Of Hunches and Intuition: Neuroscience and the Shroud of Turin

In a Huffington Post blog, Psychologist Kelly Bulkeley, a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley asks Does Neuroscience Require a Rejection of Religion?

imageIn the preceding paragraphs [from his book, A Portrait of the Brain, Adam] Zeman acknowledges that philosophers like Thomas Nagel, Colin McGinn and David Chalmers have raised devastating critical questions about physicalism that he cannot refute. Yet he decides to accept physicalism anyway, based on what he calls a "hunch," a strong "intuition," and something he "suspect(s)" about the crypto-religious beliefs of those who do not accept physicalism.

These personal sentiments may be enough for Zeman to persuade himself, but they certainly do not qualify as a rational, evidence-based argument in favor of physicalism.

And I sense shroud science like studies of consciousness are at a stage – we don’t know enough or we can’t know enough – that we rely on hunches and intuition. I imagine this may be true for committed  believers like Giulio Fanti and John Jackson and strong skeptics like Colin Berry and Joe Nickel.  

De Wesselow’ Story Spreads to the Mainstream Mother Nature Network

imageMother Nature Network has picked up Stephanie Pappas’ article from LiveScience published last April about de Wesselow’s book. MNN is a significant MSM online family, lifestyle and environmental issues journal, with a large readership. So here it is again if you missed it before (I seem to have):

"It’s nothing like any other medieval work of art," de Wesselow said. "There’s just nothing like it." [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]

Among the anachronisms, de Wesselow said, is the realistic nature of the body outline. No one was painting that realistically in the 14th century, he said. Similarly, the body image is in negative (light areas are dark and vice versa), a style not seen until the advent of photography centuries later, he said.

"From an art historian’s point of view, it’s completely inexplicable as a work of art of this period," de Wesselow said.

Note: The bracketed [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus] was not added to the text by me.

The Making of a Meme: Pope Francis, Scientist. Not! Or . . .

imageWe must be careful in what we say and what we write about Pope Francis as to him being a scientist or chemist. It’s not that he isn’t very well educated and fully qualified to be the pope. He is. But in our enthusiasm to have a pontiff trained in science who can thus relate to the shroud from that background, we must be careful to not overstate his credentials. Countless news outlets probably have it wrong. His official  biography probably has it right when it states that “[h]e studied as and holds a degree as a chemical technician.” But that degree may be from a high school and not from college level studies.

Wikipedia, also, probably has it right, at this time (See below). But look at this list of press articles. This is just a sample:

Forbes:  Pope Francis, Scientist: Or at least, he was. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a young man, he graduated from technical school as a Chemical Technician. He then earned his Masters Degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aries. It was only after that that he decided to become a priest.

USA Today: A scientist pope and high-tech Catholicism: “Many of us are still trying to learn about the new pontiff. We know a few things already. He is not only a man of faith, but also science — a chemist, by training.”

NBC: Meet the new pope: Francis is humble leader who takes the bus to work: “Francis earned a degree in chemistry and was ordained a priest in December 1969. He was named archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.”  and “He has a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.”

Parade: 10 Things to Know About Pope Francis: “He’s a scientist. On top of his philosophy degree from the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, he also has a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.”

Live Science, the Telegraph, the Guardian, Biography, Catholic News, Christian Post, Chronicles of Higher Education . . . The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and The Associated Press all just say he studied as or was trained as a chemist without any specifics, according to Wikipedia. But those missing specifics may be just that he has a high school degree that qualifies him as a chemistry technician. He has other university degrees but possibly not in science.

The list goes on and on. And the story that Pope Francis is a scientist, a chemist with a Masters Degree, gets repeated in countless blogs and other news outlets.

