More on the Theology of Andrew Sullivan

A reader writes:

imageI also think Andrew Sullivan (pictured) was right to remind us that Catholics do doubt. And I think your dissent for the day commenter was right to remind us that fundamentalists do too. I have never met a doubt-free Christian.

I thought it was interesting that Pope Benedict XVI, while speaking in Freiburg, Germany this past Sunday, said, “Agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God … are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is ‘routine’ and who regard the church merely as an institution, without letting it touch their hearts, or letting the faith touch their hearts."

I would have said Agnostics and all Christians who are constantly exercised by the question of God.

Yes. But Sullivan is also saying that practicing the tenets of one’s faith is a bridge across doubt. And might we say Jews and Muslims have doubts, as well. And should we perhaps wonder about Atheist who are “exercised by the question of God” or are they doubt free. Of course not. And what do they practice?

I have avoided explaining what I meant about taking this into consideration when talking about the Shroud of Turin because I need to think about it some more.

Dissent for Today

A reader writes:

Of course Sullivan is right. Every random Catholic does not believe at all times that the Blessed Virgin was literally transported into the sky rather than dying – as required by a binding, infallible papal edict. A solid percentage question it all of the time and some like me don’t really  believe it at all. In fact, I doubt papal infallibility. Does that make me a bad Catholic? In the eyes of some, perhaps. I don’t think so.

But Sullivan is also wrong. Does he really think that every random fundamentalist believes at all times in a literal interpretation of Genesis and the Christmas story. Infallibility claims are not solely papal and intellectual doubts are not solely Catholic.

I would not take his one-sided thinking to heart when it comes to thinking about the shroud. But then, I don’t  really understand what you are trying to say. Does anyone?

I will get back to you after I think about it some.

Andrew Sullivan: Theologian

imageAndrew Sullivan has become a significant writer about orthodox Christianity, specifically his Roman Catholic faith. This is not because he writes very much about it. And it not because his very famous blog’s readership is expecting much from him about it. It is because he is good at it.

In his blog, The Dish over at The Daily Beast, he responds to a posting by Norm Geras (it merits a quick read):

. . . What he ignores, in my view, is doubt. Does every random Catholic believe at all times that the Blessed Virgin was literally transported into the sky rather than dying – as required by a binding, infallible papal edict? Of course not. There will be times in every believer’s life when faith seems dead, or distant, when divine truth eludes us or seems beyond us. This is natural and healthy. If you have never fully doubted, you have never fully believed. And what keeps faith alive at those moments is indeed practice, ritual, discipline, and the small but vital ways in which a Christian reaffirms her faith in day-to-day interactions with other human beings.

And this is the core of Christianity: practice. Jesus insisted that blind adherence to certain absolute truths was never enough, and even dangerous if it led you away from the doing what following Jesus requires. He was always piercing through literal belief to test actual faith. He was impatient with the rule of law in religion and adamant on the rule of love. Similarly, Paul’s great letter on caritas/agape insists that even faith that can move mountains is nothing without the practice of caritas/agape.

The interaction between dogma and practice is what religion is. But Christianity really does insist on practice as the core definition (which is why Oakeshott put religion into the "practical" category of human life, not the philosophical). The transformation of what were long deemed myths – Genesis, the Christmas stories, for example – into literal truths is a modern, neurotic development that, as time goes by, requires faith in obvious untruths (like creationism). And in the end, faith must be compatible with truth, or it is a coping mechanism, not a living, coherent belief.

So, yes, revelation matters. But not in every tiny literalist detail. And for faith to live, it must be practised. Fundamentalism, in this sense, is rationalism in religion, to purloin an Oakeshottian phrase. It has to be defeated before the real life of faith can recover and reach more people.

I think this is something that we need to take to heart when we contemplate the Shroud of Turin. I think we are far too concerned with trying to prove its authenticity so that we can prove something else about that which we may from time-to-time have doubts, like the Resurrection. We can, when not careful, go so far a creating new myth. 

I think the best that we really can do is argue that the shroud is probably authentic and that it proves nothing. But we can infer and have faith.

Bad Shroud of Turin Errors Spread and Live On

imageToday, September 27, as was the case last year on September 27, many newspapers and blogs around the world reminded us that “on this day in history in 1988” carbon dating results demonstrated that the Shroud of Turin was not the burial cloth of Christ. Only one source, among many that I looked at, elaborated at all or mentioned that those results have been widely rejected or questioned scientifically.

Besides that omission, the date is wrong. According to Barrie Schwortz’, a very reliable source, is was on August 26, 1988, that . . .

The London Evening Standard carries banner headlines declaring the Shroud to be a fake made in 1350. The source, Cambridge librarian Dr. Stephen Luckett, has no known previous connection with the Shroud, or with the carbon dating work, but in this article declares scientific laboratories ‘leaky institutions’. The story is picked up around the world.

If Barrie had it wrong, as it would have been for many years, it would have been corrected long ago. It is a most accurate site.

