Ignorance with Wings

Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed,
it is ignorance with wings.

— Sam Harris, The End of Faith (2004)

imageIn checking around the Atheist slice of the blogosphere, just to see what is being said about the shroud, I came across a recent posting, The Turin Shroud… And Other Medieval Relics in Secular Scarlet, a blog with a masthead splash that proclaims that “Theology Is Ignorance With Wings.” It begins:

The Turin Shroud hits the headlines once again as the Pope has made a visit to see the most famous of alleged relics of Jesus. He spent some time with it in fact and before leaving touched the glass case it is enclosed in.

In a carefully worded announcement . . .

Nothing new, really. The author reminds us that Pope Clement VII said that it was not the true Shroud and that John Calvin said there were many shrouds leading one who wonder if the blog author wondered which one was the it that Clement was talking about.

In a section boldly titled WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE SHROUD the author bullets out:

  • Carbon dating confirms the cloth was created between 1290-1390 AD
  • The tools, inspiration and knowledge to create this were available as early as the 12th Century
  • The style and complexity of the shroud weave itself would confirm a 14th Century cloth
  • The earliest shrouds we have found in Israel date to no earlier than 2nd Century AD

The author reminds us that there was a medieval relic trade and that bones once claimed to belong to Joan of Arc did not belong to her. So what. And the author of the blog wants us to know that these are the …


  1. Shroud of Turin
  2. Blood of San Gennaro
  3. Muhammads Beard
  4. Mary’s Holy Belt
  5. John the Baptists Head
  6. Buddha’s Tooth
  7. Tunic of the Blessed Virgin
  8. The Grapevine Cloth
  9. Footprint of the Prophet Muhammad
  10. The Chains of St Peter

Which list is this from?  There is probably a list of TOP TEN LISTS OF LISTS OF TOP TEN RELIGIOUS RELICS. If there isn’t, there should be.

And to wrap it up he or she tells us

In April of 2014, a University in Italy stated that an earthquake in 33AD may be responsible for the mysterious Turin Shroud image. That a supposed  flood of neutrons could have imprinted the image onto the linen. Taking a stab in the dark, I guess they don’t agree with the carbon dating; I would love to find the miracle that causes a cloth made in the 14th Century to arrive in the 1st Century AD for imprinting.

Fans of Back to the Future will maybe ask Michael J Fox; Whovians,  Peter Capaldi.

I will of course keep you updated on the Earthquake theory.

A university stated that? A university? Not a person but a whole university? Really? And if this blogger is going to keep us updated you might have thought that he would have told us that nobody takes this seriously. There is a lot of updating already. For starters there is:

    I have always wanted to see good solid skeptical thinking about the shroud. Real thinking.  Real criticism. This needs work, still. Too bad. There isn’t even one outbound link in support of anything claimed, even though much of it is correct.
    I caught the thing about ignorance on wings.  Is this you, Sam? “you magnificent bastard I read your BOOK!” – Patton (in an indirect utterance to Rommel) in the movie Patton.

21 thoughts on “Ignorance with Wings”

  1. As a believer I think that the topic of the Shroud is serious as it is the Lords gift to us, A few parts of the article actually made me chuckle. In my poor worded opinion, haters of Jesus are a weird group of people, there is a day coming that they will learn their of their error. As a kid, I had an NDE when I almost drowned and as an adult I have researched them, read many experiences of others. All of us will have that true experience in our time. There are many people who doubt NDEs. Look up NDE research in any search engine. There are even NDEs reported by people of most of the religions documented.

    1. Thanks for the link, Louis, obviously among the greatest of thinkers. A phrase from Pope Benedict’s tribute struck me – “… the harmony of faith and reason … “

  2. “I have always wanted to see good solid skeptical thinking about the shroud.” (Dan).

    There is not a wide sceptical bibliography about the shroud, but there is some “solid sceptical thinking”. Joe Nickell’s book is a little “vintage” but I think it is “solid”. And the Italian “sceptics” as Andrea Nicolotti, Gian Marco Rinaldi, Antonio Lombatti and others are very “solid thinkers”.
    In Spanish there are some “solid sceptic” blogs. Jose Luis Calvo’s “Escrito desde el páramo” especially.
    The problem is what is “solid” for you. In many cases “solid” means “this is what I think”. But you, the shroudies, scarcely never go to a sceptical forum to test the “solidness” of your thinking. You live in a closed loop. So your thinking seems very solid… within the circle.

  3. David Mo – I’m always keen to hear skeptical opinions. I’m yet to hear any convincing skeptical theories, however. Colin B has done some interesting experiments but has not (at least yet) come up with a bulletproof theory.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last couple of years of alternate theories. About 2-3 years ago I thought of a genius alchemist working with substances and bas relief / statue. I also thought of the Shroud also being linked somehow to a flagellant in the mid 1300s eg. maybe the shroud was used to temporarily cover a dead flagellant. But that still raises the question of how the image may have been formed, if it did cover a dead body (whether medieval or from the time of Christ). I’m far from convinced as to the Maillard theory.