And here is the latest from Wikipedia discussions (bolding mine):

I dont think the cite that says he got a masters degree is accurate. In this newspaper http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1562738-bergoglio-un-sacerdote-jesuita-de-carrera they claim he studied chemistry in high school. Additionally, at that time there were no masters degree in Argentina, the closest you can get is an "engineering" degree. bcartolo (talk) 21:40, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

The detailed reference above supports Bcartolo’s comment; it gives details of the school from wich he graduated as chemical technician, and says that he decided to follow the priesthood at 21 (too young for a master’s degree). In point of fact I do think that in 1957 there was a degree of "licenciado en ciencias químicas", which is comparable to a master’s (at least 4 years), though the reference above implies Bergoglio didn’t study for it. There certainly was such a degree a few years later. I suppose that this will be clarified as time goes by. Pol098 (talk) 01:11, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
 
There are lots of reliable sources that say it was a masters and name the university, such as this one and this one. It looks like he decided to become a priest at 21, but that doesn’t mean that he had graduated at that point; for all we know he continued his chemistry studies for a time before or while he had entered the Jesuits. He wasn’t ordained until he was 32. (Also, do you speak Spanish? I don’t, but I’m reticent to trust a machine translation for the Spanish-language source.) Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 00:30, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Also: this source is from 2005, so we can be sure the recent sources weren’t just copying the Wikipedia article. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 00:37, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
 
Chemistry in Ciencias Exactas was a fairly gruelling full-time 4-year course, preceded by a 1-year evening preparatory course. Conceivably he could have been studying chemical engineering (different building, different location at that time), but that was no easy option either. The references are fairly specific that he graduated from secondary school as a chemical technician. I have been thinking "either-or" with blinkers on (technician or university), but of course it’s quite sensible to do chemistry both in school first and at university level afterwards, so it’s conceivable he did both. On the one hand it’s utterly unimportant anyway; on the other it’ll probably come out in the wash eventually. Searching in Spanish finds lots of references to him being a chemical technician, but they probably derive from Wikipedia anyway! So I think I should leave this alone. Chemists (and physicists) have probably been doing too much running things in living memory (Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Francis…) Best wishes, Pol098 (talk) 01:34, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
 
Don’t forget Mohamed Morsi (I reckon materials science is close enough…) Anyway, the official biography refers to "a degree as a chemical technician" which is also somewhat ambiguous. I think since we have sources on both sides we should mention both degrees for now, expressing appropriate caution, and if new sources clarify the matter we can update as needed. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 02:56, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

 
Yeah, sources may be ambiguous, but WP has to be squeaky clean in its accuracy and balance. Tony (talk) 03:05, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

 
If that’s what the official biography says, I would quote it exactly and drop the rest. If somebody is a licenciado en ciencias químicas, or an ingeniero químico (not sure of wording actually used for engineer, conceivably ingeniero en química), he would not be described as a technician. The Spanish version of the official Web site (Spanish as his language and the language he studied and graduated in) says "Estudió y se diplomó como Técnico Quimico"—"he studied and graduated as a chemical technician" which in my opinion unambiguously does not say he has a university degree, there is no Argentine university degree of "técnico", much less equivalent to a masters degree, and there is such a qualification from an industrial secondary school. The capitals imply the formal name of a qualification. The Italian site uses the same wording as the Spanish, without the capitals. But I probably won’t edit further myself unless real rubbish gets written. Pol098 (talk) 04:48, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

 
I am fluent in Spanish because I am from Argentina. I am pretty sure by now that he is a chemistry technician, a degree awarded by a high school. I also believe the masters degree was made up by the catholic telegraph, catholic herald or catholic news. I will call the university today and request they make a formal statement and post it in the web page today. Wish me luck with that, there is a lot of bureaucracy involved. bcartolo (talk) 12:27, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
 
Thanks for the detective work, I’m interested to see the resolution either way. I suppose someone could have mistranslated or misunderstood the Spanish name of the degree and published it in an English-language source, but in that case it would be odd that a specific university was named. Hopefully the matter will be explicitly clarified. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 17:18, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
 
Another (admittedly not all that decisive) piece of evidence: many recent sources such as this one contain the sentence "He became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies." This implies that he quit his chemistry studies no more than nine years before being ordained, at the age of 23 at the youngest, which is reasonable for a masters degree. This means that he would have had to continue his university studies for a few years after deciding to become a preist (at the age of 21) and becoming a member of the Jesuits. Of course, it could also be the sources being imprecise with their language. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 17:32, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
 