And then on September 18, 1988, we read:

Without quoting its source, The Sunday Times publishes a front-page story headlined: ‘Official: The Turin Shroud is a Fake’. Professor Hall and Dr. Tite firmly deny any responsibility for this story.

And it was on February 16, 1989, . . . 

Publication, in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, of the official results of the Shroud radiocarbon dating. This has twenty-one signatories. It declares that the results ‘provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is medieval’.

It just shows how one bad fact, no matter how trivial the error, will spread and live on. There was no intent to convince us that September 26 was important. The purpose was to remind us that the carbon dating proved the shroud was fake. Wrong on both counts, of course.

Big Foot is a Hoax: Awe Shucks.

How did I miss “that story about Bigfoot stealing the Shroud of Turin that appeared in this week’s supermarket tabloid?”

It’s an example from a Psychology Today article by Hank Davis, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Guelph in Canada, about why some people are intrigued with Big Foot and other stories of “awe.” I think he made it up:

Admittedly, scientists don’t do a good job of communicating their work. Science is not well publicized. It isn’t "sexy." I don’t mean just the scientists, themselves, aren’t sexy. It’s how they do their jobs and what they find. Much of the science news I read is boring and, remember, I’m a scientist. Incredible opportunities to make science interesting are lost. Too many science reporters (or medical reporters) are not specially trained. They may be staff writers who pissed off their editors and got stuck with this assignment. But neither their hearts nor their heads seem to be in it. No wonder most readers or viewers yawn through such coverage. They’re waiting for Bigfoot to make the front page. And while they’re waiting, that story about Bigfoot stealing the Shroud of Turin that appeared in this week’s supermarket tabloid will have to do.

Is there an optimistic way to end this piece? Let’s try this. We haven’t hit rock bottom yet. Someday you’ll meet somebody who not only believes in Bigfoot (because of evidence he saw on a hard lemonade-sponsored documentary), but also believes the government has kidnapped a living specimen and is holding him prisoner in a special facility in Roswell, New Mexico.

Neither I nor anyone should ever deflect you from your search for awe. But neither should anyone, whether merchant or hoaxster, send you on a contrived journey to the supernatural to find it. There’s enough awe for anyone who wants it, and it lives within reach in the natural world around us.

And this is a good example of science reporting?

Another Shroud of Turin Novel?

imageBill Bass, a forensic anthropologist who founded the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Research Facility along with writer Jon Jefferson spoke at Virginia Intermont College yesterday and gave a brief description of their upcoming novel. Here is how the Tri-Cities News (northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia area) reported the discussion:

This one is set in the French village of Avignon, which was home to two popes in the 14th century. The book’s renowned forensic anthropologist, Dr. Bill Brockton, and his assistant, Miranda, must figure out the significance of bones found buried in the papal palace walls. The bones appear to have some connection to the Shroud of Turin, Jefferson said, and, to get the science right, he and Bass ordered a full-scale photographic replica of the shroud.

“It jumps back and forth in time,” Jefferson said of the book. “It has interesting characters: a cardinal very fond of burning people at the stake, who becomes the Pope, the poet Petrarch, a German theologian who goes missing.”

He said it is important to get the science right, although with fiction, he can cheat a little bit and rig the ending.

Another Shroud of Turin novel?  And what science would that be?  Hold your breath.

Shroud of Turin Photo Exhibit St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Chicago

imageAccording to the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association:

Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, with the full blessing of Bishop Richard Stephen, will be hosting the ninth authentic, and Vatican authorized, photographic copy of the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud will be available for veneration starting on October 1st, 2011, on the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God , celebrating with Vespers in Ukrainian & English at 6:00pm.

The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion. It is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, northern Italy. The image on the shroud is commonly associated with Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and burial. The image on the shroud is much clearer in black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia color. The negative image was first observed in 1898, on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral.

A fire, possibly caused by arson, threatened the shroud on 11 April 1997. In 2002, the Holy See had the shroud restored. The cloth backing and thirty patches were removed, making it possible to photograph and scan the reverse side of the cloth, which had been hidden from view. A ghostly part-image of the body was found on the back of the shroud in 2004.

The actual shroud itself – not the photographic image that will on display in Chicago – has been on display only five times in the past century. When it last went on display in 2000, more than three million people saw it. Many more are expected to see it when it next goes on display in 2025.

The exhibit will continue through Nov. 21, the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple (Vedennia Bohorodychi) at St. Nicholas Cathedral. Viewing of the Shroud will be Mon. to Fri. from 5 to 9 p.m. and Sat. and Sun. from 2 – 8 p.m. There will be no admission fee.

More on Barrie Schwortz Speaking at a Truly Royal Event in Portugal

imageReceived a wonderful email from Maria da Glória of the Centro Português de Sindonologia that I want to share with everyone:

We’ve been in Fátima yesterday to attend “III Conferência Histórica em Fátima” in Auditorium Domus Pacis, an event organized by Fundação Oureana under the responsibility of it’s president the historian and archaeologist Dr. Carlos Evaristo, and the event was sponsored by the Portuguese Royal House and the Savoy Royal House of Italy.

