Jesus, the XX Male

imageThe feature article in the December 2015 issue of the New Oxford Review is an article by Maria Hsia Chang, The Virgin Birth: Where Science Meets Scripture

If that occurs — if replicability is achieved for the DNA data from the Shroud and Sudarium — it means Jesus indeed was an XX male. We are then faced with two rival hypotheses:

1. Jesus was one of those rare four out of every 100,000 all-too-human males who have two X chromosomes but no Y chromosome. But that doesn’t mean He was born of a virgin or that He had no biological father. The only problem is: How could the writer of the Gospel According to Luke, centuries before the discovery of DNA, possibly know that Jesus was an XX male and so tried to account for Jesus’ abnormal DNA with a made-up virgin-birth story?

2. Jesus was an XX male with no Y chromosome because Luke 1:26-35 tells the truth: Jesus was born of a virgin and has no human biological father.

In the end, as in the identification of the man who left His image on the Shroud of Turin, it is science that enables us to decipher DNA testimony from the Shroud and the Oviedo Cloth. There was a time when science caused an erosion of faith. But the Shroud and the Sudarium demonstrate that science and faith need not be at loggerheads. Instead of showing the Shroud and the Oviedo Cloth to be fakes, it may well be that science can confirm the miraculous character of both.

The article began by pointing out that 68% of American adults believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God but only 57% believe in the virgin birth.

Disbelief in Jesus being born of a virgin, which is a fundamental tenet of Christianity, in turn implies a belief that the author of the Gospel According to Luke lied when he wrote:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph…. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus….” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (1:26-35; emphasis added)

This is a philosophical minefield. It imposes assumptions about miraculous conception onto science in order to try and prove the assumption. You may not want to believe it, but Luke could have been writing myth to make a point. That is a third hypothesis. To an Atheist, what Luke (and indeed Matthew) wrote about the virgin birth is part of the fabric of what must be a much bigger fictional account.

Does the XX male argument rest on the authenticity of the shroud or is it another argument for authenticity?  

Joel Bernstein on Good Science, Bad Science, and the Shroud of Turin

5:11 mark: “… first, I’m going to talk about good science and bad science. We’ll contrast them. And I’ll give you some examples of good science and bad science…. You’ll have then the
rules … I’ll give you the story of one particular person’s research on the
Shroud of Turin and let you judge….”

This lecture by Joel Bernstein, Global Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at NYU Abu Dhabi, was given in May of 2014. It was published on YouTube three days ago where it has so far been watched only nineteen times, including by me.  It runs one hour and thirteen minutes, including questions.


From the YouTube description:

This talk explores the tension between scientific fact and religious faith in the identification and verification of a sacred relic. Many catholic cathedrals and churches can claim some relic associated with Christ. The sanctity of the religious institution is enhanced by proximity of the relic to the time and place of Christ’s life. However, the source and history of many of these relics are often cloaked in mystery due to the scanty historical record. One of the most famous is the treasured Shroud of the Cathedral of Turin. In the 1970’s, authorities overseeing the Shroud enlisted a team of scientists to examine and presumably to verify its source and history. Some of the conclusions drawn from that study, and the absence or presence of scientific evidence for those conclusions, has led to perhaps the quintessential conflict between acceptance of the validity and veracity of the scientific method on the one hand, and religious belief and faith on the other.

Joel Bernstein
Global Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, NYUAD

Hat tip to Joe Marino for spotting this.

Again: Does God Exist?

When you talk to shroudies you discover this topic is never really off topic.
— Happy New Year —
BTW: The last link in this posting is all you need.

imageIt’s that time of year, isn’t it? It’s that time of year for discussions in the press about the existence of God. It’s not that this is a particularly appropriate time to have these discussions, but this seems to be one of the times of year when it happens more often. 

Last week, Eric Metaxas wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God; The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?

Steven T. Corneliussen responded strongly in Physics Today. The links in the next paragraph are to where the arguments most recently re-begin. The link in the previous paragraph to the Wall Street Journal points behind a pay wall (thankfully?)

In this venue, a recent media report about the op-ed "The perils of romanticizing physics" began, "The Wall Street Journal‘s opinion editors have a complicated relationship with physics and physicists." The latest such complication: a WSJ op-ed claiming to invoke new astrophysical understanding to justify recycling old intelligent-design arguments.

[ . . . ]

Metaxas joins intelligent-design advocates from the Discovery Institute in promoting quotations from astronomer Fred Hoyle ("a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics") and theoretical physicist Paul Davies ("the appearance of design is overwhelming").

Notice, that Corneliussen really says nothing useful. He simply uses warmed over responses to Metaxas’ warmed over arguments.

Fortunately, Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman, a founding director of Sinai and Synapses has penned a useful reply in the Huffington Post: Sorry, Science Doesn’t Make a Case for God. But That’s OK. (This is the only link you need).

Guy Consolmagno on Science and Religion

imageDavid Freeman writing yesterday in the Science section of the Huffington Post, How A Vatican Astronomer Views The Science-Religion Divide:

In an interview with HuffPost Science editor David Freeman, Brother Guy [Consolmagno, S.J., astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, pictured] said he believes the antagonism between scientific principles and religious faith exists mostly among fundamentalists.

"I mean fundamentalists on both sides," he said, "because there are also science fundamentalists. And what is a fundamentalist? It’s somebody who is clinging to the fundamentals of their truth because they don’t have the confidence or the faith in their faith to be able to say, ‘I’m settled, I’m happy with this, let’s see where it goes.’ Fundamentalism is a sign of fear."

