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Mystery as Proof

imageBT writes from the Thames River waterfront in New London, Connecticut, “coffee in hand, listening to the rhythmic slapping of waves against the dock of our boathouse, watching varnish dry on an old lapstrake planked Bermuda sloop and thinking.”

He writes:

STURP’s single most scientific achievement was not in finding out what caused or did not cause the image of a man but by declaring it a mystery. That they did as a team of scientists. [I reformatted the link and  embedded three paragraphs here]:

The basic problem from a scientific point of view is that some explanations which might be tenable from a chemical point of view, are precluded by physics. Contrariwise, certain physical explanations which may be attractive are completely precluded by the chemistry. For an adequate explanation for the image of the Shroud, one must have an explanation which is scientifically sound, from a physical, chemical, biological and medical viewpoint. At the present, this type of solution does not appear to be obtainable by the best efforts of the members of the Shroud Team. Furthermore, experiments in physics and chemistry with old linen have failed to reproduce adequately the phenomenon presented by the Shroud of Turin. The scientific concensus is that the image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself. Such changes can be duplicated in the laboratory by certain chemical and physical processes. A similar type of change in linen can be obtained by sulfuric acid or heat. However, there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image, nor can any combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances explain the image adequately.

Thus, the answer to the question of how the image was produced or what produced the image remains, now, as it has in the past, a mystery.

We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.

The wording is unambiguous: “As in the past, a mystery . . . the problem remains unsolved.”  This is the conclusion three years after highly qualified, serious, objective scientists and researchers went to Turin and studied the shroud. They were from STURP. STURP has its own entry in Wikipedia that lists some of the members.

Nuclear physicist Tom D’Muhala headed STURP. Apart from [physicist John P.] Jackson, [thermodynamicist Eric] Jumper and [photographer William Mottern], the team included thermal chemist Raymond N. Rogers, and Roy London and Roger Morris, all from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Other team members included Don Lynn of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, biophysicist John Heller, photographers Vern Miller and Barrie Schwortz, optical physicist Sam Pellicori and electric power experts John D. German and Rudy Dichtl, as well as forensic pathologist Robert Bucklin. STURP included no experts on medieval art, archaeology or textiles.

If you consider later studies by Rogers and Anna Arnoldi of the University of Milan – there was and still is some reason to do so – you can amend “oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself” by adding to it “or a nonenzymatic browning of an impurity layer on the microfibrils.” That layer, possibly an evaporation concentration or a residue from washing chemistry, was controversial in 2002 when it was proposed. It remains so. Whether it is really there, or is significant, is part of the mystery.

BT continues:

I think that most of the people who rationally believe the shroud is real do so because as it is so often stated scientists have not figured out how the image was created. Not only do they think it is real for that reason, they think the image is the result of Christ’s resurrection and that that is a mystery. I’m one of those people even though I know such thinking is complete fallacy.

I know. I agree. And then again I sometimes don’t. And, sometimes, also, I wonder if the   bigger fallacy is refusing to accept mystery as proof. Are you going to be putting her in the water this spring. I’ll be up your way in June.

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