Building A House on .Argumentum ad Ignorantiam

imageWe do not order our lives by proof
beyond reasonable doubt.

— John Klotz

Earlier this morning, Fr. Duncan (+Dunk) responded to daveb who had made the point in a comment that nobody knows how the image was formed (see I agree. I agree. I agree. Mostly.). He wrote:

In one form or another it is the most used argument for the Holy Shroud’s authenticity: nobody knows how the image was formed therefore it is real.

Well, hmm! I would probably say, since we are talking about authenticity, nobody knows how the image was forged or faked or artistically created. And then yes, I would agree, the argument is used frequently. Philosophically, I don’t like it. We are voicing classic Argumentum ad Ignorantiam (argument from ignorance). Nonetheless, I find myself using the argument with the shroud. It seems true.

In 1963, John Walsh wrote:

The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Christ in existence…or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever products of the human mind and hand on record…it is either one or the other, there is no middle ground.

And we weren’t clever enough to figure out how it might have been manmade so many of us found ourselves agreeing it was real. We still do. Can such logic be defended? Stephen Jones is one of the few people to tackle this question and he has done so very effectively. In a posting, Shroud of Turin News, October 2013. Stephen began by  quoting Jonathan Pitts of The Baltimore Sun saying:

To believers, the Shroud of Turin, as it’s known, is the cloth that cloaked the body of Jesus before his planned burial. To skeptics, it’s a hoax conjured up to sell Christianity or draw tourists.

And then responding:

The “skeptics” (who are themselves “believers” in the Shroud’s non-authenticity) have no evidence that the Shroud was “a hoax conjured up to sell Christianity or draw tourists”. They cannot cogently explain: Who conjured it up? How was it conjured up? When was it conjured up? Why can’t they conjured it up (i.e. make a convincing replicate copy of the whole Shroud)? The “skeptics” (so-called) cannot even agree on how the Shroud was “conjured up”. As Ian Wilson concluded after reviewing all the major sceptical theories of how the Shroud was forged:

“Yet ingenious as so many of these ideas are, the plain fact is that they are extremely varied and from not one of them has come sufficient of a groundswell of support to suggest that it truly convincingly might hold the key to how the Shroud was forged – if indeed it was forged.” (Wilson, I., “The Blood and the Shroud,” 1998, p.10-11).

Quoting Pitts again:

It has been studied by everyone from theologians to NASA historians, and still, no one knows. “The shroud is the most analyzed artifact in history, yet it’s still the world’s greatest unsolved mystery,”

Stephen follows through with:

This alone is effectively proof that the Shroud is authentic. It is an important qualification of the usual “argument from ignorance”, that if something should have been discovered by qualified investigators but hasn’t been, that “absence of proof of its occurrence” is “positive proof of its non-occurrence”:

Argumentum ad Ignorantiam (argument from ignorance)… A qualification should be made at this point. In some circumstances it can safely be assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence for it would have been discovered by qualified investigators. In such a case it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its nonoccurrence. Of course, the proof here is not based on ignorance but on our knowledge that if it had occurred it would be known. For example, if a serious security investigation fails to unearth any evidence that Mr. X is a foreign agent, it would be wrong to conclude that their research has left us ignorant. It has rather established that Mr. X is not one. Failure to draw such conclusions is the other side of the bad coin of innuendo, as when one says of a man that there is `no proof’ that he is a scoundrel. In some cases not to draw a conclusion is as much a breach of correct reasoning as it would be to draw a mistaken conclusion.” (Copi, I.M., “Introduction to Logic,” 1986, pp.94-95. Emphasis original).

Stephen then concludes:

Similarly, if the Shroud were a 14th century or earlier fake, the science of the 20th-21st century should have discovered that by now (see below on the 1988 radiocarbon date of the Shroud to 1260-1390 is itself a fake!). So that absence of proof by modern science that the Shroud is a fake, after 35 plus years of intensive scientific study of the Shroud, is positive proof that the Shroud is not a fake!

Okay. That is unless we missed something. How do you evaluate that possibility?

That is all fine and good until argument from ignorance logic turns into a building foundation:

Myra Adams, in a recent article, Jesus `most significant person ever’ in new research study, (and see my posting, How the Shroud Becomes Part of the Conversation) stated:

. . . that is why [=Jesus’ significance] the mysterious Shroud, which could prove Christ’s physical resurrection – the foundation of Christianity, is still an open and active cause célèbre among believers in Jesus’ divinity and members of the scientific community who continue to study the Shroud and remain intrigued by its unique properties.

which resulted in a swift and direct reaction from Stephen:

The Shroud of Turin already has proved, beyond reasonable doubt, Christ’s physical resurrection and therefore that Christianity is true. But that does not mean that that proof cannot continue to be unreasonably denied, by those (including some Christians) who don’t like the implications of there being scientific proof that Christianity is true.

So am I a denier? And, apparently, I don’t like the implications of there being scientific proof that Christianity is true? Has a weak argument from ignorance become the basis for saying that we have “scientific proof that Christianity is true?”

Fear the person who has no doubt. Witness George Armstrong Custer.

