Face Matching Methods Questioned

Rebecca of the Yale University School of Art writes:

It is something cartoonists do but can never explain. Setting aside for the moment props like FDR’s cigarette holder or Charley Chaplin’s bowler and cane, cartoonists with only facial attributes to go on simultaneously minimize and exaggerate what they see to make people instantly recognizable. We can see it has nothing to do with Vignony like markings or points of congruence and everything to do with artistic genius. Ask yourself how it is we recognize these four presidents.

I don’t know and neither do you.


Ask yourself how it is it that we know the sculpture in a dried up apple looks like Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Is it the great lips, the eyes, points of congruence or some Vignony like markings? It is something no one can explain. 


The artists of early Christianity portrayed Jesus based on something. Maybe it was the Shroud which is what I think. I can’t explain why, however. One thing I am sure of though, you can’t claim anything based on a fake scientific method like points of congruence. There is no such method for matching faces.

Note: The examples were attached to an email. I resized them and inserted them into the email where it seemed appropriate.

How to Start a Rumor

Stephen Jones has started reading N.T. Wright’s monumental, 800+ page book, The Resurrection of the Son of God. He wonders in his blog, Is N.T. Wright a Shroud pro-authenticist?

imageThat Wright, a former Anglican Bishop of Durham, and a leading New Testament scholar, even mentioned the Shroud at all is amazing, given that Christian academics tend to ignore it, for fear of being thought of as belonging to the so-called `lunatic fringe’.

And that Wright referenced not a more well-known Shroud book, like one of Ian Wilson’s, but one that is less well known, by the Whangers, argues for Wright not only being a Shroud pro-authenticist, but having read widely in Shroud literature.

Tom Wright is one of my heroes. I’ve read many of his books including this one. It is probably the best modern-era book written on the subject. In my opinion, the reference to the shroud is casual, by-the-way, and unnecessary. I certainly don’t see how Stephen can assume that Tom Wright is a “a Shroud pro-authenticist” or has “read widely in Shroud literature.” 

But it makes for a silly rumor that might spread on the Internet.

An Important New Book Coming in February

imageIt is called The Jesus Code: Six Relics That Tell the Remarkable True Story of the Gospels. Of course, one of those relic is the Shroud of Turin. It is due out in February 2015, and you can pre-order it now at Amazon. The hardcover will sell for $20.24 and the Kindle edition for $12.99. There will also be an audio version which is a sure sign that the book is expected to be popular with high sales.

Here is what we can read at Amazon:

As featured in the 6-part CNN SERIES "The Jesus Code"

THE JESUS CODE explores six major artifacts, including the Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, and the Holy Grail, that give us the most direct evidence about the life and world of Jesus. The book and attendant CNN series provide a dramatic way to retell "the greatest story ever told" while introducing a broad audience to the history, the latest controversies, and newest forensic science involved in sorting out facts from the fiction of would-be forgers and deceivers. The book and the show draw on experts from all over the world. Beyond the faithful, the book will appeal also to the skeptical and to curious readers of history and archaeology, while it takes viewers of the primetime TV series deeper into the story. With a fascinating, blockbuster subject, top-notch authors, and official CNN tie-in and support, we have tremendous opportunity to make THE JESUS CODE a bestseller and category classic.

As featured in the 6-part CNN SERIES "The Jesus Code"? What 6-part series? A bit of Googling and we find Entertainment Weekly informing us that:

Most provocatively, the network announced at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York City, The Jesus Code, a series which promises to take viewers on a “forensic and archaeological journey through the Bible” (cue jokes about CNN looking for a ratings miracle). Religious-themed programming has been considered hot since History stunned the industry with its ratings-shattering The Bible miniseries last year. The Jesus Code “will take viewers on a thrilling high-stakes journey through forensics, biblical archeology and forgery in history, exploring the evidence of Jesus’ existence by questioning the authenticity of sacred relics.”

Back to Amazon. The authors are:

  • DAVID GIBSON is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker who specializes in covering the Catholic Church. He appears frequently on network and cable television as a commentator on religious affairs and is a frequent commentator on NPR. He has written and co-written three prior books and also writes for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Boston Magazine, and Fortune among others.
  • MICHAEL MCKINLEY is an award-winning author, filmmaker, journalist and screenwriter. He has written several books, and wrote and co-produced the CBC TV documentary film "Sacred Ballot", as well as several documentaries for CNN Presents.

What else?  The hardcover will be 256 pages. The publisher is St. Martin’s Press (February 24, 2015). ISBN-10: 1250069106, ISBN-13: 978-1250069108

Matching Faces. Is it Possible?

