The star with a strange light curve, the aliens, the Shroud
of Turin and Resurrection theories about it’s image
Some reflections about natural and extraordinary (miraculous) explanations about
the Shroud’s image formation, with comparison to extraordinary claims regarding other sciences (here: astronomy).
For some time there is a great hype in the media (see for example Ian O’Neill: Has Kepler Discovered an Alien Megastructure? on Discovery.com or Sarah Kaplan: The strange star that has serious scientists talking about an alien megastructure, Washington Post, October 15) about the star designated as KIC 8462852. The star has been observed by Kepler space telescope, designed to detect extrasolar planets via transit method. Data gathered suggest that this star has a very atypical light curve, which characterize by irregularly shaped, aperiodic dips in flux down to below the 20% level. This is a quote from the paper (submitted, but not yet accepted, to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, one of the most respected peer-reviewed astronomical journals in the world -the preprint is available in arXiv repository) Planet Hunters X. KIC 8462852 – Where’s the Flux? by T. S. Boyajian et al. which describes the strange behavior of that star. The authors in section 4 give a list of several possible explanations for that phenomena:
• Instrumental effects or data reduction artifacts?
• Intrinsic variability?
• Occultation by circumstellar dust clumps
• Aftermath of catastrophic collisions in asteroid belt
• Aftermath of giant impact in planetary system
• Dust-enshrouded planetesimals
• A comet family? (this is considered the most likely scenario)
So why the media hype? Because, according to some speculations, the observed light curve is also consistent wit a sci-fi kind scenario, namely the alien-built megastructure Dyson swarm orbiting around the swarm. This is also a kind of “explanation”, which can be tested, but -not surprisingly -the term “aliens” does not even appear in Boyajian et al. paper. Natural hypotheses are preferred first, which is -quite natural, actually. Scientists are rather expected to examine ordinary explanations (instrumental or natural phenomena) for unexpected observations, before going to extraordinary (extraterrestail life and advanced intelligent civilizations) – because as catch phrase says “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Or should we go straightforward to the aliens, and claim that we “discovered” 1 them, citing as proof the atypical light curve of some star, which can be fitted to alien megastructure scenario (and disregard other explanations)?
What all of this has with regards to the Shroud? Simply in sindonology there is a notable camp that claims the image on the Shroud can only be explained via some effect directly associated with Resurrection (John Jackson’s “Fall-Through” hypothesis, Mark Antonacci “Historically Consistent Method”, various other scenarios involving radiation, neutron burst and so on). These claims have been raised again recently -just see shroudstory.com entries from the few last days: Proof of the Resurrection?, October 31, Bob Rucker: A Burst of Radiation Did Three Things, October 30. Plus recent editions of Colorado’s Center Critical Summary 3.0, and Mark Antonacci’s new book.
And I just ask: should we go straightforward to the aliens?
Don’t understand me wrong, I do not deny that those scenarios may be correct. I don’t deny that there indeed may be Dyson swarm around the star KIC 8462852 either. Simply: should we go first to extraordinary “Resurrection effect” explanations, or carefully examine all naturalistic theories first? Primacy of naturalistic explanations does not exclude the Resurrection event. Paul Vignon, for example, was a devout Catholic, but tried to explain the origin of the Shroud image in purely natural terms. He did not succeed, indeed, but this not lead him to accept so easily supernatural explanation, ignoring all more or less plausible natural scenarios. Had astronomers abandoned their attempts to explain atypical light curve of KIC 8462852 via purely natural means, instead jumped right to the aliens theory, everyone would consider them crazy eggheads. But in sindonology, going right on to the supernatural, without carefully considering everything else first, seems quite common, to my dismay.
But of course, the analogy is not fully corresponding. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, yes. But the Shroud is extraordinary on its own. It isn’t just some star, even with the most peculiar light curve. It isn’t just some cloth. It’s a cloth with a image of Man corresponding to what was described in the Gospels -which proclaimed Jesus (suffering the same way as the Man of the Shroud) the Savior and God Incarnate.
So maybe in case of the Shroud a different approach is justified?