imageYannick Clément (in italics) writes in an email and I comment inline.

I have read John Klotz’ comment on your blog concerning Ray Rogers’ image formation hypothesis and I just want to say that I’m getting sick and tired to see people who believe the image on the Shroud comes from a supernatural event (i.e. the Resurrection of Christ) always trying hard to make believe that if Rogers’ hypothesis was somewhat incomplete (in the form it was at the time of his death) that means the image should have had something to do directly with the Resurrection…  That’s the kind of bad link that makes me sick.

Your faith in Rogers is charming. The reality is that his hypothesis was not just somewhat incomplete, it was completely incomplete, possibly forever incomplete. It was possibly wrong. We may never know. There is nothing wrong with imagining that the image was formed, somehow, miraculously or as a consequence, accidental or God-intended, from a by-product of a miracle that we might suppose is the Resurrection. There is nothing wrong with imagining this if you believe in miracles or at least in the possibility of miracles and you can accept a certain philosophical notion: a miracle can be part of scientific process.

You go on to say:

Also, concerning the statement that Roger’s hypothesis was incomplete, people should realize that that doesn’t mean for one second that he thought the path he was following had no chance to explain the entire image formation. In fact, “incomplete” is not the right word (Rogers never used it in his writings to describe his hypothesis). I think it’s better to say “still in an on-going process to be refined”.  The truth is this: At the time of his death, Rogers was still working on his hypothesis in order to refine it (especially when it comes to its 3D properties) and possibly explain every aspects of the body image.  It’s clear in his book about the Shroud that, at the time he died, he only had time to do some preliminary experiments about that, which were not bad enough for him to look elsewhere for a proper explanation for the image formation…  This historical fact should be enough to understand that he was still believing he had found the good road to follow in order to fully explain the image and that he had still some issues regarding some of its properties to work on (which were not, theoretically speaking, unresolvable by a natural process involving a Maillard reaction).

Rogers’ admission that his hypothesis was still in the process to be refine (some can say “incomplete”) should never be taken as an admission from him that the image formation could have been directly related to a supernatural event like the Resurrection and, consequently, that his own hypothesis should only be taken as part of the solution and the other part should be found in some phenomenon directly related to the Resurrection.

You may very well be right in your interpretation of Rogers’ beliefs that he would or could, given enough time, show how the image was formed naturally without the need for a miracle. But it doesn’t follow, therefore, that he would do so. Incomplete really is the right description. Rogers thought that the complete process of image formation must be a complex system. He did not know what all the parts of the system were. He was not refining. He was scratching his head.

You continue:

Again, when you read all his writings about the Shroud, you understand that Rogers was believing that his hypothesis (in the form he wrote it just before his death) was probably close to the global solution and that, in all logic, there was no need to look elsewhere than one or a series of natural phenomenon to explain it completely.

I don’t think Rogers’ hypothesis was a true hypothesis. He did argue that there would be a reaction between early decomposition gases emitted from a body and an impurity layer of saccharides and starch that resided on outer fibers as the consequence of evaporation concentration. It makes sense. It is possibly one cause of some or all of the image color.

But Rogers had no satisfactory explanation for the transfer of information from the three-dimensional body about shapes and placement of features to a two-dimensional cloth. In other words, he had no idea about the making of a picture. It was, really, a lot of hope that the laws of gaseous diffusion, ambient heat by convection, radiation and contact, the drape of the cloth and reactive chemical exhaustion might somehow form a picture. His experiments with papier-mâché hands and bolts were, at best, exploratory and not demonstrative. It did not rise to the level of hypothesis.

You say:

I firmly believe that what John Klotz did and what many other supernatural fans are doing these days is just a wrong extrapolation of Rogers’ words and thinking concerning the image formation in order to back-up their own ideology.

Supernatural fan? A wrong extrapolation? Perhaps! But so what?

You say:

Now, I would like to make a specific comment about an important part of the quote John Klotz gave us in another comment, which comes from Rogers’ book about the Shroud.

When Rogers said “The requirements makes it apparent that no single, simple hypothesis will be adequate to explain all the observations made on the Shroud.”, he was not referring to his own complex and natural hypothesis! In fact, in page 97, we have a good clue of what he was talking about, instead of his own hypothesis. Here’s what he wrote: “In the context of image-formation hypotheses that involve reactive gases, remember that cloth is porous. Gases diffusing to the surface can pass through the pores and be lost. This phenomenon will restrict vapor concentrations as a function of the distance from contact points where a body touches a cloth. Cloth surfaces are active and absorb gases rapidly, a fact that further limits concentrations as a function of distance… John Jackson’s mathematical analysis of image resolution suggested that NO SINGLE, SIMPLE MOLECULAR-DIFFUSION OR RADIATION MECHANISM COULD PRODUCE THE IMAGE OBSERVED. However, A COMBINATION OF SYSTEMS COULD OFFER AN EXPLANATION, e.g. anisotropic heat flow by radiation from the body to the cloth, attenuated heat-flow in the cloth, gaseous diffusion, convection, surface properties of the cloth, and the dependence of chemical rates on temperature.”

It is clear (at least to me) from this quote (and particularly from the part I have put in caps-lock) that when Rogers wrote that no single, he was NOT referring to his own hypothesis for image formation that involve a complex chemical process, but was referring to a much more simple process like the one proposed by Vignon for example! I think Mr. Klotz really misunderstood the part of Rogers’ book he quoted yesterday and, by doing so, his extrapolation of Rogers thinking is simply wrong, absolutely wrong… As I said to you yesterday, the fact that Rogers was considering his hypothesis as not being complete at the time of his death doesn’t mean at all that he was thinking his idea had no chance to fully explain the image. It’s just that Rogers was honest enough to admit that his hypothesis, in the state it was at the time, still needed to be refined with the help of more lab testing, while still having the potential to fully explain the image formation (if the right conditions could one day be reproduced). That’s what he really meant. Nothing more, nothing less than this.

But again, this goes back to your faith in Rogers finding all the parts of a combination of systems that would work. Why do we think Rogers would have succeeded? Rogers said it was possible his methods could offer an explanation, not that they would. It is you, my friend, who is misinterpreting Rogers.

You continue:

Taking his statement as meaning that he thought his own hypothesis was totally unable to fully explain the Shroud image someday and that there must have been something else that was at work to produce the image (a supernatural phenomenon link directly with the Resurrection of course) is simply a wrong extrapolation of what Rogers thought concerning the image on the Shroud and his own proposal for the formation of this image. This is absolutely incorrect and, sadly, this kind of misunderstanding of Rogers’ words has been repeated over and over again by those of the supernatural fringe in recent years (while Rogers is not here with us to better explain what he meant). So much in fact that it almost has become an absolute truth regarding Rogers’ thinking, while it is absolutely not the case!

No one have the right to do such a thing. If Rogers would be here today, he would say the same thing for sure.

A decade later, would Rogers say the same thing? Even so, would it mean he was right? I admire what Rogers did trying to show how an image might have been formed. But really, why should I think he was right? In the same way, why should I think UV light or corona discharge is right? UV light, corona discharge and all manner of radiation is of course natural. It is only a matter of where it comes from. A natural event? A miraculous event, perhaps a by-product of the Resurrection?

You mention Jackson’s ideas. I’m not convinced about them. Why, specifically, a dematerialization process? Why not a rematerialization process as Jesus takes on another body form – if that is what happened? With the latter all particle physics bets are off. Actually, why a process at all? Can anyone explain why the Resurrection needs to be a process? Why not an instantaneous change of state of the body and its surroundings. No process, no by-products.

Jackson is no less and no more wrong than Rogers, no more complete than Rogers. Same-same with Fanti and Di Lazzaro.

When I contemplate the images I see design. I don’t see accidental images; not ones subject to the behavior of elementary particles or molecules; not subject to the whims of temperature and time, chemical exhaustion, distance and cloth draping. I see two highly focused images from top to bottom, images with appropriate greyscale throughout even if extremely faint, images absent saturation plateaus or lack of any image density where it is needed (not over or under exposed in photography terms), free of distortion or misshapen features. They are, it seems to me, by the eye and hand of a painter or perhaps from a photographer’s camera. But they are not. They can’t be. So it is by the eye and hand of God.

So, are the images directly connected to the Resurrection? Occam ’s razor, we might think says so. But is the Resurrection subject to parsimonious predictability? Who says so, William of Ockham?

So that, dear Yannick, makes me part of the supernatural fringe, I guess. Except, it is not a fringe. You may wish it was so, but it isn’t.

Can you imagine in 1898, when Pia took his famous picture, or 1902, when Vignon proposed his vapor theory for the first time, anyone suggesting radiation. What a preposterous idea that would have been. It was not, after all, until 1896 when Becquerel famously put an undeveloped but covered photography glass plate with uranyl potassium sulfate on top in a drawer. It wasn’t until 1897 that Marie Curie coined the word “radioactivity” to describe the phenomenon. It wasn’t until 1911 that Ernest Rutherford proposed the planetary model for an atom. What, today, we should wonder, have scientists not even dreamed of that might sometime in the future be proposed as the cause of the images? We are not and should not be limited to what we know about the laws of nature in 2014.

