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Comment for Today: David Rolfe

imageDavid Rolfe writes in his blog:

Dan, thanks for this thoughtful piece which I think highlights the dilemmas we face. The consensus I was seeking was for a particular purpose and agenda. Namely, to challenge those that dismiss the Shroud solely on the basis of the C14 with out any obligation to explain how the image might have been created. For that is our only scientific way of counteracting such a claim. It seemed logical to me to ensure that any such dismissal was confronted with scientific facts about the Shroud.

When I applied Prof. Giulio Fanti’s criteria for this purpose we all discovered that his extended list, as published by JIST, was controversial. You, Dan, among others, weighed in with protests. What was I to do? I am not a scientist.

Providentially, for me, the Valencia Congress was looming. Attending it, with very few exceptions, would be all those best qualified to provide a definitive list. Apart from wanting to distance itself from any particular challenge – especially the one to Dawkins – the Conference decided to grant my request and the participants were encouraged to assist which they did. Was it done in optimum conditions? No. The list was put together by me in snatched moments with individuals between papers and then slowly assembled for a final draft for approval on the last day of the conference.

What we have can by no means be described as fully considered and comprehensive. So what is it? It is the “base-level” of scientific observations that are not disputed by those most qualified to judge. Is it of any use? For my specific purpose it is a definite result. If anyone can show how an image which conforms to all the listed criteria could have been a medieval product we can all concentrate on looking for the forger and marvel at his genius. There is more than enough in the list as it is to make that a very real challenge. Berry and Garlaschelli have a long way to go yet.

It would certainly be preferable to supply some numbers to things like the thickness and the resolution and that may indeed still be agreed and included. However, processes that suffuse into the cloth or involve an application of any sort are already excluded as it is as is any mechanism that is incapable of resolving, say, the lips. (This happens to be about 4mm.). The absence of some proposed characteristics like the ones you mention does not mean that they are not valid but simply that there is not unqualified acceptance and it is not necessary for this particular purpose to hammer out the issues that divide.

Dawkins featured last week on a BBC documentary series called “Beautiful Minds”. In it he repeats his conviction that objective “evidence” is the only basis for belief of any kind. The Shroud reveals this type of evidence and I submit that the list as it exists, and for all its limitation, will serve as a basis for Dawkins (and others) to pit themselves against. Of course, if those qualified to do so agree that the list should be amended it can and will be.

For the time being, and solely for the purpose I have described, I would ask Shroud “supporters” to rally round and see this as an opportunity to press home the amazing advantage we have. The Shroud image is a unique enigma and the onus must be on those who reject that to explain otherwise.

Rally round? Yes. But I still think we need to somewhat crisp up the list as I stated in Colin Berry and Luigi Garlaschelli may have already won the prize with different solutions.

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