scientific concept is understood today as being one that is ‘falsifiable’: something that the right experiment could theoretically disprove (even if the experiment can’t yet physically be carried out). The notion that God might have created the Universe in its full present-day majesty in just the last ten minutes could not ever be disproved through experiment; so it is unscientific, and science does not – and should not – consider it. If we hypothesise that there is a ‘Heaven’ realm, where souls (the entities that perceive) go after the body dies, then it need not be a physical place within the reach of our instruments. Our instruments, our science, cannot then tell the difference between a Heaven that exists in an undetectable state and a Heaven that doesn’t exist. Therefore, Heaven is an unscientific concept, and one on which science can – or should – offer no legitimate, empirical opinion.

But this?

No-one doubts that the Shroud of Turin exists; nor that it has a face imprinted on it. But whose face is it? Those who believe that a man born of Jewish stock in Roman Judaea would have been a white European male might well argue that it is the face of Jesus, and that this proves Christianity. But the actual evidence can go only as far as showing us that there is a shroud, and that it carries the image of a face. Oh, and that it dates to somewhere around the eleventh century. Beyond that, all is speculation.

Eleventh century? I’m surprised after reading your section on nitpicking. Not even the skeptics say eleventh century.

Full post: Professor Hawking on Heaven « The Wild Road

Nailed or Tied to the Cross?

Nice posting by Günther Simmermacher at The Southern Cross:

It is interesting to note that the wounds on the body on the Shroud of Turin, which many believe to be Christ’s burial cloth, show that the nails were driven through the man’s wrists — so if the Shroud is a medieval forgery, then the counterfeiter had physiological insights many centuries ahead of his time.

In 1968 archaelogists found the first physical evidence of a crucifixion, in Jerusalem. The skeleton of a man included a heel bone with a nail embedded within it and fragments of wood at the tip of the nail. His arms and hands were not injured, so he probably was tied to the crossbeam. His feet would have been nailed to the side of the cross. So our image of the technicalities involving Jesus’ crucifixion is most likely historically inaccurate.

A sample of one? I think it has been pretty well established that the Romans nailed people to crosses and that there were difference in the methods, as well.  I’ll have to investigate this some more. 

See: Part 13: The symbolic power of the cross | The Southern Cross

Even More on the Face of the God-Man

Ben Wiech notes:

Ian Wilson featured what looks like the same mosaic on the back cover of his book, THE SHROUD.

Wilson wrote that the Sanliurfa Museum Director told Wilson that the mosaic was found by a local resident while making structural alterations to his house and this resident sold it to the Sanliurfa Museum no questions asked. It was placed in a museum storeroom and not even on public display. Thereafter, it came to the attention of Dr. Mehmet Onal, an archaeologist, who recognized its importance.

imageWhen I read Wilson’s book, I thought the mosaic was very important and still feel that way. It will be interesting how the seeming conflict on its "discovery" works out.

Rapture Quote of the Day

And now, it’s suddenly really near – so near that if these folks are right, you should probably pass on buying green bananas.

Jessica Ravitz in a CNN article, Tick tock goes the doomsday clock

%d bloggers like this: