Shroud of Turin News from Stephen E Jones

imageBravo. Read Shroud of Turin News, January 2012:

Here, belatedly, is the first issue of my restarted Shroud of Turin News. My last issue was October/November 2008. After I catch up with January’s news, I will then add to each month’s issue, excerpts of newsworthy articles about the Shroud, newest uppermost.

Great exchange of comments. So be sure to read the comment from Gio and Stephen’s reply.

Paper Chase: A Tales of Two Cities, or Three?

imageJack Markwardt presented a paper, Ancient Edessa and the Shroud: History Concealed by the Discipline of the Secret, at the Ohio State conference in 2008:

Modern sindonology, drawing substantially upon the Mandylion Theory,1 appears to have established, within a reasonable degree of certainty, a substantial portion of the medieval biography of the Turin Shroud,2 commencing with its historical debut, between 5443 and 569,4 as the Image of Edessa; however, the relic’s whereabouts during the Missing Ancient Centuries, the half-millennium spanning its disappearance from Christ’s tomb to its reappearance in sixth-century Edessa, remain the subject of debate.

The author’s 1999 hypothesis,5 that the Shroud was taken, in apostolic times,6 to the Syrian city of Antioch, concealed and lost in 362,7 rediscovered in ca. 530,8 and conveyed to Edessa9 when Antioch was destroyed in 540,10 is supported by historical records which evidence the presence of a Christ-icon in both fourth-century Syria and sixth-century Antioch.

Useful perspective, perhaps, in light of the Edessa conversations of the past two days.

Sandcastles in Sciencebod’s sandbox

Paulette writes:

I still say, as I said before, sciencebod, the author of science buzz, is out of his league. The explanations given for the results of his experiments are naïve. But that is for another time. Now, I wish to address a tasteless remark he made in his latest posting. Recall that when we criticized him he would throw a hissy fit and accuse us of insulting him. Well look at what he wrote in his blog:

Paolo di Lazzaro and ENEA colleagues please note. Put your uv excimer lasers away – or at any rate use them for the originally-intended project. Some might think you are doing for Italian science what your countryman Captain Schettino did for Mediterarranean cruises, going way off course, and ending up grounded on rocks.

The arrogant fool.

Three or four days ago, Paolo Di Lazzaro wrote to me:

Please convey my congratulation to the blogger nicknamed sciencebod, (I understood he/she is a sort of "scientist in the kitchen") because according with his/her many posts in your blog it seems he/she understood how the BI was formed. The only person in the world. Quite a noticeable result.

I didn’t post Paolo’s comment then because it didn’t seem necessary. It still isn’t but it does seem somewhat fitting.

And another reader writes:

While I may disagree that the image was formed by some form of light, Dr. DiLazzaro has nonetheless made a significant scientific contribution that will hopefully help us someday understand the image on the cloth. Sciencebod, on the other hand, is doing nothing more than making sandcastles and pretending they are real palaces. [He*] then kicks sand in Dr. DiLazzaro’s face by comparing him to the cruise ship captain who floundered on the rocks.  (*edited)

Calling all history buffs: Interesting comments from Yannick Clément

imageMUST READ: Read the several comments by Yannick in the posting, Ben Wiech’s video about the Justinian coin from AD 692 for a different take on the Edessa image theory (the text, below, is from the middle of his comments). Read the other commenters as well. Yannick has me thinking. He should have us all thinking.

