A most avuncular posting

imageJohn Klotz writes in his blog, Living Free:

Once, while reporting a debate I participated in some years ago, the New York Law Journal referred to me as the “most avuncular” of the participants. I was a little upset because it looked like a reference to my weight, which wasn’t that bad until I looked the word up. Avuncular means “uncle like, a tendency to make points by telling stories”(or perhaps to bore relatives to death). I took satisfaction in that because in history, two of the most avuncular personalities were Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ. To make their points, Christ told parables and Lincoln told jokes – some of which, if you saw the recent movie or read any of his biographies, were a bit uncouth. I was in good company.

Right now in the course of drafting my manuscript, I am struggling a bit to capture the flavor of the scientific miracle that was the 120 hours of scientific analysis by STURP in Turin. I am particularly taken by the tale of aragonite limestone being found. But first let me tell MY story.

As some may know, my wife Rene and I have a particular empathetic but rambunctious Yellow Labrador Retriever  named Bogart. One morning a week or so ago I was walking “Bogie” and  . . . 

Read on at Living Free

12 thoughts on “A most avuncular posting”

    1. Can you tell me briefly the facts you rely on to dispute Aragonite issue? Ganriel, I do not know your professional background, but every day in courtrooms in the United State people are convicted of crimes on the bases of circumstantial evidence. We do not order our lives by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I would like to know the facts upon which you base your opinion. Mine include scientific examination of the aragonite and charts indicating matching spectra.between Jerusalem and the Shroud.

      Do you have any aragonite spectra from other than Jerusalem to compare? And what are the locations??

  1. John, we have had extensive discussions on this blog about these points. The only two original papers -to the best of my knowledge- with some studies on the aragonite and the Shroud are as follows:

    KOHLBECK J. A., NITOWSKI E. L., “New evidence may explain image on Shroud of Turin”, Biblical Archaeology
    Review, vol. 12, n. 4, luglio-agosto 1986, pp.23-24.

    LEVI-SETTI R.,CROW C., WANG Y. L.: Progress in high resolution scanning ion microscopy and secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging microanalysis. (PMID:3931206)
    ”, Scanning Electron Microscopy 2, 1985; 535-552

    The only spectra available are in the BAR paper which is not a technical review and mainly deals with historical/religious issues. We only have this spectra without any peer-review process nor description of which methodology has been followed. Regarding the paper by Levi-Setti paper, despite many references -including BAR-, no spectrum is provided.

    These two papers are really difficult to obtain so if you give me an email I can send them to you and you can decide by yourself after reading them.

    If you have any other information I am not aware of, I will be glad to read it and I am ready to change my mind at this point. But in my view, with the information we have so far I think that -quite the contrary that for example in the field of forensic aspects- we are far from having solid evidences.

  2. I have the BAR article and it contained charts. Also, Wilson published then in his 2010 book, the Shroud. Setti-Levis used a scanning ion microprobe with which the wavelengths emitted by the two different samples could be readily compared.

    Ian Wilson (2010-03-20). The Shroud (Kindle Location 1401). Transworld Digital. Kindle Edition.

    I may have overstated about the uniqueness of the aragonite to Jerusalem except that it is there and it’s not everywhere. But its on the sole of a foot, his knee and nose and that is compatible with the story of his falling while carrying the cross. What are the odds that a medieval forger would use aragonite dust on his masterpiece of fraud that just happened to match the aragonite in Jerusalem. The point of circumstantial evidence is that no single item may determine the issue but an accumulation of circumstances can lead to a virtually unerring conclusion.

    I give you quotations I use from Richard Dawkins, the “Atheist Pope” in my manuscript:

    As a result, Dawkins finds more reliable are inferences drawn from facts; in contrast to the dictionary, he places little weight in eyewitness testimony.

    “The dictionary definition of a fact mentions ‘actual observation or authentic testimony, as opposed to what is merely inferred’ (emphasis added). The implied pejorative of that ‘merely’ is a bit of a cheek. Careful inference can be more reliable than ‘actual observation’, however strongly our intuition protests at admitting it.” Dawkins, Richard (2009-09-18). The Greatest Show on Earth (p. 15). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

    Given the fact that in his study of evolution, Dawkins most often deals with ancient artifacts, and there is a paucity of other evidence available other than the artifacts, it makes sense.

    “Obviously, the vast majority of evolutionary change is invisible to direct eye-witness observation. Most of it happened before we were born, and in any case it is usually too slow to be seen during an individual’s lifetime. The same is true of the relentless pulling apart of Africa and South America, which occurs, as we shall see in Chapter 9, too slowly for us to notice. With evolution, as with continental drift, inference after the event is all that is available to us, for the obvious reason that we don’t exist until after the event.” Dawkins, Richard (2009-09-18) (pp. 15-16). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

    Then, Dawkins goes on to make an intriguing analogy:

    “We are like detectives who come on the scene after a crime has been committed. The murderer’s actions have vanished into the past. The detective has no hope of witnessing the actual crime with his own eyes. In any case, the gorilla-suit experiment and others of its kind have taught us to mistrust our own eyes. What the detective does have is traces that remain, and there is a great deal to trust there. There are footprints, fingerprints (and nowadays DNA fingerprints too), bloodstains, letters, diaries. The world is the way the world should be if this and this history, but not that and that history, led up to the present.” Dawkins, Richard (2009-09-18). The Greatest Show on Earth (p. 16). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

    Like a stopped watch, Dawkins is right a couple of times a day – maybe.

