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Scientist Barrie Schwortz

imageI was about to post something about Ann Schneible’s CNA Daily News article, How one skeptical scientist came to believe the Shroud of Turin (appearing also on the EWTN site, the Catholic Channel of Patheos and now at least 17 other blogs).

Bad headline, I thought.  Barrie Schwortz knows a lot about science, particularly about matters that pertain to the shroud. He explains it well. He gets it. He respects it. He works well with many scientists. But he is not a scientist.  Colin Berry will react strongly to calling Barrie a scientist. 

It’s not just the headline, however. It is clear that Schneible thinks Barrie is a scientist:

When it comes to testifying to this meeting point between faith and science, Schwortz is in a unique position: he has never converted to Christianity, but remains a practicing Jew. And this, he says, makes his witness as a scientist all the more credible.

I’m confident Barrie didn’t refer to himself as a scientist or imply that he was. I am sure also that Schneible did not, at a minimum, review the biographical sketch elements of her article with Barrie. She should have. 

It is otherwise a good article.  I disagree with my friend Barrie on some matters. In the following, that which appears in quotes is presumably a direct quotation:

This means “there’s a correlation between image density – lights and darks on the image – and cloth to body distance.”

“The only way that can happen is by some interaction between cloth and body,” he said. “It can’t be projected. It’s not a photograph – photographs don’t have that kind of information, artworks don’t.”

I don’t share that opinion. I don’t agree that the 3D data (image density) necessarily indicates cloth to body distance.  It may. Nevertheless, it has not been proven. It is bad science to speak about cloth to body distance as though that was the only possibility. While I believe, for many reasons, that the shroud is really Christ’s burial cloth, I cannot go so far as to say that you can rule out art in some form as the basis for the 3D data (see Should we be rethinking the VP8 and 3D images?).  Moreover, it is absolutely wrong to say that photographs cannot have that property (See Good 3D from a conventional photograph).  Nor, do I think you can rule out some scientific or extra-scientific explanation that does not depend on cloth to body distance. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Some “real” scientists think the 3D data represents cloth to body distance and how should I know since I’m not a scientist but then again some “real” scientists think ….

Here is part of what Colin has to say:

There’s just one tiny fly in the ointment. Barrie M.Schworts is  and never has been a scientist. He was not recruited to STURP as a scientist, meaning there should not have been that reference to “fellow scientists”. He was recruited as a Documenting Photographer. Quite what’s in his portfolio of photographs is anyone’s guess, given the copyright restrictions that Schwortz has placed on his work, even that of fellow Documenting Photographer Mark Evans (thanks to Thibault Heimburger for getting some of those crucial Evans pix released, being the basis for most if not all the claims for the Shroud’s allegedly unusual microscopic characteristics).  Were it not for the photoarchive that appeared on Mario Latendresse’s Shroud Scope, based on the Durante 2002 photos, this blogger would have a mere tens or scores of postings only, not the hundreds he has accumulated over 3.5 years.

One wonders what a real scientist by the name of Barrie M.Schwortz in a parallel universe would have to say about the bowdlerized reference to the image’s 3D properties, making them out to be something near-miraculous, despite easily demonstrated with 2D imprints, even cartoons with no 3D properties. The latter are due to the way the differences in light v dark  on the xy plane are converted to imaginary height on a new vertical z axis….

But Colin, I must disagree with you on that cartoon you cite (see Colin Berry is up with an interesting posting about 3D enhancement).

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