We were surprised by the large number of attendants, there were spanish, french, , many italian and even american besides an unexpected number of portuguese people, I guess the event gathered more than 150 attendants.

In the atrium of auditorium people coud watch an exhibit of interesting paintings and art inspired by Shroud images, and banners including one with the Mandylion image.

After an introductory ceremony in this atrium attendantans were ushered to the Auditorium to listen to Dr Barrie Schwortz’s lecture entitled «33 years of Shroud Science-A personal perspective».’

Dr. Barrie Schwortz made a very interesting presentation highlighting Shroud image properties and showing previously unseen images, and talked about his experience as a S.T.U.R.P. member in 1978 studies in Turin, and mentioned the difficulties the team experienced to get the technical devices apprehended by italian authorities, and Father Peter Rinaldi’s help to get them back.

He uncovered some curious episodes like showing an image of the arguing between Dr. Max Frei and Dr John Jackson, because the former wanted to take sticky samples from the face, and Dr. John Jackson disagreed and was trying to prevent him of doing so.

He also talked about deleterious effects on the Shroud due to previous Max Frei’s uncareful method of taking surface samples with a “cheap” sticky tape.

Barrie Schwortz’s lecture was much appreciated by attendants and he had a lot of applause.

The lecture was beeing verbally tranlated to portuguese and italian so he had to stop often and ironically Barrie stated at he end that it had been the longest short lecture he presented, because actually it lasted more than one hour and half.

Afterwards Dr. Barrie Schwortz made the presentation of a new book in english language written by portuguese historian and archaeologist Dr. Carlos Evaristo entitled “The untold story of the Holy Shroud” which has an introduction written by himself.

Unfortunately we had to leave after lunch so we cannot describe afternoon ceremonies with the presence of royal family members from Portugal and Savoy Royal Houses., the visit to the Museum and medieval dinner at Ourém´s castle that would follow.

I’ll try to send you photographs and I hope the attachment will be successful.
warmest regards

Maria da Glória
(Centro Português de Sindonologia)

Hank Hanegraaff Briefly Mentions the Shroud of Turin in His New Book


Hank Hanegraaff’s latest book, “Has God Spoken?” briefly mentions the shroud (pp. 26, hardcover):

“It’s a bit hard to know what the words of the Bible mean.” says Professor Ehrman, “if we don’t even know what the words are!” If God did not bother to miraculously save the original writings (autographs), there seems to be “no reason to think that he performed the earlier miracle or inspiring those words.” Thus, the elephant in the room: all we have are copies of copies of copies with fresh errors cropping up in each stage of the copying process but no original writings!

While God could obviously have preserved the autographs, the attendant problems would have been significant. First, given the proclivities of humanity, we would no doubt have made idols out of them. In evidence, one need look no further than the Muslim veneration of Adam’s white stone—enshrined within the Great Mosque of Mecca—that is now allegedly black through the absorption of the sins of multiplied millions of pilgrims.

Furthermore, how would we determine the originals to be the original? Think Shroud of Turin. Even in an age of highly advanced technology there is no certainty that this is the original burial cloth that shrouded the face of Christ? Moreover, who would control the originals—Jesuits, rabbis, imams? would they keep it under glass in the Vatican or enshrined on Temple Mount in the Muslim Dome of the Rock? Perhaps parchment would take precedence over practice, form over faith.

Hanegraaff  says nothing more except in a brief chapter footnote:

See the fascinating work in this area by Gary Habermas, “The Shroud of Turin and Its Significance for Biblical Studies,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society,; and “Historical Epistemology, Jesus’s Resurrection, and the Shroud of Turin, and

Not many people read footnotes. Even so, this footnote, addressed to scholars and researchers, adds significant credence. Gary Habermas is highly regarded.

Get a Diploma in Shroud of Turin Studies


The Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum Science and Faith Institute, Othonia, in collaboration with the International Center of Sindonology (Turin) is offering a Diploma of specialization in Shroud Studies. From the website:

Program 2011-2012

1st semester:

DSS001 Introductory Course : The Science and Theology of the Shroud (3 ECTS)

P. Gianfranco Berbenni OFM Cap.

Wednesday 3:30 – 5:15 pm

DSS002 History of the Shroud (3 ECTS)

Dr. Gian Maria Zaccone

Thursday 5:00 – 6:30 pm

2nd semester:

DSS03 Theology and Spirituality of the Shroud

P. Héctor Guerra LC and collaborators

Wednesday 3:30 – 5:15 pm

DSS004 Scientific Research on the Shroud: the STURP, History and Perspectives

Intensive Course (2 ECTS)

Barrie Schwortz (STERA)

March 5-8, 2012, 3:30 – 6.15 pm

DSSM01 Lecture series of Shroud experts (collaborators)

Following the fold (click on read more) you will find the contents of a cover letter to prospective students (available as a PDF on the website:

Continue reading “Get a Diploma in Shroud of Turin Studies”

Quote of the Year About Walter McCrone

imageMouseInTheHouse nominates this as the quote for the year about McCrone.