    1. John:” Setti-Levis used a scanning ion microprobe with which the wavelengths emitted by the two different samples could be readily compared ” and ” What are the odds that a medieval forger would use aragonite dust on his masterpiece of fraud that just happened to match the aragonite in Jerusalem.”

      This is the major difficulty. His results were never published anywhere but in BAR. The methodology he used and the results he reached were never submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Levi_setti has never (to the best of my knowledge) confirmed or published his chart later. They simply appeared in the BAR issue. Sorry, but this is not science. I repeat, quite the contrary that in all the forensic aspects.

  3. John, reliable information sent to me around a year ago says that aragonite is extremely rare in Jerusalem. Unfortunately there is no permission to reveal the source in Israel. Best.

    1. I really do not believe it appropriate to attack someone’s published work in the BAR and then say you can’t publish the source. Is your private source going to publish? I’d really like to see it.

      However, this I believe we do know: the man in the Shroud had dirt on the sole of an exposed foot, on his knee and on his nose. It’s been identified as aragonite by “scanning ion microprobe.” Even if it wasn’t aragonite, the dirt locations originally revealed by spectographic analysis are compatible with a fall (that’s compatible with my experienced walking my dog). Perhaps your unidentified source could comment on the charts as published in Wilson’s book.

      By the way, for the record, the late John Heller reported on the dirt findings in his book Report on the Shroud of Turin written very fresh after the STURP analysis and published in 1983. Heller was not in Turin but was a member of STURP and investigated thoroughly what happened there.

    2. If any scholar and scientist in the realm of Shroud studies and other fields provides information that is accompanied by a request for confidentiality his wish is respected. That is the way it has always been and will always be. It is left to him to publish his findings when he wishes to do so. It is common knowledge that there are papers published by “Shroudies” with no proper scientific study and this can also be extended to include the field of history. One can be sure that Kohlbeck, Nitowski and Levi-Setti had no intention to deceive anybody, however they could have been mistaken. The Geological Survey of Israel is perhaps the best source to obtain accurate information.

  4. In the previous round of discussions in this blog someone mentioned that Rogers left to Barrie 8 boxes with material. Perhaps only perhaps, new tests could be conducted on this material to elucidate this issue but so far, John, the evidences so far, are too weak and it is not clear at all that aragonite has been identified only because someone produced a chart and published it (this is the key point) in a non technical and non peer-reviewed journal.

    1. Do you have any information to indicate that either Witowski or Setti-Levi are unreliable or disreputable individuals?

      These individuals have come forward and put their name on their work. Wilson has published their chart. What information do you have to indicate these people are less than truthful?

  5. John, I think you have missed the point. It is not a question at a personal level. I dont know them personally and I can’t say whether they are unreliable, disreputable or truthful. All I am saying is that their work -basically the chart with the comparison of aragonites- has not gone through the scientifc standards which include peer-review. Perhaps, they may be very good scientists -I don`t know- but in this case, their work has not met the usual standars by which science progresses. If we want a scientific debate on the Shroud, lets start by adopting scientifc protocols and methodologies at all stages, including evaluation of results. Peer-review (with all its flaws and limitations that I can admit without problem) is one of them. If you dont need them, OK, but if we were to believe all the things that someone has ever written somewhere (and BAR is “somewhere” as far as spectra are concerned) on “astonishing findings” about the Shroud ……..ufffff!!

  6. The matter was discussed here in a posting March 25, 2012, following an enquiry I’d made to Barrie Schwortz, which I emailed to Dan – URL is:
    There are also other previous postings here on the topic, which can be searched.

    One point that Barrie made was that it would be a difficult topic to revisit following the 2002 restoration, which included vacuuming the various dust particles off the cloth, although.I have since heard that the particles removed were archived and catalogued.(hopefully). Barrie also suggested that there might be some information in one of the eight boxes left by Ray Rogers, as yet unopened and still to be investigated. Comments in the posting also included a number of URLs referencing the work of Kohlbeck & Nitowski. Nitowski (Dr. Eugenia Nitowski – Sister Damian of the Cross, OCD) had evidently satisfied herself that she had identified the cloth dust as travertine aragonite limestone, similar to that found at the Gate of Damascus at Jerusalem. Howver the point, as made by Gabriel, is that it seems that this was as far as it was taken, and her research was never submitted to any kind of peer review, so that her work has not been scientifically corroborated.

    Kohlbeck also mentions that both the Jerusalem and Shroud samples also included traces of strontium and iron but no lead. It has been mentioned that the percentages of strontium contamination would have been a useful specific signature indicator to provide conlusive evidence that the Shroud dust was in fact from Jerusalem and not limetone from some other location, but again only if corroborated.

    A scratch-pad archive I’d compiled from searching the topic and recently sent to John following our discussions,mentions a number of other investigators and various other web references.

    It is probably reasonable to cite the work of Kohlbeck, Nitowski etc, in John’s book but unfortunately it should likely be qualified as wanting authoritative scientific corroboration, unless it can be shown otherwise.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: