God and the Philosophers Conference: Dubious Claims About the Shroud of Turin

According to the blog, Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes:

Dr. Gary Habermas presented some new findings of the Shroud of Turin that really caught my ear. It seems the Shroud exhibits x-ray type images, where you can see the teeth and metacarpals on the image – very odd for someone to render those if they were trying to fake an image.  There was also a 15 foot full-scale replica of the shroud at the exhibit.

These supposed x-ray type images of teeth and metacarpals are not new claims. They are old claims. And they are widely rejected by most shroud scholars. Did Gary explain why so many people think otherwise?  It was just over a week ago that I wrote in this blog about seeing teeth and flowers and coins on the shroud:

The images of a person, certainly a man if we look closely, exists on the shroud. Many well pronounced features are part of that image. But there may be other parts of the image that some people claim to see that are probably pareidolic perceptions.

Takeo Watanabe’s views "that subliminally learning something ‘too well’" results in false positives may explain many reported images and features of the shroud image. A botanist may see images of flowers and plants. A numismaticist may see images of ancient coins. A dentist may see what looks like teeth. It would be totally unfair to say that this is what happened when such experts saw these things. But it would be unfair to not suggest the possibility.

The shroud is dirty, creased and wrinkled. It has been exposed to dust, moisture, smoke from fire and almost certainly candles and incense. It has been exposed to moisture and there are clear water stains in places. It has been folded different ways and rolled up for storage. Folding causes creases. It has been held aloft and probably hung in ways that over time caused stretching. The cloth was woven on a hand loom with handspun thread that is not perfectly uniform. All of this contributes to visual information and visual misinformation.

coins.23 So does the banding patterns, the variegated appearance of the cloth. We know that it alters the appearance of the face very dramatically. It certainly must contribute to what some say they see on the shroud. For instance, if you look closely, you are likely to see what looks like teeth behind the man’s lips, as though somehow the image contains x-ray qualities. But vertical banding lines may be the reason we see teeth. Clear banding lines extend well beyond the teeth, beyond the face even, and seemingly for the length of the cloth.

Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: God and the Philosophers

PZ Myers is a Fundy

Laura writes:

Sullivan is right. From what I have seen of his attention seeking stunts and blog posts, he lives by “the assertion that it is religion and that he therefore knows all he needs to know about it.”  That is pure fundamentalism, no less extreme and no less open to evidence than someone who believes the earth was formed 6000 years ago.  Myers is a Fundy.

BTW: I disagree with you on capitalizing atheism. Would you say someone is a Doubter or an Environmentalist?

Well. Laura, would you say he is a democrat or a republican? When is a noun a proper noun? I class all religious beliefs as proper pronouns. Atheism, despite how strenuously some Atheists deny it, is a belief about religion; non-belief to all except those incapable of logic is belief. Out of respect, I include Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Wiccans, etc. Environmentalists? Maybe Tree Huggers, anyways.

Laura, you capitalized Fundy but not Fundamentalism. What gives?

Constantine and His Pagan Influence on Christianity

This history lesson video is very much worth watching. It may make you uncomfortable:


Who is Greg Boyd? From his website:

Greg Boyd is a former atheist who surrendered his life to Christ in 1974. After his conversion, he discovered that the faith he embraced failed to address many questions and objections to Christianity. Greg’s search for a well-grounded and intellectually defensible faith led him to study philosophy at the University of Minnesota (B.A.), followed by studies in philosophical theology at Yale Divinity School (M.Div) and Princeton Theological Seminary (Ph.D). He then became a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University and is currently the senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

PZ Myers Wreathed In A Fog Of Smugness

Andrew Sullivan is so completely right-on here. Wreathed In A Fog Of Smugness is such a perfect title for a post about “Arch atheist PZ Myers.” It is a useful message in understanding why, no matter what facts exist and might yet come to light, people like PZ Myers will never accept the possibility that the Shroud of Turin is real.

imageAnd he quotes Myers (pictured) (I have shortened the quote here):

. . . But that religion is so fluid and flexible and complex doesn’t make it right, and the obsessive, fanatical weirdness of this unique version of Catholicism is the product of its unfamiliarity; if you step back and look at it with eyes unfilmed by tradition, every religious ceremony looks this bizarre, and every religion thrives on hope built on despair… and some try to maximize the suffering to reinforce devotion. At least the modern Aztecs draw the line before raising obsidian knives and chopping out hearts nowadays; they seemed to be having more fun than the bloody kneed Catholics.

And Sullivan observes very correctly:

"Bizarre", "weird": the adjectives reflect Myers’s projection, not the "fluid and flexible and complex" phenomena he also sees in front of him. You could, of course, inquire further into the resilient, mysterious and clearly powerful rituals he is witnessing. But that would require his admission that there is much human conduct here he doesn’t understand – instead of the assertion that it is religion and that he therefore knows all he needs to know about it.

And that is it: “the assertion that it is religion and that he therefore knows all he needs to know about it” keeps Atheists such as PZ Myers unable to even consider something that may be scientifically acceptable.

Be sure to read Sullivan’s full posting: Wreathed In A Fog Of Smugness – The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Shroud of Turin on The ‘X’ Zone Radio & TV Show: Wednesday, November 17

Wednesday, November 17 2010: Today on The ‘X’ Zone Radio Show with Rob McConnell

The following interviews can be heard starting at 10 pm – 2 am Eastern / 7 pm – 11 pm Pacific (Network 1) 2 am – 6 am Eastern / 11 pm – 2 am Pacific (Network 2) 6 pm – 10 pm Eastern / 3 pm – 7 pm Pacific on The TalkStar Radio Network from our Washington DC Affiliate at http://radiotime.com/WebTuner.aspx?StationId=100596&ProgramId=149441& or Apple iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=295327298 or at The ‘X’ Zone Podcast website at http://www.xzonepodcast.com/

It is segment two starting an hour in, 11 pm EST and 8 pm PST for one hour

DR ANDREW SILVERMAN, MD – The Shroud of Turin – Dr Andrew Silverman is a medical doctor who has been interested since childhood in the nature of what we are as human beings and what our potential is.He first became aware of the Turin Shroud on seeing a life-size photographic print of it at Nigel Kerner’s house around 30 years ago. Dr Silverman has always been fascinated to know how the image could have formed and when he spoke to Nigel Kerner about it many years ago he explained his theory to him that light is frozen thought and matter is frozen light. Kerner also postulated that human transfiguration into light was a consequence of living a life as suggested and shown by the man whose image is on the shroud. Dr.Silverman gave a presentation in May this year at a scientific workshop in Frascati Italy discussing his and Nigel Kerner’s ideas about the Shroud of Turin and how the image might have been formed. Dr. Silverman’s full Paper will be published soon in the Proceedings of the Workshop: but here is the link to the abstract:

References: http://www.acheiropoietos.info/abstracts/talks-for-tex-phi.html#philosophywww.nigelkerner.com

Proved or Not Proved. That is the Question.

Stephen Jones corrects me. Correctly so!

. . . that I don’t believe there will be any more evidence found IN THE BIBLE that supports the Shroud being authentic does not mean that I believe the Shroud has not been proved to be authentic.

I DO believe the Shroud has been PROVED to be authentic. Not in an absolute mathematical or philosophical sense, but in the SCIENTIFIC sense of the preponderance of the balance of the evidence for and against.

Every day criminals are jailed and even executed, having been convicted by courts on far less forensic and circumstantial evidence than there is that points to the Shroud to be authentic.

In agreeing with Stephen’s point that more evidence is not to be found in the Bible, I accidentally implied that Jones and I were in agreement about proving that the Shroud of Turin is authentic. As you can see, Stephen thinks that authenticity has been proved. He is not alone. A significant number of scholars agree.

I don’t agree, however. I think it is real. I believe it is real. I think, as I say in my post, that we can infer it is. I think, however, that the proof is elusive. The whole argument may have to do with how we define proof and how we establish criteria.

My apologies to Stephen for misrepresenting his point of view. Stephen Jones on the Shroud of Turin blood evidence « Shroud of Turin Blog

Stephen Jones on the Shroud of Turin blood evidence

A reader of Stephen Jones’ blog writes to him (this is not the beginning of the letter so read the entire posting):

I have reason to believe the Shroud is authentic. These reasons are more spiritual in nature than scientific. However I do believe the science for proof is right around the corner. My belief more comes out of the book. I believe we are in a time where God is revealing more and more spiritual truths from the book.

Jones replies:

image What is already known about the Shroud complements the Gospels’ account of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. But I doubt if there will be any more evidence from the Bible that will support the authenticity of the Shroud and vice-versa. What we already have is more than enough.

I agree with Jones and I don’t think proof is around the corner. In fact, I doubt we will ever prove that the Shroud is in fact the burial cloth of Christ. I think that we can infer it.

Jones is clear and comprehensive in answering questions: The Shroud of Turin: Re: Shroud: I had a quick question regarding blood evidence

Holy Shroud of Turin Guild

Check out “The Holy Shroud Guild, past, present, and future.”

The Holy Shroud Guild was the oldest American Shroud organization and is a ministry of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (The Redemptorists). For well over a half a century, the Holy Shroud Guild served and cooperated with the Centro in Turin, Italy.

The site is very new and looks good. Here are the sections:

Go visit. BTW, they could use some help. Read the announcement at the bottom of the home page and consider a donation. (I did so) Thanks.

Google Blog Searching Carbon Dating

imageGo to blog search and type in Shroud of Turin. First Google reports that there are three carbon dating specific blogs (and more to be listed if I click):

  • Headlights Glowing: Carbon dating is a form of radiometric dating which measures ages based on the amount of radioactive decay that has


    Next Google gives us several recent postings:

    You get the idea.


  • Promoted Comment on “I think I see the Shroud of Turin”

    Michael A. Iacono writes:

    Neither “Time Machine by Heather Pringle” nor this website is a virtual space where Sindonologists and/or laypersons can effectively “share [scientific evidence or] observations [regarding the Shroud] eyeball to eyeball”. If anyone wishes to do so, I invite them to try attending Sindonology conferences, where one can query the scientists and other participants who made the original observations and findings.

    The best that one can generally do on websites like this is to point out scientific books, studies, and documentaries where such evidence is presented and discussed, and then encourage readers to do their own personal exploration of the relevant topics.

    If one doesn’t hear about some of these studies in America, it’s usually because they are presented at Italian conferences and symposiums and appear only in Italian journals, reviews, and books. If one doesn’t read Italian and there is no English translation available, one should abstain from negatively prejudging their contents, even if one is a scientist.

    With regard to the You Tube extracts from various documentaries, I suggested them only “[f]or those who don’t have the time, patience, or background to study the original scientific studies on the Shroud”. I suggested them so that could get “a good idea of some of the crucial facts militating in favor of authenticity”. And I made the proviso that they “approach this evidence with the empirical mindset that characterizes true science.” In other words, don’t take my word for it … go directly to the source of the scientific evidence and findings.

    With these provisos, here are a few places where one can find some scientific or other evidence presented and discussed on the following topics relating the Shroud:

    1) Numismatics: With regard to the ancient Jewish coins covering the Shroud Man’s eyes and, if I recall correctly, bearing the year 16 of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, as well as with regard to the quantitative optical technique used for analyzing and authenticating the images on the Shroud:

    M. V. Whanger et al., “The Impact of the Face Image of the Shroud on Art, Coins, and Religions in the Early Centuries, Part 3”, Insert for CSST NEWS, July 2007.

    A.D. Whanger et al., “A Quantitative Optical Technique for Analyzing and Authenticating the Images on the Shroud of Turin”, in: “History, Science, Theology and the Shroud”, Proceedings of the St-Louis Symposium, Missouri, USA, 22-23 June 1991, Aram Berard ed., Amarillo (Texas) 1991, pp. 303-324.

    2) Pollen analysis: With regard to the plants and flowers that came into contact with the Shroud and which are found exclusively within a small radius of Jerusalem:

    M. Frei, “Il passato della Sindone alla luce della palinologia”, in: “La Sindone e la Scienza”, Atti del II Congresso Internazionale di Sindonologia, Torino 1978, Edizione Paoline, Torino 1979, pp. 191-200.

    M. Frei, “Identificazione e classificazione dei nuovi pollini della Sindone”, in: “La Sindone, Scienza e Fede”, Atti del II Convegno Nazionale di Sindonologia, Bologna 1981, CLUEB, Bologna 1983, pp. 277-284.

    A. Danin and U. Baruch, “Floristic indicators for the origin of the Shroud of Turin”, in: “Sindone e Scienza – Bilanci e programmi alle soglie del terzo millennio”, Atti del III Congresso Internazionale di Studi sulla Sindone, Torino, 5-7 June 1998, CD pp. 576-588.

    A. Danin, A.D. Whanger et al., “Flora of the shroud of Turin”, Missouri Botanical Garden Press, 1999, pp. 1-52.
    3) Textiles: For those who still doubt the existence of “invisible reweaving” or its ability to overturn the results of the 1988 radiocarbon tests on the Shroud, here is clear and incontrovertible evidence that the ancient art of French invisible reweaving was practiced even in the USA in the 1950s and ΄60s. This evidence was graciously provided to the undersigned by Joseph Marino, author or co-author of at least seven (7) pioneering articles on this subject as it pertains to the TS:

    “The Frenway System of French Reweaving: Detailed and Complete Instructions in the Art of French Invisible Reweaving”, copyright 1951-1962 by the Fabricon Company, Chicago, Illinois.

    4) History and palaeography: With regard to the Aramaic, Greek, and Latin letters found around the face of the Shroud Man in 1978, and the historical and palaeographical evidence pertaining thereto, see Dr. Barbara Frale, “La sindone di Gesù Nazareno” (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2009).

    I trust the above will be of assistance to any layperson seriously interested in finding out whether the Turin Shroud might actually be authentic.

    Michael A. Iacono

    With all due respect, Michael, I have studied the Shroud of Turin for many years. I have been to conferences. I have read everything that the Whangers and Danin have written. I have sat through presentations by them. I have talked with them and many other scientists. I have not read Barbara Frale’s book but I am completely familiar with its premise. I remain unconvinced that there are images of coins or flowers on the Shroud. Frankly I think they are a distraction from the legitimate arguments in favor of authenticity. That is my opinion.

    Yes, dear readers of this blog, read everything on the above list. Can someone convince me that there are coin images on the shroud. I’ll publish in this blog any argument offered unless it is “Tin Hat” weird.

    I might be better convinced about the pollen (I’m not doubting it but have concerns) if extant material was reexamined by members of the Shroud Science Group or their representatives.