If you just line up the scientific papers and look at the data it is a slam dunk that McCrone’s work is irrelevant and ultimately somewhat unprofessional. – Ray Schneider



More on McCrone

imageJoe Marino (pictured) commented:

I also attended the Elizabethtown Shroud conference. During the question and answer session, I asked McCrone how his supposed forger was able to incorporate details that weren’t even discernible for several hundred more years until various scientific devices were even invented. His "answer?" He said "I’m not going to answer that–he just did it." That’s scientific?

Another reader writes:

I noticed [in the article Joe Marino provided] McCrone wrote, “I published the first of three papers covering work I had done on 32 sticky tape samples kindly taken for me by Ray Rogers of Los Alamos and STURP from the Shroud in October 1978.”

Contrast that with what Ray Rogers wrote to Skeptical Inquirer: “Incidentally, I knew Walter since the 1950s and had compared explosives data with him. I was the one who "commissioned" him to look at the samples that I took in Turin, when nobody else would trust him. I designed the sampling system and box, and I was the person who signed the paper work in Turin so that I could hand-carry the samples back to the US. The officials in Turin and King Umberto would not allow Walter to touch the relic. Walter lied to me about how he would handle the samples, and he early ruined them for additional chemical tests.”

And another reader:

Walter McCrone claimed that he was "drummed out" of STURP for his disagreeing with the other scientists that he thought of as true believers.  The truth of the matter was that he refused to accept STURP’s professional standards agreement. In his dreams he was a member of STURP.

And another:

Walter McCrone also claimed that STURP confiscated his samples because they didn’t like his findings. Not so. He refused to return them to Rogers. He damaged the tapes as no good microscopist would have. Finally, Rogers had to fly to Chicago to retrieve them.

imageAnd another quotes Ray Rogers (pictured) at some length to make the point that McCrone was completely wrong:

The primary goal of STURP was to test the hypothesis that the Shroud’s image was painted, as claimed by Bishop d’Arcis in 1389. If it had been painted, some colored material had to be added to the cloth, but the colored material would have gone through the fire of 1532. The pigments and vehicles would have suffered changes in response to the heating, the pyrolysis products, and the water used to put the fire out. No changes in image color could be observed at scorch margins.

We tested all pigments and media that were known to have been used before 1532 by heating them on linen up to the temperature of char formation. All of the materials were changed by heat and/or the chemically reducing and reactive pyrolysis products. Some Medieval painting materials become water soluble, and they would have moved with the water that diffused through parts of the cloth as the fire was being extinguished. Observations of the Shroud in 1978 showed that nothing in the image moved with the water.

The Shroud was observed by visible and ultraviolet spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, and thermography. Later observations were made by pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry, laser­microprobe Raman analyses, and microchemical testing. No evidence for pigments or media was found.

Your eye sees colors when the surface absorbs some wavelengths of light and reflects others. A red surface absorbs all visible wavelengths other than red. Each chemical compound absorbs wavelengths that are characteristic of its chemical structure. The best way to determine the properties of a color is by measuring its spectrum. Reflectance spectrometry was one of the most important contributions of the STURP observations.

The reflectance spectra in the visible range for the image, blood, and hematite are shown in the figure. The image could not have been painted with hematite or any of the other known pigments. The spectrum of the image color does not show any specific features: it gradually changes through the spectrum. This proves that it is composed of many different light-absorbing chemical structures. It has the properties of a dehydrated carbohydrate.

There is no evidence for significant amounts of any of the many pigments and/or dyes that could have been used to paint or touch up the blood stains. We had considered and studied Tyrian purple (6,6′-dibromoindigo) and Madder root dye on an aluminum and/or chromium mordant as well as cinnabar (mercuric sulfide) and ferric oxide pigments.

During and before the 14th Century, gold metal was the most important yellow. That would easily be detected by x-ray fluorescence. Other pigments in common use were yellow ocher (hydrated Fe2O3), burnt ocher (hematite Fe2O3) and other ochers, orpiment (As2S3), realgar (AsS), Naples Yellow (Pb3[SbO4]), massicot (PbO), and mosaic gold (SnS2). Organic dyes included saffron, bile yellow, buckthorn, and weld. Madder root began appearing in Europe from the Near East about that time. Many of the dyes required mordants, which are hydrated oxides of several metals (e.g., aluminum, iron, and chromium). In order to produce the shadings observed in the Shroud’s image, the concentrations of pigments would have to vary across the image. No variations in any pigment were observed by x-ray fluorescence spectrometry. The image was not painted with any inorganic pigment of an appropriate color.

If You Are in Portugal: Barrie Schwortz Speaking at a Truly Royal Event

imageI just received this from Maria da Glória of the Centro Português de Sindonologia:

I’m sure you were aware of Dr. Barrie Schwortz’s journey to Europe including our country Portugal, and I guess right now he has already landed at Lisbon airport.

He was invited by historian and archaelogist Dr. Carlos Evaristo on behalf of the King of Portugal (Portugal is a republic but nevertheless D. Duarte Pio of Bragança is still recognized as the King by monarchic party) to be honored for his commitment to the Shroud with the title of Knight of St. Michael of the Wing by D. Duarte Pio of Bragança who is a Shroud devotee.

The event is organized by Dr. Carlos Evaristo , director of another portuguese sindonologic centre (Centro Português de Sindonologia e do Estudo das Reliquias da Paixão) that besides the Shroud studies other christian relics, and Fundação Oureana an association dedicated to religious studies.

Dr. Barrie Schwortz will do a lecture entitled “33 years of Shroud Science – A Personal Perspective” tomorrow September 24 at 10.30 a.m. and we´re eagerly waiting to hear him.

Besides the lecture, there will be other activities including a visit to a museum where the attendants may watch a relics exhibit ,including a real size authenticated Shroud replica and many christian relics from Dr. Evaristo’s personal collection.

These events entitled III Conferência Histórica em Fátima ( Third Historical Conference at Fátima) will be held saturday September 24 at Auditorium Domus Pacis, Fátima, Portugal and are sponsored by the Portuguese Royal House, The Savoy Royal House ( with the presence of members of Italy royal house ) and are organized by Fundação Historico-Cultural Oureana, with the support of Centro Português de Sindonologia (our centre) Domus Pacis Hotel and Ourém Townhall.

Surely portuguese people will be honored to host and have the opportunity to attend a lecture from such a leading world Shroud researcher.

Maria, we would love to hear from you after the event.

More on McCrone’s Role in Shroud of Turin Studies (ii)

imageRay Schneider writes:

My sense of McCrone who I only saw in person once at Elizabethtown when he Nickels, Adler, Jackson, Jumper, and some others presented, was that his rationale for any of his conclusions was almost entirely subjective. He was first and foremost a microscopist and he interpreted everything visually.

Adler did a huge number of tests which all came up blood. McCrone looked at a couple of tiny particles and claimed paint. He attacked all those who disagreed with him as "true believers" and that is frankly an outrage given that as far as I know he never published a paper except in his own private journal "The Microscopist." If I recall correctly there is some discussion of the McCrone affair in John Heller’s book and also Ray Rogers talks about it.

Adler pointed out that the level of iron oxide on the shroud was nearly uniform and didn’t vary between image and non-image areas. In any case the level was so low that it would be invisible macroscopically. The STURP team speculated that it was due to the process of retting the linen. McCrone in this piece and in everything I’ve ever seen and heard simply says the equivalent of "I’m a great microscopist and what I say is true" and that was the end of his argument. In this piece Joe provides you notice that he only ridicules those who disagree with him. He never answer them. The reason is that he can’t answer them substantively because he is wrong and he doesn’t have enough data or background to answer their specific objections.

If you just line up the scientific papers and look at the data it is a slam dunk that McCrone’s work is irrelevant and ultimately somewhat unprofessional.

The question about whether he was a member of STURP strikes me as a bit anachronistic. STURP membership seems to have been rather fluid. There is some stuff I think in John Heller’s book again that suggests that McCrone was indeed involved with STURP and created a controversy with his pronouncements, but there never seemed to be a formal membership/non-membership in STURP. It was pretty much a pick-up group of interested scientists. John Jackson can obviously tell us all about that. McCrone’s attitude apparently turned off all the STURP people because he was not collegial and he was very arrogant and that comes across in the letter Joe provided. (emphasis mine)

The work done on the Shroud is uneven in quality however, so you can’t entirely discount McCrone’s objection. Often hard scientific results are intermixed with speculation and conjecture so that it is easy to poke fun. It’s pretty easy to poke fun at McCrone because his methods are so highly subjective.

I always appreciate Dr. Schneider’s careful remarks. Be sure to see his blog.

More on McCrone’s Role in Shroud of Turin Studies

Joe Marino sends along an article by Walter McCrone.  McCrone had sent it to Marino in 1998, asking him to reproduce it in his Shroud of Turin newsletter, which he did:

The Painting Hypothesis
Walter C. McCrone
McCrone Research Institute
Chicago, IL

1n 1980, I published the first of three papers covering work I had done on 32 sticky tape samples kindly taken for me by Ray Rogers of Los Alamos and STURP from the Shroud in October 1978. I reported: the image consists of yellow fibers and a pigment intentionally added. Later that same year, I reported our work now supports the two Bishops and it seems reasonable that the image now visible was painted on the cloth just before the first exhibition, about 1356. The third paper in 1981 confirmed the earlier results using scanning electron microscopy with its elemental analysis capability, an electron microprobe with its elemental analysis feature, the transmission electron microscope with its electron diffraction ability to identify crystalline compounds followed by X-ray diffraction, confirmation of the presence of hematite (a component of red ochre) and vermilion, another red pigment found only in the blood image areas. This paper totally confirmed the polarized light microscopy and my conclusion of the medieval painting hypothesis.

