Paolo Di Lazzaro of the Shroud Science Group asked Joe Marino to pass along some comments to me. A couple of parts of his long comment warrant extra attention. Hence, I’m posting.
The sentence “The image is so thin it can be scraped off with a razor blade” is unscientific, not quantitative, and in my opinion can be easily dismissed as nonsense.
It is one of the many pieces of nonsense that we can read in blogs, newspapers, magazines and books about the Shroud, without the respective authors ever having studied a single scientific article authored by STuRP scientists.
The questions I ask myself and ask you is the following: why does a Shroud scholar question whether an obvious nonsense written in a magazine/blog/newspaper is really nonsense?
Because an unsuspecting public devours this stuff from well-intentioned but often overly zealous, evangelizers hoping to convert people to their poorly understood notions about the Shroud. The crazy razor blade comment should be challenged and hopefully curtailed.
To be sure that it is nonsense one would just have to read and refer to scientific articles written by scientists who have studied the Shroud in person, in depth.
Of course, but . . .
And Paolo wrote:
Incidentally, all STuRP articles are freely available on Barrie’s wonderful site, and the majority of articles subsequently published in serious peer-reviewed scientific journals are freely available at several sites, e.g., Academia.edu and Researchgate.net
I know one possible answer to my question: those without a scientific background cannot understand a specialized scientific text, let alone check whether a statement makes sense or not.
As a result, scholars without a scientific background refer to texts without any check or verification of veracity. At best, these are texts that report what the author has understood about a true scientific paper (sometimes they do not quite understand), but more often they are copy/paste of other texts with personal additions, sort of an initial core of inaccuracies that spreads and grows larger, like an avalanche, from copier to copier.
It’s not that simple. It is what some of us will believe, no matter how well we understand. I live in a country, for example, where one-third of Catholics and one-third of Protestants don’t believe in a physical resurrection. How are they to relate to the Shroud? I live in a country where a quarter of the population does not believe in evolution and that is not because of lack of education but because of what many of us choose to believe. And, according to Gallup poll last year, “Four in 10 Americans now think some UFOs that people have spotted have been alien spacecraft visiting Earth from other planets or galaxies.” And I would be willing to bet that 99.9% of us have never knowingly or willingly read a proper scientific paper. And we are not about to start.
Richard Feynman once said, “I’m smart enough to know that I’m dumb.” Good for him but the rest of us aren’t that smart.
In fact, the STuRP summary was the “translation” made to be understood by journalists of an extreme summary of dozens of articles already published in scientific journals. Obviously, in the summary some important things are lost, but the fault lies not with the STuRP scientists, rather with the journalists who do not know the basics of chemistry, physics, biology but quietly talk about them as if they were experts. If one wishes to “call the chemical nature of the chromophore a fact” he/she has to study basics of chemistry and physics of materials, and then read the above quoted papers. Most questions find an answer (or partial answer) in the STuRP papers.
And I say the fault lies with the scientists who do not know the basics of journalism. I think it cuts both ways.
Paolo mentioned Einstein:
I am reminded of an aphorism attributed to Einstein in 1933: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
And I am reminded of Feynman again. He wrote: “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” And since, to the best of my knowledge, the STURP summary was not brought down from Mr. Sinai, it has problems. I believe Rogers questioned some of it. Colin Berry has. Hugh Farey has. I have real questions about the chromophore and I’m just a journalist/blogger.
And Feynman wrote: “Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” And so, what is the Shroud?