Addressing himself to Charles Freeman, Dave Hines writes in a comment, “You inspired to make a video. I wanted you to see it. This happened because of our conversation on this blog site. thanks.”


You might want to check out, More on the ISA Tile and the “Prince of Peace”, a posting in this blog last April, and an article in Wikipedia, Facial recognition system. I keep hearing about points of congruence but have not seen any documentation or explanation as to why it is valid method. Anyone? And is it valid for different media?

Video is nicely done.

To believe, or not believe, that is the question

imageMark Shea, writing in the National Catholic Register, is explaining that the Catholic Church does not have a position on everything:

And this is the case with the bulk of the Church’s Tradition. There are a few (a very few) restrictions concerning what Catholics may and may not believe and do, but one can be a perfectly faithful Catholic and believe, disbelieve or care nothing about evolution, farm subsidies, tax reform, just war theory, pacifism and smoking. One can hold all sorts of opinions about the duration of purgatory, the music of Spike Jones, the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, the question of whether there is time in Heaven, whether Our Lady died and whether we should have fought the Vietnam War. The Church has no “official position” on these and a billion other questions. She prefers freedom whenever possible. This is why, in 2000 years, the number of dogmatic definitions the Church has formulated is so very, very small.

imageAnd then there are Anglicans. One Anglican, alone, “can hold all sorts of opinions” at the same time.  As for Episcopalians, who are Anglicans, we had the late Robin Williams, himself an Episcopalian, to explain, as he did in an HBO special, Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian:

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color-coded.

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry — none of the guilt.

2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Robin Williams, pictured above, also played the role of an Episcopal priest in the movie, License to Wed.

Into a World Not Cut Off from Reality?


Colin Berry, in his Science Buzz blog, tells us that It’s time to change the record, all you authenticity-promoting Shroudologists. Thermal imprints can be superficial at the level of linen threads AND their component fibres:

A few photographs should suffice to justify the title of this post. Whether they will silence those who continue to disseminate mis- and disinformation about the thermal imprint, aka contact scorch hypothesis is another matter. Planet Shroudology is a world in itself, cut off it seems from earthly reality, content to parachute-drop its mock-authoritative missives or pdfs etc from on high before high-tailing it back to base.

And he calls for withdrawal of scientific claims:

I say it’s time shroudology stopped making duff claims it cannot back up with experimental evidence. In the two instances where experimental ‘evidence’ has been proferred, the authors of those inappropriately-designed and/or misinterpreted experiments, made in both instances on Dan Porter’s shroudstory.com should do the decent thing and withdraw their claims.

Wanting to win friends and influence people he tells us:

Shroudology reeks of agenda-driven control-freakery. I expect to be banned (or issued a yellow card) for saying that. So I’ll say it again. Shroudology reeks.

Relax, Colin. We love you!

imageMetaphorically speaking, down under and on the other side of the world, where reality is seen in different terms. Stephen Jones tells us:

I haven’t read Porter’s blog since the 8th of May . . .

Sounding much like Colin, he quotes from Wikipedia:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

In other words, “agenda-driven control-freakery.”

After several pages, all written as comments in his blog, Stephen tells us:

. . . a new carbon dating would be unlikely to produce a first century date of the Shroud because of irremovable contamination and even if it did find the Shroud was first century, extreme Shroud sceptics would still not accept that the Shroud was authentic.

There already is ABUNDANT evidence that the Shroud is authentic, but Shroud sceptics don’t accept that. Why then would they accept the evidence of a new radiocarbon dating if it supported the Shroud being authentic?

imageIt does reek.

Now go look at Colin’s pictures. And read what he has to say. It merits your time and consideration.

Oh, I was going to move those papers. Now I can’t. 

Shroud Poster at Amazon, Only $9.99

Click Here to Order


No, I don’t get a commission.

Scorched by God? A Hymn for this Sunday.

imageA reader writes:

There are limits to what science can know and explain, not so with the mysterious ways of God. Scientists, at best, can only show how man can make something that looks like what God can make. You can shovel up a pile of dirt but not show how a mountain was made. You can scorch an image into a cloth but God can scorch His own bright designs onto linen without heat, radiation or powerful beams of light.

Bright designs? Wait! Wait! The hymnal on the shelf. No, no. Use Google. There it is, a hymn by William Cowper, circa 1779. We sing it sometimes on Sunday. The first line is famous: “God moves in a mysterious way.”  People who use it as an argument think they have won. People at whom it is directed know they have won.

The last two lines, I firmly believe: “God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.”