Curiouser and curiouser. There are lots of sources mentioning the masters degree, but the only pre-2013 source I can find on the Internet is this 2005 source from Catholic News Service. Meanwhile, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and The Associated Press all just say he studied as or was trained as a chemist without any specifics. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 17:58, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

 
As I said, bureaucracy can take some time to decide this. We must be patient. Regarding the name of the university, it can be made up, you see UBA is the most important university there so someone could have assumed the pope went there. bcartolo (talk) 00:56, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

Might Jesus give us the Shroud of Turin as evidence?

imageJason Engwer, one of many bloggers at Triablogue, wonders, Is It Sinful To Produce Or Want Evidence Like The Shroud Of Turin? 

Thomas did see Jesus, and he believed as a result. How does it follow that Jesus wouldn’t give us anything like the Shroud of Turin to see or that we shouldn’t believe or be strengthened in our faith as a result of such things? Thomas was given something to see. That wasn’t the problem. Nor was Thomas’ desire for evidence. Rather, the problem was his irrational rejection of the evidence he already had, which was more than sufficient (fulfilled prophecy, Jesus’ other miracles, his prediction of his resurrection, etc.). John 20 isn’t opposing a desire for evidence. It’s not opposing Jesus’ visibility in the world, whether through the body Thomas saw or something like the Shroud. Rather, John 20 is opposing the sort of irrationality that mishandles evidence that’s already been provided. Thomas’ problem wasn’t that he was too rational or too concerned about evidence. His problem was that he was irrational and mishandling the evidence he already had.

The people John was writing to wouldn’t see the risen Jesus the way Thomas did. But they would have a lot of evidence, such as the document John was writing to them. That’s why John is so careful to cite evidence along the way, such as prophecies Jesus fulfilled and the eyewitness nature of his (John’s) testimony. John incorporates some of the historiographical standards of his day in his gospel – he writes in the genre of Greco-Roman biography, he appeals to eyewitness testimony, he appeals to witnesses who were present "from the beginning" (a significant phrase in ancient historiography), etc. – because he was concerned about evidence and wanted his readers to be.

There is a fascinating collection of thoughtful and interesting comments with the posting that warrant two cups of coffee and a pondering-walk in the woods. Here is a response by Jason that went into my clippings file:

Whether the Shroud is referenced in sources prior to the fourteenth century is one of the issues that’s disputed. You’re assuming something that’s in dispute. Besides, artifacts often turn up in some way or another after having been buried or otherwise concealed for a long time, even centuries or millennia. Even if we assumed that every alleged reference to the Shroud between the first and fourteenth centuries is actually referring to something else, that fact alone wouldn’t justify a rejection of the Shroud. It would weaken the case for the Shroud, but wouldn’t overturn it.

You asked what effect the Shroud has on me. I view it as I would other extra-Biblical sources, like an archeological artifact that gives me additional information about how the Romans crucified people or an extra-Biblical document that gives me further information about how to interpret a word that’s used in the Bible. All of us are influenced by extra-Biblical sources in many ways. An extra-Biblical hymn moves us to appreciate and love God more. An extra-Biblical answer to prayer increases our faith and gratitude. A passage in Tacitus gives us more of an understanding of the historical context of scripture. Etc.

The image, of course, is a Photo Shop take on . . .

image

Philosophy: The Way of the Agnostic (and the Shroud)

clip_image001Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews has a very interesting article, The Way of the Agnostic in the Opinion pages of the NY Times:

. . . But believers such as Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and Peter van Inwagen, to cite just a few examples, have well-thought-out reasons for their belief that call for serious discussion. Their belief cannot be dismissed as on a par with children’s beliefs in Santa and the Easter Bunny. We may well not find their reasons decisive, but it would be very difficult to show that no rational person could believe for the reasons that they do.

I think of Swinburne’s Credulity principle – believing what we see even if it is hard to swallow scientifically – and I think of the shroud and how this principle is one reason, if not the primary reason, by which I believe it is real. And then I think more about how much the shroud can be the grounding for other beliefs.