Since then, the 1988 carbon-dating by three top laboratories confirmed my, by then, 1355 date with their average 1325 date. My reasoning from the beginning had been the image is visible, it is therefore a chemical entity, perhaps biochemical. I should be able to identify that substance and draw a conclusion as to its source.

My approach was different from anyone else involved in Shroud research. I am a chemical microscopist trained at Cornell University over a 10-year period (B. Chem, Ph.D. in Chemical Microscopy and a 2-year post-Doc) applying those techniques to World War II problems. I then joined the Armour Research Foundation (now IITRI, the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute) where I built up a 25-scientist group doing microanalyses. After 12 years there, I decided to start my own company doing the same things. This company is still going strong solving chemical problems by microscopical techniques. I also started a school, the McCrone Research Institute, to teach chemical microscopy courses. Today, we teach about 1,000 students a year in nearly 100 intensive one-week courses. The subjects cover all areas of forensic problems, paintings authentication, asbestos identification, and other general small particle identification problems.

I have written 400 technical papers, chapters, articles for encyclopedias, and 15 books including Judgement Day for the Turin Shroud. I am an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society and the American Institute for the Conservation of Art Objects. I was Criminalist of the Year of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists in 1985, and have received 8-10 other awards. Were it not for the true believers working to discredit me, I could have expected to be elected to the American Academy of Sciences and received a few more awards and recognition. I have no trouble, however, understanding how almost anyone unfamiliar with my work would assume that at least a dozen authors of what reads (to non-scientists) like sound authenticity research would more likely be right than one lone microscopist in Chicago claiming the Shroud to be a painting. I have worked on more than 200 paintings during a 35-year period to identify the pigments and media, and to establish a date they were painted. I teach courses regularly at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, as well as Chemical Microscopy courses at Cornell University, University of Illinois, and Illinois Institute of Technology. In the past also, the Smithsonian Institution, Getty Institute, Courtauld Institute (London), etc. etc.

I justify this uncontrolled bragging to justify my position in Shroud research. The Shroud research fit perfectly my training and experience. I was chosen by Father Rinaldi in 1974 to study the Shroud. I proposed the sticky tape sampling of the Shroud, an established forensic technique I have used for nearly 60 years. The resulting samples were excellent. Each one of the 32 tapes held about 1,000 linen fibers from the Shroud. Eighteen of those tapes showed thousands of red pigment particles adhering to the fibers; all 18 were from image areas. Of these 18, at least 7 are definitely from blood-image areas and show vermilion. The remaining 14 tapes were all from non-image areas and showed no paint.

Elemental mapping proved conclusively that the Shroud blood-image areas were painted twice. The entire image was first painted with the red ochre paint and the appropriate spots were then enhanced with blood-red vermilion. All image areas showed the presence of gelatin, a popular paint medium in the Middle Ages. It was produced then from parchment scraps or directly from animal skins. No pigments or gelatin medium were found in the non-image areas.

I conclude with absolute confidence that:

1. The Shroud image is 100% paint. There is no other colored matter in the image areas

2. There is no paint in non-image areas

3. There is NO blood on the Shroud, and

4. Any arguments to the contrary are totally wrong and specious.

Most of these specious arguments are ridiculous. Just a few of them:

1. Dozens of flowers (and all from Palestine!) on the Shroud

2. Biological materials (mold, bacteria, etc.) changed the carbon-date from 1st to 14th century! That would require an amount of material that would have tripled the weight of the Shroud. The actual contamination of the Shroud is miniscule and especially after the heroic cleaning efforts before carbon-dating would have had no effect on the 1325 date.

3. Pollen on the Shroud from Palestine. I saw, on all 32 of my tapes, not more than 2-3 grains per tape. Max Frei, finding 54 different species of Near-East pollen, was guilty of wishful thinking and indulgence in fantasy. He and others felt justified in finding on the Shroud whatever should be there if it was authentic.

4. Others in 3 include those who profess to find blood on the Shroud. There is NO blood on the Shroud even though positive tests were obtained for known blood components and several scientists have typed the paint; its type AB.

5. The heat of the Chambery fire in 1532 changed the carbon-date 13 centuries to 1325 yet the carbon-dating procedure has always involved complete burning of the thoroughly cleaned sample to the gas, carbon dioxide.