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

1. God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
2. Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
5. His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Evidence of the Resurrection?

imageYesterday, in the Evangelical Channel of Patheos, Jack Wellman asked, Is There Evidence Jesus Really Rose from the Dead? He discusses historical evidence, biblical evidence and . . .

The Shroud of Turin has been scientifically examined and the conclusion was that whoever it was had been badly scourged, and was crucified, but it appears there was some sort of crown of thorns, and that there was a stab wound in the side. A retired professor from Duke Medical Center, Dr. Alan Whanger, spent nearly his whole life studying medicine and since 1978 has spent years studying the Shroud of Turin.  Initially, he may have studied it to debunk the idea that it was genuine and might have hoped to provide evidence that it was a fake, however the more he studied it using scientific methods, the more he became convinced that it was real.1  Dr. Whanger states that this is the single, most studied object in human history.  Unlike paintings which are two-dimensional, the image of the Shroud is three-dimensional.  Several findings indicated that the Shroud’s images were from Israel and apparently in the spring of AD 30 due to the identification of 28 species, 20 of which grow specifically in Jerusalem and the other 8 within a 12 mile radius of Jerusalem, and with a common blooming time of March and April which would have been around the Passover, the time that Jesus was crucified.

In 2010, the History Channel investigated and used computer technology to add a third dimension and with generally accepted color schemes for the body: hair, eyebrows, and even the bloodied body and they concluded that the image on the Shroud was not painted, nor was it dyed, nor made by any human effort.3  Ray Downing was the computer artist who helped to create the image using powerful computer imaging and he says that this is about as close as you can get to it actually looking like the very person that was wrapped in the shroud. The Shroud was transformed by computer imaging and color scheme graphics or digital artists to produce a 3-D image from the 2-D image contained within the Shroud. The Shroud of Turin is only one of the many threads of methods which we can examine.

Another Gary Habermas, Shroud of Turin Video.

Dave Kinsella just this week uploaded this video of Gary Habermas presenting “a convincing argument detailing the arguments in favour of the Shroud’s authenticity,” as he puts it. “I was skeptical til I watched this,” he adds. The video runs 44 minutes. It looks good. I disagree with several points, like the discussion of the coin images over the eyes. 

It is a good talk. I’ve never seen it before and I don’t know when this was recorded.

How influential is Gary Habermas when it comes to the shroud?

I don’t  know. But if you search YouTube for “GARY HABERMAS SHROUD OF TURIN” you encounter 2320 videos. There are, of course, duplicates. But it is also evident, just by the numbers, that Dr. Habermas is an influential speaker out on the circuit and on the Internet. By comparison here are two other YouTube search counts:

  • BARRIE SCHWORTZ SHROUD OF TURIN: yields 4660 videos
  • RUSS BREAULT SHROUD OF TURIN: yields 750 videos

If I search Google directly for videos thus:

  • GARY HABERMAS SHROUD OF TURIN: I get 13,100 videos
  • RUSS BREAULT SHROUD OF TURIN: I get 5,160 videos

Something seems counter intuitive here. Well, anyway, Habermas is influential. (We really should count views but I have other things to do with my life). 

And who is Gary Habermas?

And here is something I posted ten months ago:

Continue reading “Another Gary Habermas, Shroud of Turin Video.”

Jack Markwardt’s Antioch Theory

clip_image001Jack. pictured here, will be presenting two papers at
the St. Louis Conference

1)  Modern Scholarship And The History Of The Turin Shroud

2) The Full-Length History Of The Turin Shroud

Daveb brought up the Antioch theory in response to Charles Freeman’s call for looking beyond the Edessa-Constantinople route. Daveb wrote:

I have previously mentioned Markwardt’s theory that the Shroud was taken to Antioch and kept there. It makes a lot of sense to me, more than taking it to Alexandria as Charles would seem to have it. We know that Peter was first bishop of Antioch, and there is good indicative evidence that he held the burial cloths. Markwardt [pictured here] suggests that the hiding of the Shroud in a wall in Antioch for safe-keeping when other relics were being pillaged or destroyed there, may be the true basis of the similar story from Edessa, Antioch, although often prone to earthquakes, and on the Orontes, could more likely have had a more conducive climate for the cloth’s survival in a wall than Edessa. He suggests that it was taken to Edessa only when Antioch was under threat from the Persian Chosroes. Arriving in Edessa, it was of course not stored in a wall but in the Hagia Sophia cathedral there.