What I have discovered in my extensive historical research is that there is less than 1% probability (my estimation of course) for this Mandylion theory to be correct. Just one single evidence of that (among many) is that there is numerous lists of relics (going from 726 or 730 to 1204) that mention both the Shroud of Christ AND the Mandylion together in the same list ! Now, unless I’m a total fool, this is a proof that those 2 relics are not the same ! You can twist it all you want (and Wilson did that a lot in order to wrote a theory like that… A lot of speculations, extrapolations and so on), but the bottomline is this : THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION IN ANCIENT TEXTS THAT A SHROUD OF CHRIST WAS EVER PRESENT IN EDESSA (unlike Jerusalem, Constantinople and Athena) AND THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION IN ANCIENT TEXTS THAT MAKE A CLEAR LINK BETWEEN THE MANDYLION AND A BURIAL CLOTH. And remember that ALL the artistic depictions of the Mandylion show the image without any blood stains (and some of those depictions were done in the 12th century by artists most probably looking at the Mandylion). I say all this because I’m disgusted to see how many people have bought this Wilson theory in the Shroud World while the vast majority of the historians outside the Shroud World know full well it is off-track regarding all the ancient documentary and artistic sources we possess today… I know many people want desperately to believe that the Shroud have a clear and simple ancient history but the reality is this : Beside the testimony of Robert de Clari in 1204 and the artistic depiction we found in the Pray Codex (dating from 1192 to 1195), there is no clear proofs that the Shroud of Turin was really present anywhere.

It makes the most sense if you read all the comments from the top to the bottom.

Barrie Schwortz on What is Truth Radio Show

imageBarrie Schwortz on The Shroud of Turin on What is Truth Radio Show. From the description:

What is the Shroud of Turin? Is there credible evidence to support the idea that it is the actual burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth? What about the 1988 Carbon Dating Results? Is it a hoax, or is it real? Join Dave Glander as he interviews world famous researcher Barrie Schwortz about The Shroud of Turin on What is Truth Radio Show

It runs about an hour. This was uploaded two days ago. I think the broadcast was January 29, 2012.

Ben Wiech’s video about the Justinian coin from AD 692

imageBen Wiech writes:

Thanks for all your great work on the Shroud. Though I may be biased, I love my little YOUTUBE movie on the Shroud date. If it’s worth a mention on your blog, go ahead, if not NO PROBLEMO.

And the description on YouTube reads:

Coin from 692 AD shows face of Jesus with striking similarities to the image on the Shroud of Turin. Proponents of the Shroud argue that the Shroud existed and was well known in the late 600’s because it so clearly influenced artistic impressions of Jesus on coins and in artwork.

Ben, you may recall that I posted something about this video one year ago. But it’s worth repeating  the content again. Thanks, Ben.

Repeated Posting from February 12, 2011

A recent YouTube video by Ben Wiech examines the similarities between the face of Jesus on a Justinian II coin from A.D. 692 and the Shroud of Turin. Wiech thinks it is proof that the carbon dating is wrong. I think that is a bit strong. I think it is evidentiary, but not proof. For me the closest thing to proof is the evidence of mending demonstrated by Rogers and discussed frequently in this blog (see The Big Carbon Dated Mistake: Shroud of Turin and the Scientific Quest for God)

Wiech points out many similarities. I agree with him. But he fails to point out one similarity that gets mentioned quite frequently. Notice the double line on the neck on the image from the shroud. This is caused by creases in the fabric. Now notice the double line on the neck on the coin images below.

Question 1: Are the lines on the coins copied from the shroud or is this simply a neckline of a garment?

I don’t know. I think it is speculative to think they are copied from the shroud. Even so, there is a seemingly very strong coincidence. And the coin maker would probably not have known of the full length naked body on the shroud. Perhaps he saw it as a garment neckline on the shroud.

Question 2: Two coins? The one resting on a piece of cloth, according to Wiech (and many others) is a Justinian II coin from A. D. 692. The one on a white background, according to Princeton University’s Curator of Numismatics, Alan Stahl, is a Justinian II coin from A. D. 692 acquired by Princeton in 2009. They do appear similar, strikingly so. But they are also very different. image


Revisiting the Cosmic Log Poll One More Time

imageA reader writes:

I want to revisit the online poll from Cosmic log. I find it very interesting.

Back in early 2000, according to Slate, a “weekly poll on the Web site of the Democratic National Committee asked visitors: ‘As the nation approaches a new millennium, what are the most important priorities facing our next president? Saving Social Security, strengthening Medicare and paying down the debt or implementing George W. Bush’s $1.7 trillion risky tax scheme that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy?’ Thanks to an organized Republican effort, more than two-thirds of the respondents favored Bush’s tax cuts, prompting an embarrassed DNC to remove the poll from its site.”

That is one of the reason why online polls are inaccurate. They are easy to tamper with. It happens all the time. Fortunately, this can be usually be detected because it invariably makes it into blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Google and other search engines find messages to this effect when it happens. There is no evidence that this happened with the Shroud of Turin poll at Cosmic Log. There were over 20,000 respondents and there is no way that any attempt to stuff the ballot box would have gone unnoticed.

But there are other problems. As Slate makes clear, these polls only reflect the audience of a particular website on which the poll is conducted. The DNC poll, had it not been tampered with, primarily reflected the views of Democrats who took their politics seriously enough to visit the website.

And Slate discussed technical problems, as well. For instance, they mention “the ‘primacy effect’ and the ‘recency effect,’ meaning that the first and last choices are more likely to be chosen.”

And then there is that fact that an accompanying story may influence the poll results.

So what should we expect for a poll within a popular science blog operated by news site like MSNBC given the order of the questions and the skeptical tone of the story. Not what we see. Only 15% think it is fake while 38% think it is real.

But what about the 43%. Well, it is interesting. And I think the story in Cosmic Log was not so much skeptical as balanced. Nonetheless, yes, I do find it surprising.

Was Bad Archaeology Fooled?

imageThe latest editing of the blog entry at Bad Archaeology demonstrates how profoundly careless the authors are with facts and how cavalier they are with scientific findings to the point of fooling themselves. Consider this statement:

The fact that Ray Rogers, whom The Shroud of Turin Blog quotes with evident approval, was unable to find any evidence for pigments using visible and ultraviolet spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, thermography, pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry, laser­ microprobe Raman analyses and microchemical testing are effectively meaningless.

Why is it effectively meaningless? Are we meant to guess why? Because it disagrees with McCrone?

It wasn’t just Rogers who disagreed with McCrone. Many scientists who physically examined the shroud, something McCrone never did, disagreed with McCrone. Even Mark Anderson, McCrone’s own MOLE expert analyzed McCrone’s samples. He observed that most of the red flecks on the Shroud “bubbled up and turned black" when he hit them with the laser beam. This was an entirely different response than he got from authentic hematite crystals. He said it “acted like an organic phase" (21 January 1980). Walter McCrone refused to accept those observations preferring to trust his own visual observation. “If he wanted the image to be painted with hematite,” wrote Rogers, “no conflicting observations would be allowed.”

Another thing over at Bad Archaeology is the staggering lack of understanding of the 3D characteristics. We’ll explore that and many other part of BA’s posting later. But let’s now just look at one glaring and telling example. Near the conclusion, BA writes:

Finally, there was no mention of the contemporary Bishop of Lirey’s enquiries into the origins of the shroud when it was fist exhibited c1357. He identified the artist responsible for its creation and there the matter ought to have rested. The technique of tempera painting onto cloth is fourteenth century, the first record of the shroud is fourteenth century and the radiocarbon dates show that it was manufactured in the fourteenth century.

. . . As the Shroud of Turin Blog says, “[g]ood archaeology means considering all the facts, not just those that are convenient”. When those who wish to promote the Shroud as a genuine artefact of first-century CE date, they must explain:

  • how the Bishop of Lirey was fooled in 1357 by someone who claimed to have painted the Shroud;

I guess I should have used the word accurate with the word fact. And I didn’t mention this because it had no real significance. But let’s look at it now.

First of all, it wasn’t the Bishop of Lirey. Lirey wasn’t a see. There was no bishop of Lirey. Lirey was a small rural village. It still is with a population under 100. If you look closely at the picture above you can see the small collegiate church where the shroud was once displayed.