Knowledge, if it exists, adds a major dimension to religious commitment. But love and understanding, even without knowledge, are tremendous gifts; and religious knowledge claims are hard to support. We should, then, make room for those who embrace a religion as a source of love and understanding but remain agnostic about the religion’s knowledge claims. We should, for example, countenance those who are Christians while doubting the literal truth of, say, the Trinity and the Resurrection. I wager, in fact, that many professed Christians are not at all sure about the truth of these doctrines —and other believers have similar doubts. They are, quite properly, religious agnostics.

. . . and then, well, I believe in the Resurrection anyway, but . . . I guess I can be like Plantinga, Swinburne and others in this regard. Well, Swinburne anyway; Plantinga makes me reach for the wine bottle before I get through his incomprehensible-for-me modal logic.

Asking Randi what do so many people have against science?

imageJoseph Cotto interviews Atheist and scientific skeptic James Randi (pictured) in the Washington Times:

Joseph F. Cotto: Scientific skepticism is a well-known concept. Why, in your view, is it so important in this day and age?

James Randi: Because very little of this process – to test paranormal and pseudoscientific claims with the methods of science – is shown by the media, by educators, or by the public. It is easier and simpler to accept every crackpot notion and invoke "political correctness" as a crutch. This is a major reason for the existence of the James Randi Educational Foundation, to challenge the media when they are careless and irresponsible about pseudoscience and the paranormal. I call this the "Oprah Winfrey Syndrome," accepting and promoting any woo-woo notion that sounds "nice" and "comforting" without considering its validity.

And, in my opinion, any testable religious claim is a variety of paranormal claim. This includes items such as the Shroud of Turin, weeping icons, and stigmata.

But can you so easily dismiss the Shroud of Turin by branding it a paranormal claim?

Rupert Sheldrake on Science and Religion

clip_image001RECOMMENDED: Rupert Sheldrake in today’s Huffington Post, Why Bad Science Is Like Bad Religion:

As I show in my new book, "Science Set Free," unexpected problems are disrupting the sciences from within. Many scientists prefer to think that these problems will eventually be solved by more research along established lines, but some, including myself, think that they are symptoms of a deeper malaise. Science is being held back by centuries-old assumptions that have hardened into dogmas.

Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 80 technical papers and 10 books, including The Science Delusion. He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University, where he was Director of Studies in cell biology. He was also a Research Fellow of the Royal Society. From 2005-2010 he was Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge. His web site is www.sheldrake.org .

Strong ignorance is not strong evidence

BT from the Coast Guard Academy in New London writes:

imageMany of your blog readers all [too] casually say that no one has figured out how the image was formed and that in this day and age with all of our modern scientific knowledge and technology this is a powerful if not convincing argument for authenticity. Strong ignorance is not strong evidence, however. No one in this age has figured out if there is but one universe or if certain biological mechanisms are too complex to have evolved naturally. What is thought about these possibilities by even the best and most brilliant scientists is subject to revision. What we may learn may delight or dismay. 

David Roemer will maybe present the Shroud of Turin at the Princeton Club in New York

Google led me to a blog posting two days ago:

image

imageWhen I went there the posting was gone. Why? However, WordPress, the host for David Roemer’s blog recommended another posting from October that had been updated with an additional blurb at about the same time this month. Here is that blurb:

Email sent to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States on Nov. 13, 2012
Your Excellency,

Cardinal Dolan is suppressing my slideshow/lecture on the history, theology, and science of the Shroud of Turin (www.holyshroud.info), and I am hoping you can help us resolve this conflict. My correspondence with the Archdiocese of New York is on my blog at

http://newevangelist.me/2012/10/02/the-truth-about-the-shroud-of-turin/

Cardinal Dolan did not answer my rebuttal to his letter of September 5, 2012.

I’v attached a transcript of the slideshow. Feel free to call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Yours respectfully in Christ, David Roemer (phone number removed by me.)

I read the entire posting, The Truth About the Shroud of Turin from Roemer’s blog, New Evangelist. It is not about the shroud. It is about a personal, long-running, escalating and seemingly pointless disagreement with just about everyone in authority in the Catholic Church over his cancelled presentation (and just for good measure evolution and the Big Bang, as well). How about this:

The Catholic Church grants indulgences to people who pray before the Shroud itself or an image of the Shroud. I feel my slides of the Holy Shroud are just as deserving of veneration as the cloth itself. I feel that the pastor desecrated the Holy Shroud by depriving his parishioners of the experience of seeing a miraculous artifact.

