As I have stated before, I welcome respectfully written postings from readers of this blog. I may or may not agree with the authors. The posting that follows is from our good friend Yannick Clément and it is significantly about my good friend Giulio Fanti. And it is significantly about the special issue of Scientific Research and Essays in Academic Journals.

In large measure, on this topic, I agree with Yannick. It should be no surprise to Giulio that I disagree with him on corona discharge as a hypothesis for image formation. I also disagree with him on his use of "God of the Gap" reasoning, well articulated by Yannick. Giulio and I have discussed these things before.

imageThe very public nature of a "special edition" of an open access scientific journal (if it really is a scientific journal) has prompted this posting. Giulio wants criticism sent to the editor of the journal. That will probably not happen in any meaningful way. If it does it will not match “real” open access criticism. The journal’s openness is facilitated by the internet Thus it cannot hide behind quaint old fashioned ways. This is why we blog. There are already dozens of comments in this blog that would otherwise go to an editor. Here, we may disagree. We even dish out insults. But we discuss things in a way that in the end is a thousand times more scientific than this special edition.

Giulio wrote: "But I ask these bloggers, why it does not exist a similar Special Issue presenting scientific facts against the authenticity of the Shroud? I think because there aren’t!"

That simply isn’t so. Check out Colin Berry’s blog. This posting, Yet more ‘Fanti-sy’ from Fanti, Faccini et al, this time on the spear so-called “wound”…, is a example. Colin is rapidly replacing Joe Nickel as primary skeptic. Unlike Joe, an actor in a made-for-TV white smock jacket, Colin is a real scientist. And Colin writes better with a more acerbic flair than does Nickel whose PhD was in English literature. And Colin, retired science-bod with a PhD in biochemistry, is active in investigating the shroud and criticizing almost every aspect of shroud science. And he can be every bit as outlandish as Nickel.

But I digress in this introduction. Here is Yannick (corrected copy due to an error on my part):

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Because I feel that someone has to express is concern about a “special edition” like that, I have decide to write some kind of an editorial comment that, I hope, will be an eye-opener for some readers (but I’m not dumb enough to think it will be like that for all). Anyway, no matter what people will think of this (I know, I’m a close-minded person !), I will express my deepest feeling about this “supernatural marketing” operation lead by M. Fanti, simply because I have too much respect for an authentic, honest and really scientific quest for truth regarding the Shroud. All right, here we go :

I had heard about this project of M. Fanti since last summer when Thibault Heimburger mentioned it to me. Having made a quick overview of the subjects covered by the papers presented (and some of their conclusions too) in this “special edition” on the Shroud, I’m not surprised at all to see that a large emphasis have been put on things related to many different supernatural hypothesis of image formation (and others related to natural radiation produced during an earthquake, which in itself, look almost as supernatural to me in the context of a complete image, front and back, of a corpse on a linen cloth).

I want to point out one crucial line in M. Fanti’s editorial that speaks very loud about who the man really is and how he thinks. Here it is : “The Turin Shroud is one of the objects that tends to put some doubts in the positivistic thinkers who state that the Science can explain all the physical world. In fact, the Turin Shroud is unexplainable…”

Here, I think M. Fanti, if he wanted to really act like a real scientist, should have add the word “yet” after the word “unexplainable” !!! But of course, he did not. I know it’s just one small word, but it makes all the difference between an authentic scientific discourse and a religious biased discourse covered up under an intention to be “scientific” (which is something not worthy of science). Each time I read things like that, I say to myself that the God of the gaps is still alive and well ! When something is not understood, some people conclude real fast as an act of God… It’s precisely that kind of “obscurantism” view about the Shroud that I just can’t stand. And it makes me really sad to note that the majority of the researches on the Shroud these days are conduct by “believers” who share the same frame of mind than our friend Fanti. You don’t agree with me ? Just take another look at the recent list of “facts” presented in Valencia by M. Rolfe (especially the first draft) that was co-signed by almost anyone present there and you’ll understand that I’m right about that. In that context, don’t be surprises if sindonology is often looked by the vast majority of the scientific community (those who don’t let their faith intervene in their science) as a joke without any sense of credibility whatsoever.