The audio of the interview is available here.

Wikipedia Entry for Guy Consolmagno.

Lest the wrath of God descend upon them like a ton of bricks

Angel, in a comment directed at Colin Berry, wrote:

… I am not stating you haven’t spent an enormous amount of time and energy attempting to recreate a likeness that would disprove the Shroud image. That is commendable, although antithetical to Christian belief. Yet, it is your right, as a scrutinizing scientist….

How could Colin not reply, even if it meant breaking his umpteenth pledge to never again comment in this “insistently proselytizing pro-authenticity” blog. He states:

Angel: there’s nothing “antithetical to Christian belief” in being a sceptic where the TS is concerned. Ask the Vatican if you don’t believe me.

This philosophical badinage reminds of a humorous letter to the editor of Nature. From four years ago:

Strangest Quote Ever on the Shroud of Turin

imageCesare Emiliani, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Miami, world renowned geologist, known for his work on marine sediments and plate tectonics, in a letter to Nature following the carbon dating of the Shroud in 1988.

Religion is perfect and unchangeable, the work of God. Science is imperfect, and, I suspect, the work of the Devil. The two should never be mixed. The scientists who participated in the dating of the Shroud of Turin should repent and promise to never do anything like that again. Creationists are even more guilty, for they have been mixing science and religion for years and years.  They should abandon their evil practices forthwith, lest the wrath of God descend upon them like a ton of bricks.

Mystery is never ever proof of anything

imageThis morning, as my mind wandered while I walked the dog, I was reminded of something in another blog – as it turns out –  more than four years ago; Miracles, Mystery and Science in the Lewis Crusade blog. John C. Hathaway, the writer of that blog had found that I had written:

Mystery is unavoidable. For instance the images [on the shroud] are a mystery. And mystery can be seductive. If we are not careful, unanswered questions can lead to god-of-the-gaps thinking. All too easily some of us who are religious can be lulled into thinking that because something lacks an explanation it must be miraculous. Such thinking is bad science, bad theology and bad philosophy. Mystery can point us towards common sense. Mystery can challenge us to find answers. But it is never ever proof of anything.

He had responded thus:

This got me to thinking.  We often make a big deal about proving “science can’t explain it” when we talk of miracles.

Yet C. S. Lewis argues in Miracles that most miracles are really a “speeding up” of nature, not a violation of it.  God made the laws of Nature, and He doesn’t arbitrarily break His own rules.

I’ve always been a big fan of Lewis. But I’ve never really bought into this. How do miracles and the laws of Nature relate?

I guess I still believe in miracles that are miracles. And I believe that maybe there are mysteries that must always be mysteries. It needs more thought. Unfortunately, the dog was ready to go home. He is the boss.

A Reason to NOT DO More Scientific Testing on the Shroud

imageHugh Farey writes in another thread, A Report on the Bari Conference:

Bishop Marcello Sanchez Sorondo [pictured], the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences emailed me with these words:

The opinion of the PAS is that in order to do something scientific, another test should be carried out but since the institutions that carry out these tests are rather anticlerical, the PAS currently thinks that it would not be prudent to reopen the matter until other scientific identification systems are devised.

Although not in any sense an official statement of policy, it does suggest that at present the Vatican does indeed lack confidence in scientists’ open-mindedness, if not their expertise.

I have taken the liberty of reformatting and emphasizing part of Hugh’s comment.

Here is a Wikipedia entry for Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo.

The Shroud of Turin and Near Death Experiences

clip_image001He calls his posting “The Near Death Experience: A believer’s evidence, a skeptic’s challenge.” The blogger of He Rose for Grace, uses the Shroud of Turin as an example to explain how accumulations of evidence give credence to near death experiences or NDEs.

Jeffrey Long, M.D. [pictured] has spent a life time studying near death experiences (NDE). Evidence is a curious thing. Standing alone, any evidence can only vaguely point a finger toward a specific direction of truth. Oftentimes, as in the belief in Christ or God, Himself; by taking only one piece of evidence, you can’t eliminate enough variables to keep a convincing argument.  To say, for example, that the pollens on the Shroud of Turin are a dead ringer for the species that grew in Jerusalem at the time of Christ, therefore the cloth is authentic, doesn’t give enough evidence.  However, when you consider that the scorch is of an unknown origin, and can only be caused by vacuum ultraviolet radiation  with a wavelength of 200-100 nanometers from laser pulses lasting less than 50 nanoseconds, it helps.  . .  . As we study, painstakingly sweat in the labs, carry on discussions, and bleed our brains over midnight oil for variables to give us another alternative, at one point, we finally realize that the variables have been nearly explained away, given enough lines of evidence.  It is  the gift of reason.

The blogger continues:

Jeffrey Long is a radiation oncologist.  For more than ten years he has studied the incidences of NDE. He is the author of Evidence of the Afterlife; the Science of Near Death Experiences. His web site is the largest known account of NDEs. Jeffrey says that the Gallup Poll numbers those who have had NDEs then lived to tell about it  are 5% of the population.  Blissful state, Heavenly realms, and those recovering wake up unafraid of death.  His claim is that consciousness is outside of the body. These people come into infinite love and a feeling of being in touch with divinity.  Some feel a universal knowledge. The changes they emotionally go through impacts them for the rest of their lives.  They come back to life convinced there is life after death.  Relationships become important, materialism slides into the background and its importance often dissipates.  Sometimes they change professions and begin to work in areas that are geared more toward nurturing and love for fellow man.

According to Dr. Long, the nine lines of evidence that surpass any medical reasons follow.

You can read the entire posting if you wish. It is well written.

imageALSO:  Skeptiko has published DR. JEFFREY LONG TAKES ON CRITICS OF, EVIDENCE OF THE AFTERLIFE, following reviews of his book,  Evidence of the Afterlife. In the Skeptiko article, I found:

Dr. Long also discusses the nature of NDE skepticism, “The other issue I’ve seen with skeptics is they often have their pet theory. Their theory of how the world works, how things work, and it’s very, very difficult to dislodge them from their pet theory, even with overwhelming evidence.”

In the end Dr. Jeffery Long believes in his evidence, “I have confidence in the substantial majority of people. When they hear evidence, and it’s presented in a straightforward way, they’re smart enough to understand what’s real evidence and what’s evasiveness.”

Pet theory! That sounds like the world of shroud skeptics, as well. . . well. some of them anyway. 

It’s the Cloth, Not the Image

"He who the third day rose from the dead was no less true
God in the manger than on the cross."  — Karl Barth

imageThe short quote from inside a longer quote reads:

In sum, we can say that it’s not the body image on the Shroud but the cloth itself that is the real material sign of Jesus’ Resurrection!

The longer, embracing quotation is from a new paper, An image that speaks of the Incarnation well before it speaks about the Resurrection by Yannick Clément (It makes me wonder if Yannick gets his progressive thinking from Barth):

Because every characteristic related to the Shroud image can find some similarity in nature and, even more, because some of those characteristics (like the discontinuous distribution and the very superficial aspect of the image) really seem to strongly suggest that the image on the cloth has been formed by a natural interaction between the crucified dead body and the surface of his burial cloth, seeing this image as some kind of material proof of his Resurrection is presently only possible through faith and consequently, such a concept cannot be based on a real scientific and rational reflection. But having said that, it’s important to note that it is truly possible, through rationality, to see the Shroud (not only the body image on the cloth, but the burial cloth itself, along with the body imprint and the bloodstains present on it) as a material sign (not a proof!) of the Resurrection of Christ, in the sense that it has been proven that the cloth contained, only for a short period of time (i.e. less than 72 hours), the real crucified body of a man who presents all the bloody stigmata of Christ, as described in the Gospels, while the extraction of his body from the Shroud did not seem to have disturbed the bloodstains, broken the linen fibrils under them or disturbed the body image in any way, which can be seen as possible signs (not proofs) of a “dematerialization” (or a “spiritualization” if you prefer) of his body at the moment of the resurrection. Also, and this is probably even more important, the simple fact that such a gruesome burial cloth of a crucified criminal (which shows the complete body image of a nude “Christ”, along with lots of bloodstains) has been taken out of the tomb, quietly kept and carefully preserved for centuries after his dead body has only spent a short period of time in it, can truly be seen as the greatest material sign of the Resurrection of Christ that exists. In sum, we can say that it’s not the body image on the Shroud but the cloth itself that is the real material sign of Jesus’ Resurrection! Effectively, if this cloth would have been the burial shroud of an anonymous crucified man, why in the world would such a grave cloth have been taken out of the tomb and well preserved until now?

Nevertheless, it’s important to emphasize the fact that this sign remains an indirect sign of this event, instead of being a direct proof of it, like it is researched by many people today who really want to see a clear physical proof of Resurrection in the body image of a dead Jesus that is present on the cloth.

(emphasis mine, this is from a note in the paper, note references are removed in the blog and should be noticed and read in the paper)

This is one of two new papers from Yannick published at the iSEAM site. The other will be discussed shortly. Hat tip to Pete Andy.

A Telling Interview with Giulio Fanti

imageLouis wrote in a comment in the posting, Bari Conference: A scientific event unprecedented in Puglia:

. . . Professor Giulio Fanti told me that the corona discharge was possibly connected to ball lightning.

This interview-article was posted on the Holy Shroud Guild website but at my request my folder was deleted, for reasons that will soon be made known by me. I am sending it to Dan in pdf format, who can upload it if he wishes to do so. I can understand the pressure he faces. Welcome to the world of Shroud studies!

imageHere we go:  Science and religion meet in Shroud research by Louis C. de Figueiredo.

Bari Conference: A scientific event unprecedented in Puglia

imageIlikepuglia reports: Shroud of Turin, Bari researchers and scholars from around the world: [is The an] international scientific event [is] unprecedented in Puglia. Well, you get the idea. That was a work-over of a Goggle translation. The following paragraphs are raw translation:

The event, titled "Advances in the Turin Shroud Investigation 2014" (developments in the investigation Shroud) and briefly indicated by the acronym ATSI 2014 should be talked much about it, according to the expectations of researchers and studies dare around the world.

For the first time, in fact, a scientific organization of international first class as the ‘Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE), present in 150 countries around the world, headquartered in New York, which includes in itself the best studios dare and researchers around the world in the field of electrical engineering and electronics, has inserted between the themes of his meetings the studies o research on a subject so well known and debated as the Shroud of Turin. The merit of the initiative should be recognized prof. Dario Petri, as President of the Italian Section of the IEEE, which was followed by the accession of prof. Francis Lattarulo, afferent sindonologist at the Politecnico di Bari, who took over the task of overall coordination and local levels.

This is unprecedented, no doubt about it and not just in Puglia.