I could continue with other similarly ridiculous authenticity arguments like the resurrection modified the date of the cloth or the image is due to the Kirlian effect. Frankly, I’m sick of reading books and hearing TV and radio programs ridiculing my work and extolling the conclusions of a group of non-scientific religious fanatics. I feel fortunate at times that they ignore my work (as unworthy of attention). A few such published comments follow:

1. McCrone’s claims have been convincingly refuted in several STURP technical reports.

2. William Meacham in Usenet Newsgroup: alt. Turin-Shroud (1/14/98) says: Someone remarked to me that he didn’t have time to argue about religion or debate with people who still think Joe Nickel (sic) or McCrone solved the mystery of the Shroud and he then added “Neither do I.”

3. Its prominence, the painting source, as the main forgery theory is such that virtually all commentators expend great effort in disproving it. The notion has indeed been disproved so thoroughly and absolutely that it should be permanently buried.

4. Clearly, however, the cumulative effect is to place the painting hypothesis somewhat lower in credibility than notions of the Marlow authorship of Shakespeares’ plays or of Egyptian influence on the Mayas.

5. Attempts to interpret it as a painting (McCrone) are untenable…and need not be discussed further.

In one respect I should be in a very good position with respect to the authenticity argument. I do not have to argue against any of the preposterous arguments from the pro-authenticity crowd. If they say how could a medieval artist produce such an image, a negative, a perfect anatomical and scriptures-perfect rendition that is too faint to see in order to paint it? I can ignore all such pronouncements because I have proved that an artist did, in fact, produce the Shroud image–period. As much as I would liked have to find the Shroud to be authentic, it is not and the science supporting its medieval origin is too important for me not to defend it to the limit of my ability.

The proof is what he thinks he saw? And we must believe him rather than the findings of so many other scientists because?

Scientific Conclusions Changing Again

imageAssociated Press via MSNBC on September 22:

Scientists at the world’s largest physics lab say they have clocked subatomic particles traveling faster than light, a feat that — if true — would break a fundamental pillar of science.

The readings have so astounded researchers that they are asking others to independently verify the measurements before claiming an actual discovery.

. . . CERN says a neutrino beam fired from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab 454 miles (730 kilometers) away in Italy traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. Scientists calculated the margin of error at just 10 nanoseconds, making the difference statistically significant. But given the enormity of the find, they still spent months checking and rechecking their results to make sure there were no flaws in the experiment.

What does this do to Tipler’s Physics of Christianity and his theory about the Shroud of Turin? Full AP article: A faster-than-light particle? Astounding! – Technology & science – Science –

What Really was Walter McCrone’s Involvement with the Shroud of Turin?

imageIn a series of emails exchanges, which I am privileged to read,  there has been some discussion about what involvement, if any, Walter McCrone had, or claimed to have had, with the Shroud of Turin before Ray Rogers carried sticky sample tapes to Chicago for him to examine in 1978. The feeling is that he had none. There is a sense, however, of uncertainty about that. Maybe it is just me but I don’t feel that the matter has been nailed down.

Remember, McCrone claimed to have been kicked out of STURP. Nobody from STURP, that I know of, agrees this is accurate. That is why I think we need to consider what McCrone may have claimed to have done. For instance, did he offer advice to earlier efforts (1969, 1973) and then assume he was a consultant in some sort of way? Was his suggestion in 1976 that the shroud be radiocarbon dated of any significance?

Many people feel that McCrone was something of a blowhard. That too should be considered. What was the famous quote: something to the effect that only he was qualified to determine if there was paint on the shroud?

I am cross posting this to both and the Shroud Science Group and hoping for some more information.

Tom D’Muhala to Talk on the Shroud of Turin in Cary North Carolina

imageFaith Note in The Cary News of Cary, North Carolina informs us that Dr. Tom D’Muhala will give a lecture on the Shroud of Turin from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Reedy Creek Baptist Church, 1524 North Harrison Avenue in Cary. Dr. D’Muhala was a founder, board member and president of the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc. For details, call 919-771-8210.

In just looking at the church’s website I notice that there is a Brotherhood Breakfast at 8:15 and a Family Cookout at 4:00 but no mention of this event. That is not uncommon for church websites. However, you might want to double check the schedule by calling before going.

Source: Cary News | Faith notes: Sept. 21

Wimpy Catholic on What Jesus Should Look Like

imageShe calls herself Sarah the Sede:

I have heard that He was extremely attractive, but then I saw a documentary on the Shroud of Turin, and he looked like a short, average-looking middle-eastern man. I was disappointed in spite of myself. I’ll just not think of it.

She was responding to Max Lindenman’s posting, The Meanest Jesus Ever in Diary of a Wimpy Catholic. This was choice:

No, if Jesus must look like anything, then from the Jewish point of view it’s best He look Italian. That way He’s a little cooler than the rest of us, but still a guy from the neighborhood.

Should we blame Ray Downing’s History Channel special, The Real Face of Jesus?

The Shroud Of Turin: Real Or Fake? Does it matter if you are Catholic?

imageManny N. Black in The Shroud Of Turin: Real Or Fake? in the blog Otherworld Mystery:

What exactly is The Shroud of Turin? Well, if you’re a devout Catholic, it’s the sheet the Jesus Christ was buried in; if you’re anyone else, then well, the shroud is a mystery that has yet to be solved.