The FACT is this : the history of science is full of examples of phenomenon (or material things) that were unexplainable at some point in history and, later on, with the constant development of science, that were finally fully explained. I don’t see any reason why the Shroud should be considered differently, except if you don’t believe in the real value of science and in his constant evolution and development. On this crucial subject, here’s what Ray Rogers wrote in his book A Chemist’s perspective on the Shroud of Turin : “In seeking an understanding of the Shroud, you will often see the statement : “Science can not explain the image; therefore it was produced by a miracle.” The Greeks recognized the fallacy of such an “argumentative leap” millennia ago. The fact that science has not “yet” found an explanation PROOVES NOTHING. Science continually collects observations and information, and conclusions often change with time. Persons who believe in absolutes will be unhappy with science (note: this quote from Rogers makes you wonder why there are still scientists who thinks like M. Fanti today !).” And just after that, Rogers quotes Carl Sagan who said one day (with great lucidity) : “Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.” This last statement fits perfectly with the image on the Shroud.

I think our friend Fanti and all the “scientists” who share his frame of mind should take good note of that part of Rogers book and reflect upon it for a while. Maybe also they should read again what we can find in the conclusion of the paper published in this “special edition” by the colleague of Fanti, Francisco Alconchel-Pecino : “Probably the controversy arose (note : he talks about the C14 dating but I think his quote would better fit for the whole image formation issue) because, once more, HUMAN INNOCENCE (note : concerning the image, we can say “human religious thinking” instead and that would be the same) WAS SURPRISED BY THE SUBTELTIES OF MOTHER NATURE.”

That’s exactly what I’ve been saying on this blog over and over again in regard of the body image ! And I really think Fanti and all the other “scientists” like him should meditate on that phrase for a very long time. But even then, I seriously doubt that they would finally accept it one day concerning the image on the Shroud. Like they say : once you’re mind is made up on a subject… But don’t you think it’s funny (or pretty shameful) and very telling to see how those people are ready to change completely their mindset depending on the subject ? Effectively, they are ready to accept the truth contained in this quote from Alconchel-Pecino when it comes to the C14 dating (in order mainly to disregard Ray Rogers conclusions about what went wrong in 1988), but at the same time, they will never accept this very same truth concerning the body image on the Shroud !!! This kind of “mindset shifting” (or “spinning mindset” if you prefer) makes me sick, especially when it comes from people who pretend to be authentic scientists. Religious beliefs have not their place in a scientific research and this example of “mindset shifting” depending on the kind of issue they deal with is a very good proof of that.

Before I conclude, I would like to also say this : M. Fanti and his colleagues can published the number of papers they want to proclaim that the body image on the Shroud was produced by a corona discharge (if there are not 20 papers that pretend CD is the solution of the image, I think there’s none !), or that it was produced by other kinds of energetic discharge related to the Resurrection, like UV light, radiation of some sort, etc. (note that if the image is really a by-product of the Resurrection, it can’t be all of those things !!!), in the end, that will never change the heart of the problem, which is the real nature of the IMAGE CHROMOPHORE.

Effectively, if Rogers was right about this most important aspect of the Shroud, then I’m sorry for M. Fanti, M. Antonacci and all the others who proposed supernatural based hypotheses but that would mean they are most probably wrong. I think these people might reflect some more on what Ray Rogers said about the body image fibers from the Shroud that he analyzed in dept : “The crystal structure of the flax image fibers was NO MORE DEFECTIVE than non-image fibers. It would take very good temperature control specifically to scorch impurities without producing some defects in the cellulose.” In other words, Rogers clearly states here that if there really is a thin layer of carbohydrates impurities on-top of the fibers on the surface of the Shroud (and with the findings of starch fractions and pectic substances on top of the fibers, it sure look that way), any form of energetic radiation (whether it be UV light, corona discharge, proton, neutron, etc.) would not only have caused a coloration of the impurities but would also have caused some form of defects in the linen fiber (even if it would only be defects in the primary cell wall of the fiber and nothing else) easily discernable for a specialist in radiation like him.

Unfortunatelly for all the fans of the supernatural, Rogers told us that this was not the case concerning the Shroud, especially in the case of the ghost of coloration left in the sticky tape that revealed a colorless, lustrous and undamaged linen fiber behind (Rogers exact words). That’s the reality. And if people still think that Rogers was not thinking about the whole linen fiber (including the primary cell wall) when he was using the generic term “cellulose” in his writings, please read again the study I’ve done this year concerning all the things Rogers wrote on the subject ! You can find this study

I think I’ve been able to show clear evidences that Rogers was thinking “the entire fiber (including the primary cell wall)” when he was using the term “cellulose”… In the end, from Rogers writings, it seems quite clear that, in his mind, the entire linen fiber (including the primary cell wall) has not been affected at all by the image formation process. And he based his judgment not on a preconceived notion but on observations and facts regarding the body image…

All this to say that until we’ll be 100% sure about the image chromophore (I’m afraid it will take another round of direct chemical testing to really be certain about that), all of these “scientists” who proposed supernatural hypotheses will never have the right to proclaim, like nevertheless Garcia-Macedo et al. just did in the conclusion of their paper about the corona discharge (M. Fanti’s baby that was completely rejected by Rogers experimental testing) that “The results shown here gave new experimental EVIDENCES to support the idea that the Turin Shroud image was QUITE PROBABLY produced by a corona discharge.”