A Decline, an Uptick and a Rise

Warning: not well enough said, the focus is on what Americans believe.

clip_image001Biblical literalism comes up now and then in this blog. It is unavoidable. And why avoid it? It is part of our thinking process when we discuss the shroud.

Gallup just finished a significant poll.

Religion News Service (RNS) came up with a nifty chart that summarizes some of it nicely. Just click on the thumbnail to the right to see the chart at RNS

LiveScience turned the focus of the story towards evolution – they would, wouldn’t they. Discovery News dressed up the LiveScience article. Here is a tidbit from Discovery News:

Americans consistently report high levels of belief in the supernatural. About 80 percent of Americans believe in miracles and three-quarters believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, according to a 2013 Pew survey.

At the same time, while most Americans have a healthy respect for science, many could use a refresher course in the basics. For instance, a 2014 National Science Foundation study found that only three out of four Americans know that the Earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa, and a large percentage didn’t know the Earth’s core was hot. Large percentages didn’t know that the father’s sperm determines a baby’s sex.

Maybe, someday, Gallup or Pew or the NSF will ask about beliefs in the shroud.

Thanks for mentioning the Shroud of Turin again

Recall recently, Jerry Coyne Pounces on the Earthquake Hypothesis

University of Chicago Professor of Ecology and Evolution and super New Atheism evangelist, Jerry Coyne, seems a little angrier than usual in his latest article appearing in the New Republic: Another Vapid Effort to Claim that Science and Religion Can Get Along.

imageSociologist Elaine Ecklund [pictured] from Rice University is known for her constant stream of publications and talks promoting the compatibility of science and religion. Her work is, of course, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, whose goal to show that science and faith are mutually supportive. Ecklund’s spinning of her survey data to emphasize interdisciplinary comity—even when the data doesn’t really show it—is getting quite tiresome.  I’ve often written about Ecklund’s spin-doctoring, which always yields conclusions congenial to Templeton’s mission, but the distortions just keep on coming. Templeton dispenses some $70 million a year to get its soothing message out.

Now we have another article on Ecklund’s latest research: New survey suggests science & religion are compatible, but scientists have their doubts.” This the third piece that the Huffington Post has published on this study since February 16 (the others are here and here), implying that this “compatibility” is of great interest to somebody. Further, Ecklund’s study was done in collaboration with the U.S.’s most important science organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science—an eternal blot on a group that should stay far away from religion.

Thanks for mentioning the Shroud of Turin again:

What? Miracles? Well, science used to consider them, but it never helped our understanding of nature. As Pierre-Simon Laplace supposedly replied when asked by Napoleon why there was no mention of God in one of Laplace’s works on astronomy, “Sir, I had no need of that hypothesis.” This story may be apocryphal, but it makes a valid point: modern science has no need to invoke miracles, for we’ve been able to explain things adequately without considering supernatural involvement.  Nor have we encountered phenomena that demand the miraculous intervention of a deity. Indeed, tests of whether miracles occur (studies of the efficacy of intercessory prayer, investigations of supposed miracles like the Shroud of Turin, and so on) have always shown no evidence that God stuck his hand in. But he could have: all he would have to do is, on one night, to rearrange the stars in a pattern that spelled out “I am who I am” in Hebrew. Science would have a tough time explaining that one! There are innumerable phenomena that would, if verified, convince scientists that a god existed. But no such things have been seen.

Recall recently, Jerry Coyne Pounces on the Earthquake Hypothesis

John Klotz from his upcoming book

imageJohn Klotz offers us a wonderful posting, IN WHOSE IMAGE?   Quantum Mechanics and Shroud Science on his blog, The Quantum Christ. It is a part of one chapter from his forthcoming book. John, as most of you know, is a frequent and informative, levelheaded commenter on this blog.

Here is how it begins:

Some have referred to the Shroud as the “Fifth Gospel.”[i] It may be that, but it also something more, a new Revelation brought to us not by a scribe writing on an isolated island, but by science itself. Shroud science was born with Secondo Pia’s 1898 Shroud photographs but in1900 a scientific revolution in science erupted with the formulation of Max Planck’s theory of light as “quanta,” tiny entities that were both particle and wave. His theory gave birth to “quantum mechanics,” a study of the nature of existence at the atomic and sub-atomic levels.

Before the advent of quantum mechanics, the world of science was dominated by the view of the universe and all material existence promulgated by Isaac Newton. Newton’s universe was steady, never ending with no beginning and no end. His theories were the end result of the scientific revolution begun by Copernicus and Galileo. Along the way, he invented a new mathematical system of analysis called calculus. Across the Channel in Germany, Gottfried Leibniz was also developing a calculus. Who is the real father of calculus is a debate of interest and importance to mathematicians but not to most of humanity. What was important to humanity is that calculus systems were developed and they worked.

Philosophically, Newton’s universe led to the principle of “determinism.” Ultimately the universe and everything in it was subject to immutable rules. Everything was determined by those rules even the course of human conduct. There was no room for free will.

That changed with the advent of quantum mechanics because at the quantum level, matter did not behave in a determined manner but obeyed only the rules of probability. Indeed, until measured or observed, the most minute particles are ambiguous, behaving as both wave and particle.