Did Bad Archeology perhaps mean the Bishop of Troyes? But which one? Pierre d’Arcis, who in 1389, not 1357 (where did 1357 come from?), claimed in a letter to Pope Clement, that a painter has confessed to creating the Shroud of Turin? But  Pierre had merely referred to his predecessor, Bishop Henri de Poitiers, who supposedly conducted an inquest some thirty-four years earlier in which an unidentified, unnamed painter had confessed to painting the shroud. This hearsay claim — and that is all it seems to be, for no one was ever identified and no document has been found that recounts what a then dead bishop had supposedly said — has been largely dismissed by historians. It doesn’t meet the most basic criteria for objective, verifiable history. This has all the earmarks of an even careless borrowing of material from the writings of Joe Nickell.

When Bad Archeology writes, “He identified the artist responsible for its creation and there the matter ought to have rested,” the author of the Bas Archaeology site demonstrates a careless attitude. No, he, whoever he was and he wasn’t from Lirey, did not in 1357 or any year thereabouts identify the artist, at least not in any extant documents.

Knowing that this was a time notorious for its unscrupulous market in fake relics, the bishop’s memorandum seems to have a whiff of truthfulness to it. But the relic marketplace may also be the basis for doubting the veracity of the Pierre d’Arcis memorandum.

Pilgrims were a source of revenue and they were flocking to the small town of Lirey and that very small parish church where the shroud was being exhibited. They were travelling to Lirey rather than nearby Troyes and its collection of relics. Pierre, interestingly, states that his intent was not competitive. Why did he state that? Did he realize that others were voicing suspicions about his motives?

To reiterate, Pierre claimed that his predecessor, Bishop Henri de Poitiers of Troyes conducted an inquest in which a painter had confessed to painting the Shroud. Pierre did not have first hand knowledge of this artist; the artist is unnamed. There is no evidence of such an inquest in contemporaneous documents. Pierre stated that Henri had the shroud removed from the church because it was a fake, yet other documents dispute this. It was removed from the church for safekeeping because of the war raging about the area, to keep it from being captured by English forces.

The memorandum must be understood and assessed in the light of several documents of the same period and in the context of the political situation in the region. At least eight documents challenge the veracity of the d’Arcis Memorandum. There are other problems as well. All existing copies of the memorandum are unsigned and undated drafts. The copy at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris includes a heading stating that it is a letter that Pierre intends to write. It is definitely a draft with Latin annotations in the margins. It is unlikely that it was ever sent to Clement as no properly signed or sealed copies of the document can be found in the Vatican or Avignon archives. And no document of Clement refers to it, suggesting it was never received. Numerous classicist and historians find the document questionable. To a historian (or an archaeologist) reasonable doubt must prevail in a case like this.

imageDan Scavone, renowned medieval historian, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Southern Indiana, has studied the matter carefully. He writes:

When the D’Arcis [draft] document was discovered in the Vatican Archives in 1895, it caused a sensation. Science has ever since looked for paint on the Shroud; but for Dr. McCrone, science has found none in sufficient quantities to explain the image. This alone would seem to refute D’Arcis’ claim. That claim is even less credible when one notes his actual words:

About thirty-four years ago [about 1355] an inquest was held into the Shroud. Expert theologians [NB: not artists] concluded the Shroud was false because no image is mentioned in the Gospels. Also, the artist came forward.

The Bishop’s words, "about thirty-four years ago," suggest that he had no dated document before him and had no first-hand knowledge about the artist. Nor do any of the Pope’s responses to D’Arcis refer to an artist. The bishop says later that he has been accused of desiring the Shroud for himself and has become a "laughing stock." In fact, the collapse of the nave of his cathedral of Troyes in that very year, 1389, had resulted in the loss of its most precious relics, magnets for pilgrims and their contributions. This creates a presumption of self-serving in his memorandum to the Pope.

One might add that if an artist had produced the Turin Shroud in the fourteenth century, he would have been an original, creative genius of the first magnitude for his realistic rendering of anatomy and bloodflows, beyond anything known in Gothic art. He would have created the first nude Christ. His idea of a double image on a cloth would be unique in the history of Christian art. The Shroud does not, in fact, fit in the context of any artistic style or genre. For its realism, if it were art, it would claim a place on page one of every book on the art of the Renaissance.

