LiveScience Goofs Again

Kim Ann Zimmermann, in an article, Pareidolia: Seeing Faces in Unusual Places, writes in LiveScience:

A prime example of pareidolia and its connection to religious images is the Shroud of Turin, a cloth bearing the image of a man — which some believe to be Jesus — who appears to have suffered trauma consistent with crucifixion. The negative image was first observed in 1898, on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral.

Are there no editors at this magazine? In the three short paragraphs just above the paragraph I just quoted, Zimmermann very correctly and very clearly defined pareidolia as follows:

imageThe psychological phenomenon that causes some people to see or hear a vague or random image or sound as something significant is known as pareidolia (par-i-DOH-lee-a).

The word is derived from the Greek words para, meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of, and the noun eidōlon, meaning image, form or shape. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, which is a more generalized term for seeing patterns in random data.

Some common examples are seeing a likeness of Jesus in the clouds or an image of a man on the surface of the moon.

The picture of a man on the Shroud of Turin is not at all mere random data. It is unmistakably a picture of a man. It might be a yet unexplained work of art. It might even be a photograph by Leonardo da Vinci.  (Humor me, I’m just trying to make a point). It might be the product of some natural phenomenon. Or it might be a miraculous acheiropoieton, an image not created by human hands. But it is not a pattern of random data that just so happens to look like a man. That would be so extraordinary and so statistically implausible as to be truly miraculous. It is not a pareidolia.

We’ve covered this extensively in this blog, most recently four months ago when I wrote these words (again) from an earlier post:

One day, I was astonished to receive an email from someone who claimed that we only think we see an image of a face on the Shroud. What we think is an image, he told me, is merely the happenstance accumulation of smudges and stains on the cloth. It is no different than an imaginary image of Jesus on a burned slice of toast. It is a pareidolia, an apophenia. I had never heard of either of these words. Now I have. As far as I can see, they mean the same thing. According to my Merriam-Webster dictionary apophenia is "the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data." Pareidolia is defined as apophenia.

I wrote back. "The image is too detailed. It is too realistic and too complex to not be the real face of a man. When I say real, I mean by any means. Absent other evidence this includes painting, photograph or something else that we don’t understand."

But he persisted. His mind was made up. "You can’t prove it," he wrote back. "It could be pure coincidence and you don’t know for a fact that it isn’t. What is the threshold for perceiving an image? What are the criteria for saying that the image is of a man? Are you an expert on the human face?"

I suspect that there is a rather fuzzy swath of undecidedness between certainty that an image is of a face and is not. Given the setting and circumstance and a measure of sanity in whatever our worldview may dictate to us, we can usually avoid undecidedness. If I see a face in the clouds, I know it is a phantasm (another cool word), an illusion, an apparition of sorts. I am sure most of us think the same thing if we see a face on a piece of toast or in a smudge of a windowpane. It should be easy to know what we see for any given context. If I see a face in a Picasso, even if it looks less like a face than what I see on my morning toast, I know it is an image of a face because of the context. But what about the face on the shroud? It is a face. The context is clear. There is an entire body there – admittedly, at the risk of being declared incompetent, maybe a pareidolia. I don’t know how the face got there but it is a face.

Is there pareidolia on the shroud? I think so: the coins over the eyes, lettering, flowers, scorches that look like clowns. We’ve been there many times.

7 thoughts on “LiveScience Goofs Again”

  1. The image on the Shroud was created when Jesus’ body dissolved into a stream of radiation, creating a photographic negative on the cloth. Called the Rainbow Body, it has occurred thousands of times in the past in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the most recent being in September, 1998 by the Buddhist monk Khenpo A-Chos. Other examples of Rainbow Body in the Christian tradition are Enoch, Elijah and possibly Moses. The non-cannonical reports of Mary’s death, called the Assumption, indicate that she too acquired Rainbow Body.

    In late August of 1998, A-Chos told his disciples he was going to leave this world. Without signs of any illness he passed peacefully and comfortably while chanting a mantra. Following Buddhist tradition his body was covered in a yellow cloth whereupon it was noticed that his now unwrinkled skin had turned a soft, pinkish color. As days passed his body continually shrank to childlike proportions until finally, on the seventh day, it completely disappeared. During this seven day period outsiders noted a display of rainbow colored radiation coming from the burial hut.