You may now have the last word with your long postscript :

P.S.: What I said doesn’t mean Rogers was totally convinced that his own hypothesis was representing the complete solution for the image formation, but at the same time, we must understand that, in Rogers’ mind, his proposal COULD well be the best answer for the image formation IF the right conditions concerning the corpse, the cloth itself and the inner environment inside and outside the Shroud at the time of the image formation could be found and reproduce one day by a researcher via some more lab experiments and an on-going analysis. In fact, here’s what he wrote about that (which can be consider as his personal conclusion at the time of his death): “The observations (concerning the Maillard reaction hypothesis) do not prove how the image was formed or the “authenticity” of the Shroud. There could be a nearly infinite number of alternate hypotheses, and the search for new hypotheses should continue.” Note that, in Rogers mind, the expression “a nearly infinite number of alternate hypotheses” did not involved anything supernatural that would defy the known laws of nature… This precision is important in the context of John Klotz’ post.

And to conclude my point, here’s some more important quotes from Rogers’ writings that clearly show how much confidence he had in the potential capacity of his hypothesis to properly explain the Shroud image:

“If there can be a large change in (reactive-gas) concentration in a small distance, resolution can be good. It is not valid to assume a diffuse image when gaseous diffusion is involved in the image-formation mechanism.” (quote from Rogers’ book “A Chemist’s Perspective on the Shroud of Turin”).

“I believe that impurities in ancient linen could have been suspended by the surfactant property of a Saponaria officinalis washing solution. They would be concentrated at the drying surface by evaporation. Reducing saccharides would react rapidly with the amine decomposition products of a dead body. This process could explain the observations on the chemistry and appearance of the image on the Shroud of Turin. Such a natural image-formation process would not require any miraculous events; however, it would support the hypothesis that the Shroud of Turin had been a real shroud.” (quote from the paper “Scientific method applied to the Shroud of Turin – A Review”).

“Formal statement of the impurity hypothesis for image formation to be tested: The cloth was produced by technology in use before the advent of large-scale bleaching. Each hank of yarn used in weaving was bleached individually. The warp yarns were protected and lubricated during weaving with an unpurified starch paste. The finished cloth was washed in Saponaria officinalis and laid out to dry. Starch fractions, linen impurities, and Saponaria residues concentrated at the evaporating surface. The cloth was used to wrap a dead body. Ammonia and other volatile amine decomposition products reacted rapidly with reducing saccharides on the cloth in Maillard reactions. The cloth was removed from the body before liquid decomposition products appeared. The color developed slowly as Maillard compounds decomposed into final colored compounds.” (quote from the paper “Scientific method applied to the Shroud of Turin – A Review”).

“Experimental manipulations of concentrations and one-dimensional migration of solutions (of Saponaria), as in a large cloth, could produce the same front to back color separation and color density as observed on the Shroud. The fibers on the top-most surface are the most colored when observed under a microscope, and the color is a golden yellow similar to that on the Shroud. The coating of Maillard products is too thin to be resolved with a light microscope, and it is all on the outside of the fibers. There is no coloration in the medullas: The color formed without scorching the cellulose. There is very little color on fibers from the middle of the back surface. The color-producing saccharides had concentrated on the evaporating surface. Water-stained image areas on the Shroud showed that image color does not dissolve or migrate with water. Maillard products are not water soluble, and they do not move when wetted.” (quote from Rogers’ book “A Chemist’s Perspective on the Shroud of Turin”).

“I believe that a combination of relatively rapidly decomposing impurities on the surface of the cloth with transfer/diffusion of catalytic compounds from a body, as discussed by Pellicori, could explain the observations on the chemistry and appearance of the image on the Shroud. It should explain the shallow penetration of the image, the fact that the color did not penetrate more deeply at presumed contact points, its “half-tone” appearance, and its predominantly discontinuous distribution. Both catalyst concentration gradients and angle-dependent emittance of energy from a body would contribute to the 3-D relief seen in the image.” (quote from the paper “An Alternate Hypothesis for the Image Color”).

I changed my mind. I will have the last word. Rogers certainly sought a completely natural explanation for the images. He may have been right. He may have been wrong. We may know some day. In the meantime, read that last paragraph, the quote from the paper “An Alternate Hypothesis for the Image Color.” It is refreshingly honestly. It is tentative. Rogers to my knowledge never by science ruled out a miraculous explanation.