    But, I am very familiar with the subject of French reweaving thanks to Joe Marino’s help. I accept that explanation fully as the best explanation for the evidence developed by Rogers.

    I don’t think there is enough public dialog about the Shroud. That is why I’m blogging. Not everyone can go to conferences. Frankly, the number of books is growing very fast and YouTube videos are exploding. Some are simply zany.

    I wish there were more blogs. I wish there was more back and forth. I wish there was more sharing of evidence and observation. I am a member of the Shroud Science Group but I cannot share what goes on in those discussions without permission. I would love to have some of them publish here.

    Michael, thank you for writing. Please comment any time.

    Comments on “I think I see the Shroud of Turin: Postings that l” ‹ Shroud of Turin Blog — WordPress

    I think I see the Shroud of Turin: Postings that live on and on and on

    image A year ago Heather Pringle wrote in her blog:

    Critics of the dating tests charge that the researchers mistakenly took snippets from medieval repairs to the shroud.  But new fiber studies conducted on the University of Arizona sample reveal that its overall weave structure is  identical to that of the rest of the textile.

    We certainly haven’t heard the end of the controversy over the famous shroud yet.  But right now,  I think the odds are stacked strongly  in favor of a medieval origin.

    Nothing seems to have come of the new studies conducted on the University of Arizona sample. And where is all the Arizona data? Can I see these studies? Read on.

    Way down the page – there are nineteen comments on this blog posting, the latest being eleven months later – Michael A. Iacono writes:

    It’s comforting to know that there are many others who are interested in Sindonology, a scientific field which, in my view, will eventually allow the Shroud to recover from the carbon-14 fiasco of 1988. . . . 

    That said, this blog began with Heather’s article on Dr. Barbara Frale’s book entitled “La Sindone di Gesu Nazareno”. So those interested in exploring this matter a bit further can see an interview of Dr. Frale entitled “Vatican researcher discovers Jesus death certificate on Holy Shroud” at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndGnEGCJuaA

    In addition, those wishing to learn about the almost incontrovertible botanical evidence linking Jesus, the Shroud, and first century Jerusalem are invited to view Prof. Avinoam Danim’s interview at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvzqGP9jZBQ&NR=1

    In the latter video, one can also see Prof. Giulio Fanti presenting irrefutable scientific evidence regarding the double image on the Shroud.

    I don’t buy much of what is being claimed in the comments even though they make for interesting reading. I don’t buy into the belief that there are images of coins. Tell me as often as you want about computer enhancements and points of congruence but until you can show me something I can see or prove to me that the enhancements are not mere amplification of noise and the points of congruence is science I’m not going to believe it. And “almost incontrovertible botanical evidence .” Again, show me. Observations that are not shared eyeball to eyeball with others are meaningless.

    Yes the carbon dating is meaningless. Ray Rogers, Joe Marino, Sue Benford, John L. Brown, Bob Villarreal and many others have shown that. That has been proven. Heather seems aware but ducks falling back on some apparent new Arizona claims. They are what, really? Real science? Or mere observations like coin images, etc.? Let me see the eyeball to eyeball evidence.

    BTW: I don’t see the lettering claimed by Barbara Frale. But I do see Fanti’s double image detection on the Shroud of Turin. Way too much argumentation is based on what Ray Rogers used to call, “I think I see” evidence, on both sides of the controversy.

    See the blog posting and comments: Angels, Demons, and the Shroud of Turin « Time Machine by Heather Pringle

    Response to a response to an open letter

    image William Bell has responded to my open letter about his blog in which he mentioned the Shroud of Turin and got my attention. To the other things I said about him, I must add that he is gracious and astute (and by-the-way he is 12 not 13). As for the suspicion on my part and from from others that perhaps his Atheism was connected to his belief in evolution, he responds: 

    I believe that evolution and faith are compatible, my atheism did not come from evolution but from other topics (for an elaboration on that look at my page on Quotes and Miscellaneous.

    And at Quotes and Miscellaneous we find:

    I do my best in my posts not to talk much about religion, so here is my section on my personal beliefs, I am an atheist, and I do not believe in any god or deity.  I have come to this opinion for reasons such as the problem of evil, accurately described by Epicurus:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? – Epicurus

    Is the problem of evil really accurately described by Epicurus? Some think so, some do not. Philosophers and theologians have struggled with Epicurus. In doing so they have filled libraries, including the Vatican Library and the libraries of major universities, with thousands of treatises and books. William, you and I will not solve it here. The great saints of Christian scholarship, Irenaeus, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and Alvin Plantinga have not been able to solve it. The great philosophers, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche and Russell have not been able to solve it. Nor modern pundits. Richard Dawkins didn’t solve it either, though he thinks he has. More temperate, more thoughtful Atheists point this out. Writes Atheist pundit Mark Wallace, I think accurately (though his latest book is excellent): 

    Whilst wrapping himself [=Dawkins] in the banner of reason and humanity, he’s become a frothing-at-the-mouth, bigoted zealot who is an embarrassment to his cause. He has more in common with the medieval people who flayed themselves and burned innocent people at the stake in the name of Christ than he does with the vast majority of casual, polite atheists in modern Britain.