Here is a small sample about evolution. Yes, evolution!

Stephen Barr is a prominent physicist who writes about evolution on the pages of First Things. He is also a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology. He told me in an email that I was wrong and the AJP article was right, and that I was harming the Catholic Church. In my opinion, Barr is harming the Catholic Church. Barr does not go so far as to advocate ID, but he doesn’t say there is no evidence for ID. His argument is that ID is not science. In my opinion, Barr is helping atheists propagate misinformation about evolutionary biology. Barr should be expelled from the Academy of Catholic Theology because he is lying about science (http://newevangelist.me/2012/08/02/first-things/).

Or this to Cardinal Dolan (not on evolution):

Your Eminence:

I developed a slideshow/lecture about the Shroud of Turin (http://www.holyshroud.info, attached transcript) and think you should know about the negative reaction of Catholics to my analysis of the science, history, and theology of the Holy Shroud. After sending emails to Newman clubs, Catholic colleges, and Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Manhattan, I got only one invitation to speak. To my chagrin, the pastor cancelled the talk at the last minute on the grounds that I was not promoting the authenticity of the relic. I am the only one on the Shroud Speakers Directory of The Shroud of Turin Website (www.shroud.com) who does not think the Holy Shroud is authentic.

You wonder? I’m all for discussing and airing all arguments about the shroud. Maybe, in a realistic sense, it is his choice of venues. There is, in this posting, this implied threat. Read into it: If I can’t do my presentation in our/your churches, know that . . .

I am a member of the Princeton Club at 15 West 43rd St., and can get a meeting room in the morning with breakfast cheap. Without breakfast it is more expensive.

Separately, I received an email from David asking me if I would attend such a presentation at the Princeton Club on a yet unspecified date. I would love to. Of course! I’ve never had  breakfast there but lunch is particularly good. Unfortunately I now live in South Carolina but if I am in New York when you have the presentation, I’ll try to be there.

Any New Yorkers?

It is sad that Googlers will read this as The Truth About the Shroud of Turin. It has nothing to do with the shroud. Hopefully David will get some New Yorkers for his Princeton Club talk.

The Latest and Greatest Near Death Experience (NDE) So Far?

image

"This book is a thunderbolt!" writes Dr. Rabbi Meir Sendor.

And a priest comments in an article that appears in the Huffington Post, Eben Alexander, Harvard Neurosurgeon, Describes Heaven After Near-Death Experience a(VIDEO):

"I stood at Eben’s bedside ready to read Last Rites," writes Rev. Michael R. Sullivan, Rector, Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Ga. "With vivid detail and description, he invites you to walk with him to that place none of us has experienced yet in our humanity we know we shall one day certainly travel. Having survived a near death experience and brought his neurological expertise and background to it, we gain both the insight of the mystics in his poetic words and the reality of the physical world in his scientific explorations."

And as Eben Alexander, himself, explains it in Newsweek. It is the Newsweek cover story:

Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn’t begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.

In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.

I know how pronouncements like mine sound to skeptics, so I will tell my story with the logic and language of the scientist I am.

PrinceofPeace13The question that many will ask is how this relates to the other big NDE story reported on here about a year and a half ago, Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Turin Shroud.

Certainly, the “witnesses” to heaven are different. How different are the descriptions? How different are the criteria for judging the truthfulness of the stories. We will need to read Alexander’s book when it comes out. In the meantime we have this by Raymond Moody, MD, PhD, author of Life Beyond Life, 1974:

imageDr Eben Alexander’s near-death experience is the most astounding I have heard in more than four decades of studying this phenomenon. In my opinion, Dr Alexander is living proof of an afterlife. The extraordinary circumstances of his illness and his impeccable credentials make it very hard to formulate a mundane explanation for his case. For me, it is difficult to shake the feeling that his experience was somehow divinely ordained. Dr. Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven deserves to be a major international bestseller, and I believe it will be.