A point John makes about Teilhard is right on, as I see it:

Teilhard wrote before the theory of quantum information was developed. Thus his theories about consciousness and humanity were uninformed by it. However, he divided the human phenomenon into the physical appearance as matter and consciousness as substance. Arguably he presaged the whole question of quantum information which would explain the “substance” of humanity as distinguished from its Newtonian physical existence. What results is a bridge between quantum mechanics and the appearance-substance dichotomy espoused by Thomas Aquinas which in turn was a medieval, Christian transliteration of concepts advanced by Plato.

John wants feedback. He will be watching here for your comments. Read the entire posting, IN WHOSE IMAGE?   Quantum Mechanics and Shroud Science and make comments, here or in his blog.

Several Mark Antonacci Talks in St. Louis Starting Next Week

The St. Louis Review, a publication of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, is announcing:

Mark Antonacci, an expert on the Shroud of Turin, will hold several lectures on the subject at the chapel at De Smet Jesuit High School, 233 N. New Ballas Road in Creve Coeur. Antonacci will speak about his efforts to petition Pope Francis to allow additional testing on the shroud. Lectures will be held at 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11, Thursday, April 10, and Monday, May 12, and will continue throughout December of 2014. The presentations are free, but contributions to The Resurrection of the Shroud Foundation will be accepted. Visit for more information about Antonacci’s upcoming presentations or to learn more about The RSF.

So, if you are in St. Louis on any of those dates, attend the lectures.

I continue to oppose the petition. About four months ago, Stephen Jones wrote:

It will be interesting to see what the Vatican’s response (if any) to this petition will be. If the Pope (the owner of the Shroud) does agree to further testing of the Shroud, I doubt that it will be in response to effectively one individual’s (Antonacci’s), request. My guess is that to minimise any further controversy the Vatican would probably want to see a broad consensus among Shroud pro-authenticists (and maybe even including Shroud anti-authenticists), of what the tests would be, how they would be carried out and by whom, before it agrees to any further testing of the Shroud.

As I said then, I agree with Stephen. We only need to look back to the 1980’s to see how to go about this in the right way, when John Jackson gathered solid support from many credible scientists in different fields and developed a well-reasoned, scientific plan for examining the shroud. The result was STURP.

clip_image001It was at this time, last November, that Colin Berry made a brilliant observation that came with an important warning. He wrote:

. . . All someone has to do is sneak a mixture of ordinary beryllium and americium-241 (present in domestic smoke alarms) into the cabinet housing the Shroud. That mixture then emits neutrons (half life approx.10 days) and before you know what the Shroud will then be impregnated with radioisotopes such as chlorine-36 and calcium- 41 that Antonacci and his pressure group (if invited in with their scanners) could later proclaim to the world as proof that the Christian story based on Resurrection is proven – and a lot more besides (he reckons, see below ) as to the mechanism of resurrection.

You think I’m exaggerating?

See Antonacci comment from this site in September: (my bolding)

Please study the keynote address, which can be found on I’m not trying to be self-congratulatory or subjective, but these procedures could test every explanation for the Shroud’s radiocarbon dating and answer all the mysteries surrounding the Shroud. If the Shroud linen cloth, blood and other particles on it were examined at the molecular and atomic level, you could also collect enough new information that scientists could analyze this data for many years to come. I will be further updating this proposal, as well.

And on the Petition site:(my bolding)

A leading hypothesis published in Scientific Research and Essays in 2012 asserts that particle radiation was emitted from the length and width of Jesus’ dead body while he was wrapped in the Shroud, and it was this “event” which caused the unique images on the cloth. Molecular and atomic testing could prove that hypothesis to be true. ……

…..If unfakable and independent evidence was obtained to confirm this hypothesis however, it could actually be used to analyze the central premises of various religions throughout history and in our world today.

Objective and independent evidence does not exist to prove the central premises of any other religion, agnosticism or atheism. In contrast, the Shroud of Turin could provide thousands of unfakable items of scientific and medical evidence to prove the central premises of Christianity. This new, incomparable evidence could lessen or remove the underlying bases for many of the world’s ongoing wars and conflicts. The world has everything to gain and nothing to lose by the proposed molecular and atomic testing of the Shroud of Turin. . . .

David Goulet responded to Colin:

Would the sabotage you are mentioning lead to ‘unfakable’ evidence? If there is a way to skew the evidence then doesn’t this demonstrate the evidence is indeed fakable? And now that skeptics like yourself are aware of the possibility of sabotage, this would undermine authenticity claims based on said testing.

For myself, I share your fear. There is a segment of Christianity that pushes a Christian triumphalism and the Shroud could be be exploited by them. The thought that Christians would use the Shroud to proselytize turns my stomach. It has been called the Silent Witness…that is exactly how it should be seen. If God wanted it to preach he would have added audio to it.

Hmmm, that makes me wonder… could there be audio properties encoded in it? Who needs flowers and coins when you could have music and soundbites. :)

Maybe, when many of us meet in St. Louis for an international conference this fall, we can convince Mark to drop the idea.

As long as these results are not refuted . . . [they] have scientific validity?

imageJason Engwer has an interesting piece in the Triablogue about Fanti’s recent interview with Vatican Insider. It got me thinking. But first …

Jason provided a link to something he wrote a year ago. (Heck, it’s short; let me quote from it directly – all of it):

Jason: The Shroud of Turin has been in the news a lot lately, due to a new book that’s come out claiming further scientific testing that dates the Shroud around the time of Jesus. See the March 28 entry here for an overview from Barrie Schwortz, including a discussion of some of the problems with Giulio Fanti’s claims at this point. We’ll have to wait to see how things develop. Dan Porter has been covering the story on his blog as well. There’s already good reason to reject the 1988 carbon dating of the Shroud, such as Ray Rogers’ work published in 2005. We’ll see how much Fanti’s research adds to that. From what I’ve read so far, I agree with the general thrust of Schwortz’s comments. Fanti’s work looks somewhat promising, but there are problems with it.

