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An Email from David Rolfe to the Shroud Science Group

April 18, 2012

imageJoe Marino had sent to the Shroud Science Group mailing list a copy of the Dawkins letter that I republished in a previous posting. David Rolfe then responded with the following email, which he invited me to repost on this blog that “we might get the benefit of the widest possible input for suggestions on how best to make the challenge as succinct and direct as possible.” Please read the letter and help out.

Dear Joe and Researchers

Thanks, Joe, for posting this.   Some might not be aware of how virulent and far-reaching the Dawkins campaign is.

I am pleased to say that the organisers of the conference in Valencia have granted me the opportunity to present the premise of the "Dawkins Challenge" there and,  in the course of the conference as a whole and building on the opportunity created by Giulio’s Paper, to arrive at a basic consensus for the precise terms of the Challenge.   My hope then is that the Challenge can be re-announced as part of the conclusion of the conference.  Dawkins’ stated conviction that the human mind is the supreme intelligence in the universe must also, ultimately, force him to take on solving the Shroud’s "mediaeval" mystery or admit, al least, his own limitations.

I believe that focusing on the (so far) unfathomable nature of the image is the most uncomplicated way of raising the Shroud back into a positive light with the secular world.  Although there are specific theories among Shroud scientists it is not incumbent on us, at this stage,  to put forward a mechanism ourselves.  Getting Dawkins – and through him the public at large – to accept the profound nature of the mystery will be a sufficient goal.

Giulio’s paper, in meticulous detail, explains why the "natural" theories proposed so far fall short.   It will be important to express the Challenge itself as succinctly as possible.  I recently re-read John Jackson’s paper on the subject published (I think) in 1989 in Shroud Spectrum.  In this it would appear to be summarised in a few lines which I quote here:

"…No one, including the present author, has been able to re-produce satisfactorily the Shroud image.  In fact, replicating the Shroud image with its high resolution, 3- dimensionality, positive/negativity, superficial alteration of threads, vertical mapping, and cellulose dehydration chemistry should be insisted upon by the scientific community if a "natural" process was involved"

Perhaps all SSG members might give some thought to the best and most succinct way possible of expressing the Challenge so that the Valencia conference has as much input to work with as possible.  But, remember, less will be more if the Challenge is to be accepted.

Yours David

I had already written to the SSG mailing list . . .

simplify all criteria statements to remove what one blogger called "supposition and conjecture." I recently gave an 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. While I think that is very reasonable, even probably true, it is nonetheless supposition. I think that any assumption of a body or of body and cloth relationship as part of a criteria statement, as we find in many of the criteria in Giulio’s paper, is conjecture ahead a proposed solution.

All input will be passed on to David for consideration.

  1. Paulette
    April 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    What does this sentence mean? “The challenge is already accepted and made possible is scientific terms by Prof. Giulio Fanti, of Padua University.”

    That is an actual sentence from David Rolfe’s challenge page. Has Dawkins accepted? I would think this would be big news. I suspect it is a typo.

    The letter to Dawkins still reads, “In your Shroud blog …” But Dawkins doesn’t have a Shroud blog. He has a Richard Dawkins Foundation blog. Within that blog he has a single posting about the Shroud. How is this challenge to be taken seriously with such errors?

    I will say it again. It is regrettable that Rolfe used Fanti’s paper for image criteria. The paper might be useful were it not for a sophomorically subjective, arbitrary and obviously biased scoring method put forth as an attempt to convince everyone that the image was formed by corona discharge. It was a serious mistake to make this very unscientific paper so readily available on Rolfe’s website. Will anyone take this challenge seriously?

    I agree with simplifying the image criteria statements to remove any assumptions about the image being formed by a real body. You cannot ask Richard Dawkins or anyone to solve the mystery of the image with such a blatant imposition of religious belief into what should be simply scientific facts.

    This challenge, if poorly implemented, will reflect poorly on Shroud science.

    • Max Patrick Hamon
      April 18, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Paulette, I am 1000% with you.

    • shroudenigma
      April 19, 2012 at 5:43 am

      Paulette, thanks for this observation. My language is somewhat clumsy. It was a positing about the Shroud on Dawkins blog that I was referring to my “your Shroud blog” might be a little too pithy. Sorry for the confusion but hope that would not diminish the challenge itself. Prof Giulio Fanti had already “stepped up to the plate” with his publication and readily accepted the challenge when I put it to him. So far, Dawkins has not. If you go to the page now you will see that the Challenge is on hold pending the outcome of these open discussions from as many qualified interested parties as possible. Professor Fanti has kindly accepted this process and the forthcoming Valencia conference has agreed to provide a forum for the conclusion of the criteria consolidation process. Once this has happened I hope you and as many other visitors to this blog will apply whatever pressure they can on the Dawkins and his foundation to accept. Ron’s K.I.S.S. approach could well makes a lot of sense.

  2. Ron
    April 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I think this is where KISS (Keep it simple stupid) comes in. Just ask that an image be created on linen that corresponds to the scientifically “known” attributes of the Shroud. I think STURP listed these as “A” rated findings. Of course any materials or methods used must conform to what we know was available in the12th,13th or earlier centuries.


    • Ron
      April 18, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Sorry should read as 13th, 14th or earlier centuries.


    • paul
      April 18, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      just replcate the image period use all the modern tools available. A body needs not be involved as long as the final product replicates the shroud and all it’s attributes. a negative etc. etc. can not be done

      • Ron
        April 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm

        “Just replicate the image period use all the modern tools available” Guess that would work too. Simplifies it even more….and would take away any ideas that may arise, such as the cloth may have been produced more recently.


  3. Yannick Clément
    April 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Quote from the message : “Bloodstains appear on and outside the body image, indicating that some blood drained from the corpse to the fabric.”

    That’s not proven at all !!! In fact, that statement is most probably in contradiction with the way Barbet and Adler estimates most of the blood transfers on the Shroud !

    Here’s just another way to see the blood stains outside the body image on the Shroud : If we take the blood outside the right elbow (letf elbow on the positive photo) on the Shroud, that stain could have been done while the persons involved in the burial were moving the corpse from the preparation table in the tomb (called “Onction stone” in the Holy Sepulchre) to his final resting place in another place in the tomb (probably a vaulted arch like you can see in the 3rd photo of this page : http://www.interbible.org/interBible/decouverte/archeologie/1999/arc_990305.htm).

    Imagine this scenario : Jesus died and wasn’t transferred to the tomb right away. At the time his body reached the tomb, almost all of the blood stains on the body had enough time to clot and were completely dried. Then, inside the tomb, the persons involved in the burial put the body inside the Shroud and draped the Shroud losely over the body without any linen strips to tied the body. They would have done this operation in a central room inside the tomb dedicated for that kind of job. Then, for an unknown reason, imagine the body resting there for 30 minutes, one hour, or more. That time off could have been enough for many clotted blood stains to get humid at their surface (because of what Pierre Barbet called “an aqueous environment” in which the body inside the Shroud was submit (remember that a dead body can still emit water vapor from every pore of the skin). Then, after that delay that cause an humidification of many blood clots at their surface, the persons involved in the burial took the body (still draped inside the Shroud) and move him with great care to his final resting place, on a stone tablet (probably inside a vaulted arch). This movement of the body could well have cause the Shroud to touch for a short time the back of the right elbow and cause the blood stain we see outside the body image, simply because a re-arangement of the draping of the Shroud could have been done after the displacement of the body to his final place in the tomb. At that point, the Shroud could have been draped again nicely over the body (still losely draped without the use of any linen strips) with the result of moving this fresh blood stain on the cloth far enough from the right elbow that, when the body image formation occured (later), this blood stain wasn’t affected at all by it and the body image of the right elbow was formed away from the stain, giving the impression that the blood stain outside this elbow was the result of “some blood drained from the corpse to the fabric”.

    In fact, if my scenario is correct, the statement above is incorrect. One thing’s for sure : this statement is far from being proven !

    • Ron
      April 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      Yannick I think you missed the point. Which is that by one assuming the bloodstains ran from a body, that a body was present. One cannot start from that position in explaining the Shroud image. One must start, if one is to replicate it by using methods in which it can be reproduced, as a work of art in whatever manner possible, be it, paint, scorch, bas-relief, whatever. But not to assume a body was involved. But then that has been claimed also; that a human cadaver may have been used.

      Now getting to the thought of the blood running from the body, ASSUMING there was a body actually enfolded in the Shroud, it makes perfect sense the blood articles outside and underneath the body could have come from post mortem blood. ( I don’t think the blood outside the elbow did mind you), but others may have; the flow outside the heel of one foot or even the trail of blood on the lower back!….Blood can flow from a corpse, especially from gaping wounds, this is not rocket science.


  4. Yannick Clément
    April 19, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Yes, the post-mortem bleeding have flowed in the shroud. I think this is perfectly logic and Barbet talk about that. But for the blood outside the right elbow or some scouge marks outside the back of the legs, that’s a totally different story because those came from decal of clotted blood that was humid at their surface. We have to find a scenario for those blood stains that don’t involved any blood in liquid form. That’s what I tried to say. Thanks for your comment !

  1. April 18, 2012 at 9:10 am
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