I posted something on this topic back in April of 2012. I think it warrants another look. And the linked-to PDF is definitely worth reading. As posted then:

Jack Markwardt explains:

imageI originated and presented this hypothesis to an international conference convened at Ohio State University in 2008 for the simple reason that the early history of the Turin Shroud cannot be credibly linked to the ancient city of Edessa through a literal application of the Abgar legend. The preeminent historian of Edessa, J.B. Segal, after years of arduous study and investigation, concluded that the Abgar legend constitutes “one of the most successful pious frauds of antiquity”. It should not be surprising, therefore, that a number of highly-respected modern historians have summarily rejected this pious fraud as evidential of the Turin Shroud’s whereabouts during the first Christian millennium, particularly because real historical evidence provides not the slightest indication that pagan Edessa was even partially converted to Christianity prior to the late second-century reign of King Abgar the Great. The preeminent historian of Antioch, Glanville Downey, ascribed that development to a two-phase evangelization mission, one which initially resulted in the baptism of Abgar the Great and ultimately concluded with the consecration of Edessa’s first bishop, Palut, in 200 CE, by Serapion, the bishop of Antioch. Relatively recent attribution of an image of Christ to the city of Edessa during the first half-millennium of Christianity arises exclusively from a substantial permutation of the Abgar legend authored, in ca. 945, by a Byzantine Emperor who desired to bestow an apostolic provenance upon the Christ-icon which had recently been transferred to his capital from Edessa. In order to explain away, in one bold imperial stroke, the complete historical anonymity of this icon during the first five Christian centuries, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus sponsored the publication and circulation of a tale which featured not only the cloth’s first-century concealment within a niche located above an Edessa city gate, but also its miraculous rediscovery there by a fictional Edessan bishop, Eulalius, during the Persian siege of 544 CE. It has been suggested, in lieu of this incredible miracle-discovery tale, that the icon was actually found in the wake of the great flood of 525 CE which damaged Edessa’s city walls; however, it is rather significant that such a truly notable event merited no mention whatsoever in the Edessan Chronicle, a Syriac work composed in ca. 540-544 CE, which not only described the great flood but also detailed the most commonplace of Edessan ecclesiastical matters. In my opinion, modern scholarship will continue to reject the identification of the acheiropoietos image of Christ which was brought from Edessa to Constantinople in 944 CE with the Turin Shroud unless and until the provenance of that icon, and the circumstances surrounding its arrival in Edessa, can be reasonably established on the basis of non-legendary evidence.

I was there at Ohio in 2008 and remember the presentation, Ancient Edessa and the Shroud: History Concealed by the Discipline of the Secret. It was excellent. Read it.

Comment Promoted: Looking Beyond an Edessa-Constantinople Route

the key problem is survival

Charles Freeman writes in a comment:

As 99.9999 per cent or more of ancient textiles ( and these included all clothing) are lost, it is hard to say anything more than that the Shroud, if it is indeed first century, is a unique SURVIVAL. I am more interested in knowing about the looms ,ancient or medieval, that could have produced it and I am aware that this is a highly specialist area and I would defer to expert opinion.

Still there is much basic work to be done. Contrary to what Ian Wilson tells us ,the Shroud is not a particularly fine linen cloth. Examples of linen with 40 to 70 warp and weft threads per cm are known from Egypt, Palestine and Syria in this period, much greater quality than the Shroud. (See the good article on weaving in the ancient eastern Mediterranean in the Cambridge History of Western textiles ( p, 110 for the figures).

Again if one looks at examples such as the Ramesses Girdle, now in Liverpool, of c. 1200 BC, which, even with computer help, has proved almost impossible to reweave, the Shroud is not especially complicated.

So when one says that the Shroud is unique, it does not mean that one should say it is something special as a cloth so long as much finer and more complicated cloths from the ancient Mediterranean are known to exist.

For me, the key problem is survival. Although I believe that the Shroud is medieval, if a first century date does come up on a radiocarbon redating, I would assume that it was kept somewhere among the large and vibrant early Christian communities of Egypt where the damp would not have got at it. I am frustrated by the way so-called Shroud researchers are not prepared to look outside the Edessa/Constantinople route, when there are so many alternatives to it to explore. The Shroud would not have survived long cooped up in a brick wall in damp (even subject to flooding) Edessa!!

Of Things That Go Bump in the Night and Much, Much More

imageA reader writes:

Last summer you repeated an interesting discussion between Hugh Farey and Matthias. Given the ludicrous call for Hugh Farey’s dismissal as editor of the BSTS Newsletter it seems timely to re-repeat it.

I side with Matthias in this discussion but I clearly see why Hugh Farey is a perfect choice for the editorship.

(above link added by me)

The reader kindly sent along the text. Here it is.

Matthias asks:

You are not willing to consider a miraculous unexplainable cause?