— John Klotz

47 thoughts on “Building A House on .Argumentum ad Ignorantiam”

  1. I’ve often wondered what a Buddhist, Hindu or someone who is a follower of a religion
    that does not associate miracles or the possibility of a physically resurrected human physical body with Christianity what they think of the Shroud?

  2. I think there is a two step process with the Shroud. One step I do believe is proven beyond the a reasonable doubt. The other is so far consistent but not proven

    I do believe for reasons many have stated that the Shroud is the authentic burial cloth of the historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth. To say something is true beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean that there is no doubt. But it is the doubt that comes in the middle of the night at two o’clock in the morning that we must reject. We need Napoleon referred to as two o’clock in the morning courage. Sunrise is a curative of doubt.

    But what of the Resurrection? Does the Shroud “prove” the Resurrection. I do believe that it is consistent with Resurrection. That is it does not disprove the Resurrection. But the great unknown s the process of image formation. I think there are twp poles here. One is represented by Jackson, Fanti et al who argue that the process involved in the creation points towards Resurrection and the other by the late Ray Rogers who insisted that he didn’t believe in miracles and searched, fruitlessly for a natural explanation he never successfully articulated (as he himself admitted).

    So we are at an impasse. But that is not to say the impasse that will never be broken. Science has shed light much of what humanity used to be believe was a miracle. Indeed, Science may in fact be doing God’s handiwork in revealing the true majesty and glory of existence. As Science opens avenues of existence to explore, we should not be too surprised if at the one of those avenues we glimpse the Creator. In Shroud, I think I spy him already.

  3. From being unable to explain the images to assuming that they are miraculous evidence of Christ’s resurrection is too far a leap for me without supporting evidence that I am happy to listen to.

    . ‘The “skeptics” (who are themselves “believers” in the Shroud’s non-authenticity)’ should be rewritten as ‘The ‘skeptics’ (who are themselves sceptical of the Shroud’s authenticity)’ . A sceptic on the present evidence might well lose their scepticism if presented with sufficient evidence of authenticity. I am certainly sceptical so long as the ‘Image of Edessa’ route is still seen as the most likely pathway of the Shroud from Jerusalem to Lirey when the documented evidence of a direct trade in relics between Jerusalem and northern France has not yet been investigated.

    1. Charles,

      You have written that you accept the finding of the carbon dating labs unless disproven. Anyone who still accepts those findings after the work of Ray Rogers and his colleagues is not a skeptic but a true believer in pseudo-science.

      I strongly suggest that you read Emanuella Marinelli’s excellent 30 page discussion of the carbon tests. If you still accepts those results of the carbon dating until disproved I would appreciate a point by point rebuttal. Anyone who is so intent on avoiding unpleasant truth such as the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, is not a skeptic but a fool. .Get used to it. Christ was born, Christ was crucified and Christ was buried – in the Shroud now in Turin.

      Marinelli’s treatise is available for free on some website you may have visited for a few seconds: https://www.shroud.com/pdfs/marinelliv.pdf

      Incidentally, Martinelli’s paper runs thirty single spaced pages. If you are serious, what we need is a point by point rebuttal, not some statement from the top of a Olympus as a art historian. The problem is that the Shroud it is not a work of art. An art historian has little to add. Neither does any expert on relics who has been too busy to explore and write on it. It was created by a yet undiscovered process but it is clear that it was not a work of art. It bears no marks of human creation. For example: If it was a work of art, was the artists left or right handed?

      That’s just the first question. I think most art historians examining a medieval piece could answer that question about a medieval piece. About something not created by an artist, I think not.

      [PS. If anyone is so bold as to believe that just got a peek at my manuscript you are half right. I haven’t written that piece yet. It’s still a week or so in the future. It might be that (a) I am preparing for post publication controversy or (b) belling the cat]

      1. John, This posting is not about the carbon dating- I simply made a point about scepticism and evidence.

        I find Roger’s paper inadequately referenced , I don’t see how he can be sure that the encrustations are a dye rather than a simple sizing or sealing with gum to prevent the deterioration of the cloth and I have looked in vain for any evidence that he provides to support his ‘ pristine replacement material’. However as his paper has been roundly rubbished by Mark Antonacci, John Jackson ( who shows with photographic evidence that the banding across this part of the cloth is undisturbed) and Flury-Lemberg who could see no sign of any reweaving from a close-up examination of the cloth I cannot see why we should give much credence to the work of a man writing in 2005 who had not seen the cloth since 1978 and who had no woven material to work from. Please refute John Jackson’s photographic evidence and Flury-Lemberg if you want to prove your case that Ray Rogers is the gold standard.

        See the debate on Shroud.com for January 21st, 2006.

        I am also not sure why the authenticity of the Shroud would be an ‘unpleasant truth’. After all we know that Jesus was buried in some form of burial cloth. Certainly I would be able to rewrite my first chapter of Holy Bones, Holy Dust and achieve far greater sales if it were authentic.As a sceptic I am careful to leave all the options open and never in my long life as a historian have I been criticised for my caution!!