    Dr. Michael Ruse, a prominent Atheist philosopher of biology and a powerful witness in preventing the teaching of creationism in our schools (McLean v. Arkansas) has said that Dawkin’s crazy claims made him embarrassed to be an atheist. In one case, he wrote:

    Dawkins is a man truly out of his depth. Does he honestly think that no philosopher or theologian has ever thought of or worried about the infinite regress of the cosmological argument?

    or . . .  for that matter, from extended context of Ruse’s writings, does Dawkins honestly think that no philosopher or theologian has ever thought of or worried about the problem of evil.

    I tend to prefer the argument that evil is the price of free will. C. S. Lewis, a brilliant mind, like you, and a convert from Atheism to Anglican Christianity at the age of 15, wrote:

    My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?… Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies.

    And also:

    We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried out to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted to frame them.

    Well, I certainly enjoyed the exchange. Thanks for writing your Response To An Open Letter. Keep up the good work.

    BTW: can you provide a citation or reference regarding Baima Bollone’s work on Lanciano? Several people have suggested that he did not, himself, do any experimenting on Lanciano.

    More on the letter to the young Atheist about the Shroud of Turin

    A reader writes:

    image I’m afraid your young atheist blogger has caught the fever of so many young atheists, a malady of misconception fed more by creationists and IDers than by the likes of Richard Dawkins. The symptom is a belief that scientists and particularly biologists cannot rationally believe in God. As an Episcopalian (you not me, I’m a Jesuit priest who teaches physics), I’m surprised that you didn’t point out that the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding archbishop of your church in the  U.S., has imagea degree in biology from Stanford and a PhD in oceanography from Oregon State. Her Grace, Dr. Schori, unquestionably a distinguished scholar, has made it clear that she has no reservations about evolution and she puts no stock whatsoever in Intelligent Design theories. Her husband, it should be noted, is a science professor at Oregon State. Her daughter is a pilot in the Air Force. The lady primate (not in a biological sense, of course) is, herself, a damn good instrument pilot.

    A Dissent Worth Considering

    A reader writes:

    Your letter to a young atheist fails to address the big problem scientists have with the shroud. No one after all these years has the foggiest idea of how the image was formed. Ball admitted this in his comments in Nature. You lectured that young fella to follow the evidence and not the lack of evidence. Good advice. But you disingenuous because it is the lack of evidence that keeps so many people believing the Turin shroud is authentic.

    It bothers me, too. By not addressing the unexplained images I was not trying to avoid the subject. It just didn’t seem pertinent for this particular posting. That said, I do try to avoid thinking this way. Even so, it is a tempting argument. All the fakery options seem to be exhausted, but I’m sure creative minds will find something yet to claim and hopefully test.

    The evidence that keeps me believing it is real is primarily historical. It is not the lack of an image explanation.

    Update to Shroud.com

    image Barrie Schwortz writes in a widely distributed email:

    I am pleased to inform you that the website has been updated with some important new information. The biggest story is Pope Benedict XVI’s Appointment of a new Archbishop in Turin, who also becomes the official Custodian of the Shroud. 

    But that is not all. This update  includes the addition of a new page on Shroud.com called "Reflections On The Shroud," where those who have devoted themselves to understanding the Shroud can express their personal stories and reflect on how the Shroud has impacted their lives.  The page premieres with Reflections from 28 noted Shroud researchers and scholars.

    Also updated is the Links To More Information page, with the addition of links to several new Shroud resources. I have also included a news story about the Shroud replica that was presented to the Armenian Catholic Church in Beirut, Lebanon by a delegation from Turin and a feature article about an upcoming Shroud Exhibit in Wells Cathedral in England.

    There is also info on a new Shroud video program available on a DVD that can be viewed in any of 16 different languages, news from STERA, Inc. and much more! You will find complete links to all the newly added content by clicking on the "Pope Appoints New Shroud Custodian" link on the Shroud.com home page. 

    We will explore some of this new content in upcoming posts. In the meantime check out the reflections.

    Open Letter to Another Blogger

    Dear William Bell:

    I am impressed by your blog, The Lessons of Evolution. You are, according to your blog, thirteen years old and hope to become an evolutionary biologist. You write well and seem to have a wonderful grasp of facts, logic and scientific reasoning. I wish you the best of success.

    It is unlikely I would have ever encountered your public blog had you not mentioned the Shroud of Turin. Thanks to Google, I did. And I will comment on that portion of your posting. First, however, I notice that you have two survey questions on your blog and here are my answers: To the first question, given the choices available, my answer is that I believe in evolution. I suspect that I believe in it in the same way that you do. As for the second question, my answer is that I am a theist. Theist, however, is not specific enough. I am a practicing Christian, more specifically, an Episcopalian. At one time, certainly when I was thirteen and shared your skepticism, I would have found those two answers incompatible. Now, more than fifty years later, I find nothing in science and cannot imagine anything in science, that contradicts my faith; nothing in evolution, nothing in a possible never-beginning-never-ending multiverse, nothing in Hawking’s cosmology, nothing in neurology, nothing in M theory, etc. etc. etc.

    I noticed on your blog that you have read Richard Dawkins’ new book. Excellent, don’t you agree? Much better than his “Delusion.”

    You mentioned Prof. Baima Bollone in your posting and expressed doubts about his findings pertaining to the famous miracle at Lanciano, Italy. I share your skepticism. But I must pick on a couple of things. First of all, you write, “it was only experimented on by one scientist who happened to also have worked on the shroud of turin.”

    Some of the greatest science the world has ever seen was “only experimented on by one scientist” – at least initially. What we want to know is how right or wrong was he. Science has created many safeguards. Is Bollone’s work peer-reviewed in secular scientific journals? Can his experiments be duplicated? Are there similar studies that confirm or challenge his findings? This is what your readers want to know.

    To imply anything because Bollone also worked on the Shroud of Turin is unfair. There have been many dozens of scientists, in many fields, who have worked on the Shroud. They represent some of the finest academic, government and corporate science centers of competency in the world. I have met many of them. I have had discussions with some of them over drinks at a bar – you can’t do that yet. I’ve corresponded with others by email. Most of those whom I have come to know, but not all, would answer those two questions you ask on your blog exactly as I have.

    One outstanding example of a scientist who worked on the Shroud of Turin, is Raymond Rogers (1927-2005), a lifelong, distinguished chemist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He had been honored as a Fellow of the prestigious Los Alamos lab, part of UCLA and once upon a time the home of the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb. In his home state of New Mexico, Rogers had been a charter member of the Coalition for Excellence in Science Education. For several years, he served on the Department of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board as a civilian with the rank equivalency of Lieutenant General. He had published over fifty peer-reviewed scientific papers in science journals. He was also a member of the skeptical organization, New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR). This partial description of the organization is telling:

    We are skeptical . . . of those groups who misuse and misrepresent science. We oppose the use of fabrication, flawed logic, distortion of facts, and pseudoscientific propaganda by any and all groups who twist science to suit their own ends, whether they are creationists, advocates of intelligent design, proponents of the idea that aliens crashed at Roswell, extreme academic cultural critics who deny objective reality, or promoters of unproved claims . . .

    NMSR is a science organization; it is not a civil liberties or an anti-religious organization. Several of our members, like scientists in general, belong to various religious groups. We see no inherent conflict between science and religion, in that science concerns the natural world (the one accessible to our senses and instruments), while religion concerns the possibility of a supernatural world accessible only through faith. While we respect and cherish religious freedom, we stand ready to challenge those who promote bad science to further their goals, religious or otherwise.

    In 1978, Rogers had been selected as one of many scientists asked to go to Turin and study the Shroud up and close. From his work on the Shroud, Rogers’ only substantive conclusion was that the Shroud images were not painted. He did not then offer an opinion on its authenticity. Following the carbon dating, he accepted the conclusion that the Shroud was medieval. He had complete respect for the technology and the quality of work done by the carbon dating labs. In 2005, Philip Ball, a former editor of Nature, that most prestigious international journal of science, wrote in Nature Online that Rogers “has a history of respectable work on the shroud dating back to 1978, when he became director of chemical research for the international Shroud of Turin Research Project.”

    Kim Johnson of NMSR wrote in an obituary for Rogers on the organization’s web site:

    He was a Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and tried to be an excellent, open minded scientist in all things. In particular, he had no pony in the "Shroud of Turin" horserace, but was terribly interested in making sure that neither proponents nor skeptics let their scientific judgment be clouded by their preconceptions. He just wanted to date and analyze the thing. He died on March 8th from cancer. He was a good man, and tried his best to do honest science.

    William, you might be happy to know that Rogers spent a great deal of time and effort trying to make sure that creationism and ID were not taught in New Mexico’s public schools.

    Though Rogers had stopped doing research on the Shroud, he had maintained a passing interest, in part because no one had figured out how the images had been made. He was quite sure that they were not somehow miraculously formed. He was annoyed by claims from those who thought they could explain away the carbon dating with pseudoscientific or non-scientific explanations. They were, in his words, the “lunatic fringe” of shroud research.

    One hypothetical suggestion, seemingly off the wall, had been gaining traction, particularly on the Internet. Two researchers, Sue Benford and Joe Marino, were suggesting that the sample used in the carbon dating was significantly not part of the shroud but instead part of a medieval repair, a section of the cloth mended using a technique known as invisible reweaving. Rogers thought this was ludicrous, just so much more lunatic fringe thinking. He thought that he could prove they were wrong. He had in his possession some small thread samples taken from the shroud at a spot adjacent to where the carbon dating sample had been snipped away. It would be a simple matter to show that there was no evidence of mending.

