Agenda Driven Shroud Science? What a pity.

imageA reader writes:

The proposal to test the Maillard reaction hypothesis was requested and promoted by David Rolfe, the man behind the the “List”, (more appropriately the Valencia Dogma) who wrote, “It is, frankly, unthinkable that a process that has only ever been known to brown toast and meat could form the Shroud image. . . .One of the major achievements of the "List" is to put this idea away for good and allow proper considerations to continue unfettered by it. . . .The fondness that everyone, me included, has for Ray’s memory is the only thing that has kept the theory alive for as long as it has” 

Rolfe now doubles down. He writes that, “One of the reasons for the theory’s attractiveness to some researchers is that, if correct, it provides a "natural" explanation for the creation of the image.”

So what? The real reason for the theory’s attractiveness could be/should be/must be that any hypothesis might be right. A Maillard reaction might in fact be right. It might be the answer or at least part of the answer. This kind of transparency from Rolfe makes all shroud science appear suspect and agenda driven. What a pity.

BTW the Mannix proposal should be presented as nothing more than an opening suggestion designed to start some fruitful discussion. As written, this proposal is hardly adequate to even begin testing what Rogers was talking about. 

17 thoughts on “Agenda Driven Shroud Science? What a pity.”

  1. I make no apology for having an agenda. It is to try and get to the bottom of as much of the mystery of the Shroud as it is humanly possible to get. Proponents of the Maillard reaction as an explanation for the image have, so far, as far as I can see, done nothing experimental to substantiate it.

    The proposal for an experiment as set out by Denis Mannix is designed to get the ball rolling towards some kind of methodology. IT IS AN OPENING SUGGESTION!!! Read the source carefully and not just Dan’s filleted version and that will be obvious as he should have pointed out before publishing this coy, stirring “A Reader Writes”.. piece.

    The tendency for the supporters of Maillard to bleat about it rather than substantiate it tells you a lot about its viability. Just show me a meaningful image of anything created in this way and I will have a lot more respect for the idea. Meanwhile, join in the discussion of how best to test the idea or abandon it.

    1. Actually, David, my thoughts on this are a bit stronger than those of the letter writer. However, I’m not a big fan of the Maillard reaction hypothesis. My objection to the decisions made at Valencia had to do with the possible presence of an impurity layer on the fibers which, while necessary for a Maillard reaction, is not the same thing as a Maillard reaction. There seems to be no end to the confusion about this. What troubled me most about Valencia was the way a small handful of scientists tried to rule by small-group-consensus on a matter on which there was insufficient evidence and no broad scientific agreement.

      As for the Denis Mannix proposal, it cannot possibly begin to address the subject. Rogers spoke of a complex system. He wrote, in one instance, “I do not push a ‘diffusion model.’ I have presented a complex group of phenomena which, taken together, could produce something with the characteristics of the image.”

      It is detractors of the Maillard reaction who have dubbed it a mere diffusion model, Fanti in particular. Yet that is all that Denis’ proposal seems designed to test. It is pointless.

      I strongly recommend reading Yannick’s comments in the next posting, “Speaking of the the Mannix proposal to test the Maillard Reaction” at


      1. Dan:Rogers spoke of a complex system. He wrote, in one instance, “I do not push a ‘diffusion model.’

        I didn’t know that, but I fully agree with this point and I have written in that line in this blog
        Barry also recently mentioned in this blog that Rogers thought that other mechanisms apart from Maillard reaction were involved.
        All this depicts Rogers as someone truly open minded regarding the image formation mechanism and more specifically, the role of Maillard reaction. Surprisingly enough, some of his followers -as we often see in this blog- tend to be far more dogmatic than himself…..

      2. If your comment is for me Gabriel, let me say to you that you’re completely off-track. I don’t defend the image formation hypothesis of Rogers as it was the only possible solution but IF the chromophore is really a thin layer of impurity, then we have to think that this Maillard reaction hypothesis has a very good chance to have been at least part of the image formation. That’s all I say. The “if” concerning the question of the chromphore is very important.

      3. Gabriel, i think you’ve misunderstood Rogers’ quote. He was not talking about “something else”, but simply of his complex hypothesis as described in his long ssg message which should not be reduced to a ‘diffusion model’.

    2. M. Rolfe, may I suggest you to take a fresh crucified corpse that was highly beaten and tortured for several hours prior to his death and put it in a linen shroud that has a carbohydrate layer of impurities on the top surface. Then let it cool down at room temperature in a closed place without any air current for at least 36 hours.