  4. The claims that science has proven the Shroud is an imprint of Christ’s Resurrection or that the Shroud must be authentic because if it weren’t, then it should have been demonstrated as such by now, are a gross exaggeration of the limitations and power of scientific investigation. It is comforting, perhaps, to believe that science has shown that 1 + 2 = 3 for the Shroud, but bear in mind that in the reality of science “1” may equal a + b + c…, and “a”, in turn, may equal a1, a2, a3, etc. The number of variables that may exist regarding the Shroud are unknown. Any one of those could potentially be a game changer. Consider the experience in reaching a consensus conclusion to relatively ” straightforward” questions like, is it really blood? are the arms the correct length? where exactly, from entrance to exit, were the hand/wrist wounds? One cannot “scientifically prove” the authenticity of the Shroud by default-although well-intentioned, those who think so have a general misunderstanding of what science can and cannot do. Russ Breault has said it very well, in my opinion, the Shroud is best described at the current time as a mystery.

    1. Kelly,

      I respectfully quibble. We have an historical figure Jesus Christs who by five historical accounts (The four Gospels and St. Paul) was crucified circa 30 CE. Tacitus the Roman historian recites that fact of Christ having founded a cult which surprisingly did not vanish when he was executed by Pontius Pilate,

      What science has demonstrated are facts about the Shroud for whom that fit only one historical figure. Those facts: the blood stains and the diagnosis of the Man in the Shroud as a crucifixion victim are scientific facts. The conclusion that it is Jesus Christ is a conclusion drawn from those scientific facts. Inferences drawn from established facts occur every day in courts throughout the United States. Indeed, Richard Dawkins claims that circumstantial evidence is superior many times to eye witness testimony which can be seriously wrong.

  5. as a mechanical engineer I see a tremendous gap between a theory of how to reproduce the shroud and actually doing it. I once read that somebody had the answer to the u boat attack in ww2 which was raise the temperature of the ocean to the boiling point and they would have to surface and then destroy them. Some one said it was impossible to do that but he said I have the theory correct it is up to somebody else to do the operational details.

  6. From John Walsh to Stephen Jones, the bald claim that the Shroud is either a miraculous product of the Resurrection or a cynical money-making fraud has nothing to do with the understanding of the Shroud, but a (cynical? surely not) attempt to win adherents to authenticity by emotional rather than scientific grounds. “There is no middle ground,” they trumpet. Well that’s nonsense, as has been demonstrated many times on this blog. From the accidental product of an unconnected burial in the 1st century to a devout attempt to represent Christ’s passion for the reverence of believers in the 14th century, there is ‘middle ground’ in abundance, and I have wandered about in it with fascination for months.

    Then we have the “scientists have tried to manufacture the shroud…..” as if failure was evidence for authenticity. My guess is that most of the scientists trying to explain how the image was formed, by quite a large margin, were in fact trying to show how it was formed by the body of Christ, not by a medieval forger. From Paul Vignon, through Ray Rogers and John Jackson to Giulio Fanti, via the vaporograph, Maillard reaction, and all the radiation, laser and plasma theories, not to mention those on the very fringe of scientific credibility, such as quantum dissapearance or biophotonics, pro-authenticity scientists have not only failed to expain how a body could produce an image, but cannot even agree about the actual configuration of either the body or the shroud required to produce one. In the face of this utter inability to produce a shroud by natural means, then obviously it must be….. Ah, but I don’t use arguments from ignorance, so I don’t go down that road!

    In that context, let’s rewrite Stephen Jones’s paragraph above, shall we…

    “The “authenticists” (who are themselves “believers” in the Shroud’s authenticity) have no evidence that the Shroud was “a product of a dead man in Jerusalem”. They cannot cogently explain: Who conjured it up? [Well, I suppose we must grant them them the who and when, although they are matters of faith rather than evidence] How was it conjured up? When was it conjured up? Why can’t they conjure it up (i.e. make a convincing replicate copy of the whole Shroud)? The “authenticists” (so-called) cannot even agree on how the Shroud was “conjured up”.

    Not such a bold argument for authenticity now, is it? Now let’s have a look at his quotation from Ian Wilson:

    “Yet ingenious as so many of these ideas are, the plain fact is that they are extremely varied and from not one of them has come sufficient of a groundswell of support to suggest that it truly convincingly might hold the key to how the Shroud was…” the end of this quotation could just as easily read “naturally made” as “forged.”

    One more? Stephen Jones again:

    “Similarly, if the Shroud were [1st century / 14th century], the science of the 20th-21st century should have discovered that by now. So that absence of proof by modern science that the Shroud is [1st century / 14th century], after 35 plus years of intensive scientific study of the Shroud, is positive proof that the Shroud is [fake / real]!” [Delete at whim.]

    And then I’m told my doubts are unreasonable!

    We end with the most unreasonable, irrational, merely emotional appeal of all, that the Shroud is scientific proof that Christianity is true. This is literally non-sense.

  7. John Klotz :
    Kelly,
    I respectfully quibble. We have an historical figure Jesus Christs who by five historical
    accounts (The four Gospels and St. Paul) was crucified circa 30 CE. Tacitus the Roman historian recites that fact of Christ having founded a cult which surprisingly did not vanish when he was executed by Pontius Pilate,
    What science has demonstrated are facts about the Shroud for whom that fit only one historical figure. Those facts: the blood stains and the diagnosis of the Man in the Shroud as a crucifixion victim are scientific facts. The conclusion that it is Jesus Christ is a conclusion drawn from those scientific facts. Inferences drawn from established facts occur every day in courts throughout the United States. Indeed, Richard Dawkins claims that circumstantial evidence is superior many times to eye witness testimony which can be seriously wrong.