    As it turned out, Benford and Marino seemed to be onto something. In 2002, after considerable research, Rogers, along with Anna Arnoldi, a chemistry professor at the University of Milan, wrote a paper that strongly suggested that Benford and Marino were right. More work needed to be done, however, and Rogers continued to study the matter with material that had been saved from the actual cuttings from which the carbon dating samples were taken. In January, 2005, following a lengthy peer-review process, Thermochimica Acta, an international journal from Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of scientific journals, published a paper by Rogers entitled, “Studies on the Radiocarbon Sample from the Shroud of Turin.” In it Rogers wrote:

    The combined evidence from chemical kinetics, analytical chemistry, cotton content, and pyrolysis/ms proves that the material from the radiocarbon area of the shroud is significantly different from that of the main cloth. The radiocarbon sample was thus not part of the original cloth and is invalid for determining the age of the shroud.

    This wasn’t religious opinion. In fact, it wasn’t that much of a scientific opinion of the sort that newspapers and television like. If Rogers could have proven that the shroud was the genuine article or at least that it came from the time of Christ, this would have been exciting news. As it was he was only saying, that for all practical purposes, the 1988 carbon dating was meaningless. It was pure science. It was also a personal admission that he had been wrong in thinking that the carbon dating was the end of the story; that the shroud was certainly a medieval fake.

    I don’t know what Rogers might have thought about Baima Bollone’s work on Lanciano. I rather suspect that he would have thought it part of the lunatic fringe. But as a true scientist he would have wanted to see the evidence, see the scientific findings published in a peer-reviewed journal and see if the work could be reproduced.

    William, you also wrote: “There is no evidence even that it [=Lanciano] is not a hoax . . .” If you had said that you think it is a hoax or believe it is or assume it is, I might agree. But I cannot agree that the lack of evidence can be thought of as a meaningful argument. Isn’t that exactly one of the things you find problematic with Behe’s ID theory. Follow the evidence, never the lack of evidence.

    Not too long ago, I had the interesting experience of spending an evening with two very interesting brothers. Both were scientists. One was a Catholic priest. One was an Atheist. The priest did not believe that the Shroud was authentic. He thought the evidence was insufficient. His brother, on the other hand, thought the evidence overwhelmingly supported authenticity. His difficulty as an Atheist was to separate his conclusions from any supernatural implications. He felt he had done so. I thought he had too.

    He based his assessment on the work of Ray Rogers. Like this particular Atheist, I also have reservations about the Shroud’s supernatural implications. But the difference for me is that like the Atheist’s brother, the priest, I believe in God, in Christ, in the Resurrection – Shroud or no Shroud.

    But I really think the Shroud is genuine. I think the evidence is overwhelming.

    BTW: You make a good point about blood type AB. Al Adler, a blood specialist from Western Connecticut State University, and another Shroud scientist, pointed out that all old blood tended to test AB because the compounds that generated the test response were also in the cell walls and if the walls degraded the blood started to test AB. But it was possible, he felt, to discern false AB positive readings from real AB type readings. Do you have any more information on this? And I wonder if Bollone was aware of this. Have you read his paper?

    Congratulations on a wonderful blog. Good luck to you.

    Dan Porter

    So Bart and Homer Simpson are Catholic – Did the Shroud of Turin beach towel have anything to do with it?

    How did we miss this on Oct 18. According to CNN: 

    image Homer Simpson – perhaps the most profane character and worst father ever to headline a mainstream American television program – is Catholic, the Vatican’s official newspaper has declared.

    "Few know it, and he does all he can to hide it. But it is true," Luca Possati writes in Sunday’s Osservatore Romano.

    OK, Homer snores through the Rev. Lovejoy’s sermons.

    Yes, he relentlessly humiliates his evangelical Christian neighbor Ned Flanders.

    But the show is one of the few in American life that takes religion seriously, a Jesuit is arguing – from grace before meals to an (admittedly off-kilter) belief in the afterlife.

    The article riffs on the 2005 episode "The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star," in which Homer and Bart flirt with the idea of converting to Catholicism (and Homer makes an outrageous confession).

    Homer decides against it with "a cathartic D’oh!," Possati writes. But the Rev. Francesco Occhetta praises the episode – and the series –anyway, Possati writes.

    Occhetta wrote about The Simpsons in the most recent edition of Italian Jesuit magazine Civilita Cattolica, Possati says.

    Remember when Homer Simpson’s neighbor, Ned Flanders, had his Shroud of Turin beach towel stolen? I wonder if that episode, five years ago, had anything to do with this story.

    Yes, CNN is reporting this: D’oh! Vatican declares Bart and Homer Simpson Catholic – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs

    More on Intellectual Sifting and the Shroud of Turin

    image Comment promoted: Theologian wants to know if the Shroud of Turin is in Andrew Sullivan’s receding cave.

