Top of the Head Puzzle Redux

We discussed this in January in the posting Top of Head Puzzle
which generated 56 comments. Does an essay by Bruce Robinson
offer some new perspectives? Do read Bruce’s essay at Religious Tolerance

imageBruce writes:

I have been reading about piezonuclear radiation as applied to the Shroud of Turin.

I noticed your note at the side . . .

So I sent you this email

My essay at says:

Portrayal of the top of the man’s head: There are two images on the sheet, showing a man’s back and front. That is because this burial shroud was apparently wrapped from the the man’s feet, up the front of his body, over his head, and down his back to his feet. The front and back images of the head are separated by a gap of less than 1 cm (less than a half inch).

Some investigators have suggested that the image on the shroud was caused by some form of radiation emanating from the body, perhaps at about the time of death. This leads immediately to what might be called the "top of the head" problem.
If radiation from the head created the two two images on the shroud, then there are only two possibilities:

1) There was similar radiation from the top of the head. It would have left an image of the top of the victim’s head on the shroud. However, there is no such image. Only a tiny gap is seen.

2) There was no radiation from the top of the head. This would result in a dark gap of perhaps 12 cm (almost 5 inches) between the top of the front of the head and the top of the back of the head. No such gap is visible.
Thus the radiation theory seems to fail because it does not match the image.   
That still leaves the possibility that the Shroud is some form of image intentionally created — either as a painting by an artist or by some form of photographic technique.
This leaves two possibilities:

1) The shroud was created as a forgery that was to be "sold" to the public as Jesus’ shroud. This seems improbable because the "top of the head" problem would immediately point out that this is not a real 1st century shroud.

2) The shroud was created by a human as a type of icon to be venerated. This seems to be the most likely possibility.

Any thoughts?

Any new thoughts?

If you will be in and around El Paso on March 8

just explain that you are here for the Shroud of Turin presentation

imageKVIA ABC-7 Television News is reporting:

Fort Bliss, TX – Fort Bliss hopes to educate and inform those interested in learning more about Shroud of Turin.

The army base will host two different information sessions on Saturday, March 8th at 311, Pershing Circle, West Fort Bliss.

The first session begins at 10 a.m. and runs through noon. It will be related to history and 3D-Science of the historic event. Session two will start at 1 p.m. and will end at 3:30 p.m., it is being called a “spiritual reflections retreat.”

The event is sponsored by the Chaplains Office.

This is the first time a presentation on this topic has been held at Fort Bliss. The event is presented by Shroud Researcher, Deacon Pete Schumacher. This event is free and open to the public. Attendees may bring a sack lunch if they decide to attend for both sessions.

Exact Exposition Dates Announced: April 19 to June 24, 2015

now released for iPhone, iPad, Kindle and Android, the ANSA App in English,
Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. See
Keep up with the pope and the shroud 24/7

imageANSA English of ANSA, the Italian News Agency, is running:

(ANSA) – Turin, February 27 – The mysterious Shroud of Turin will be exhibited for an unprecedented 67 days next year, the office that keeps what Catholics revere as Christ’s winding sheet said Thursday.

From April 19 to June 24, 2015 the shroud that is believed by many faithful to bear the image of a dead Jesus will be on display.

The unusually long showing is because it will coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Catholic educator and slum reformer Saint John Bosco and with a visit by Pope Francis whose exact date has yet to be established, the Shroud office said.

June 24 is the feast day of Turin’s patron saint St John the Baptist, as well as the name day of Don Bosco, as he is more commonly known.

[ . . . full story ]

Before then, it had been on view in 2000 and has been on display only five times in the past 100 years.

Believers say the linen Shroud was used to wrap the body of Christ after his crucifixion and countless scientific tests conducted over the years have revealed the outline of the body of a man embedded in the fabric.

The Shroud is normally heavily guarded in a bullet-proof, climate-controlled glass case within Turin’s most important cathedral.

Only once before had images of the Shroud been broadcast as ordered in November 1973 by then-pope Paul VI.

Some sceptics maintain the Shroud is nothing more than an elaborate fake dating from the Middle Ages, triggering centuries of debate over whether the image is truly that of Christ, or a very good forgery.

Radiocarbon-dating tests conducted on the cloth in 1988 suggested it dated from between 1260 and 1390; however, other scientists have since claimed those results could have been distorted by centuries of contamination.

That has led to calls for more testing, which the Vatican has consistently refused.