In his latest post, Jason quotes Fanti from the Vatican Insider interview. It’s a computerized translation, but it is readable:

Fanti: Today, we have thus five different dating methods: the radiocarbon method, my three and those of Rogers. Also, we could have been wrong. But four different independent methods, reach the same result, but then speak a clear language. As long as these results are not refuted, and I can not imagine how this should be possible, these results have scientific validity. So that has first Century after Christ the greatest probability as emergence period for the Turin grave cloth. This dating corresponds exactly to the time Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine. We now await the reactions from the rest of the science world. So far we received only affirmative and affirmative responses, but no refutation.

Jason wraps it up (and I agree with him):

Jason: Notice Fanti’s reference to the work of Ray Rogers, which I’ve discussed before. Even if we were to reject Fanti’s research, we’d have other grounds for dismissing the 1988 carbon dating results. There are many indications, some of which I’ve discussed before, that the Shroud is older than the medieval era. The preponderance of evidence favors authenticity.

And that is when I got to thinking. Fanti said, “As long as these results are not refuted, and I can not imagine how this should be possible, these results have scientific validity.”

Maybe we should be revisiting Revisiting Giulio Fanti’s Dating Methods.

Beyond the blogosphere, is anyone paying attention to Fanti’s methods? Is anyone giving thought to refuting his methods or refuting the result he achieved?

As to the first part of that question, methods, at least one method has been explored in a scientific journal:  Vibrational Spectroscopy, an Elsevier journal. The paper: Non-destructive dating of ancient flax textiles by means of vibrational spectroscopy.

As for the second part of the question,  results, Fanti’s science is being published by Edizioni Segno, a Christian publishing house of books and magazines “unique in their genre for the variety and completeness of the information on prophecies and private revelations and apparitions and messages, everything about the world of the supernatural.” (Bing Translation for quoted portion). Not likely to draw a lot of scientific attention, is it.

It is hard to say, as Fanti does, “As long as these results are not refuted . . . [they] have scientific validity,” if nobody is paying attention.

Or am I missing something? Do we need a better translation?

Mixing Believers, Scientists and Many Who Are Both.

imageAs reported by Religion News Service (here via the Huffington Post):

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program released a major research project on Sunday (Feb. 16), at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago, and announced an upcoming series of conferences mixing believers, scientists and many who are both.

The massive survey of views on God, religion, and science included 10,241 respondents and took a particularly close look at the views of evangelicals and people in science-related occupations.

The concern is not whether “science and religion can co-exist. They already do,” said lead researcher Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist and director of Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program. “The question is how to do it well.”

Interesting statistics:

Among the findings of the study, “Religious Understandings of Science”:

* Nearly 36 percent of scientists have no doubt about God’s existence.
* 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services (compared with 20 percent of the overall U.S. population).
* 17 percent of scientists consider themselves evangelical.
* 15 percent of scientists consider themselves “very religious” (19 percent of the overall population).
* 13.5 percent of scientists read religious texts weekly (17 percent overall).


“If you are looking for conflict, there’s a place to find it in the data,” Ecklund pointed out in a live online chat for AAAS’ “Science” magazine. The study reports:

* 22 percent of scientists and 20 percent of the general population think most religious people are hostile to science.
* 22 percent of the general population thinks scientists are hostile to religion.
* 27 percent of Americans feel that science and religion are in conflict.
* Of those who feel science and religion are in conflict, 52 percent sided with religion.

Whole Lot of Shaking Going On in Jerusalem in 33AD?

maybe there never was an earthquake

clip_image001Onion-peel the cited sources  in the Meccanica paper and . . . “It seems likely that all the evidence for an earthquake at the time of the Crucifixion is probably derived from a single source, the Gospel of Matthew.”

Stephen Jones doubts that Matthew was talking about an earthquake at all. In a comment to a reader of his blog he puts it best:

As I pointed out in my comment above, in Mt 28:2 "it was not actually an earthquake", i.e. a geologically-caused one, "It just FELT like one".

That is because Mt 28:2 says: "… there was a great earthquake [Gk. seismos megas], FOR an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it" (my emphasis). So it was the ANGEL’S descending and/or his rolling back the stone at the tomb’s entrance which was the cause of this "great earthquake", not geological activity.
I also pointed out that the Greek word "seismos means "a shaking" and in Mt 8:24 a "great storm" at sea is exactly the same Gk. words seismos megas translated "great earthquake" in Mt 28:2.

So the `earthquake’ caused by the angel on resurrection day would have been better translated, "And behold, there was a great SHAKING, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it" (my [=Stephen’s] emphasis).

So maybe because of a translation error there never was an earthquake. (If Stephen is right I must rethink my long held assumption that the earthquake was a metaphor).

Referring to the study published in the journal Meccanica Stephen had wondered:

. . . who peer-reviews these Bible-science papers? Did they consult any Bible-believing theologians?


Well, yes, in this case that might have been a good idea. Humor me; the paper hinges on one assumption, that there was an earthquake in AD 33. The paper cites various sources to establish this fact, but they may all hinge on Matthew’s Gospel. Maybe a biblical scholar or two, bible-believing or otherwise, theologian, historian or exegesist would have been a big help. Sounds crazy! After all this is supposed to be a scientific paper in a scientific journal. Unfortunately, it is bible-based more so than a casual reader might think.  

Skeptics Community at the Stack Exchange 

To understand this better, we need to turn to another source, a probing source. That is Skeptics Community at the Stack Exchange. There, prompted by a similar question in the Christianity Community, someone asked: Did a magnitude 8.2 earthquake hit Jerusalem in 33AD?

clip_image001[4]1) First up is Jon Ericson:

The paper that sparked the news story states in its conclusion:

Considering the historical documents attesting the occurrence in the “Old Jerusalem” of a disastrous earthquake in 33 A.D., the authors assume that a seismic event with magnitude ranging from the 8th to the 9th degree in the Richter scale could have produced a thermal neutron flux of up to 1010 cm−2 s−1.

The historical documents cited are:

  • NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center "Significant Earthquake Database"

    While it does list a number of earthquakes in the first century, the evidence for each is widely diverse. The August 24, 79 A.D. Naples earthquake is well documented since it coincided with the eruption of Vesuvius. The 33 A.D. earthquake in Palestine seems to have far less documentation. The two sources indicate:

    33 A.D., Bithynia and Palestine. At the crucifixion. The city of Nisaea was destroyed. (reference #521)

    33 A.D., Palestine, Jerusalem. (reference #1222)


    Catalogue of Recorded Earthquakes from 1606 B.C. to A.D. 1850, Part I, 1606 B.C. to 1755 A.D. Report of the 22nd Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Hull, Sept., 1853, John Murray, London, p. 1-176.


    Historical seismicity of the Arab region. IASPEI/UNESCO Working Group on Historical Seismograms and Earthquakes, August 27-28, 1985, Tokyo; Preliminary Proceedings, p. 59-84.

    It’s not at all clear (without reading those reports) where each got its data. One might expect the second used the first as a baseline. It’s possible the 1853 catalogue used the Gospel accounts.

  • Thallus

    We only have only have fragments of his third book of histories via Sextus Julius AfricanusHistory of the World, which has also been lost. However, Africanus was quoted by George Syncellus, who disputed Thallus’ apparent claim that the darkness reported at the same time was an eclipse. There is some doubt that Thallus was writing about the Crucifixion event at all.

  • The Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea

    I’ve had some difficulty finding out much about this document, except that it appears to be legend, not history. In The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese date the work between the 4th and 12th century. Therefore, it was likely influenced by Matthew’s accounts.

  • Dante’s Inferno

  • Ambraseys N (2005) Historical earthquakes in Jerusalem: a methodological discussion. J Seismol 9:329–340

    I don’t have access to this myself, but the article helpfully notes:

    Modern writers say that Jerusalem is situated relatively close to the active Dead Sea Fault zone. They accept the occurrence of the Resurrection earthquake, to which they assign the severity of a catastrophic event, characterized by a local magnitude ML = 8.2, as well as of another earthquake that took place in Bithynia, during the same period, that would have had even a greater magnitude.

    (Details of "local scale" may be found on Wikipedia’s Richter magnitude scale article.)

    But the abstract of the paper cited reads in part:

    However, as we go further back in time before our era, the historical record gradually disappears and the archaeological record takes over. Unfortunately, the archaeological record is too coarse and ambiguous, without any precise internal archaeological indicators. Dating is based on, or influenced by the very few historical records, such as in the Bible and inscriptions, which provide an example of how their assumed accuracy may influence archaeologists’ interpretation and dating. Quite often this develops into a circular process in which archaeological assumptions or theories are transformed into facts and used by earth scientists to confirm the dates and size of their proposed events. In this article we discuss the problems that arise when Biblical and archaeological information is used at face value to assess earthquakes in the Holy Land. This combination may produce earthquakes of hypothetical location and of grossly exaggerated magnitude with consequences for the assessment of seismic hazard.

    Therefore the paper used to obtain the oddly specific local magnitude of 8.2 seems to express caution about the evidence for the dates and sizes of earthquake reports like "Old Jerusalem".

  • Summary

It seems likely that all the evidence for an earthquake at the time of the Crucifixion is derived from the Gospel of Matthew. The authors of "Is the Shroud of Turin in relation to the Old Jerusalem historical earthquake?" seem to have over-estimated the strength of evidence for such an event. It is perhaps worthwhile to note that conclusions of the paper depend on the precise timing and strength of the quake. 
[ . . . ]


2) Second up is Jefferson Williams:

The Dead Sea is not thought to be capable of producing a M 8.2 earthquake in Judea. Max I have heard about is M 7.5. There was an earthquake around the time of Jesus’ death but it was much smaller than M 8.2. It was estimated at M 6.0 to M 6.5 and was dated to between 26 and 36 AD. (

It appears that the authors of the Turin Shroud article conflated an earthquake in Northern Anatolia in 29 AD that was associated with a solar eclipse with Matthew’s description of an earthquake in Chapters 27 and 28 and came up with Magnitude 8.2.

A significant amount of early Christian apologetic literature assumes that the Northern Anatolia 29 AD earthquake was what was described by Matthew in chapters 27 and 28 because the Anatolian earthquake was associated with midday darkness (due to the eclipse) and occurred around the right time.