From a strict scientific point of view, these kinds of sure claims are just premature and false, simply because if Ray Rogers hypothesis concerning the image chromophore is correct (and presently, no one can say he was wrong about that), then it would mean that this conclusion from Garcia-Macedo et al. would surely be completely wrong and off-track, and it would also be the same for any kind of other energetic radiation hypothesis that would colored the primary cell wall of the linen fiber… In other words, if the image chromophore is NOT the primary cell wall of the linen fiber (so far, I’ve just seen one paper published which conclude that the primary cell wall is the chromophore and it was written by M. Fanti and others; this conclusion doesn’t surprise me because the primary cell wall as a potential image chromophore “fits” better with his corona discharge hypothesis), that would mean that all these supernatural hypotheses are most probably incorrect versus the real nature of the body image on the Shroud. Again, from a strict scientific point of view, there are chances (maybe good chances) that the image chromophore is not the primary cell wall and, consequently, that any image formation proposition that produced any kind of defect in the primary cell wall is wrong.

So, I hope you will be very prudent when you will read these papers of Fanti et al. in order to avoid thinking too fast that their conclusions about the image formation are probably right. In reality, they’re still very far from being able to prove anything, simply because we still don’t know for sure what is the real image chromophore… Finding once and for all what is the real image chromophore : that’s were the attention of the scientists who wants to study the Shroud properly should be directed. But unfortunately, that’s rarely the case these days and the image formation hypotheses (mostly supernatural in nature) are still largely the centre of the attention. This “special edition” is just another perfect (and bad) example of that.

To me, the situation of Shroud science is not very good these days. It seems like there’s constantly a battle out there between an authentic quest to find the scientific truth about the Shroud (whatever it could be) and a quest to backed-up a religious belief (hidden behind a pretension to do science). Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the first quest is looking strong in that battle and I really think it’s a bad thing for the future of sindonology. You wonder why the Vatican has blocked every proposal of direct testing on the relic ? You can be sure that the rising of the second type of quest I just described has a lot to do with that. If the vast majority of the modern scientists who study the Shroud would be members of the first quest I described (without being driven by some preconceived notion of what the Resurrection is supposed to have been and have produced), you can be sure that more studies of the relic would have been permitted since a long time. To me, the problem is not the Turin Centro or the Vatican, but it is much more the supernatural fringe who constantly try hard to prove the Resurrection while using the Shroud. That’s where we found the real problem of sindonology and to me, that’s the main reason why any proposal for direct research on the cloth is constantly blocked.

When you think of all the great scientist who has studied the Shroud over the years (some are still there) without having this kind of religious agenda in the back of their mind, the present situation is really a shame ! Let’s just pray that any member of the supernatural fringe will never be able to touch the Shroud in their lifetime because if they did, we’re done !!! The “mystery” of the body image should be considered on the same level by science than other phenomenon unexplained yet, like for example, the partial body image on the Jospine Mattress. I don’t think this image on a mattress has ever been considered as miraculous by any credible scientist, so on a strict scientific level, why the Shroud image should be considered differently when it comes to study it ?

Message to M. Fanti and others : If you were offended in some way by this comment, just keep in mind that it’s just one personal opinion freely expressed (we’re living in a free world no ?) among many others. It’s just that what was said in the editorial (along with the nature of most of the papers published) make me fear the worst about the real objectivity of this “special edition”. For instance, I would have like to see some papers published about credible natural hypothesis of image formation involving some kind of chemical reactions and, most of all, about some testing and analyses done in laboratory to verify the 2 main hypotheses concerning the image chromophore of the body image (i.e. the thin layer of impurities proposed by Rogers and the primary cell wall proposed by M. Fanti et al.)…

Yannick Clément, Louiseville, Québec, Canada

P.S. : For those who wants to reflect upon the question of the possible image chromophore, I suggest you to read my own analysis on the subject