      I almost can guarantee you that you’ll have some colors on the cloth after heating it to simulates aging. I don’t say that you’ll get a body image as perfect as the one on the Shroud but I’m almost sure that you’ll get something. I just cannot imagine that after 36 hours, a highly tortured and crucified corpse would not have emit a pretty good quantity of amines gases (starting with a pretty good quantity of ammonia gas). And if there was such a released of gases by this tortured corpse in the first 36 hours after death, it’s almost sure that you’ll get some coloration on the cloth IF (the IF is important) there is a thin coating of carbohydrates impurities on the top surface of the cloth. Like Rogers said : this is not an hypothesis, this is a fact. If amines (ammonia included) gases come in contact with a layer of carbohydrates impurities, there will be a chemical reaction that will leave a coloration. Again, this is a scientific fact. I don’t pretend that the hypothesis of Rogers for image formation can surely explain 100% of the image but I’m trully convinced that it his hypothesis concerning the chromophore of the image (the thin layer of impurities) could be independently confirmed one day, then Rogers hypothesis for image formation could well be good enough to explain at least a good portion of image we see on the cloth. In what proportion ? Very hard to tell without real laboratory tests done with real corpses of mammals or even with real human corpses…

      In the end, like I said in my recent comment that Dan have given you the link, the most important thing to answer right now is the question of the chromophore of the image. Then we will be well armed to discuss and debate about the possible image formation mechanism !

  2. David; “It is, frankly, unthinkable that a process that has only ever been known to brown toast and meat could form the Shroud image. . . .One of the major achievements of the “List” is to put this idea away for good and allow proper considerations to continue unfettered by it”. . . .This is definately not the way to start any ‘investigation’ or ‘study’! …”to put this idea away for good”??? …I hope Mannix and anyother person involved do not enter their proposal with this type of thinking. I agree with Dan on this 100% and for basically the same reasons. All hypothesis must be treated as atleast plausible, until, through extensive study, ruled otherwise! Starting any research with even the slightest bias can be very detrimental to the results.

    I have made my thoughts clear that I am NOT a proponent of the Maillard reaction hypothesis, or it being the cause of the image we see on the Shroud, but I am against any such thought being present while investigating the hypothesis…Any studies should go forward with an OPEN mind, or else they be fruitless.

    As to any studies or experiments, although I believe any study can serve to bring us further in understanding this marvelous image, I think we would be going forward basically blind; We know very little of the environment in which the image was formed!…Was the body damp or dry? Was the body clean or covered in dirt? Was the Shroud tightly wrapped or loose? Was the Shroud clean or covered in spices? Was the Shroud actually manufactured and cured the way described? etc, etc;…We have no clue to any of these questions, and they are all relevant to the study.


  3. David Rolfe :
    Just show me a meaningful image of anything created in this way and I will have a lot more respect for the idea.

    This is naive.

    First steps should not be to create any meaningful image but to determine the chromophore, test how sugars layer spread on linen fibers, determine reactive amines.

    1. Clever comment Anoxie ! You’ve understand the issue perfectly… Determining also if there really is an image of the hair, beard and mustache on the reverse side of the cloth should also be regarded as highly important concerning our knowledge of the nature of the image formation that has been at work inside the Shroud. If there really is such an image on the backside of the cloth and if this image is of the same superficial and chemical nature than the main image on the inner part of the cloth, then I think we would be armed to really rejected a lot of hypotheses that have been proposed over the years !!!

  4. In this never ending sequence of “challenges” , ENEA reports, amateur research initiatives, books-that-might-destroy-the-foundations-of-Christianity, and similar things we are seeing for more than 30 years, in my view, it is the Catholic Church one of the few actors that seems to act with some common sense,and as time goes by I clearly see and support more and more Her reasons not to carry out new experiments

    1. I said it before in my long reaction to the recent publication of the special number about the Shroud by Fanti et al. and I’ll say it again to back-up Gabriel’s comment : 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 ?

    1. Amen Andy… Each time I see the Anti-Rogers clique active, I always say to myself something similar !!! And here’s what I also say : It’s very cheap to try destroying the credibility of an authentic scientist like Ray Rogers who did so much for our understanding of the Shroud while he’s not there anymore to defend himself, his credibility, his honesty, his profesionalism and his work.

      Barrie Schwortz once told me that one known sindonologist was active at destroying Rogers credibility something like 5 minutes after his death !!! This is very cheap and we can see easily that this anti-Rogers crusade his going on and on and on in the Shroud world.

      The question we must ask ourselves is this : WHY is it so active these days ? And the answer is very simple : Because those who act like this don’t want Rogers conclusions to be true for the good reason that they point to a totally different direction than their preconceived and religious notion of what the Shroud and his image should be, should mean and worst of all, should prove…

  5. David Rolfe is right in stressing the importance of what Denis Mannix has to say as a starting point and if there are shortcomings these will obviously have to be tackled. Mannix has also made an important point regarding what has gone wrong in the realm of Shroud studies and why that could be the reason for the Church’s silence.

    As for Rogers, it must be reiterated that, although he was a good scientist, he was indulging in a bit of scientism, implying that the metaphysical was not necessary. In one paper of his, available on the Internet, he dwelt on something about an evolutionary process, but did not say where the rationality came from. So the question that arises is: Why was that so?

  6. I hope someone will be forthcoming with a critique, additions, suggestions…indeed anything that will aid Denis Mannix in formulating a methodology to test the Maillard theory in principle. With respect to Yannick, it cannot be necessary to have a crucified body to do this. To enable skeptics like myself to give the idea some credibility all I ask is for an image with a small degree of resolution no bigger than a little finger.

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