I commend to you a thoughtful posting by Colin Berry. I have no issue with considering Colin an expert on scorching, even an expert in the scorching of linen, even an expert on a proposed scorching model for the shroud’s image. For it is after a few paragraphs that I read this:
Firstly, no one knows the precise chemical nature of the Shroud image, despite decades of research (actually, little research has been done directly on the image, for reasons we’ll address on another occasion). So there are no experts on the Shroud image – just some who are well informed about how little we actually do and do not know.
That’s where someone like myself fits into the picture. I too know next to nothing about the Shroud image. Since I have no access to the Shroud itself – and probably would not be able to wave any magic wands if I did – I have to fall back on the time- honoured approach of the scientist who is under no great time pressure to deliver a solution. That is to propose a model, to study that model, and then patiently attempt to spot points of similarity or difference between model and unknown subject. In my case the model is thermal imprinting aka scorching. I cannot be described as a Shroud expert – but with time there might be one or two charitable souls prepared to regard me as an expert on scorching… C’est la vie.
What about the other aspects of the Shroud? Are there experts in those areas? History? There’s been a lot of attention on the question as to where the Shroud was prior to 1355 when it was first put on display. Prior to that it was in private hands and well-concealed, but for how long? (The Vatican claimed recently that it had been in the care of those mysterious Templars).
The problem is that I am not expert enough in such matters to know if Colin is an expert.
BTW: Did the Vatican really make that claim? Or was it Barbara Frale, a so-called expert?
Then Colin writes:
To summarise: experts have their uses in certain situations, as I have suggested and they may acquire guru status if they have a track record for sound judgement, i.e their previous positions having proved correct in the fullness of time. But they may not be able to bring unique insights into an ongoing problem if the latter has defied solution, and may indeed hinder progress if they are too quick to criticize or dismiss current lines of research. That is especially the case if they are not actually researching it themselves, and not immersed in that indefinable quality I would describe as the ‘culture of research’, especially that which attempts to discover not just the known unknowns, but those entities once famously described as ‘unknown unknowns’.
Yes, a reference right at the end to ‘culture’ might look somewhat grandiose, but let me disabuse you of any such desire or intention of self-aggrandisement immediately. I recently came across a definition of culture that clicked immediately – it’s those things that people do without thinking, or feeling they have to think.
There are different approaches to the Shroud – some that require thinking, some which do not. It’s part of the human condition for the thinkers and non-thinkers to eye each other suspiciously. But all of us are occasionally thinkers or non-thinkers, depending on context, and if some or all of that ‘non-thinking’ is cultural, then there’s little point in taking cudgels to each other.