AND:  Santa Sindone: Sito Officiale (Holy Shroud, Official Site) has published the dates for the 2015 Exposition on its website. Here is a Bing translation of the Italian language page:

Exposition 2015, here are the dates

Exposition of the shroud from 19 April to June 24, 2015

[ . . .  full account]

The dates of the exposition Don Roberto Gottardo presented the dates indicated by the custodian for the exposition of 2015, that the Council approved. The exposition will be held from Sunday 19 April to Wednesday 24 June, feast of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Turin and Saint of don Bosco. The longer period (67 days) than that of other exposures of the cloth; but you wanted to, in this way, provide the period most broad possible both for the Pope’s visit for the pilgrimage to the Shroud of the young people who will participate in the various celebrations of the Jubilee salesiano. Known as Papa Francesco assured his presence in Turin to venerate the Shroud and honor the memory of don Bosco in the bicentenary of the birth; but have not been given precise dates for his visit.

[ . . . ]

AND:  The official sites’ home page includes this box:


imageHOWEVER:  Barrie Schwortz is commenting in Facebook:

I’ll be working with Canterbury Tours again, as I did in 1998, 2000 and 2010. Now that the dates are confirmed we will start making specific plans. Keep watching for more details in the near future.

Apollonius of Tyana: Proof or Doom for Christianity?

imageA commenter who calls himself Talos wonders, “What if it doesn’t belong to ‘Jesus’?”. This is based on a strange theory that has been around since 2005 when the book, Apollonius of Tyana and The Shroud of Turin was published.  The idea has never gained any traction. The commenter recommends a blog posting: Turin Shroud: Proof or Doom for Christianity? In that blog we read:

That is because according to late Texas researcher Rob Solarion the cloth did indeed cover the body of Christ after the crucifixion. But not the Christ of the New Testament. It was the true, historical Christ, who was none other than the Greek-Cappadocian sage APOLLONIUS OF TYANA!

Apollonius was born approximately in 4 BC and he was said to be a divine man, moral teacher, religious reformer, healer, prophet, and miracle worker. Sounds familiar? Yes it does, and that is why Raymond Bernard declared emphatically that Jesus was a myth based on Apollonius. Yet there was a crucial difference between the two. Apollonius lived for about 100 years and traveled throughout the known world, while Jesus lived only 33 years in Palestine.

imageRob Solarion [pictured] puts two and two together and proposes a revolutionary theory: The man on the Shroud is actually Apollonius of Tyana and so the story of Jesus is actually a missing chapter of his life! Ιncidentally, that supports the theory that Jesus did not die on the cross, something hinted in the Gospels too. Is this possible?

So far, without reading the book, I see no evidence other than a rather suspect comparison of the face image from the shroud and a maybe-undated statue of Apollonius of Tyana. Wikipedia suggests (or does it?) that the statue might be late second century. Yeah, that will work!

BTW: The facial comparisons in the blog Apollonius of Tyana and The Shroud of Turin posting are dubious, at best.

Barrie Schwortz at St. John’s: From Skepticism to Belief

imageThis article, From Skepticism to Belief: Shroud of Turin Researcher Shares Experiences, appears on the St. John’s University website:

Schwortz addressed hundreds of students, faculty, and staff in the Little Theater on the Queens campus. Describing his continuing research about the shroud, he spoke of the shroud’s impact on his own beliefs. “More than anything else, even if you’re a total skeptic, I hope students learn not to judge something by what they see in the media,” he said. “I hope they have an open mind—mine wasn’t open for 20 years.”

[ . . . ]

Though Jewish, Schwortz found his research on the shroud a transformational experience. He was originally reluctant to join STURP. By the time the original study concluded, however, he felt his work remained unfinished. In 1995, he met someone who insisted the shroud was a fake—based largely on a tabloid article. The encounter compelled Schwortz to examine his own perspectives on the cloth: he realized that he believed in its authenticity. Schwortz went on to found, the top Google search and oldest website on the topic.

Giulio Fanti’s Book Launched

imageYesterday, publisher Edizioni Segno launched LA SINDONE: primo secolo dopo Cristo! (Turin Shroud: First Century A.D.!) by Giulio Fanti and Pierandrea Malfi. 

Russ Breault: It’s in the heart of the individual believer

journalism done well

imageDan Linehan wrote an excellent short piece for the Mankato Free Press, Shroud of Turin presenter coming to MSU. It’s a bit dated, of course, as the title reflected. It was published before Russ went to Minnesota State University to give his Shroud Encounter presentation. I just read the article. It’s history now, so I’m copying most of it into the blog:

Russ Breault was writing for his college’s student newspaper in 1980 when he was hooked by the mystery of the Shroud of Turin, and decided to write a story about it.

He went on to work in advertising, but the pull of the religious icon never left him. And he’s never found a definitive answer to its central question: Did the shroud once wrap the body of Jesus of Nazareth?