So when Bad Archaeology writes, “When those who wish to promote the Shroud as a genuine artefact of first-century CE date, they must explain [:] how the Bishop of Lirey was fooled in 1357 by someone who claimed to have painted the Shroud,” we must say that is rather the silly. No bishop of Lirey or bishop of anywhere was fooled in 1357 or anytime thereabouts. So who was fooled? Bad Archaeology?

The other things on  Bad Archaeology’s list, things that they feel we must explain, include:

  • how the alleged contaminants in the fibres submitted for radiocarbon dating have produced dates that match so well the date of the Bishop’s alleged artist;
  • why there are traces of vermillion and madder on the cloth in sufficient concentrations to produce an image using the medieval technique of grisaille;
  • how the image on the cloth is anatomically impossible (the neck is too long, the legs are too long, the arms have not flopped to the side – which would have the unfortunate effect of exposing the body’s genitalia);
  • how the cloth has not draped itself around the sides of the body but remained miraculously on a single plane for the imprint of the image;
  • why the weave of the cloth is one common in the European Middle Ages but not found on the only definite burial cloth of first century CE date to have been identified;
  • why the Gospels refer not to a single cloth but to ὀθόνια, ‘small strips of linen’ (Luke XXIV.12 and John XX.5).
    The posting (constantly changing, so maybe not) closes out by saying, “These issues need be addressed if the Shroud is to be demonstrated anything other than a medieval fake.”
    Actually, these things don’t need to be addressed. They have all been addressed many times before. But maybe for the fun of it we will do so. There are so many errors and misunderstandings at Bad Archaeology.

Shroud of Turin exhibition coming to cathedral in Norwich, England

imageThe Norwich and Norfolk Christian Community Website is reporting:

A full-size copy of the world-famous Shroud of Turin, believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, is coming to St John the Baptist Cathedral, Norwich later this month. Keith Morris reports.

The special educational exhibition features life-sized photographic replicas of the Shroud. They make up a visual aid to tell the story of Christ’s crucifixion from his trial on Good Friday to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. 

Cathedral education officer, Jo Anderton, said: “The exhibition should help the visitor understand the nature of the Passion of Christ and the story of Easter. The Shroud of Turin also offers a mystery story that ties together many different disciplines – religion, science, art, archaeology and history and yet even in the 21st century there are no answers to the question ‘How was the image formed?’

“The actual Shroud was on show in 2010 in Turin and is not scheduled to be exhibited again until 2025, therefore this is a remarkable opportunity to see something which still causes worldwide debate, irrespective of faith.”

Note, this is the Roman Catholic cathedral. Norwich also has an Anglican cathedral. The exhibition will be open from Tuesday February 28 to Saturday March 3 and again from Monday March 5 to Saturday March 10, between the hours of 11am and 4pm except during services. 

For more information see: Network Norwich and Norfolk : Turin Shroud exhibition set for Norwich Cathedral

So what is Josh McDowell’s take on the Shroud of Turin these days?

imageDON’T MISS Richard Barrett’s blog, Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist (The adventures of a developing academic who got a late start). His latest posting, Secunda Pars, the Overlake years, is great.

Even as a little kid, I can’t say I ever felt like a totally natural fit at Overlake. It seemed weird to me that you never sat next to the same people twice, I didn’t understand how it seemed that everybody knew the songs we were singing except me, particularly when all they projected were the words and no music? (This was also right towards the beginning of my boy alto period.) Why was all the music so incredibly different from what we had had at Grace Lutheran? Why was the music… well… stupid? Why was the sermon so long? Why couldn’t I leave to go to the bathroom? (Seriously. I got blocked at the doors by the ushers.) Who actually got to talk to Pastor Bob? Why did everything seem so centered around him? Why, if being saved was something that happened to us once, was a big point always made of saying the prayer to let Jesus into our hearts as personal savior at the end of every service?