    I, myself, would be more inclined to use “consistent with” in place of the term “scientific fact”. Also, one could argue a crucified body was involved, but that doesn’t “prove” the identity of the victim. Perhaps it’s just semantics in a sense, or comfortableness with use of the word “prove”-particularly in the context of science

  8. “Anyone who still accepts [the finding of the carbon dating labs] after the work of Ray Rogers and his colleagues is not a skeptic but a true believer in pseudo-science.”

    “Anyone who is so intent on avoiding unpleasant truth such as the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, is not a skeptic but a fool.”

    I guess we have here the difference between a lawyer and a scientist. Emanuela Marinelli, I thank her, writes as a scientist. She has this to say regarding the possibility that the radiocarbon-dating laboratories produced their 13th century result from a mixture of 1st and 16th century material:

    Sindonologist Maria Grazia Siliato, considering the abnormal weight of the Shroud sample used for the radiocarbon dating, suggested the presence of a mending instead. Sindonologists Joseph Mario and M. Sue Benford provided some evidence of the existence of an “invisible” mending dating to the sixteeth century in the area where the sample for radiocarbon analysis was taken, including differences in thread colour and size and weave pattern. Flury-Lemberg denies the existence of such a darn, but, according to Savarino “the sampling site does not exclude this hypothesis.”

    Later, perhaps, I may demonstrate reasons for doubting “the abnormal weight of the Shroud sample,” as well as the “differences in thread colour and size and weave pattern” but my point here is to show that scientists do not “prove” things, such that anybody who denies them is an idiot. Scientists, humbly, “suggest” things. They “provide some evidence for” things. They find evidence which “does not exclude a hypothesis.”

    However fanatical one may be emotionally in support of a hypothesis, one seldom supports one’s case by insulting those who find faults in it, and one definitely weakens one’s case by attributing motives for their doubts for which one has no evidence at all.

    But then, I can only speak for science. Perhaps the law is different.

      1. There appears to be have been no sign of humility, on the contrary “1260-1390!” was scribbled over the blackboard behind Hall, Tite and Hedges, who made the announcement at the British Museum. Dr. Michael Tite, however, did attend the Round Table convened by Cardinal Severino Poletto in Turin and Professor Christopher Ramsey has kept an open mind, although he believes there was no error in the 1988 C14 test.

  9. Hugh Farey :
    From John Walsh to Stephen Jones, the bald claim that the Shroud is either a miraculous product of the Resurrection or a cynical money-making fraud has nothing to do with the
    understanding of the Shroud, but a (cynical? surely not) attempt to win adherents to authenticity by emotional rather than scientific grounds. “There is no middle ground,” they trumpet. Well that’s nonsense, as has been demonstrated many times on this blog.

    One more? Stephen Jones again:
    “Similarly, if the Shroud were [1st century / 14th century], the science of the 20th-21st century should have discovered that by now. So that absence of proof by modern science that the Shroud is [1st century / 14th century], after 35 plus years of intensive scientific study of the Shroud, is positive proof that the Shroud is [fake / real]!” [Delete at whim.]

    We end with the most unreasonable, irrational, merely emotional appeal of all, that the Shroud is scientific proof that Christianity is true. This is literally non-sense.

    1. I think Walsh’s comment about “no middle ground” is in reference to the fact that ultimately the Shroud is authentic or it is not. This blog has demonstrated that there are many opinions about many things, but that’s all-in a sense the Shroud is independent of what anyone thinks-t’s either real or it’s not-there is no in-between, while opinions may run the spectrum, swayed (or not)by certain emotional or scientific arguments.

    2. I think “35 plus years of intensive study” is not the best of phrases to accurate describe this. It’s not as though large groups of scientists are examining and re-examining the cloth in situ daily. And again, the notion of proof by default is misguided. Perhaps that experiment just hasn’t been done yet. Heller & Adler once said (paraphrased), No amount of experiments can “prove” that the Shroud is authentic, but a single experiment could disprove it. Science is best at telling us what the Shroud isn’t, not at what it is.

    3. The strongest proofs that Christianity is true are the transformations and fruits in the lives of individuals who have opened their lives to fellowship with Jesus Christ. JP II said (paraphrasing) that the most important thing about the cloth is that it connects one in a unique way to the sufferings of Christ. How ironic would it be if a forger with mischievous or malevolent intentions had the end result of drawing even greater attention to God’s limitless love and mercy-whether the Shroud is evidence of Jesus’ physical suffering or just a representation of it-those things remain

  10. Kelly, your point 3 refers to what theologians and philosophers call “the argument from experience”. If it is a powerful argument for yourself (unless and until you have a good reason for thinking you are deluded), it is not an argument based on a logical reasoning, it is not an argument that can convince even an unbeliever. And muslims or hindus can describe the same kind of fruitful transformations.