“My own personal view is, I think it could be (authentic),” the Atlanta man said Thursday while briefly stranded in Florida due to the ice storm in his home state. “Let’s explore the mystery. Let’s find out what we know, and find out what we don’t know.”

[. . . ]

“The mystery of the shroud is intriguing in general,”  [Joe Bakken, campus chaplain] said. “Is it the burial shroud of Jesus Christ or is it a hoax?”

He said the Catholic Church has not claimed it to be either. Instead, the church calls it an object of veneration, a reminder of Jesus’ suffering, because its wearer was apparently scourged and crucified.

Breault likes that viewpoint.

“It’s in the heart of the individual believer, if you want to believe it’s authentic or not,” he said.

Breault isn’t a chemist or a forensic pathologist, but he’s familiar with their work.

He said scientific analysis has shown that the shroud belongs to someone with puncture wounds indicating its wearer was crucified, as evidenced by the blood stains.

Most tellingly to Breault, the shroud has markings consistent with the crown of thorns, the mocking punishment meted out to the man who some called the king of the Jews.

But attendees to his talk should have plenty of facts to defend whichever side they choose.

Radiocarbon dating completed in 1988 could have put these questions to rest. They have not.

Though the tests showed that the shroud originated between 1260 and 1390, the testing took one sample from a corner, Breault said. They should have taken three patches from different parts of the material. Moreover, the corner they chose is chemically different from the rest of the garment.

Further tests completed last year by a team from Padua University dated the shroud between 280 B.C. and 220 A.D.

He’s also bringing what he said is a museum-quality reproduction of the shroud.

And even if the shroud didn’t wrap the body of Jesus, doesn’t its centuries-old lineage and veneration make it an object of wonder?

Breault agrees, to a point.

“We live in a scientific, skeptical age. At the end of the day, I don’t care how religious someone is, they’d like to know whether this thing is authentic or not.”

Some Perspective on Alberto Carpinteri

On June 13, 2012, Emiliano Feresin wrote in Nature:

imageThe Italian research minister, Francesco Profumo, has bowed to pressure from Italian and international scientists and agreed to take a closer look at a proposed nuclear research programme at one of the country’s leading institutes. He has also withdrawn his nomination of a proponent of the controversial research for the institute’s scientific council.

The research — on piezonuclear fission, the theory that compressing solids can provoke nucleus-splitting reactions without emitting γ-rays or producing nuclear waste — was being led by Alberto Carpinteri [pictured], a structural engineer and president of the Italian National Institute of Metrological Research (INRIM) in Turin. Carpinteri and his collaborators have published a series of papers on the theme, mostly in Strain, a journal for which Carpinteri is on the editorial board.

Read on

Paper Chase: Radiocarbon Dating of Scrolls and Linen Fragments from the Judean Desert

imageSurprise! This paper seems to be open access. Click here to have a go at it.

Radiocarbon Dating of Scrolls and Linen Fragments from the Judean Desert by  A.J. Timothy Jull, Douglas Donahue, Magen Broshi and Emanuel Tov; Radiocarbon, Vol 37, No 1, 1995, pp 11-19.


We report on new 14C measurements of samples of 18 texts (scrolls) and 2 linen fragments from Qumran Caves 1, 2, and 4 and from Nahal Hever, both in the Dead Sea region. The radiocarbon results are in good agreement with estimates of age based on paleography.


Various parchment and papyrus manuscripts found in caves in the area of Qumran and at other sites in the Judean Desert are known generally as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Qumran scrolls are generally considered to have been hidden by the Qumran Community, identified by most scholars as the Ess- enes. The documents are usually regarded to have been copied between the mid-third century BC and AD 68, when the Qumran settlement was destroyed by the Romans.

Bonani et al. (1991, 1992) dated 14 texts, 8 of which came from Qumran. We present here new radiocarbon dates of 18 texts, including 3 date-bearing texts (3 from Qumran Cave 1,12 from Cave 4, and 3 from other sites in the Judean Desert). We consider the importance of the 14C dates in relation to other age estimates and we also report on 14C examinations of linen fragments from the Judean Desert.

Definition of Inauthentic in Oxford Dictionary

Have you ever looked up ‘inauthentic’  in the Oxford Online Dictionary? Hat tip to John Klotz.


Definition of inauthentic in English:

Syllabification: in·au·then·tic

Pronunciation: /ˌinôˈTHentik


  • 1 not in fact what it is said to be: the Holy Shroud of Turin is thought to have been proved inauthentic by radiocarbon dating


(emphasis mine) At least it’s “is thought to have been” rather than “has been.”

