Bad Science? Bad Journalism? Religious Hoaxes All?

imageAfter explaining that the film "Innocence of Muslims" may not exist . . .

Despite the outrage it’s not clear that the film actually exists; certainly a trailer for it does, but a trailer isn’t a film. Investigation into the anti-Muslim "film" is ongoing, but as yet there seems to be no evidence that the film exists other than as a deadly hoax. People create hoaxes for many reasons, but when fraud mixes with religious fervor the results can range from the comical to the deadly.

. . . columnist Benjamin Radford discusses A History of Religious Hoaxes | Anti-Muslim Film, Shroud of Turin & Elders of Zion in his column, Bad Science, for LiveScience. He lists seven in addition to the film:

  1. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
  2. The Shroud of Turin and Other Holy Relics
  3. The Cardiff Giant
  4. Indian Guru Sai Baba’s Legerdemain
  5. The Discovery of Noah’s Ark
  6. The Ossuary of James, Brother of Jesus
  7. God Speaks to Peter Popoff Via Short-Wave Radio
    Of the shroud he writes:

Though many believe that Italy’s Shroud of Turin is the burial shroud of Jesus, there’s compelling evidence the shroud is in fact a hoax, including a 1389 letter from French Bishop Pierre d’Arcis to Pope Clement stating that a painter confessed to creating it. Indeed, the Bishop’s evidence was so convincing that even Pope Clement acknowledged it as a forgery — one of countless faked religious relics circulating at the time. Carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin revealed it does not date back to the time of Christ but instead 14 centuries later — exactly when the forger confessed to making it. Even more damning for its authenticity, there is no record of its existence before then; if it really is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, it seems suspicious that no one knew anything about it for 1,300 years. Though many remain convinced of its authenticity, the historical and scientific evidence suggest the Shroud of Turin is probably a religious hoax. As researcher Joe Nickell noted in his book "Relics of the Christ" (The University Press of Kentucky, 2007), the shroud on display in Turin is only one of over 40 such Jesus shrouds — all claimed to be the real one. [Who Was Jesus, the Man?]

Radford doesn’t mention “Other Holy Relics” (maybe an editor clipped his article or he forgot to mention them). Benjamin Radford, who is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine, really offers nothing more than this one inadequate paragraph of what is both bad history and bad science. 

3 thoughts on “Bad Science? Bad Journalism? Religious Hoaxes All?”

  1. Another hoax is Benjamin Radford who poses as a knowledgeable historian on his web-site and doesn’t know the difference between a genuine hoax, a mistaken belief, a credible possibility, and a sensational fact! Hoaxes: Let’s tick off 1, 3, 4, 7; Mistaken belief: tick 5; credible possibility: tick 6 – He’s apparently unaware the the Israeli Courts have dismissed the charges of fraud brought by the Israeli Antiquities Authority: Sensational fact: tick 2 – Radford clearly knows next to nothing about the Shroud of Turin!

  2. Radford does not seem to have done his homework and has therefore been mixing things unnecessarily, particularly by mentioning the Shroud. As for the James ossuary, Prof. Amos Kloner, former Jerusalem District Archaeologist, and one of those involved in debunking the “Jesus Family Tomb”, had this to say:

    “The inscription looks new. The writer tried to impart an ancient form to the letters by using contemporary letters….” It did not mean that Oded Golan was involved in the forgery as he acquired the ossuary in the controversial antiquities market, where the IAA is struggling to preserve order. There are very serious people there. In 1967 they listened to Father Roland de Vaux, former editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls, about how to handle these precious documents. Bedouin had been selling fragments in the market.

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