    Look at an argument from history. If we use traditional criteria of historical assessment, we can be pretty sure that the Turin shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth. But much more that that, the probability that the image is the consequence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is very high.

    An extract of the conclusion of my article published this year in the Heythrop Journal:

    “As judged by our current knowledge, [the Resurrection Hypothesis] is the most likely of the three hypotheses that have come under scrutiny [Garlaschelli Hypothesis and Natural Hypothesis]. Its level of plausibility is high, which is not the case for the other two hypotheses. Its explanatory scope does not constitute a major obstacle, although its explanatory power could be improved. It is less ad hoc than its rivals and offers the possibility of a substantive illumination on related fields of research. This does not mean, however, that the RH is proven to be historical; it is simply the most likely hypothesis when we adopt a Minimal Facts approach to test for the best explanation.”

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/heyj.12014/abstract

    1. Was the Shroud the reason thousands of first-century people became Christ-followers? Did martyrs go to their deaths in the Coliseum because they’d seen a mysterious piece of linen?

      The observation has been made that soldiers, for the most part, do not die for flags. They die for the man next to them in their trench. Christians, for the most part, have gone to their deaths as willing lambs – forgiving of their executioners – because of the Man next to them in their trench, and not a piece of linen.

  11. So I wrote a comment Sun evening (NZ time), woke Mon morn, and find that the rest of the world has been busy going off in all other directions with their responses. My original comment was sparked by another relating to arm length which now seems to have disappeared, and whatever Fr Duncan wrote in response I can’t now find. Never mind!

    What I had written now appears under its own posting (I agree [x 3] Mostly!], but I don’t see Fr Dunk’s response there. It was certainly not intended to set off a debate on Argumentum ad Ignorantium, but as a brief summary of a few enigmatic properties, particularly the orthogonality of the image, which suggests to me some kind of vertically directed action. That some observe minor distortions, suggests to me minor random fluctuations in a type of naturalistic process, whereas we might expect a degree of absolute perfection if it were the result of a kind of divine intervention.

    I make little secret of my pro-authenticity preference, but cheerfully admit that I am no wiser about whatever process was involved than any other as-well-informed correspondent.

    While I might admire Hugh Farey’s attempts at scientific rigour, I tend to the view that such rigour has yet to demonstrate that it can enlighten, I suspect because his science seems to prefer a deductive approach, whereas there is an insuffient factual basis for a deductive approach to bear useful fruit. An inductive approach, making what appear to be reasonable inferences seems to me to offer better chances of a degree of success.

    Furthermore, in the deductive approach, I believe salient observations and inferences can be missed. For example, Hugh seems reluctant to accept that there is adequate evidence that the image is that of Jesus Christ. He does not seem ready to accept this as a reasonable conclusion, notwithstanding the evidence of a “cap of thorns” for example. And yet there is only one reason why Jesus was so capped, it was modelled on the crown of Eastern kings, and lampooned the charge of claiming to be “King of the Jews”. A reasonable inference surely, but it is apparently not good enough for Hugh!

    It is the reluctance to accept what to reasonable people seems to be a reasonable inference, that is tending me to the conclusion to wonder just what useful conclusions, such a rigorous approach can in fact yield, and I fear that the answer might be in fact “very little”! Why bother to persist with it?

    1. “That some observe minor distortions, suggests to me minor random fluctuations in a type of naturalistic process, whereas we might expect a degree of absolute perfection if it were the result of a kind of divine intervention.”

      How about a theory I hold that the image is the naturalistic product of a divine process? That is, Christ’s body dematerialised, and in the event of dematerialising the body left the image behind. So, under this theory, the image does not have to be perfect, as it resulted from a naturalistic process caused by a divine event. Under this theory I have no idea what that naturalistic process could be – obviously bodies do not dematerialise (with the possible exception of Christ) so we can’t measure the naturalistic side effects of that process. I don’t necessarily buy radiation theories.

      I’ve provided an analogy before, I’ll provide it again. A couple of months ago my wife’s close friend passed away in the middle of the night in New Zealand. At almost exactly the same time, the dishes in one of our cupboards here in Adelaide started rattling strangely. One dish fell on another and created a small crack on one of the dishes.

      Now, if this really was a spiritual event then one can say that the rattling of the dishes was caused by a spiritual event, but the crack in the dish was explained naturalistically by one dish hitting another. So…the physical legacy of the supernatural event can be explained naturalistically, even if the causative event cannot be.

      1. Mathias,

        Very well done. I might add one story that was related to me: The wife of an officer serving in Viet Nam woke up to the sound of a rifle shot. No such event had ever occurred to her before. It turned out that at the exact time she woke-up to the sound of a rifle shot, her husband had been killed in Viet Nam.

        Such stories abound. I believe that so called miraculous events that relate events in our own reality will leave “fingerprints” the Shroud being the greatest finger print of all.

  12. Wise words, as ever. Actually I am not reluctant to accept that the image is that of Christ; I think it probably is. I just don’t like dogmatism where there are clearly quite sensible opposing views. There is, for example, no evidence that any of the ‘wounds’ of Christ were peculiarly rare. Take the crown, or cap, or helmet. Headgear is not the prerogative of kings. Perhaps dozens of petty leaders were ‘crowned’ with thorns, or perhaps not. The fact that I’m inclined to think the image is that of Christ does not make people of the contrary opinion fools, or pseudo-skeptics.