Tremendous Success of Shroud Encounter with Russ Breault

Joe Steck of the Mankato Times – Mankato being the city at the confluence of  the Minnesota River and the Blue Earth River – reports that  . . . 

clip_image001The MSU Ballroom [that is Minnesota State University and not any of the other 23 universities that use that abbreviation] was filled with Believers, science geeks and those who just love artifacts on Wednesday night to see the Shroud of Turin presentation by Russ Breault.

The event was hosted by the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center – Catholic Mavs and was well received by a near capacity audience. . . .

Russ sent me an email:

Tremendous event on Wednesday at MNSU in Makato. Over 400 attended.  The Newman Center did a terrific job promoting the event.  I was interviewed by two newspaper, a radio station and a TV crew came before it started so they could get it on the evening news at6:00.  The event started at 7:00.  I couldn’t have asked for more support from a sponsoring organization.

I’d say overall tremendous success with Shroud Encounter. Go check out the Shroud Encounter Facebook page for some close-in scheduled events. 

  • Saturday, March 1 at 10:00am, Marco Lutheran Church, 525 N. Collier Blvd, Marco Island, FL
  • Saturday, March 8 at 7:00pm, St James Church, 33 Division St., Manville, RI
  • Sunday, March 9 at 7:00pm in PDT, Christ the King Church, 5 Jobs Fishing Rd, Mashpee, MA
  • Monday, March 10 at 7:00pm in PDT, UMass Amherst–at the Newman Catholic Center, 472 N. Pleasant St, Amherst, MA

Here is a promo for the upcoming Shroud Encounter at UMass:

SHROUD ENCOUNTER PROMO— UMass-Amherst, Newman Catholic Center, Monday, March 10th at 7:00 PM from Shroud Encounter on Vimeo.

Speaking of “our own” commenters in the big papers

You need to click on the picture to see this screenshot from the New York Times in its full size. Recognize John Klotz, there? His comment has been featured. And it should be. Here is the link to the New York Time article, A Church So Poor It Has to Close Schools, Yet So Rich It Can Build a Palace.


Here is what John Klotz wrote:

I once remarked to the late Fr. Robert Poveromo, that I thought the greatest of all saints since the time of the Apostles was St. Francis. "Some of us," he replied "think he was the only one." As disgusting as the conduct of the the New Jersey Archbishop is, when I clicked the link to read of Father Grange, I was edified by an example of obvious sanctity and a compelling biography of dedication to the poor.

By what miracle, Pope Francis came to pope I do not know. I can only say that the Archbishop of New Jersey should be afraid, very afraid. Perhaps the poor priests and nuns who tend to the poor of New Jersey will get a new place to retreat and renew. Or maybe, I place for poor children to escape briefly from the dire circumstances of their life for awhile. 
However, I suspect that it will be a cold day in Hell before the Archbishop gets to live in his vacation palace.

May I suggest for him a trip in sack cloth and ashes to Rome to beg forgiveness?
As for NY Times Michael Powell, I am in awe. I have only one phrase, a modern cliche, for him and his editors at the Times. "Keep on, keeping on."

Should SSG Get Involved?


A reader writes:

I was just reading your post The Shroud of Turin story brings up all the usual issues about click-bait journalism. You suggest reading The Shroud of Turin, pseudoscience, and journalism by Joel Achenbach in his Washington Post blog.

I was amazed to see that his blog picked up 2084 comments as of this evening. In scanning through them I noticed our own Colin Berry being himself. [See screenshot above]

More to the point. This story about a mythical earthquake and mythical science about neutron radiation from earthquakes affecting carbon 14 dating has damaged shroud credibility in a big way. Right up through the upcoming exhibition in 2015, this ludicrous bit of pseudoscience will be quoted in newspapers as the so called “scientific” reason why those of who think the shroud is real believe the carbon dating is wrong. Forget Fanti. Forget the repair hypothesis. Something needs to be done. With all due respect you and your wonderful hip blog and Barrie Schwortz appearing on late night radio is not enough. The Shroud Science Group should issue a public condemnation of Alberto Carpinteri’s paper published in the journal, Meccanica.

Hip? LOL!

I found the comment by Colin and put the screenshot on top.

Should the SSG do anything? I’m not sure. Will this story carry that much weight? Time will tell.

imageLeading Atheist blogger Ed Brayton has picked up on the fuss in his Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog.

The New Republic has picked up Jerry Coyne’s blog post and called the piece “Pseudo-scientists are still trying to convince you that the Shroud of turin is real. Don’t believe them.” Coyne has dressed it up a bit and added, as he tells us in his blog:

Thanks to the readers’ suggestions, I’ve added Richard Carrier’s objections to the “earthquake hypothesis” and also linked to Greg Paul’s article noting the unrealistic proportions of the “Jesus” image on the Shroud.