Being a devout Catholic doesn’t make you automatically believe it is really Jesus’ burial cloth. Many Catholics don’t believe it. It’s not doctrine or dogma. They don’t have to believe it. They are not expected to believe it.  Moreover, many Christians of many traditions, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican/Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Evangelical, etc., etc., etc. sincerely believe it is real. I know of a couple of Jews that think so. I’ve met an Atheist who thinks so. I’ve corresponded with Muslims who think so. It is less and less a Catholic thing and more and more something for everyone to wonder about and perhaps believe in. I agree it is for everyone “a mystery that has yet to be solved.”

Another List of Hoaxes: The Cult called STURP

imageFor some reason people keep making lists of the top five, seven or ten greatest mysteries, wonders of the world and hoaxes. And the shroud is almost always included. Sabotage Times online magazine has just compiled a list of ten best hoaxes. I don’t know what order they are in or if they are in any sort of order. Here is the list: 1) The Shroud of Turin, 2) War Of The Worlds, 3) Hitler Dairies (sic), 4) Panorama Spaghetti Harvest, 5) Sans Serriffe, 6) Monty’s Double, 7) Belgium Disappearing, 8) The Left-Handed Whopper, 9) The Roswell Alien Autopsy, 10) Piltdown Man

That’s right they mean Hitler Diaries. The comparison one to the other is astounding. Some are modern day April Fools Day style hoaxes like the spaghetti harvest, intended to last a few minutes and invoke a foolish laugh. Belgium disappearing was simply ludicrous. The Hitler Diaries and the Piltdown Man were money making scams. The War of the Worlds was a radio drama that was not meant to be a hoax that frightened people, but it did.

Here is what they have to say about the shroud. Seems that the joke is on them if they believe half of what they wrote:

The Shroud of Turin

As the Great Plague swept across Europe in the 14th Century the medieval world wallowed in a sea of religious hysteria and while some took to self flagellation the infinitely more clued up took to faking religious body parts such as the brain of St Peter, the foreskin of St. Gregory and the milk of the Virgin Mary. The most persistent of all these fakes has been the famed Shroud of Turin. Supposedly the burial shroud of Jesus, it was acquired, possibly from Constantinople, by the French knight, Geoffroy de Charny, who built a church to house it in 1355 only for it  to be  judged to be a fake by Pope Clement VII in 1390. Of course many a saintly dick and digit were regarded with suspicion but the validity of the shroud was reassessed when in 1898 Italian amateur photographer Secondo Pia discovered that the photographic negatives of the cloth exposed the image of a face that was otherwise invisible without such technology.  Ipso facto a cult was born.  In 1982 a group calling itself the Shroud of Turin Research Project declared it to be genuine, however in 1988 carbon dating placed the cloth to the mid 14th Century. More recently in 2005, Doctor Jacques di Costanzo and historian Paul-Eric Blanrue proved that such an image might easily have been achieved in the middle ages by simply rubbing an iron oxide mixed with gelatine onto cloth and yet the argument still rages as die hard believers drowning in their own ignorance refuse to accept the facts.

They didn’t actually call STURP a cult. But it reads that way. See Ten Best Hoaxes | Life | Sabotage Times

Joe Nickell, Scientific Skeptic? Not.

image1650 people showed up for this year’s James Randi Educational Foundation The Amazing Meeting 9 conference in Las Vegas (TAM9). One of the big issues this year was diversity and proper diversity behavior of attendees, not only at TAM but at other Skeptic and Atheist conferences worldwide.

Daniel Loxton describing it in SkepticBlog:

The irony of an atheist-only panel on “diversity” did not escape me, but I expected it to pass without comment. The sentiment that skepticism is an atheist club is recent, but it has taken root very quickly. As with other sorts of “do-fish-know-they’re-wet?” privilege in other, larger communities, the assumption of default atheism is rarely questioned in the skeptical subculture. Indeed, the panel set out to discuss diversity in gender, sexual orientation, age, race, class, education, and physical ability—but not religion.

This is especially strange when we consider that scientific skepticism was to a large extent founded by people of faith, including Harry Houdini (still arguably the greatest skeptical investigator of all time, and the model for the investigative tradition embodied today by James Randi and Joe Nickell [of Shroud of Turin skepticism fame]) . . .

imageJames Randi? Maybe, maybe not. But Joe Nickell? You can square magician for both men but can you square scientific for Nickell?

Back in 1999, Eric Krieg of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking wrote:

Joe is not your "average Joe", by nature of former occupations of: undercover detective, teacher, draft dodger, river boat manager, carnival promoter, magician, investigator, and spokesperson. . . . Joe impressed on me the difference between being a scientist and an investigator. Joe seems to have no significant credentials just as his mentor: James Randi. In both cases, the lack of single significant credentials is much more than offset by a more important broad area of knowledge. 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.

It comes from Nickell’s own words.