Still, it was where we were going. Sometimes I went to the adult service with Mom, sometimes I went to the kids’ service. At the kids’ service, sometimes they showed things like the Christian anime Superbook (which went well with my love of Star Blazers), and a movie called “Music Box” that I’ve talked about before. I also remember them talking to us about evolution and AIDS, and sometimes in the adult service hearing them talk about abortion and how there were no Christians in Russia (keeping in mind that this was the mid-1980s).

Strange Stories, Amazing Facts, as I mentioned, had some interesting bits on various supernatural phenomena (including an article on demon possession that absolutely freaked me out). Among other things, there was a riveting, lengthy piece on the Shroud of Turin. I remember showing it to my mom, who said, “Well, most Christians don’t think it’s real.” In support of her answer, she gave me the book Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith by Josh McDowell, which had roughly a 30-page section debunking the Shroud. (Curiously, I discovered about ten years ago that newer editions of the book no longer have this section. I’ve not encountered any comment or explanation as to why; it just seems to have been quietly dropped. Perhaps McDowell changed his mind. If anybody knows anything about that, I’d love to hear more.)

Memories of a Shroud of Turin obsessed vicar in Coventry

imageJ. Michael Povey, a retired Episcopal priest living in Sarasota, Florida, writes in his blog: (Back in 1962) . . .

On arrival in Coventry we explored the Cathedral and then sauntered down to the pedestrian free shopping precinct.

There we happened upon an older gentleman who was taking his rest on a bench.  He was sweet, kind and gentle.  His name was Mr. Shakespeare -  that’s the truth!

Eric and I, being good Plymouth Brethren gave witness to our faith.  It transpired that Mr. Shakespeare was a member of an evangelically minded Church of England parish in Coventry.  He invited us to attend a “house group” meeting that evening, and so we did.  Indeed we not only attended the house group, but were also given lodging for the night.

My memory is a bit imperfect but I think that the Vicar of the Church was our overnight host.  What I remember clearly is that this evangelical parson had a minor obsession with the so-called “Shroud of Turin”.  He believed it to be authentic.

Even then it seemed odd to me that an evangelical parson (evangelicals base their faith on the Bible alone) – should be an advocate for the authenticity of a Roman Catholic relic.

Even then I was sceptical about the “Shroud”, as I am to this day!

Pictured: The old Coventry Cathedral destroyed during bombing raids in 1940 and preserved as a garden of prayer and remembrance and the new cathedral built adjacent.

Luciano Buso: What’s the point of denying my theory

imageWe mentioned this back in June of last year. At the time the Telegraph and the Daily Mail wrote about it and, not surprisingly, the story died after one day. Now, because of the attention caused by the ENEA report, Marina Tantushyan, a correspondent in Rome for the Voice of Russia, has resurrected the story. It seems that an artist from Treviso, Luciano Buso,  has determined that the shroud is actually a replica of Jesus’ original burial shroud. According to Buso, the Italian artist Giotto di Bondone created the replica in 1315:

Here is an exchange from an interview with Buso by Marina Tantushyan:

[Tantushyan:]  What is your view of the ENEA tests results that in a way contradict your conclusions? Are you ready to insist on your point of view? If yes, what counter arguments are you going to use to prove your point?

[Buso:]  The fact that all theories related to the Shroud of Turin are to be proved invalid to some extent became obvious to me back in 1980s when a group of world renowned scientists who performed carbon dating test on a small piece of the cloth put the Shroud’s origin around 1280-1320. It so happened that even that theory designed by well known scientists who used technology and methods modern for that time collapsed. In my opinion, various theories will always try to deny the existence of the Shroud of Turin. As far as the results of the latest testing that contradict my observations, I can say only this: those who want to doubt my theory will also have to appeal the results of all my work to study hundreds of pictures painted between years 1300 and 2010. In all those I found hidden writing. There is a book about to come out in which I give a precise and detailed account of all examples of hidden writing I have encountered. What I don’t understand is this: what’s the point of denying my theory that proves that Giotto created the Shroud of Turin in 1315 if the existence of these hidden writings is obvious.

imageThis is what you are looking for. It is a stylized “Giotto 15,” meaning of course 1315. And you can find it only by looking at the area just below the chin in an upside down photograph of the shroud, as shown above.