    There’s plenty I don’t know and am happy to admit it. But I am very confident the image was created by an imprint. I don’t subscribe at all to any notion that the image was painted, such as advanced by Charles Freeman.Because the qualities of the image are certainly related to body / cloth distance.

    I don’t cling religiously to faith in The Shroud – it helps support my faith, but I’m very confident my faith would not fall apart if the Shroud was convincingly shown to be a medieval creation.

    As it stands, I think at present the collective evidence across disciplines -notwithstanding the carbon dating – points to a date significantly earlier than the 1300s.

    I could still be convinced by a medieval imprint theory, but I’m waiting…
    In the meantime – and yes it’s unscientific – I believe the image was created by the miracle of the resurrection (and this explains the late carbon dating date). I don’t advance any radioactive theories etc. The resurrection being a miracle defies scientific understanding, so logically if the Shroud image was created by the resurrection then the image making process defies human explanation.

    Out of interest, what is your theory for the Shroud’s creation?

    1. Hi Thomas,
      To start with, there is no way that this image was formed from contact with a dead body. We don’t know for sure how the image was formed and many hypotheses have been formulated to explain it , but the same thing applies to several objects from the past, like the Egyptians pyramids. Can we say that we know exactly how the pyramids were built ? No. Should we therefore say that they were built by divine intervention …?

      1. How can you conclude so ? What is your rationale for arguing that it could not have been formed from contact with a dead body?
        The comparison with pyramids is disingenious

        1. My rationale is rationality . There is no way that contact with a dead body would have left this kind of image. That’s impossible. I stand by my pyramids analogy.

        2. Why impossible? Says who? And why?
          Having said that I kind of agree. It is impossible. Thats why it is the product of an ‘impossible’ miracle. In my opinion, at least.

          Your world view may not permit the possibility of miracles. My world view does not contemplate the infallibility of man. In fact my world view sees man as having a very humble understanding of the universe. Man’s rationality is severely limited.

          We are far less clever than what we often assume.

    2. PHPL: Your likening the enigma of the Shroud image to the mystery of the building of the pyramids is a non-starter. We know a great deal about how the pyramids were likely made. At present everything about the forming of the Shroud image is sheer speculation.

      Very likely the pyramids were built with the assistance of earth ramps, and you might be aware that Egypt has no shortage of sand, a particularly tractable material. We know a great deal about Egyptian mathematics, particularly from the Rhind papyrus, 17th century BC copy of a text 2 centuries older still, and also from the Golenishchev Papyrus (in the Moscow Museum of Fine Arts), dating from the 19th century BC.

      The blocks would be easily sledded up the ramps on timber rails using milk and fat for lubrication. That such ramps were built is evident from a satirical problem set out in the Rhind papyrus. a satirical letter in which one scribe, Hori, taunts his rival, Amen-em-opet, for his incompetence as an adviser and manager. “You are the clever scribe at the head of the troops,” Hori chides at one point; “a ramp is to be built, 730 cubits long, 55 cubits wide, with 120 compartments–it is 60 cubits high, 30 cubits in the middle . . . and the generals and the scribes turn to you and say, ‘You are a clever scribe, your name is famous. Is there anything you don’t know? Answer us, how many bricks are needed?’ Let each compartment be 30 cubits by 7 cubits.” There are three other problems like it in the same letter. Further information is needed, but the point of the humour is clear enough as Hori sets these difficult but typical tasks.

      The Egyptians did not seem to know Pythagorean triples (the Babylonians did), but were able to set out exact right angles, and it is evident that they originated surveying with resetting of land boundaries following the annual NIlitic floods. They had an adequate numbering system, were familiar with binary fractions, and were capable of calculating areas and volumes, even of pyramids.

      You will have to find another enigma to make an adequate point on divine intervention, but don’t bother with citing Stonehenge!

  4. Re ignorance with wings, methinks it’s well shared between both archmiraculist shroudies’ and archfraudulist anti-shroudies’ opinion about the TS. I would have liked so much archmiraculists could have talked with Augustine of Hippo about the empty tomb scene. I would have liked so much archfraulists account for most intriguing image/imprint characteristics.

  5. I barely got through the four bullets and realized the author has absolutely no clue of what they speak! …Just more of the nonsense spewed by skeptics. Its’ no different then most of the nonsense you’d find which emanates on the Internet.


  6. These are all false statements:

    Carbon dating confirms the cloth was created between 1290-1390 AD
    The tools, inspiration and knowledge to create this were available as early as the 12th Century
    The style and complexity of the shroud weave itself would confirm a 14th Century cloth
    The earliest shrouds we have found in Israel date to no earlier than 2nd Century AD

    1. ????? false statements….again not sure if the shroud is real or not…but several of your points show you have not researched very well…..I’m kinda a lurker on this site….and try to keep my uninformed views to a minimum…you do understands that the carbon dating was perhaps on a rewoven area….what tools available?…please explain how these tools or technique were able to explain the entire shroud….etc..etc…we’ve heard it all before…now prove it….

    2. Rick, I take it that Don Andy has listed the four Atheist assertions from the head of this posting and is saying that they are all “false statements”. I do not read that they are his own assertions!

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