However, this logic was faulty because the crucifixion occurred on 14 or 15 Nisan in the Jewish Calender which is the time of a full moon; meaning a solar eclipse was not possible. Further, earthquakes from northern Anatolia do not produce significant shaking in Jerusalem.
[ . . . ]


Painting is The Angel at the Tomb of Christ by Benjamin West (Brooklyn Museum). I share the position of the Wikimedia foundation that photographs of two-dimensional works of art in the public domain may not be copyrighted by the photographer.

Royal Society Lecture: Exchanges in science and religion

BT writes from Connecticut:

Thinking that we focus too much on Newtonian science to try to explain the Shroud while ignoring Quantum science, I was hunting about and came upon this. While it does not pertain directly to the Shroud, this presentation by physicist and priest, the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, does suggests useful ways of thinking about the Shroud. It may be found on the Royal Society website . . .


Barrie Schwortz’ TEDx Talk Featured on NDE Site

imageIf you have been following this blog you know about Barrie Schwortz’ TEDx Via della Conciliazione Talk (May 3, 2013). After that posting I featured Barrie’s talk in the right margin of the blog. You may have clicked on it there. Of course, you may have encountered it elsewhere such as Vatican News, the Catholic Herald and It is hosted on YouTube, which in and of itself is a powerful referral source.

I was fascinated to see the Barrie’s talk featured on NHNE Pulse, a blog as dedicated to Near Death Experiences as we are here to the Shroud of Turin. Go check out TEDx: Barrie Schwortz on The Shroud of Turin. And take some time to browse about as I am sure others, upon landing on, do for us.

NHNE lists this blog as a reference and I’ve touched on the subject of Near Death Experiences on occasion. There was Near Death Experiences and the Shroud of Turin? about Eben Alexander’s book featured in Newsweek and the Huffington Post. There was my quoting from John Klotz’s blog, Living Free in which he wrote:, the Internet equivalent of MSNBC has a lengthy article by a author of a book to be released next week entitled “Brain Wars.” It’s about Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE) and Near Death Experiences (NDE)

It is my position that the Shroud has a direct relationship to the issues raised.

And there was Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Turin Shroud and Still More on Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Shroud

It took years for me to be mostly convinced that the shroud is real. I’m still working on NDEs.

If you will be in the Cleveland area on January 25th

imageThe Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting:

David Onysko, who has done extensive research and speaking on the Shroud of Turin, will give a multi-media presentation on the shroud, science and history at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 10285 Ravenna Road, Twinsburg. [Twinsburg is near Cleveland.]

The shroud, believed by some to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, bears the faint image of a bearded, crucified man along with a pattern of what are said to be bloodstains.

The event is free. For more information, call 330-425-7377 or see Onysko’s website at

If you visit David’s website, Man in the Shroud Ministries, you are in for a bonus feature, a 91 slide slideshow presentation.  Enjoy.

David’s bio from his website:

imageIn 1983, David Onysko earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Cleveland State University with a Master in Education in 1991.  After two decades of teaching, he is turning his full-time attention to Sindonology (the study of the Shroud).  David’s interest has led him to many scientific/theological conferences (St. Louis, Rome, Dallas, New York, etc.)  Over the years, he has spoken to thousands about the Shroud of Turin, including international audiences.  In April 1998, David and a world-wide press corps viewed the Shroud during a private 45 minute showing.  In August 2000, David and his family traveled to Turin, Italy to see the image during the Shroud’s Jubilee Exposition.  He has been presenting the continuing story of the Shroud of Turin since the late 1980s.  David resides in the greater Cleveland area.

Rest in Peace Ian Barbour

Karl Giberson, Ph.D, Professor, Stonehill College writes of his friend in the Huffington Post. Ian Barbour died on Christmas Eve:

imageBarbour [pictured] entered this conversation [of science and religion] as a lone, although uniquely qualified, voice in the 1950s. The conversation he started established to the satisfaction of most scholars in the field that White’s simplistic warfare metaphor was bogus, which was no mean accomplishment. Barbour had a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, earned under the great Enrico Fermi. He also did graduate work in theology and ethics at Yale Divinity School. He taught both religion and physics at Carleton College in Minnesota over the course of a long career that produced over a dozen major books and countless articles.

Barbour’s CV is extraordinary. His 1966 classic Issues in Science & Religion, which I read as an undergraduate, created the vocabulary and categories for the science-and-religion dialogue. He gave two sets of Gifford lectures, published under the titles "Religion in an Age of Science" and "Ethics in an Age of Technology." His modest volume When Science Meets Religion, published in 2000, is a classic text in the field, summarizing a lifetime of hard thinking about important questions. I have used it many times in my classes. Barbour’s books have been used in over 7,500 science-and-religion courses around the world, and countless courses in other fields. I first read Barbour in my undergraduate epistemology class, when we were assigned his book Myths, Models, and Paradigms. His deep understanding of both science and theology allowed him to find parallels in the ways that systems of thought were constructed.

imageIn 1999 Barbour was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which was long overdue. He donated much of the seven-figure award to the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, CA, where it supports the study of science and religion by a new generation of young scholars.

Barbour was a delightful, effervescent personality, perpetually scurrying from one engagement to the next as if to remind us all that there was important work to be done. I last saw him a decade ago in Nassau, where we were "swimming with dolphins" after a major science-and-religion meeting. He was 80 years old and still looking for adventure.

Few scholars have shaped their field like Ian Barbour. Nothing, in fact, indicates a serious engagement with science and religion like familiarity with Barbour’s ubiquitous scheme of making connections between the two fields.

Wikipedia on Ian Barbour

Religion and Science (Gifford Lectures Series)