These bots accomplish their bothersome mission by copying or linking to old written content and making it look like new news. Yesterday’s search du jour for these search engine spammers was the shroud. And as Google was fooled. so was I. I was fooled by a year old announcement for some talks by Russ Breault and a number of other items. But there can be a silver lining in such things as I was momentarily fooled and then, on reflection, reminded of an old Washington Post article, Imagining the Shroud of Turin, by Mathew N. Schmalz, Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross. Old? Well, yes, in internet terms. So from a bot linking to WaPo, April 12, 2010:
[ . . . ] When professor Upton handed back the paper I had written to go along with the presentation, he was, uncharacteristically, effusive in his praise. But I soon realized the reason: at the same time he handed back another paper to me that had the lowest grade I had ever gotten on a college paper. After I sorted out my rather mixed feelings about things, professor Upton asked me point blank: "Does it really matter whether the Shroud is real?" I really didn’t have an answer to that, so I think I diverted conversation to an easier topic — like why I screwed up the other paper. It took me another six years for me to give the answer: "No, it doesn’t matter whether the Shroud is real."
A year after I graduated college, I was a live-in manager at a homeless shelter in the South Bronx. After our Sunday dinners, I’d often talk with Father Jim, the founder of the shelter who oversaw its operations. Father Jim was instrumental in steering me into religious studies, something that quite literally saved my life in a number of respects. In one of our discussions about teaching religion, he shared with me the experiences of some earnest young priests who had evangelized their students by sharing with them information about the Shroud of Turin. When he mentioned the Shroud, Father Jim was careful to add the qualification, "recently called into question," to refer to Carbon-14 dating of the Shroud that indicated it was actually a relic from the Middle Ages.
I don’t know whether Father Jim was making an oblique suggestion about what I could do as a religion professor, but at that time I couldn’t see how the Shroud proved anything. Even now that the Carbon-14 dating procedure has been challenged, I would still say the same thing. It’s one thing to observe that no scientific explanation of the Shroud has proved definitive; it’s quite another to claim that it’s the burial cloth of Jesus. If it truly is, one could imagine some very disconcerting possibilities — like trying to obtain DNA material from the Shroud in order to clone Jesus. In any case, if religion is about faith, why would any proof be necessary? If God worked in terms of proof, why not appear in the sky and be done with it.
Source of Quoted Material: On Faith Panelists Blog: Imagining the Shroud of Turin – Mathew N. Schmalz