    So is the shroud shrouded in the darkness of the constantly receding cave? And is the shroud more mystery than clarity? Oh, yes! How wonderfully it is an exercise in intellectual sifting.

    I hope that we never figure it out. Thanks for posting this. Andrew is oh-so right!

    But I do hope we figure it out. I’m not sure, however, that we will. See Intellectual Sifting: Get Real – A Lesson for Shroud of Turin Studies « Shroud of Turin Blog

    Intellectual Sifting: Get Real – A Lesson for Shroud of Turin Studies

    image In May of this year, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, wrote these blurbs, as part of a larger essay, in his Daily Dish blog. These few, extracted and collected, are something to think about as we struggle to understand the mystery of the Shroud of Turin. For me, they are keepers. They help to keep the ghosts of old catechism at bay. For those unfamiliar with Andrew Sullivan, he is British; lives and writes in the United States, mostly about politics; is somewhat conservative and is a very outspoken Roman Catholic.

    . . . No modern Christian, it seems to me, can claim the literal inerrancy of the Bible without abandoning logos. No educated Christian today can deny that the scriptures we have – copies of translations of copies of copies of oral histories – are internally and collectively inconsistent, written by many authors, constructed in specific historical contexts, reflecting human biases, and supplemented by several other gospels that at the time claimed just as much authority as those gospels eventually selected by flawed men centuries later.

    . . . There is no single authoritative text, written by one God, word for word true. There is a much more complicated series of writings designed by many men, doubtless under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that help us see some form of the figure Jesus through languages and texts and memories. I think the character and message of Jesus are searingly clear and distinctive even taking into account that daunting veil through which we are asked to see.

    . . . So we are left in search of this Jesus with a fast-burning candle in a constantly receding cave where we know that at some point, the darkness will envelop us entirely. We will catch Him at times; He will elude us at others. We will have to listen to many words he may have spoken before we can each discern the words he may have meant; we will have to keep our eyes and ears open for science’s revelations about the world, while understanding that science is just one way of understanding the world and that poetry, history, and practical perspectives have things to tell us as well. The cathedral at Chartres; the long story of Christian debate and theology; the rituals and daily practices that help us stay trained to intuit the divine we cannot understand and the divine we do not always see in every face around us: these too tell us things that go beyond fact, archeology and hermeneutics.

    Yes, this intellectual sifting is hard and troubling to faith; yes, it may end with more mystery than clarity. But if our faith is to be true, it must rest on something more than denial of reality. It must rest on being the greatest experience of reality.

    Search Engines for God

    imageDivine Remedy is an excellent blog. It forces us to think. From today’s post:

    The Shroud, unlike anything else, is the manifestation of the fusion of the external and internal search engines. It mysteriously lures us towards its vortex-like pathway to God. No human mind in our world has been able to crack the code and access all the necessary information about how the image was formed or how it could be reproduced. The Shroud helps us to appreciate the layers upon layers of complexity and simplicity of our cosmos and the omniscience of God.

    When we take everything we know, of Christ’s life, of the Gospels, of the Bible, of the sciences, of religion, of history, of physics we fall down the rabbit hole into the image on the Shroud, searching for God through the light of the Resurrection of Christ.

    Read some of the other posts. They are very thought provoking.

    Hmmm. Proof that Christianity is true by way of the Shroud of Turin???

    I’ll reserve judgment until I read what Stephen Jones tells us in one of his other blogs:

    And although I haven’t yet posted a message with the subject: "The Shroud of Turin: Proof that Christianity is true and Naturalism is false!" on my The Shroud of Turin blog, I intend to do so.

    I’m not convinced that such proofs are possible. But, let’s see.

    You really need to read the entire posting. He does an excellent job of definitions. Particularly read his What I believe about Creation, Evolution and Design section. I’m impressed. We are not in the same camp in many things, but I’m impressed with the thought and organization that has gone into Jone’s thinking. So click on over to CreationEvolutionDesign: Messianic prophecy: Proof that Christianity is true!: Introduction.

    More on Petri Paavola from Finland

    Karen from Miami writes:

    image Regarding your post about Petri Paavola from Finland, the man makes Christine O’Donnell seem positively liberal and scholarly. PetriFB, as he calls himself is seeking out every blog and chat forum about religion and posting a message with the following sentences that seems so reasonable: “Some people say that it is the genuine and some that it is the fake and the hoax. . . . If we can find even one evidence, which disprove (sic) the shroud of Turin theory, so (sic) the whole story shall be invalidated.”

    So then PetriFB presents several “evidences”: 1) On the Shroud Jesus is naked and God would never allow that. 2) On the Shroud Jesus is shown with long hair and the Bible proves that he had short hair. 3) The image on the Shroud is a graven image and God would never allow that. 4) It is a “Roman Catholic” relic and thus by definition it is false.

    Usually, these sort of comment-crusaders run out of steam pretty quickly. Their arguments carry virtually no weight, particularly among those who read them.

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