Hugh Farey responds:

No, I’m not. However, the reason is not, perhaps, what you might think. When we describe something as unexplainable, we can mean one of two things. One is inexplicability due to a simple lack of evidence. I hear a noise in the night; in the morning I can’t discover any reason for it. There is no evidence. It is inexplicable. Here is the Pray manuscript. It has a diagonal line of crosses in a pattern made mostly of rectilinear ones. It may never be possible to account for this. It may be inexplicable. This kind of inexplicability is a source of frustration but it stimulates exploration, investigation, further study and consideration. I like it.

The other kind is intrinsic inexplicability. This event is wholly beyond any human understanding, even if you had stood there with cameras, microscopes and the full panoply of forensic apparatus. Luckily, it is impossible to prove that any event is of this kind, but if it ever were, how dull! What would there be to do? Marvel? But for how long? I would get fed up with it very quickly and go and find something else to play with. That’s why no Scientist, whether convinced of the authenticity of the Shroud or not, can entertain the idea that it is truly unexplainable.


I am not sure what your religious beliefs are – atheist, agnostic, Christian etc.
As a Christian, I believe in the resurrection. Not the physical resuscitation of Christ’s body, but a materialisation as a spiritual body as described by Paul.
In my view, science will never explain this, unless one favours some kind of naturalistic explanation (eg. hallucinations etc)

Although I search for an explanation of the Shroud image’s formation, I also acknowledge that if it was a product of Christ’s resurrection then our chances of explaining it in scientific terms is probably zilch.

Despite much brain power over the years, no single theory convincingly explains the image. Of course there might still be a valid scientific explanation! But I think the fact that there isn’t, despite all the analysis over the years, is suggestive of a reasonable likelihood of a miraculous creation.

My own view is that Christ’s body dematerialised, and the image is somehow a byproduct of that. He then rematerialised in a spiritual form that somehow had quasi physical characteristics eg. three dimensionality etc – that took his appearance beyond a “ghost” and that is the resurrection.

Hugh Farey:

Well, for what it’s worth, I’m a Catholic-born, card-carrying, practising Roman Catholic and Head of Science at a Catholic school whose school badge is the triple tiara and crossed keys of the pontificate. I couldn’t be any more institutionally Christian without becoming a monk! (I could no doubt be a much nicer person, but that’s another facet altogether).

However, one of the Catholic version of Christianity’s core beliefs in is the rationality of the Universe, and the conviction that Faith and Reason cannot conflict. This was first expressed explicitly by St Augustine of Hippo, reiterated by Thomas Aquinas confirmed most recently by John-Paul II and Benedict XV, and is the rationale behind the Pontifical Academy of Science. (Is there another religion in the world with a scientific institution so close to its heart?)

The nature of the resurrection may, perhaps, be inexplicable. To deny that anything happened at all, which is the usual atheist line, is absurd, but all attempts to pin down exactly what it was have proved fruitless, and theology has moved on. The science of the physical resurrection, in other words, has stopped. Inexplicable – leave it and move on.

That’s exactly why, as I explained above, I won’t be treating the shroud as inexplicable.

Several of the commenters on this blog (including yourself, it seems) would like to have it both ways, and try to intertwine the rational and the irrational, the scientific and the mystic. They would like Jesus to have exploded in a burst of radiation, or dematerialised in an instant vacuum, or even simply ceased decomposing, woke up and yawned; and they would like this to have happened ‘miraculously,’ but without disturbing the laws of physics. This may be permissible within the bounds of individual conscience, but it is not Catholic orthodoxy or teaching.

By now, I can feel some of you stuttering with rage and thinking that I have demoted the shroud to the relevance of one of Napoleon’s handkerchiefs. Nothing could be further than the truth. Although St Augustine said that Faith and Reason could never conflict, he famously said that Faith ‘precedes’ Reason. He didn’t altogether mean that if there was uncertainty about a question then Faith should be given the benefit of the doubt, but more that unless you believe something is worth the bother, there would be no point in trying to find out more about it in the first place.

The shroud will continue to be important even if it is no more miraculous than any of the great masters’ paintings and sculptures of the life of Christ. It can be an object of personal contemplation, a means of education, a focus of unity among those drawn to its image. It inspires awe, immanence and compassion. Whether it is eventually completely explained rationally, or abandoned as an object of scientific study altogether, it will continue to influence people in one way or another for as long as it lasts.


Well, I strongly disagree. If you are a practising Catholic who believes in the resurrection, which you admit may be an inexplicable phenomenon, then why is it a jump to consider that the shroud is a by product of the inexplicable resurrection, and an explanation of its image formation is also inexplicable because it was caused by an inexplicable event? It is not a logical inconsistency at all!