I am confident that Dr. Alexander’s story will capture worldwide interest. It will inspire many to accept that there really is life after death. I suspect his book will be a global game-changer. It has seismic implications and may help humanity arrive at a more accurate understanding of life’s true meaning and purpose in the larger sense.

Dr. Eben Alexander’s near-death experience stands as perhaps one of the crown jewels of all near-death experiences. The knowledge of what he experienced raises the bar for serious investigators and pundits. It marks the beginning of a new era of rational investigation of humankind’s deepest mystery, life after death."

And many more reviews at Life Beyond Death: Consciousness if the Most Profound Mystery in the Universe

Believers and Atheists Learning from Each Other

imageInteresting piece from Science and  Religion Today, What Believers and Atheists Can Teach Each Other. This is a quotation, imbedded in the piece, by astrophysicist Adam Frank  in NPR’s blog 13.7:

Dig around in most of the world’s great religious traditions and you find people finding their sense of grace by embracing uncertainty rather than trying to bury it in codified dogmas …

Though I am an atheist, some of the wisest people I have met are those whose spiritual lives (some explicitly religious, some not) have forced them to continually confront uncertainty. This daily act has made them patient and forgiving, generous and inclusive. Likewise, the atheists I have met who most embody the ideals of free inquiry seem to best understand the limitations of every perspective, including their own. They encounter the ever shifting ground of their lives with humor, good will and compassion.

Perhaps there are some lessons for shroud authenticists and skeptics.

A Curmudgeon: What if another God next to him is doing a different simulation?

imageInteresting article, Multiverses & The Shroud of Turin, by the curmudgeon at curmudgeograph:

Like the shroud, the jury about whether pure randomness explains everything, has not even been sent out for deliberation.  The mystery still remains.  Though I cannot see how such a universe can explain us, I’m not upset at the investigations.  I’d like to say I can be fair and show criteria that would persuade me, but getting right down to it, it would be much easier to prove that the Shroud of Turin is only an artful hoax.

Yannick Clément’s Summa Theologica

imageYannick Clément, with a bit of advice from Manny Carreira, a Spanish physicist and Jesuit priest, clarifies:

Then, he suggest[s to] me to add a footnote to explain what I mean by “dematerialization” of the body at the time of the Resurrection. Here’s what he told me : “Perhaps no single word is adequate to avoid possible misinterpretations. When I write on this subject I feel more comfortable saying that “the entire human reality -soul and body- begins to exist outside the space-time frame where physical activity takes place”, as described by science. This is the way the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses it (nos. 996-1000 especially). Since the spirit is independent -by its very nature- from space-time constraints, we can say that the body exists in a similar way as the spirit does.”

And here’s what I wrote in the footnote that I add in my paper (based mainly on what M. Carreira told me) : “This expression should be understood in the sense of a “vanishing of the body”. And it’s important to note that, on a religious level, words like “dematerialization” or “vanishing” doesn’t mean that the body of Christ would have been “destroyed” in favor of a surviving of his soul only (like the idea we can have of a ghost, for example). Effectively, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (particularly #996–1000) indicates that, at the time of Jesus’ Resurrection, his entire human reality (body, spirit and soul) begin to exist outside the space-time frame where physical activity takes place, as described by science.”

And this made me think about Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and how (in borrowing from Wikipedia):

spiritual beings that have been restored to glorified bodies will have the following basic qualities:

  • Impassibility (immortal / painless) — immunity from death and pain
  • Subtility (permeability) — freedom from restraint by matter
  • Agility — obedience to spirit with relation to movement and space (the ability to move through space and time with the speed of thought)
  • Clarity — resplendent beauty of the soul manifested in the body (as when Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor)

And as many of you know, I’m not Catholic. And this accords well with pretty much most conservative Anglican theology. As an Episcopalian (a U.S. Branch of Anglican Communion) this is close to how I look at it. However don’t forget the hullabaloo that erupted in 2002 when a survey of Church of England’s clergy revealed that a third of the of them doubted or did not believe in the physical Resurrection of Christ. Here is a story from The Telegraph.