    Incidentally, I don’t know why anybody should suppose the crown covered the top of the head, since the top of the head is not represented on the Shroud at all.

    And what’s the use of all this? Why fear that the answer may be very little? To me it’s interesting, stimulating, educational and fun; that’s use enough for me. Do we need more?

    1. HF: “… the top of the head is not represented on the Shroud at all.”

      In fact my original comment observed the peculiarity that the image changed abruptly from ventral to dorsal at the top of the head. Assuming that the body was lying on its back, this tends to confirm the effect of a vertical imaging action, rather than a body-normal action. Can Hugh or anyone else think of a cause for this?

      The top of the head is in fact “represented”, as a vertical projection. If we are to insist on a “strictly scientific” approach, then accuracy in expressing ideas is essential. It is quite clear from the blood flows around the head, that the cap at least pretty well covered most of the head, if not indeed all of it. From the various ancient authors who give some details about particular crucifixions, none mention that any were so capped, but it is specifically mentioned in the case of Jesus, and the reason for it easily inferred. None of the others so capped, if indeed there were any, left behind any evidence of it.

      Nevertheless I can find a point of agreement with Hugh, that there is little room for dogmatism if there are credible alternative different views about conclusions, but not so much if they rely entirely on idle speculations or fantasy. However one can be dogmatic about the very existence of the TS, and on whatever agreement there might be about what it shows.

      The question “Do we need more?”: Maybe not, if you’re only a dabbler. But others might feel it is something more substantial and worth taking a little more seriously!

    2. Hugh: You can always perform an estimate, a calculation similar to that one preformed to Baberis, to check what is a chance that TS Man is not Jesus, but someone else.

      To remind you: Barberis assumed:

      1. The TS man was wrapped in the shroud: 1/100 victims of crucifixion
      2. The TS man was crowned with thorns: 1/5000
      3. The TS man carried cross: 1/2
      4. The TS man was nailed to the cross 1/2
      5. The TS man has a spear wound in the chest 1/10
      6. The TS man was quickly buried without washing: 1/20
      7. The TS man left tomb within 2 days: 1/500

      Thus the probability of coincidence in an instance of a single crucified man is 1/200 000 000 000. Next, Barberis assumed that between 7th century BC, and 7th Ad there were 2 billion people, and 10 % of them (200 000 000, totally absurd number) were crucified. Thus the probability that the TS Man is someone different from Christ is less then 1/1000

      I have performed my own caclulations, slightly modifying Barberis assumptions:

      1. The TS man was aged between 30 nad 40 years 1/3
      2. The TS man was crowned with thorns: 1/5000
      3. The TS man was scourged: 1/2
      4. The TS man has a spear wound in the chest 1/10
      5. The TS man left tomb within 2 days: 1/10 000

      Thus for a single man :1/3000 000 000 Next I assumed that it is certain that crucified victim was a Jew (jewish burial in a simple Shroud, and so on), and no more than 1 million Jews were crucified. Thus the probability that the TS Man is someone different from Christ is less then 1/3000

      Of course one can take different assumptions and numbers. But the conclusion remains. The chances that TS shows some different crucifixion victim than Jesus are negligible.

      1. Yes indeed. How convenient. Way back in January I made up some equally reasonable figures of my own and determined that about 20 men had died in exactly the same way as Jesus. I agree that, given our present knowledge about crucifixion, the chances of the Shroud being anyone other than Jesus are small, but deny that they are negligible. That’s the point.

  13. Tristan Casabianca :
    Kelly, your point 3 refers to what theologians and philosophers call “the argument from experience”. If it is a powerful argument for yourself (unless and until you have a good
    reason for thinking you are deluded), it is not an argument based on a logical reasoning, it is not an argument that can convince even an unbeliever. And muslims or hindus can describe the same kind of fruitful transformations.
    Look at an argument from history. If we use traditional criteria of historical assessment, we can be pretty sure that the Turin shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth. But much more that that, the probability that the image is the consequence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is very high.
    An extract of the conclusion of my article published this year in the Heythrop Journal:
    “As judged by our current knowledge, [the Resurrection Hypothesis] is the most likely of the three hypotheses that have come under scrutiny [Garlaschelli Hypothesis and Natural Hypothesis]. Its level of plausibility is high, which is not the case for the other two hypotheses. Its explanatory scope does not constitute a major obstacle, although its explanatory power could be improved. It is less ad hoc than its rivals and offers the possibility of a substantive illumination on related fields of research. This does not mean, however, that the RH is proven to be historical; it is simply the most likely hypothesis when we adopt a Minimal Facts approach to test for the best explanation.”
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/heyj.12014/abstract

    Of course point 3 isn’t based on logical reasoning, that’s exactly why I think it could convince certain unbelievers (in Christianity or other faiths). A changed life is a powerful witness, much more so than hearing someone just recite words or certain facts. That’s the main point I was trying to make, along with that the Shroud can be a part of the Christian faith, certainly, but faith is much bigger than just the cloth. I am certain that those of other faiths can describe similar fruitful transformations, I personally have no problem with that.