Hugh Farey:

“an inexplicable explanation”

Maybe my interpretation of ‘logical inconsistency’ is different from yours.

Be that as it may, it misses the point somewhat. If I were to accept that there is an inexplicable explanation to the physics of resurrection, how would I begin to investigate it? You go for ‘dematerialisation.’ Shall we follow John Jackson’s idea, that the shroud collapsed “into and through the underlying body structure?” Or Isobel Piczek – that the shroud is a quantum hologram derived from an event horizon? Or di Lazzaro – that the resurrection involved UV laser radiation? The first two are incapable of exploration, as the vocabulary used is scientifically meaningless, and although UV laser radiation certainly does exist, if we accept that it occurred miraculously, then there’s nothing more to explore anyway. Remember that my point is not that the shroud cannot be inexplicable, but that if it is, there is nothing for a scientist to do about it.


some things in life are inexplicable, and always will be in my view.
I’m happy to leave some mystery in life.

There is a degree of human arrogance in our belief that we can explain everything ,predict everything etc.

Despite the advances in science, we are still SO ignorant of so many things, and keep getting so many things wrong.

Look, if a convincing comprehensive scientific explanation came out tomorrow for the image, I’d be happy to change my view. It’s just I think that’s unlikely

Update on the Movie, The Shroud Conspiracy

imageI reported on this back in May of last year in The Shroud–The Movie. The update is that the release date for the movie, “The Shroud Conspiracy,” is now Springtime of 2015. The movie is based on the novel "The Image and The Rose"  by John C. Iannone (screenwriter: John C. Iannone, Producer: Nicole Abisinio – Gabriel Messenger Films – Florida).

The plot (some of it) according to the film company’s website:

Turin, Italy:   Under cover of darkness, two figures elude security and break into the Cathedral of  St. John the Baptist, home of the ancient burial cloth of Jesus. They shoot a Custodian and approach the reliquary containing the Shroud planting an incendiary device.  A few yards away In the adjacent Royal Palace, the Secretary General of the United Nations approaches the podium to address European dignitaries on the War in Albania.
Minutes later an intense explosion in the Cathedral lights up the night sky, destroying the reliquary housing the Holy Shroud. The blast blows out windows in the Royal Palace Dining Room, injuring the Secretary General. CIA Agent Rebecca Ross runs to his aid and takes charge of the scene. Across from the Cathedral, a mysterious man in dark robes lurks in the shadows watching. He bows his head and whispers, "It is done!"

Archaeologist James Aiello, working a thousand miles away, explores the West Gate of the ancient walls of Edessa, Turkey, seeking the one-time 500 year home of the Holy Shroud. Suddenly his trusted aide Abdul rushes to him breathless: "Mr. James! Come! A bomb in the Cathedral. The Shroud is gone! May Allah forgive!"

James feels a sickening emptiness. A world scholar on the Shroud, he worked with the scientific team demonstrating the linen to be authentic – a priceless historical  treasure to millions of people. He stands in disbelief…speechless. Suddenly, his cell phone rings. It is Brother Tom, a Monk and life-long friend in the Vatican Library in Rome. . . .

Stephen Jones Wants BSTS to Remove Hugh Farey as Editor of the Newsletter

that is, the British Society for the Turin Shroud

imageClearly angry, Stephen Jones responds to comments by Hugh Farey, who is pictured here as the editor of BSTS Newsletter.

1) First read what Hugh wrote in Around the Internet in the newsletter.

2) Then read Stephen Jones’ blog posting, My reply to the anti-authenticist editor of the British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, Hugh Farey 

Hugh’s comments are correct.  If you want to understand more about what Stephen is thinking, read all of his blog entries for April of this year although the above mentioned posting should be enough. If you want even more and want to see what I and others have been saying, read A String of “Jones” Postings in this blog.

As for the Vignon Markings discussion mentioned by Hugh. You might want to start with Were the radiocarbon dating laboratories duped by a computer hacker?: Revised #2 (Vignon markings) in Stephen’s blog. Then read the following postings in this blog:

Stephen wraps up with a call to have Hugh Farey removed:

In my opinion the British Society for the Turin Shroud should remove the anti-authenticist Hugh Farey from being Editor of its Newsletter, or else he will use it as a vehicle to promote his anti-authenticism, as he is doing in this attack on me. The BSTS has always been open to having non-Christians in its membership, and even its leadership, like the late Rodney Hoare, a BSTS past Chairman, who believed the Shroud was authentic but that it shows that Jesus was taken down alive from the cross. But the BSTS has in the past rejected anti-authenticists like David Sox from having a leadership role. It is a contradiction, which I predict will prove fatal if it continues, having an ANTI-authenticist Editor of the British Society FOR the Turin Shroud!

