imageA reader writes:

The silence is deafening and revealing?

So said someone on the web page that announced a £20,000 challenge to Richard Dawkins to, “to explain how the Shroud and its image might have come into existence.” All indeed is quiet. That is a blessed relief. Should something become deafening it will be the sound of laughter in countless skeptical blogs. Oh, and so sadly revealing.

An open letter to Richard Dawkins states, “Thanks to the work of Professor Fanti it is now possible to take a scientific approach to such a task. He describes the criteria that must be satisfied to recreate it and it is published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.”


The list of criteria is published in a paper called “Hypotheses Regarding the Formation of the Body Image on the Turin Shroud. A Critical Compendium.” In the paper the criteria is in the form of a list described by the author as “peculiar characteristics.” The list, some twenty-four items in number, is called, “Table I. List of TS body image (sic) and its relationship with the body that produced it.”

The body that produced it?  How can one honestly call the paper a critical compendium?

In reality, the list is a smorgasbord of suppositions and conjectures with a smattering of observations. How can anyone think that the “TS enveloped a dead human body” is an image characteristic. It should be obvious to the most casual reader of the paper that this list of so-called characteristics was assembled with that presumption in mind. In fact, the entire paper, it seems, was written to promote a single hypothesis, that the image was produced by radiation caused almost certainly by an event beyond the realm of science to explore, which involved a corpse wrapped in the shroud.

This is a scientific approach? How in the world did this paper get published in a peer reviewed scientific journal? Is this the work of the Shroud Scientists Group?

How is this consistent with a forthright challenge to a skeptic “to explain how the Shroud and its image might have come into existence?”

Do you support this Dan?

It is called the Shroud Science Group. Not everyone in the group is a scientist. This is not the work of that group. Professor Giulio Fanti, who wrote the paper, is a member of that group. That is widely known. So am I.

Please note that only numbers 1-8 and 14-24 are ‘primarily germane to this challenge.’ Look carefully on the challenge page.) The criterion you quote above is not included. But your point is well taken. As the link to the paper (now outside a pay wall) is passed around from blog to blog, particularly among Atheist and skeptical sites, it will be forgotten that 9-13 are not part of the challenge. That is a problem.

Do I support the challenge? I initially liked the idea but after studying it I cannot support it with the current criteria, which indeed contains many unnecessary interpretations, which you rightly call supposition and conjecture. For example, item 23 reads, “Bloodstains appear on and outside the body image, indicating that some blood drained from the corpse to the fabric.” The first part of the sentence, up to the coma, is a legitimate observation. The rest of the sentence is supposition. I think it’s reasonable, even probably true, but it is nonetheless supposition. So in answer to your question, a new list must be prepared before I can support the challenge.

The Challenge Page at Shroud Enigma

Thoughts on this from readers will be particularly welcome? How do you feel about the challenge? Should the criteria be revised? Am I wrong?