Badder Still: Bad Archaeology at Bad Archaeology

imageSo the blog owner at Bad Archaeology doesn’t like what I wrote. Let’s take it bit by bit:

And finally, there’s a recent criticism of the page devoted to The Turin Shroud. Rather than comment, the person who disagrees with what I wrote, a blogger called Dan Porter, has written an entire blog post, Bad Archaeology at Bad Archaeology (how I wish I could have used that title!). In his comment on Bad Archaeology, he calls it a “comprehensive response”, but it’s far from comprehensive. It cherry picks elements of the page for specific criticisms, but I found that I had to delete only two errors of fact.

Only two errors of fact? I agree I should not have used the word comprehensive. Point well taken.

What Dan Porter has done has been to use the very dubious claims of Ray Rogers that the linen samples used for radiocarbon dating were contaminated, . . .

Is this how good archaeology is done, claiming something is dubious without the least bit of explanation? Dubious? Why? To the contrary, a mountain of evidence now exists in support of Rogers. It is indeed the carbon dating undertaken in 1988 that is dubious. Click on Read More below to see a comprehensive enough list of reasons to doubt the carbon dating.

. . . to press on with the silly notion that the image on the Shroud encodes three-dimensional data (an inexplicable miracle!) and generally disagree with what I wrote.

What his criticism did allow me to do was to test the claims about the encoding of three-dimensional data in images. I took a well known facial image and processed it with results that look fairly similar to those obtained from the Shroud. It even rendered unevennesses in the photographic print as three-dimensional! Another miracle!

imageIt is painfully obvious that over at Bad Archaeology the concept of the three-dimensionality in the image is not any better understood than it is by our friend Sciencebod over at Science Buzz. It is painfully obvious because BA resorts to mockery. No one that I know of claims that the 3D data content or how it plots to an elevation is miraculous. Where did BA get that idea? Granted, some people think the image was recorded by the Resurrection. That part would be miraculous. Others do not. Rogers, for one did not. imagePlenty of people who participate in this blog don’t think so. For an introduction to the 3D encoding read Sciencebod’s 3D Problem.

The green picture of Einstein (copied over from BA) is supposed to explain what? Any picture will plot something even indented eyebrows. Is that understood at Bad Archaeology?


Continue reading “Badder Still: Bad Archaeology at Bad Archaeology”

The New Yorker on awful musicals like “Into the Light,” about the Shroud

imageIn The New Yorker, Michael Schulman wonders: Is "Carrie" the Worst Musical of All Time? Turning to “some notable buffs,” such a Paul Rudnick, for opinions he offers up this:

Paul Rudnick, playwright and humorist: It’s hard to pick the absolutely worst musical, because some shows were just painfully tedious or derivative or overblown. But, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this selection, “Into the Light,” from 1986, had the distinction of being both terrible and transcendently unlikely, because it was a musical about the Shroud of Turin. It would be hard to imagine a good musical about the Shroud of Turin. If memory serves, the show concerned a battle between faith and science, and it climaxed with a scene in some sort of laboratory. The scientists had proved that the Shroud, with its possible shadowy image of Jesus, wasn’t authentic. But then a laser show erupted, proving I’m not sure exactly what. Maybe that God is, in fact, a really chintzy special effect.

Bent Spoon Article on the Shroud of Turin

imageThe opening paragraph of a five page article on the Shroud of Turin in The Bent Spoon online magazine shows how little the author knows about the subject:

To believe that the Shroud of Turin was the burial cloth of Jesus, you must accept that no one knew of its existence until 1353. Before that time, there is simply no record of the Shroud existing. No talk of a miraculous linen bearing the image of Christ’s crucified body, no record of an archaeological excavation uncovering it. Nothing. It was either the best kept secret in history, or something very strange was going on.

Except, that is, for the many references to such items.

imageBTW: It seems impossible from this magazine to figure out the name of the author for an article. They list the names of contributing authors without pictures in one place and provide a photograph of the author at the beginning of each article. So the author, pictured here, after telling us that Benedict XVI called it an icon, which means by definition of the word that he implies it is a painting, the author states:

The linen cloth now known as the Shroud of Turin appeared out of nowhere in 1353, and was being used in a faith-healing scam by a church in Lirey. The testimony of two Bishops at the time convinced Clement VII that it was nothing more than the work of a clever artist, and should not be billed as the true burial sheet of Christ. Scientific examination of the Shroud backs this up by carbon dating it to exactly the same period of time as its appearance in history.

The authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is also called into question by comparing it with the gospel accounts of Christ’s burial and resurrection. They clearly do not match and, in fact, have major contradictions between them. For the Shroud to be real, you would have to believe that not only are the gospels wrong, but that traditionally respectful burial practices of Jews at the time were completely thrown out the window in the case of a man they called the son of God.

Nothing new that I can see: Cafeteria facts, inaccuracies, and the old argument that the shroud contradicts the Bible (as the author of the article interprets the text).

Sciencebod’s 3D Problem

imageA reader writes:

I recall one of your postings in which you recounted the story of someone who claimed that there really wasn’t a picture of a man on the shroud, that what we all saw was no different then a picture of Jesus that appears on a slice of toast. As I recall, no amount of explanation could convince him to change his mind.

Of course not. That would violate the first law of kookiness.

Now, excuse me for interrupting the reader’s email to repeat a part of what I wrote that the reader refers to:

One day, I was astonished to receive an email from someone who claimed that we only think we see an image of a face on the Shroud. What we think is an image, he told me, is merely the happenstance accumulation of smudges and stains on the cloth. It is no different than an imaginary image of Jesus on a burned slice of toast. It is a pareidolia, an apophenia. I had never heard of either of these words. Now I have. As far as I can see, they mean the same thing. According to my Merriam-Webster dictionary apophenia is "the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data." Pareidolia is defined as apophenia.

I wrote back. "The image is too detailed. It is too realistic and too complex to not be the real face of a man. When I say real, I mean by any means. Absent other evidence this includes painting, photograph or something else that we don’t understand."

But he persisted. His mind was made up. "You can’t prove it," he wrote back. "It could be pure coincidence and you don’t know for a fact that it isn’t. What is the threshold for perceiving an image? What are the criteria for saying that the image is of a man? Are you an expert on the human face?" . . .

I suspect that there is a rather fuzzy swath of undecidedness between certainty that an image is of a face and is not. Given the setting and circumstance and a measure of sanity in whatever our worldview may dictate to us, we can usually avoid undecidedness. If I see a face in the clouds, I know it is a phantasm (another cool word), an illusion, an apparition of sorts. I am sure most of us think the same thing if we see a face on a piece of toast or in a smudge of a windowpane. It should be easy to know what we see for any given context. If I see a face in a Picasso, even if it looks less like a face than what I see on my morning toast, I know it is an image of a face because of the context. But what about the face on the shroud? It is a face? The context is clear. There is an entire body there – admittedly, at the risk of being declared incompetent, maybe a pareidolia. I don’t know how the face got there but it is a face.

Now to resume the readers email:

imageDr. Sciencebod has the same sort of problem with 3D. He fails to distinguish between fully expected pseudo-elevations from burn marks and the real-elevations visible on the real image of a man on the shroud. This is apparent when he writes, “So-called 3D-encoded information is an artefact of the computerised imaging – which explains why the 1532 burn marks appear as a hologram-like 3D as well as the image itself.”

A bit of disclaimer is in order. I’m not convinced that the shroud is real. At the same time I’m not convinced it is fake. So for me it is a mystery. If it is real, I am not at all inclined to think the image was caused by energy left over from some sort of physical resurrection. I have seen no convincing evidence for that. But even if I had I would have significant difficulty accepting it. I am a Catholic much more in sympathy with progressive Catholic scholars like Crossan who interprets the resurrection as a statement of faith and not as a physical event in a scientific or historic sense.

However, the 3D, which Dr. Sciencebod so casually dismisses, is ever so appropriate for the shape of a human form that it is silly to think otherwise unless one confuses reality with toast. Even so, the 3D effect obtained by plotting luminescence may not be a real measure of distance between body and cloth. It may be something entirely different that we have not imagined. But it is not casually dismissible. Regardless of how it came about, it is a real property of the image. One cannot claim to have found a method by which to create the image on the shroud unless one can show how that method encodes this property. One cannot claim it’s an artifact in order to escape this pass/fail criteria.