Comments are flying at New Republic. Here is part of one that caught my eye by someone called nsecchi:

My purpose [is] to suggest that the Shroud of Turin be given longer shrift than that afforded by the author of the piece. The 1986 carbon dating that he lays such credence to has been recognized to surely be incorrect. The part of the cloth tested was from a patch, done in medieval times, to the Shroud. The Shroud of Turin does have mysteries that make it unique in human history. It was certainly not painted as the author believes. The Shroud of Turin warrants an unprejudiced study, in greater humility than that afforded by the author of this piece. .

And here is one by FMcManus:

I don’t understand why so many people who hate religion spend so much time disproving things almost no religious people believe. And in this case, the religious people who do believe the things disproved would insist emphatically that those beliefs are ancillary and unimportant to their fundamental convictions.

As a Catholic myself who has found the Shroud interesting and unusual, I’ve often hoped its mysterious quality would not ever be explained by scientific investigation. But at the same time, I’ve also hoped scientific investigation would rigorously examine the Shroud and all the claims surrounding it precisely in an attempt to reveal it as non-supernatural. It’s been a few years since I did much reading on the subject, so I don’t know where things stand now.

The earthquake theory strikes me as rather absurd on its face, and simply not worth the debunking it’s subjected to in this article. But the tone of the article is so absurdly shrill, so intent on adopting a sneering contempt for its subject, that it’s inconceivable anyone really interested in scientific investigation of the Shroud would take it seriously. One comes away from it with the impression Jerry Coyne obtained his understanding of religion from reading nothing more sophisticated than a handful of Chick comics.

When you openly despise the people whose beliefs you loathe, you’re not being scientific. You’re just being a bigot.

Of course I’m picking with bias. Your mileage may vary.

So what do we all think. Is this a big deal problem?  Should SSG get involved? Is this blog hip?

Part 3 is up: Did Stephen Jones make the case?

imageRead Were the radiocarbon laboratories duped by a computer hacker? (3). Did Stephen Jones make the case?

He didn’t intend to:

So it would not be surprising if the atheistic Soviet regime of the 1980s would see it as a legitimate target to discredit the Shroud, and through that Christianity, by one its agents hacking into each of the three radiocarbon dating laboratories’ computers, and replacing the actual radiocarbon dates of the Shroud that the laboratories’ accelerated mass spectrometers were determining, with bogus dates which when calibrated would cluster around 1325 +/- 65 years.

I have presented this proposal as a question, "Were the radiocarbon laboratories duped by a computer hacker?" because in the nature of the case, barring a belated confession, my proposal is unlikely ever to be confirmed as correct, even if it is correct. The hacker would be unlikely to admit it because he would be prosecuted and gaoled for breaking into government computers, as Hess was. And the laboratories would be unlikely to admit they had been duped by a hacker, even if they realised they had been. Whatever evidence there was in the laboratories’ computers, the hacker would almost certainly have deleted it, and even if he didn’t, it is most unlikely that it would still exist in the laboratories’ 1988 computers.

Anyway, in the final analysis it is the Shroud anti-authenticists’ problem to find a explanation for what went wrong with their carbon dating of the first-century Shroud to the 13th-14th centuries. As Thomas de Wesselow pointed out, we Shroud pro-authenticists don’t need to find an explanation of what went wrong with the 1988 radiocarbon date of the Shroud. We can just dismiss it out of hand as a "’rogue’ radiocarbon date" as archaeologists routinely do when a radiocarbon date is contradicted by the majority of the other evidence:

I’ll try to keep an open mind for now.

imageStephen Jones is inching forward with the second part of Were the radiocarbon laboratories duped by a computer hacker?  (Here is part 1).

After stoking the fires of his incredulity a bit more, Stephen tells us  that Denis Dutton, a shroud skeptic, publicly predicted that if the Shroud was radiocarbon dated it would date to "A.D. 1335, plus or minus 30 years"

“So,” Stephen tells us, “a fraudster would know what date to aim for!” Then . . .

Agnostic art historian Thomas de Wesselow, who believes the Shroud is authentic but Jesus did not rise from the dead, on the basis of the art history evidence considers that the fourteenth-century radiocarbon date of the Shroud to be the equivalent of claiming that "the Shroud was deposited in medieval France by aliens":

"Given credence, the carbon-dating result effectively raises the Shroud to the status of a miracle, an object that defies, if not a law of nature, a law of culture. All artefacts are linked to the art and technology of the society in which they originate. Something that cannot be explained in terms of its (presumed) cultural context invites a supernatural explanation. As far as I am aware, no one has yet argued that the Shroud was deposited in medieval France by aliensThere is no better explanation, though, for a fourteenth-century Shroud." (de Wesselow, T., 2012, "The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection," pp.167-168. My emphasis).