What’s the point of denying?

Quote for today: “When someone wants badly enough to not know something . . .”

imageThe Deuce by way of a comment to Badder Still: Bad Archaeology at Bad Archaeology, writes:

[Sciencebod is] actually extremely interested in not understanding. Between sciencebod, Bad Archeology, and the reader Dan mentioned who denied there was any image at all, I’m reminded of that story about Galileo’s scientific contemporaries who refused to look in the telescope, or did look and claimed to have seen nothing but smudges. When someone wants badly enough to not know something, their will can overcome their very senses.

Cartoon by Chris Madden. Used with permission.

Burden of Proof on the Shroud of Turin

image“Mom” follows up in Life on the Hill: Interesting Response to My Book Suggestions:

Last week I wrote about three books I recommend for skeptical kids. Apparently Dan Porter didn’t particularly care for my inclusion of The Magic Detectives, because he believes it incorrectly portrays the mystery behind the Shroud of Turin. I think his blog speaks for itself, but I just want to address a few things he mentioned. Here’s one thing he said:

[The book was written in] 1989. One of the things I wanted my kids to learn was the value of fact checking. Much has happened since 1989.

First, I find it somewhat comical for a man whose faith is based on the Bible to criticize me for giving my kids a thirteen year old book. Much has happened in the past two thousand years, Mr. Porter.

I do pay attention to what has happened in those 2000 years. I’m not a biblical literalist. For one thing, I fully accept evolution (others here do not). When is comes to history, I fully realize that the Bible is not a very good history book, just as it is not a good science book.

And “Mom” wrote:

The burden of proof must always be with those asserting the claim, and not with those seeking to disprove it. Why is this often a difficult concept for people of faith to grasp?

Philosophically, I don’t have a problem with that. I tend to agree, mostly. From Socrates to Hume to Nietzsche, and more recently, very famously, Antony Flew (pictured above), this has been considered axiomatic. Atheist Flew, at frequent meetings of theist C. S. Lewis’ Socratic Club, regularly argued that the "onus of proof must lie upon the theist."

But should it? Why? For the claim that God exists? For every claim? Every historical object?

When it comes to the existence of God (by extension we can imagine this applying to miracles and the authenticity of the shroud), Paul Copan, president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and a member of the Catholic Philosophical Society, as argued, better than most, that that is presumptuous and unjustified. Interestingly, Atheist Jeffery Jay Lowder, best known for his websites The Secular Web and Internet Infidels (, wrote an article entitled, “Is Atheism Presumptuous?" In it, he writes:

I agree [with Paul Copan] that anyone who claims, "God does not exist," must shoulder a burden of proof just as much as anyone who claims, "God exists."

Flew later wrote: There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007) with Roy Abraham Varghese (ISBN 978-0-06-133529-7). And he changed his mind about the burden of proof belonging to one asserting a religious claim.

A lot has happened since 1989. Why is this often a difficult concept for skeptics to grasp?

A new “theory” for how the Turin Shroud was faked

Sciencebod has a new theory. He actually calls it a theory giving license, I guess, to just about anyone to say of anything scientific, “it is only a theory.”

“This is intended as the briefest of summaries,” he writes in My new sandpit theory for how the Turin Shroud was produced – as a medieval hoax. I read it and prepared the following diagram to help you understand it.


January tops December

I was pleased to see that December 2011 was the busiest month to date for the blog. The dustup over the ENEA report added to the fact that it was the month for Christmas drove higher volumes of user page views. December 22 was the highest volume day ever with 3,723 views. This was caused largely by the article in The Telegraph.

ENEA calmed down. I expected a quieter month. But January 2012 was a surprise: 78,198 views. It wasn’t frontend loaded, suggesting spillover from December. It wasn’t because of all the comments caused by Sciencebod. A quick look at the logs suggests the growth came largely from an increase in people following the blog on Facebook and Twitter.