Stephen unfortunately sees the world in pro-authenticity and anti-authenticity terms; you are a good guy or a bad guy. you wear a white hat or a black hat. Whatever happened to being pro-truth whatever it may turn out to be?  If the BSTS should be so foolish as to listen to Stephen it would have no credibility at all.

From where does Stephen’s pro-authenticity thinking stem? Try this out from January 2 of this year:

So I for one do not believe that the Risen Lord Jesus, who sits at the Father’s right hand and controls everything (Mt 26:64; Mk 14:62; Lk 22:69; Acts 2:33, 5:31;7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 10:12; 12:2; 1Pet 3:22) would allow such a convincing fake as the Shroud would then be, to exist. . . . I look forward to what the Lord has in store for us Shroud pro-authenticists in 2014?

Bookmark This YouTube Page NOW

imagethis is a big deal enhancement


Russ Breault writes:

clip_image001I have completed phase one of a complete overhaul of Shroud University.  The videos hosted there could only be downloaded.  They have now all been moved over to YouTube and can now be easily streamed.  There are close to 100 presentations from the 1991 St Louis conference, 1993 Rome conference and the 2008 Ohio State University conference. I will eventually link them all back to Shroud U but right now they can only be seen here:  https://www.youtube.com/user/RussBreault2 I hope some of your participants find some real jewels here.

Indeed. There are some real jewels here.

The Latest BSTS Newsletter is Out

imageFrom a special update to shroud.com, we learn that the newest issue of the BSTS Newsletter (No. 79 – June 2014)  is available. Here is the Table of Contents:

Good reading.

New DVD: Barrie Schwortz: 35 Years of Shroud Science

. . .  A Personal Perspective

imageFrom a special update to shroud.com, we learn of a new shroud related DVD. Barrie Schwortz writes in the site’s Online Store:

For years, people have asked me if there were DVDs available of any of my public presentations. Although my lectures have been videotaped many times, the results were never really professional quality and certainly did not have the production values necessary to make mass production and distribution of a DVD worthwhile. That is, until now. In July 2013 I was invited to speak at the Pikes Peak Prophecy Conference in Colorado Springs, sponsored by the Prophecy in the News (PITN) organization. They employed a professional video production company to record all of the main presentations and produced a beautiful set of DVDs of the entire event, which they graciously presented to each of the speakers. They also kindly granted us permission to distribute our individual DVDs via our own websites and lectures, so our sincerest thanks to PITN. Because of their generosity, STERA, Inc. can now make them available here on our Website Store.

In addition to my complete 92 minute presentation, the DVD also includes the Shroud of Turin Q&A I hosted with John and Rebecca Jackson and Russ Breault and a Board Room Interview with Derek Gilbert. Packaged in a slim case, the DVDs are priced at US$25.00 each, which includes USPS Priority Mail shipping & handling in the continental United States. Overseas orders please add US$10.00 for a total of US$35.00 each. Please allow up to 4 weeks for delivery. [NOTE: Quantity pricing is available. Contact STERA, Inc. for details].

You may safely order this item directly from this website using your credit/debit card via our "Secure Order Form." If you are unable to access the "Secure Order Form" or do not wish to send your credit/debit card information over the Internet, see the "Alternate Order Form" for detailed instructions on telephoning or mailing your credit/debit card order.

Back cover:


You would think someone at LiveScience would know better by now

pareidolia again and again and again

imageIn a LiveScience article Man in the Comet: Why We See Faces Everywhere we read:

Though the face on the comet, with its shadowy profile, looks almost sinister, it is far from unique: Humans are wired to see faces everywhere.

In fact, the phenomenon is so common that it even has a name: Pareidolia, which in Greek means, in essence, "faulty image."

"Your brain is constantly trying to make the most out of just the tiniest thing," said David Huber, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who has studied the phenomenon. "You’re sort of in overdrive on imagining from limited information that there is a face."

Faces, faces everywhere

From the Shroud of Turin, thought to carry the imprint of the crucified Jesus’ face and body, to faces in the clouds and the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich, people have always seen faces in everyday objects. Even the faintest hint of eyes, nose and a mouth in roughly the right places will often trigger the brain’s facial recognition system, Huber said.

[ . . . ]

Brain processing

When people see faces in images, a brain area called the fusiform face region lights up in brain scans, said Kang Lee, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Toronto, in Canada, who has worked with Huber on several studies of how people process faces.

This brain region is likely a key junction point where low-level visual information is processed to say "Aha! It’s a face," Huber said.

