I’ll let commenting continue for a few days and then shut down comments for good by years’ end. I’ll keep the blog up for future research and reading.
Thank you, everyone!
If you want to take over in some way, write to me and we’ll try to figure out something.
I started this experiment seven years ago with the hope of beginning an ongoing conversation about any and all topics related to the shroud. The slow pace of papers and the length of time between conferences, very much the time-tested way, was too slow for my temperament. There was the Shroud Science Group conducting discussions in private by email. I enjoyed that. But its membership was restricted. It reminded me of the proverbial boyhood tree house with the sign that read, “No Girls Allowed.”
Maybe that’s unfair: You had to be nominated. You had to be invited. No one was ever turned away although a couple of people were eventually kicked out of the group for email misbehaving. If there had been a sign and someplace to hang it, it would have read, “No Skeptics Allowed.” At least, it felt that way.
Skepticism is the healthiest of attitudes with all things having to do with religion. I believed that. For instance, a Christian should never fear new discoveries in science and history. There can be no better test of the strength and truth of one’s faith than to face the questions posed by new views of reality.
We needed to be tempted, not by going into the desert but into the jostling crowd. It took a long time. Thank, God, for Colin Berry and all the others.
At first I didn’t do blogging correctly and this blog didn’t catch on. Eventually, I learned to say less and encouraged others to become the center of the discussion, something I’m not good at. In doing so I created an opportunity to learn a lot from skeptics and non-skeptics alike. I hope this has been true for others because this blog was never intended for my benefit alone.
This blog has exceeded all my expectations. Lately, I have been posting almost every day, sometimes two or three times a day. Comments pour in. They are good comments, not those meaningless short comments you see in so many blogs. There has been a lot of constructive discussion.
In looking back over seven years, I realize that my overall views on the shroud have not changed significantly. You’ll note that in the right hand column of every page, I say, “The Shroud of Turin may be the real burial cloth of Jesus.” I used to say it probably is instead of may be. I still gut-think it is probably authentic but in all honesty I can’t defend the word probably with real-world science and objective history.
Belief is a less cautious word than knowing. I can say with more honesty that from all the evidence discussed here, with everyone’s input considered, I believe the shroud is indeed authentic. But I can’t say I know it.
As I leave blogging about the shroud, I want to leave a few thoughts behind. This is today’s list. I may awake to a new list tomorrow but I won’t go back and change it. I’m really out of here.
On Overwhelming Evidence: From time to time, people have tried to convince me that the evidence in favor of authenticity is overwhelming. Similarly, others have tried to convince me that the evidence against authenticity – particularly the carbon dating – is overwhelming. No, it is not. It is underwhelming. That is why this blog has over 4000 postings with a total of more than 46,000 comments. That is why this blog has accumulated 3.3 million page views. That is why 790 people subscribe to receive email copies of every posting.
Redo the Carbon Dating: Of course.
On Seeing Things on the Shroud: I don’t think there are any images of ancient coins, plants, teeth or written messages in Greek, Latin or Hebrew; all these are wishful misperceptions or pareidolia. See: I Don’t See Flowers and Coins and Teeth on the Shroud of Turin
On 3D Encoding: I think the ability to plot a 3D representation of the body from the image of a man on the shroud with tools like the VP8 Image Analyzer or ImageJ is a valid image characteristic. However, I don’t think that the data – essentially greyscale values of the image – necessarily represents cloth to body distance. To think so requires the assumption that the shroud covered the body. It probably did if the cloth is authentic, but we are not there yet. Nonetheless, I’ve listened to others preposterously trying to prove the authenticity of the cloth from the facts and measurements derived from this assumption.
Moreover, it is often said that it is impossible to plot 3D information from paintings and ordinary photographs. Bill Meacham wrote:
Unlike ordinary photographs or paintings, the Shroud image converted into an undistorted three-dimensional figure, a phenomenon which suggested that the image-forming process acted uniformly through space over the body, front and back, and did not depend on contact of cloth with body at every point.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold up. See: It is really, really time to rethink what we think about 3D
Exaggerations: NASA did not analyze the shroud. Ray Rogers was not a general In the Air Force, America’s greatest scientists did not study the shroud, and so-and-so was not a Nobel prize-winning physicist. Drop the exaggerations. They only weaken the truth.
Dematerialization: The suggestion that the image was formed by a cloth falling through a dematerializing body is unfortunate. Permit me to quote Hugh Farey here:
… The trouble with the fall-through hypothesis is that, being imaginary, its parameters can be adjusted so that it fits whatever observations we want. If a critic were to say that the instantaneous disappearance of 70kg of mass would create a sudden large vacuum which would suck the shroud into a screwed up ball in the middle, then we simply have to invent a physics in which that doesn’t happen. If he says that the energy emitted by such a disappearance would exceed that produced by several megatons of nuclear bomb, vaporising the Shroud and most of Jerusalem with it, we simply invent a physics in which that doesn’t happen either. All we need is for a “body wrapped in the Shroud to become volumetrically radiant […] and simultaneously mechanically transparent, thus offering time-decreasing resistance to the cloth as it collapsed through the body space.” Simples. Made-up physics can explain anything.
Sindonology: To quote Colin Berry, because in this I think he is right:
. . . There is no such thing as an expert in the field of sindonology (or shroudology as I prefer to call it. We are all beginners. Some begin better than others. The TS is a test of our ability to separate the wishful thinking that comes with appealing imagery from that of cold hard reality. Sadly there is no part of the human mind that is devoted to detecting CHR. The human mind is programmed to respond on a more immediate like/dislike response to what it sees. It’s part and parcel of the human condition to instantly add layers of fancy to what cunningly or otherwise seduces, or attempts to seduce the eye.
Some of my other favorite postings:
A final note:
When I first started this blog someone told me. “The Shroud of Turin is a Catholic relic. As an Episcopalian you have no right to comment on it.”
I wrote a reply and never posted it. This is my last chance:
It’s true; I’m an Episcopalian. Episcopalians are part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Maybe I should explain what sort of Episcopalian I am. I’m High Church – all smells and bells, some say. Every Sunday it’s Solemn High Mass with a priest, deacon and sub-deacon, plenty of incense, holy water, chimes, chanting and recitation of The Angeles (“Hail Mary, full of grace…”). To some, should they visit a service, it might seem a lot like the Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass of old. There are differences, however. There is little or no Latin. Look closely and you will see wedding rings on most of our priests and bishops. That is because most of them are married. Many of our priests and even a few bishops are women; so girls are allowed. Generally speaking, we Episcopalians think most Christian denominations or traditions are part of one universal church, one body of Christ. One expression of this is our practice of open communion. We welcome all baptized Christians to participate in the Eucharist. (Personally, I would do away with the requirement of baptism. I would welcome anyone to the “Lord’s Table” regardless of belief or anything else – let God sort these things out, not men and women).
Okay, so I’m an Episcopalian. So what? Would it be any different if I was Methodist or Presbyterian or Greek Orthodox? You say it is a Catholic relic. Is it? Why is that? If the history of the shroud is right, was it not a possession of the Church in Constantinople before 1204? Early on, perhaps it was a relic of the Nestorians or the Syriac Church or even the Church in India. We don’t know is the point. Today, to my way of thinking it is an item (an icon or a relic) for all Christians. The Pope is its current legal custodian and the leader of perhaps its most interested Christian tradition. Beyond that, let God sort it out, not men and women.
Thank you, everyone!