Therefore de Wesselow considers fraud to be a real possibility for the Shroud’s "1325 ± 65 years" radiocarbon date, and indeedbecause of it:

"The third possibility is that a fraud was perpetrated … Most sindonologists regard these fraud theories as plainly incredible. Some, like Ian Wilson, refuse to contemplate such `unworthy’ accusations. However, scientific fraud is by no means unknown, as the editors of science journals are well aware. … One important consideration weighs in favour of the possibility of deception. If the carbon-dating error was accidental, then it is a remarkable coincidence that the result tallies so well with the date always claimed by sceptics as the Shroud’s historical debut. But if fraud was involved, then it wouldn’t be a coincidence at all. Had anyone wished to discredit the Shroud, ‘1325 ± 65 years’ is precisely the sort of date they would have looked to achieve." (de Wesselow, 2012, p.170. My emphasis).

To be continued (and hopefully concluded) in. "Were the radiocarbon laboratories duped by a computer hacker? (3)".

In fairness to Stephen, check out Timeline of computer security hacker history on Wikipedia. Scroll down to 1988 and thereabouts.

I’ll try to keep an open mind for now. I believe Stephen will address the hacking at some point soon; for unless Stephen is right – he could be –  I’d hate to see this speculation become another well established rumor, e. g., Shroudies believe that the labs were hacked.


Unrelated tidbit: in 1989, the year the carbon dating was announced, Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, created the world’s public first web page and the World Wide Web was born.

Jerry Coyne Pounces on the Earthquake Hypothesis

does anyone buy the earthquake thing?

imageJerry Coyne has jumped into the earthquake fray with an article, The Shroud of Turin: why religion is a pseudoscience, which he posted on his blog named for his best selling book, Why Evolution is True (A New York Times Best Seller).

The book was one of the best I read on the subject of evolution. The article on why religion is a pseudoscience, well, interesting, anyway. Too much attitude. There is this:

But as real science arose in the 15th and 16th centuries, and began eroding religion’s claims, religion began turning into a pseudoscience. That is, it still made empirical claims, but immunized itself against refutation of those claims using a variety of devices—the same devices used by other forms of pseudoscience like ESP, UFOlogy, homeopathy, and astrology. These include arguing that the propositions themselves are untestable, using poor standards of evidence (including reliance on “revelation” as a “way of knowing”), reliance on a priori personal biases that are not to be tested but merely confirmed, refusing to consider alternative hypotheses, and engaging in special pleading when religious tenets are disconfirmed.

We can see all of these—but especially in the last—in a paper by A. Carpinteri et al. on the Shroud of Turin, a paper that’s gotten a lot of publicity. It’s an attempt to defend scientific radio-carbon dating of the Shroud, which showed it to be a medieval forgery, by special pleading invoking earthquakes.

imageCoyne puts forth four argument against the earthquake hypothesis, arguments that I think are perfectly valid:

1. The evidence for an earthquake is thin. . . .

2. There is no evidence that neutron emission during an earthquake could alter the C-14 content of a shroud. . . .

3. The alteration of the amount of C14 in the shroud would have to be sufficient to make it look sufficiently pre-modern, but not too young. . . .

4. There is no known way that an earthquake could, by neutron emission, produce an image of a body on a shroud. . . .

The Carpinteri paper is thus a confection of unlikely and untested hypotheses, all assembled to try to save the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin as the true burial cloth of Jesus. It is not a piece of science, but a piece of apologetics.

Coyne points out:

Indeed, even Wikipedia does a better job than the popular press, and points out something that Ms. Knapton should have known: Carpinteri is the editor of the journal that published this flawed paper. What does thatsay about the review process? As Wikipedia notes:

A team of researchers from the Politecnico di Torino, led by Professor Alberto Carpinteri (and published in the journal Meccanica, where same Alberto Carpinteri is currently the acting Editor-in-Chief, believe that if a magnitude 8.2 earthquake occurred in Jerusalem in 33 AD, it may have released sufficient radiation to have increased the level of carbon-14 isotopes in the shroud, which could skew carbon dating results, making the shroud appear younger.This hypothesis has been questioned by other scientists, including a radiocarbon-dating expert. The underlying science is widely disputed, and funding for the underlying research has been withdrawn by the Italian government after protests and pressure from more than 1000 Italian and international scientists. Dr REM Hedges, of the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit of the University of Oxford, states that “the likelihood that [neutron irradiation] influenced the date in the way proposed is in my view so exceedingly remote that it beggars scientific credulity.” Raymond N. Rogers conducted various tests on linen fibers, and concluded that “the current evidence suggests that all radiation-based hypotheses for image formation will ultimately be rejected.”