  14. Hugh Farey :
    Yes indeed. How convenient. Way back in January I made up some equally reasonable figures of my own and determined that about 20 men had died in exactly the same way as Jesus..

    Could you give us an insight of your calculations?

    1. I don’t want to go round in circles. You can find the discussion by Googling: “Eric J. Jumper to Speak on the Shroud of Turin” which was the blog’s headline on 25 January.

  15. I do miss Colin at times like this. Why? Because, like Hugh and Charles, he provides plausible alternative theories to explain the image formation. This is extremely important because some Shroud authentists are guilty of confirmation bias and lack the ability to question their own assumptions. When Colin did his scorched crucifix experiment, off the cuff as it was, he quickly dispelled a few long-held ‘it couldn’t be this’ assumptions.

    Wasn’t the very ethos of Jesus to question our assumptions? Of course it takes some courage to do that.

    Ever see the play/movie Ten Angry Men? There’s a message to be learned from it — for both skeptics and believers.

    1. Thanks David.

      I had an opportunity recently – under a cloak of anonymity – to make Telegraph readers aware of my outlandish ideas, e.g that possible link with Jacques de Molay and those Templars (see following comment).

      http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/dominicselwood/100251276/forget-the-da-vinci-code-this-is-real-mystery-of-the-knights-templar/

      Nobody turned a hair (despite a strong presence of Catholics in its readership) which is exactly as it should be. By the same token, it earned a mere 3 recommends (small for this current affairs commentator).

      Merry Christmas, erstwhile friends and foes.

  16. With all due respect, if you believe that Colin and company have supplied plausible image formation theories, there is a bridge over the East River in NYC I can sell you. There is nothing plausible about Colin’s theories. Don’t forget the one about the Man in the Shroud being Jacques de Molay.

    1. They are possible, John. But the point is that he is willing to question assumptions, even his own. As a lawyer you must have seen Ten Angry Men — do you not see the parallels to the Shroud debate?

  17. So that following through on Hugh Farey’s self-admitted confession of shroudstory posting of 25 Jan 2013, we may therefore deduce that of the 20 Jewish men supposedly crucified in an identical manner to Jesus of Nazareth, by Roman authorities, one of them was actually named Zeus, a Greek god, and the model for various icons including Jesus Pantocrator. Not only that, but this Greek fellow actually left behind a burial shroud with his image on it, which actually survives to this very day, and doubtless formed during one of his Homeric metamorphoses, possibly even into a swan prior to his seduction of the virgin Leda. My elaboration of the fantasy is truly only a matter of minor detail.

    You can see what trouble you can get into, if you succumb to the temptation of idle speculation throwing empirical probabilities about with very little basis to support them. I have yet to be persuaded that such structural skepticism can yield any conclusions of significant or utilitarian value.

  18. Hugh on 25 January:

    Finally, although I have said that I think estimates of probability are naive, I think that of behalf of the ridiculous consensusees, I’ll try to make one. I’m going to claim (and I challenge anyone to produce archaeological or historical evidence against these), that 25% of all crucifixion victims did not have their legs broken but were stabbed as a confirmation of death, that 5% were mercilessly flogged before being crucified, and that 1% were treated to a spiked helmet or crown. Assuming these three treatments were independent, then 1 in every 8000 crucifixions had injuries similar to those on the shroud. Let us suppose that the Romans crucified Jews for about 400 years, at a rate of 1 a day except during rebellions when the number rose to 500 a day according to Josephus. Let’s go for a total of 160 000. That means that 20 were crucified in the same way as Jesus. Of those, one left a shroud that remains to this day. I wonder which one…

    So we have, according to Hugh:

    1. The TS man has a spear wound in the chest 1/4
    2. The TS man was crowned with thorns: 1/100
    3. The TS man was scourged: 1/20

    Thus for a single man: 1/8000, and for 160 000 crucified, it gives the expected value of 20.

    BUT!

    Lets add some additional features characteristic for Jesus and the TS Man:

    4. The TS man was heavily beaten in the face 1/4
    5. The TS man was aged between 30 nad 40 years 1/3
    6. The TS man carried cross: 1/2
    7. The TS man left tomb within 2 days: 1/500

    It reduces the odds to 1/600

    1. Hugh’s original calculation can be found at Comment #24 at:
      https://shroudstory.com/2013/01/25/eric-j-jumper-to-speak-on-the-shroud-of-turin/
      He deduces that during the 400 years of Roman occupation that perhaps there were 160,000 crucifixions, and from his speculative probability calculation of 1 in 8000 similar to Jesus, he concludes that some 20 persons were crucified in a similar way.

      But the discussion continued, introducing all sorts of other material, which led to my fantastical tale above of 5:27am (currently #30), that the TS image is actually that of the Greek god Zeus.

      O.K. wants to introduce other factors and I believe his last sentence should actually read: “It reduces the odds by a further 1/600” giving an overall probability of 1 in 480,000. We might then conclude that the number of persons so crucified was actually 0.333.., or rounding off to the nearest digit, exactly zero, not even Jesus, nor in fact Zeus. It actually never happened.