The distance between facial features seems to play a key role in the brain’s ability to spot and uniquely identify different faces.

As I pointed out back in December of 2012, LiveScience carried this bit of insanity then and that posting was called LiveScience Goofs Again:

A prime example of pareidolia and its connection to religious images is the Shroud of Turin, a cloth bearing the image of a man — which some believe to be Jesus — who appears to have suffered trauma consistent with crucifixion. The negative image was first observed in 1898, on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral.

Are there no editors at this magazine? In the three short paragraphs just above the paragraph I just quoted, Zimmermann very correctly and very clearly defined pareidolia as follows:

imageThe psychological phenomenon that causes some people to see or hear a vague or random image or sound as something significant is known as pareidolia (par-i-DOH-lee-a).

The word is derived from the Greek words para, meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of, and the noun eidōlon, meaning image, form or shape. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, which is a more generalized term for seeing patterns in random data.

Some common examples are seeing a likeness of Jesus in the clouds or an image of a man on the surface of the moon.

The picture of a man on the Shroud of Turin is not at all mere random data. It is unmistakably a picture of a man. It might be a yet unexplained work of art. It might even be a photograph by Leonardo da Vinci.  (Humor me, I’m just trying to make a point). It might be the product of some natural phenomenon. Or it might be a miraculous acheiropoieton, an image not created by human hands. But it is not a pattern of random data that just so happens to look like a man. That would be so extraordinary and so statistically implausible as to be truly miraculous. It is not a pareidolia.

Whatever anyone may think about the shroud’s authenticity, there is one thing everyone should agree about: the image of a man with a well-featured face on the shroud is not a pareidolia.  Here is a handy search of this blog on the subject.

Final Program for Bari Conference

imageThe Program for Workshop on Advance in the Turin Shroud Investigation is now online. Note that regular papers are limited to 20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussion. This seems a stark contrast to the way the St. Louis conference will be doing things: not allowing questions at the time of presentations but having a Q&A online facility that will be open to the public.

Looks like a good conference.

The Top Ten Relics of Christ?

A new video, just published on August 8, 2014, seems to be a reading from a July posting, 10 Controversial Relics Associated With Jesus Christ, on the TopTenz blog. They are, according to the video: 1) The Holy Nails, 2) The Crown of Thorns, 3) The Shroud of Turin, 4) The Sudarium of Oviedo, 5) The Veil of Veronica, 6) The Blood of Christ, 7) The Holy Lance, 8) The Holy Prepuce, 9) The Image of Edessa, 10) The Holy Grail

Of course, I think number 3 and 9 are the same thing. And some even think number 10 is the same thing as well. This is not a carefully researched presentation.

Here is the transcript part for the shroud that begins at the 1:47 mark:

The Shroud of Turin is perhaps the most studied, popular and controversial relic in Christian history. Officially, the Catholic Church does not have a position as to whether the shroud is authentic or not. However, the Church does acknowledge its importance to the Catholic world. In fact, the Vatican has made arrangements for the public to view the relic. It was during the 14th century that the first documentation regarding the shroud appeared. Historical accounts show that it was passed down from one person to another until it was finally placed in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, in 1578. In 1988 the shroud underwent radiocarbon testing to determine its date of origin. To the dismay of many believers, the results showed that the shroud might have been made between 1260 and 1390. Three independent laboratories conducted the radiocarbon testing, and all of them arrived at the same conclusion, thus proving that the shroud is fake (although some experts argue that their results are inaccurate). Regardless, believers worldwide still venerate the iconic relic.

Hat tip to Joe Marino for spotting this.

Checking in on Stephen Jones’ Blog

imageInterspersed with his seemingly ever-evolving conspiracy theory (eight parts so far and counting) that the radiocarbon laboratories had been hacked by agents of the KGB – or something like that – it seems, too, to be an inside job, at least in Arizona – Stephen Jones is writing a Shroud of Turin encyclopedia in his blog.

Unwilling, it seems, to broach any controversy or dispute whatsoever he tells us that the image contains x-rays of bones and teeth, flower and plant images, images of coins over the eyes and many, many other things. These are observations that many people dispute, including me.

He tells us, also, that the d’Arcis’ memorandum, the 1988 radiocarbon dating and claims that the image contains artistic errors have been discredited. I’m less skeptical, here, but there are still a lot of unresolved issues:

Treating all this as undisputed facts allows him to write in the first and so far only article in his new encyclopedia:

Conclusion Since there is overwhelming evidence that the Shroud is authentic, and no remaining evidence that it is not, then the Shroud of Turin is the very burial sheet of Jesus Christ!

What more is there to discuss?