But he mistakenly assumes that he understands “the faithful.” It suggests to me that he has not taken the time to understand the shroud and the people who study it before writing about it.

Of course none of this counterevidence will shake the faithful, who will still see the Shroud as authentic, and will come in droves to pay homage when the Shroud has one of its rare showings. Like believers in homeopathy or ESP (or, now, Adam and Eve), they continue to hold their faith despite all scientific counterevidence.

That and the first paragraph show how little he understands religion. But do read the full article, The Shroud of Turin: why religion is a pseudoscience and see if you agree.

YouTube of Barrie Schwortz on Coast to Coast AM

Hat tips to several people including Kelly, Paulette and an old, friend, Fr. Howard for this link to the YouTube featuring Barrie. The radio interview (audio only) with Barrie starts at the 1:16:00 so you may want to set the slider to that point. And no, the picture of the paratroopers firing at who-knows-what has nothing to do with the interview:

Here is a short summary from “Malc” on a site called The One Truth, a site also linking to the video (

In the latter half, researcher and photographer Barrie Schwortz talked about the Shroud of Turin, said to be the burial cloth of Jesus, and reacted to new research that connects the Shroud’s creation to an ancient earthquake around 32 AD. According to the latest researchers’ theory, the powerful quake could have released neutron emissions that might have interacted with the fibers of the linen burial cloth, inducing the chemical reaction that created the unique facial image. Their research is problematic in several ways, including an overestimation of the magnitude strength of quakes in the Dead Sea, he noted. Further, the radiation hypothesis (which has previously been proposed to explain the Shroud numerous times) was explored by (the late) Raymond Rogers, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and he did not find evidence for it in his testing of samples.

While scientific tests have shown that the Shroud is neither a painting or a photograph, it still remains a mystery even after all the chemistry, physics, and spectrometry that have been applied, Schwortz remarked, adding that perhaps as technology continues to advance, new methods of testing may yield answers. He also shared details about his personal experiences studying and photographing the Shroud, and how his faith and religious views were affected by it.

Mixing Believers, Scientists and Many Who Are Both.

imageAs reported by Religion News Service (here via the Huffington Post):

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program released a major research project on Sunday (Feb. 16), at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago, and announced an upcoming series of conferences mixing believers, scientists and many who are both.

The massive survey of views on God, religion, and science included 10,241 respondents and took a particularly close look at the views of evangelicals and people in science-related occupations.

The concern is not whether “science and religion can co-exist. They already do,” said lead researcher Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist and director of Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program. “The question is how to do it well.”

Interesting statistics:

Among the findings of the study, “Religious Understandings of Science”:

* Nearly 36 percent of scientists have no doubt about God’s existence.
* 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services (compared with 20 percent of the overall U.S. population).
* 17 percent of scientists consider themselves evangelical.
* 15 percent of scientists consider themselves “very religious” (19 percent of the overall population).
* 13.5 percent of scientists read religious texts weekly (17 percent overall).


“If you are looking for conflict, there’s a place to find it in the data,” Ecklund pointed out in a live online chat for AAAS’ “Science” magazine. The study reports:

* 22 percent of scientists and 20 percent of the general population think most religious people are hostile to science.
* 22 percent of the general population thinks scientists are hostile to religion.
* 27 percent of Americans feel that science and religion are in conflict.
* Of those who feel science and religion are in conflict, 52 percent sided with religion.

Barrie Schwortz at St. John’s University Queens Campus February 24

clip_image001We learn from STERA’s Facebook page:

Publisher William Lauto and his wife, Professor Belenna M. Lauto, Interim Chair of the Department of Art and Design, have organized a Shroud presentation at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, at 7:00pm on February 24, 2014. In addition, Professor Lauto has organized and produced a gallery exhibit of a large selection of my photographs from the 1978 STURP examination that will be on display with the presentation. The lecture is open to the public and admission is free, however reservations are as seating is limited. For Reservations and more information call 718-990-6250 before Feburary 19, 2014 or visit the Registration Page of St. John’s Website at I hope to see some of you there!