      I stand by my original concluding comment: “You can see what trouble you can get into, if you succumb to the temptation of idle speculation throwing empirical probabilities about with very little basis to support them.”

      1. Dave: Your numbers are wrong. The Hugh’s expected value of 20 men crucified like Jesus is further reduced down by factor of 4x3x2x500=12 000, giving the expected value of 1/600, or 0.001666667. This suggest that it is very improbable that the TS Man could be someone other than Jesus, if we assume that the creation of the Shroud of Turin is purely accidental (we do not consider deliberate forgery). There are some mathematical subtleties here, but we don’t go into to much details.

        I agree with the rest of the comment.

  19. Scientific proof that Christianity is true? The Catholic Church, at least, has its Communion of Saints, and the canonisation process often involves medical practioners who are non-Catholics, atheists and agnostics. The Indian-born Hindu surgeon Dr. Anil Dhawan, Professor of Paedriatric Hepatology at King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill, in the south of London, was one of them:
    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702902.htm
    The German journalist and author Andreas Englisch, a Vatican Correspondent for twenty years, who was a sort of lapsed Catholic, returned to his faith filled with conviction and wrote a book on Pope John Paul II in which he mentions several cases of healing and curing by the pontiff. One case, involving a Jewish millionaire in New York, was even reported in the UK’s “Daily Telegraph”.

  20. Colin Berry has every right to propose what he wants, as long as it is backed by scientific evidence. Jacques de Molay is part of history, not of science, and the person who proposed this “original” theory and written even more “original” books has not been taken seriously. He has only proved that he is spurred by hatred of Christ and Christianity.

    1. Bravo Louis. The Knights Templar and DaVinci have become the “usual suspects” of history. See Capt. Renault (Claude Rains in Casablanca). Everytimne4 a craclpot writer needs a buck it’s round-up and the Knights Templar and DaVinci. Of course of of them has sold over 100,000 million books.

      1. Hullo John, what you say is unfortunately true, so we are led to say … “Follow the money line.” After some on-site research in mediaeval history in England some years ago and reading some books about the Templars the only conclusion that could be reached is that, with the exception of Joseph Addison, and lately Piers Paul Read, almost all that has been written on the warrior-monks is rubbish. Most of this could have been avoided if the “Chinon Parchment” had been found a hundred or so years earlier.

        Jacques de Molay was interested in raising the morale of his knights after the Fall of Acre, that being the reason why he gladly went to France to discuss plans for a new crusade with Pope Clement V. As you know, Philippe le Bel’s coffers were empty and the rest is history. No heretic would ask to face Notre Dame while dying at the stake!

  21. To be honest, I find Hugh’s calculation without merit at all. Of all those crucified, how many fairly contemporaneous accounts of the specific crucifixion of a specific individual are there? How many specific accounts of sch specific individual being buried in a linen shroud. How many specific written accounts of such specific individuals are that that that the specific individual was wrapped in a Shroud and place in a tomb hewn from rock? How many specific accounts of women finding the specific individual’s tomb empty?

    How many answers to even one of those questions are there? And one more, how many references by a Roman historian are there to a specific executed individual of a cult in Judea that spread to Rome even after there was an attempt to quash it by his execution?

    I can think of only one individual who meets those criteria. Names please (and sources).

    Hugh stated in referenced cases “anyone of then might have merited a mock helmet.” Point is there is no record of any of them being crucified with a mock helmet. Here we have written accounts of crucifixion with a mock crown which at the time would have been in the form of a cap rather than a medieval circle of gold or other metal of only one individual. Guess who?

    There seems to me to be a certain arrogance of true believers who have the “gift of faith” and no need of science. Therefore, they do their best to destroy a scientific road to faith for others. The study of the Shroud is the study of science.

    I am a Teilhardest in that I believe that science and religion can no longer trod separate paths. The basic issues of religion including the potential for eternal life of the self-consciousness are now subject of scientific inquiry. It appears that some “salvation by faith alone” people are threatened by that. Why? “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Does anyone have a problem with that. We find truth through science.

    1. “To be honest, I find Hugh’s calculation without merit at all.”
      That’s perfectly OK. Happy Christmas!

      1. Hugh,

        I don’t have your E-Mail, and I don’t know whether Dan will pick-up my posted Christmas comment on my blog, but Merry Christmas to you. And good luck on the BSTS Newsletter.

  22. Anyone of then might have merited a mock helmet.

    Just want to remind that there were not so many candidates for a ‘king’ in Roman-dominated Israel in 1 century BC-2nd AD. The rightful king must have come from the Davidic line, and even Hasmonean dynasty considered themselves a ‘temporary’ kings.

    Wikipedia gives a list of Jewish claimants http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Messiah_claimants There are various anti Roman rebels among them, but as far we know, no one except Jesus, a shepherd Athronges, and Simon bar Kokhba (who probably died in combat) claimed to be the Messiah, or ‘the king of the Jews’.

    There is still something interesting about the Crown of Thorns which gives us some insight about Pilate views on the Jesus, but I will tell it on other occasion.

  23. John argues very well in #43. Professor Avinoam Danin was onto more research on the thorns, as he himself stated in his book “Botany of the Shroud”, however he had little cooperation.

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