    The truth is, something very significant and natural happens to the human body when it is exposed to a lifestyle of selflessness and love and compassion to others, all taken to the extreme and demonstrated in an unwavering commitment to a virtuous cause. Such a lifestyle is the common denominator among the Rainbow Body adepts. A human body that vanishes into mid-air seems miraculous. However, when viewed from a quantum perspective it all makes sense. Quantum particles of which we (and everything else in the universe) are made cannot exist unless they are observed through human consciousness. Now, one can have an opinion about anything except one cannot have an opinion about fact. And, that atomic particles do not have an independent existence is a proven fact. So, if an atomic particle can be brought into existence by observing it then it necessarily follows that it can be made to disappear by not observing it. And that is exactly what the Rainbow Body adepts do; they stop observing (and catering) to self through extreme asceticism and compassion for others. Atomic particles are nothing more than vibrating energy. So, when they cease to exist the vibrating energy is released into the surrounding area.

    Jesus’ death was the most spectacular Rainbow Body of them all for his body dissolved in less than thirty-six hours while most dissolutions take place in seven days. Thus, the energy that was released as HIs body dissolved was released in a much shorter period of time producing a high intensity radiation. Italian researches at the National Agency for New Technologies have confirmed that linen cloth is sensitive to high intensity radiation. The short nature of His release compared to other adepts confirms Him to be the greatest manifestation of the divine the world has ever seen.

    And the thing about it is, the Rainbow Body adepts have no special skills or traits. We all come from the factory with the same factory installed equipment. The adepts knew how to bring forth the spiritual component better than most. The question each person has to answer is, “how spiritual do I want to be”? “How much material lifestyle do I want to sacrifice in order to bring forth my innate spiritual nature”?

    Even though the Catholic Church has studied the strange death of Khenpo A-Chos you don’t hear much about it. For its implications are far reaching. It questions the claim of divinity that early Church fathers made on Jesus. Without question the greatest human to ever live, the operative word is “human”. Human yes, divine no. And when that claim is removed the virginity of Mary comes under the microscope, then the notion of original sin and so forth. And the walls come tumbling down. As the Catholic Priest who conducted an on-site investigation of Khenpo A-Chos death said, “we may have done a number on the flock.” For sure, the words in Genesis, “…and to dust thou shalt return” need to be appended with the words “but only if you so choose.”

  2. Dan you wrote: “Is there pareidolia on the shroud? I think so: the coins over the eyes, lettering, flowers…” How long will you ignore you can be the victim of “I think I don’t sees”? Paradolie can also be negative visual misperceptions (false negatives). ON the Turin Sindon, they are SO MANY faint real things that do escape the non-initiated eye… you just cannot ‘imagine’!

  3. Dan soon, I’ll send you by email a couple of photographs for you and other bloggers to evaluate your real ability to see/recognise even very familiar forms totally embedded in background noise.

  4. From the various comments on the LiveScience blog, it’s only too evident that it essentially caters for a subhumanoid readership, sadly too prevalent. I tend to blame Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida for their impact on present educational systems through their philosophies of relativism. The comments there are in sharp contrast to the intelligence of the readers frequently displayed here on Dan’s site.

    The question of what is real and what is imaginary was first examined in great detail by the 17th c. mathematican, philosopher and scientist Rene Descartes. Beginning at “Dubito, ergo sum” and then proceeding to “Cogito, sum”, he finally arrived at his ontological proof of the existence of God in his work “Meditations”. However even this conclusion was flawed, as the God that Descartes had constructed by this means was no more than Descartes’ own idea of God. It was one of a number of key errors in Descartes’ reasoning, which even extended to mathematics. He would not believe for instance that the lengths of various curves could be resolved, despite the discovery of the calculus, and his own invention of coordinate geometry, and as demonstrated by the the work of Pierre de Fermat.

    If Descartes made major his philosophy, and in other fields, what chance have lesser minds to arrive at the truth? Perhaps most of us resort to falling back on the empirical principle: “What is reasonable?” or “What conclusions would a reasonable, well-informed person come to?” as a working principle for daily living. But of course, even this has hazards and to be wrong is to be human. To fall back onto earlier certainties such as the philosophies of Aristotle and St Thomas would appear to be retrograde. Even the principles of so-called “scientific scepticism” can be demonstrably unproductive. Can scientific experiment yield truth? It seems only about the material world, and only then if rigorous sampling protocols are followed! The interpretations and conclusions therefrom are another matter. What does “What is reasonable?” mean?!

  5. Enjoy reading this blog, but unfortunately, I don’t have the training/knbowledge nor the HP to fully appreciate this and wish I were 20 years younger with an additional 50 IQ points. May I respectively recommend you peruse some of Sheldrake’s writings. I thought “Conversations with God” was a stretch, Sheldrake’s goes beyond that: he even questions the scientific method as currently practiced. Would appreciate some feedback.

    1. you don’t need 50 IQ points to see what is depicted on the shroud and 500 IQ points will not explain nor duplicate the shroud

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