Details from the website of St. John’s University:


Cleveland Area Presentation, March 12

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is announcing:

Dave Onesko of Middleburg Heights stands alongside these 8 feet "Shroud of Turin" murals at the Grace Fellowship Church where he will be giving a presentation. (Kyle Lanzer/Sun News)HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — David Onysko, who has done extensive research and speaking on the Shroud of Turin, will give a multi-media presentation about evidence of the shroud’s authenticity, "Where Science Meets Faith,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 12 at Highland Sixth Presbyterian Church, 5632 Wilson Mills Road, Highland Heights.

The event is free. For more information, call 440-442-6441 or visit Onysko’s website,

The shroud, believed by some to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, bears the faint image of a bearded, crucified man along with a pattern of what are said to be bloodstains.

CLICK HERE to view a 91-slide presentation on David’s website.

From Fraud to Computer Hacking in Carbon Dating the Shroud of Turin

imageA little over a month ago, Stephen Jones, created a posting with a title that read, The case for fraud in the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud #1: Introduction. To make the introduction, Stephen lead off by quoting Thomas de Wesselow:

I had for a long time been thinking of posting on this topic, and was prompted to do so by reading recently what the agnostic Shroud pro-authenticist, art historian Thomas de Wesselow, wrote:

"The third possibility [why "the 1988 result … conflicts with all the evidence that points to the Shroud having been in existence long before 1260"] is that a fraud was perpetrated … Most sindonologists regard these fraud theories as plainly incredible. … However, scientific fraud is by no means unknown, as the editors of science journals are well aware … One important consideration weighs in favour of the possibility of deception. If the carbon-dating error was accidental, then it is a remarkable coincidence that the result tallies so well with the date always claimed by sceptics as the Shroud’s historical debut. But if fraud was involved, then it wouldn’t be a coincidence at all. Had anyone wished to discredit the Shroud, ‘1325 ± 65 years'[3] is precisely the sort of date they would have looked to achieve" (my emphasis)[4].

“I firmly believe that to be only viable explanation,” he tells us:

.  .  I cannot prove that there was scientific fraud in the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, although I firmly believe that to be only viable explanation. All that I can do is to set out the evidence for: 1) what went wrong in that dating; 2) the anti-Christian bias and/or dishonesty of some of those involved in the dating; and 3) suggest various ways that scientific fraud could have occurred in that dating. And then leave it to the `men and women of the jury’, my readers, to make up their own minds, based on that evidence.

Six postings were to follow:

. . . #2: "Difficulties of radiocarbon dating"; #3: "Conflicts of the 1260-1390 radiocarbon date of the Shroud with other evidence"; #4: "What went wrong in the dating of the Shroud"; #5. "Bias and/or dishonesty of some involved in that dating"; #6: "Possible fraud scenarios in the dating of the Shroud"; and #7: "Conclusion"

Stephen is incredulous when it comes to the carbon dating. So am I. But I have not joined the ranks of those who might think it is fraud. I don’t see sufficient evidence for that. What there is is circumstantial at best. And I can’t see that fraud can be the “only viable explanation.” I did want to see what Stephen would say, however. I waited. A month of silence followed. Then on February 5, Stephen inserted the following note into his posting:

Note. I have now realised that this topic is going to require a lot of research, which will distract me further from my series " The Shroud of Turin." So I am putting it on the backburner . . . .

Damn! Other topics ensued.  Sooner or later, I knew, Stephen would tell us why, in his opinion, fraud was the only viable explanation. Thus I was surprised when Stephen posted: Were the radiocarbon laboratories duped by a computer hacker? (1)

Another viable explanation?

This latest posting is only part one. And it says absolutely nothing whatsoever about the subject. I read it. I reread it. I searched on the word hacker. Nothing! I searched on comuter? Nothing! There is a picture of a book; Clifford Stoll’s 1989, "The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage." What was this about? What did Stephen uncover?

Fearing another long wait for a part two I bought the book. No, I have not read it yet. But I did search for some key words (isn’t Kindle great?): I searched for Shroud? Nada! I looked for Turin? Not Found! Arizona? Nope! Oxford? Nope! Linen? Only a reference to someone in white linen pants. Carbon dating, radiocarbon, C14? No! No! No!

I can hardly wait for part two.

If you will be in Rome tomorrow



Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum


The Shroud and science.  Introduction.  The scourging

The Shroud and science. Introduction. The scourging
19:02:14 to 22:02:12 17:30 to 19:00
Classroom Thesis – Rome
Institute Science and Faith


Graduate Diploma in University Shroud

Lecture Series The Shroud and science


Lecture by Prof. Antonio Cassanelli


Introduction. The scourging

Wednesday, February 19

from 17:30 to 19:00

Classroom Thesis (1st floor)

Free admission

Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum,
Via degli Aldobrandeschis, 190
00163 Rome



Classroom Thesis   -   Website
Via the Aldobrandeschis, 190
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