NOTE: Top picture is from Discover Magazine. Bottom picture is called “Face in the Shroud.” It is a 3D rendering of data in the shroud image undertaken by Ray Downing for the History Channel special, The Real Face of Jesus.

More on Sciencebod Reacts (Focus on paper by Fanti, et al)

imageA reader writes (BTW ColinB is also known as Sciencebod in this blog):

ColinB has a point when he says Fanti et al assume that the cloth is genuine and do not entertain the skeptics point of view. I would call its inadequate and not comedic, but the point is still valid.

Does he have a point?

Another reader has a different point of view:

Comedic. So-called scientists. The notion that Giulio’s paper is suitable only for the thrash. Read the junk sciencebob writes on his blog if you want comedy. Does he think for a minute that he can create an image by heat that is superficial to only 200 or even 1000 nanometers, that gets its shades of dark and light color from discontinuities of same shade of color fibers (like in a half tone), that is negative and 3D? Oh, I forget, he denies the 3D is real.

Here is what Sciencebod wrote that prompted the above emails:

. . . Suffice it to say that the desrciption of the computerisied anthropometric study of Fanti et al as “real scientific work” is comedic, as is the paper itself. Nowhere does that paper consider the sceptics’ view that the image was produced from an inanimate replica. e.g. a bas relief or statue. Instead it makes numerous explicit assumptions that it was a body that had been taken down from a cross in a state of rigor mortis with head tipped forward, knees drawn up, that an image had been acquired on a cloth that was loosely draped over etc. Talk about self-serving assumptions – ones that make that final diagram of the two “supeimposable” (sic)outlines totally at odds with unaided, non messed-around-with simple observation, e.g.

link to non-computer transformed dorsal v frontal comparison

Note too they say “superimposable”, not “superimposed” – a crucial difference, and then refer to “compatible”, a term that is shot through with subjectivity.

Nowhere does the paper say how the image was formed from a real person on that draped-over cloth, especially those parts not in direct contact with the cloth. What a worthless publication – the referees should have thrown it straight back, or better still in the bin…

I am only too painfully aware, needless to say, that the icy-cold objectivity of (real) science is not for everyone (present company excepted ;-) and that would include those so-called scientists who use computer-aided (re-)imaging systems in an attempt to escape the evidence of their own eyes, to say nothing of common sense…

The clue to the artefact – a term I use deliberately- lies I believe in those (over)long bony fingers, says he with a gleam in his eye, which I intend to put up for discussion shortly. But probably not here… I know where I am not welcome…


Basis: Sciencebod reacts

Quote for today by Mario Latendresse

imageFrom Dr. Latendresse at

When looking into the details of the images on the Shroud, we are constantly surprised by the precision of reality it describes. The photograph presented below is yet another example. If a forger, from the fourteen century, ever thought about producing the details we are going to study, he or she went well beyond what any artist would ever do during the next five centuries. These details alone are enough to convince most people that the Shroud is not a painting. They are way too small and too subtle for a painter to do by hand. It goes well beyond the necessity of forgery.

ACTUALLY, take the time to read the full page which contains this quote. It bears directly on the discussions with Colin (Sciencebod).

Click on image to see larger version. Image is from where attribution reads, “Photograph kindly provided by Barrie Schwortz. Copyright Barrie Schwortz.”

Ridiculous Claim x 2820 = Fact

imageThis sentence showed up yesterday, January 28, 2012, on a blog called Photos That Shook The World. Pia’s 1898 photograph, in fact, fits the theme of the site. Then I read:

Radiocarbon tests date it to the middle ages, however apologists for the shroud believe it is incorrupt – and carbon dating can only date things which decay.

Did I miss something? A victory for faith over science! End of argument. I must admit, however, I have never met an apologists who thinks this. Even so, according to Google, this exact sentence appears 2,820 times on various websites and blogs, some entries going back to 2007. Think the sentence has been repeatedly plagiarized?  Some will note that it is permissible to copy exact text with attribution. And Photos That Shook The World does at least link to Wikipedia as an information source. But nowhere, not that I could find, is this claim ever expressed in Wikipedia.