Okay, which is it? The facts or the facts?

April 11, 2019 11 comments

image.pngWas it a matter of interpretation or persuasion?

I remember sitting in LaGuardia  Airport several years ago watching news reports about a baseball game. The results of the game had depended on the umpire’s call for a controversial play at home plate.  Over and over, a local television news station showed clips of the runner being tagged out. The New York announcer had me convinced. The Yankees should have won the game.  Hours later I was sitting at Lambert Field in St. Louis seeing those same clips, over and over and over. And there, the local St. Louis announcer had me convinced that the runner was not tagged out. The Yankees should have lost the game.

Who was right? In the end, I couldn’t decide. Years later, I still don’t know. Was it a close call?  When I lived in New York, as I did for many years, would I have favored the New York slanted explanations? And during those many years when I lived in St. Louis, would I have agreed with the St. Louis perspective? Was it a matter of interpretation or persuasion?

I used to work for a man who would frequently admonish us in meetings by saying, “Okay, which is it? The facts or the facts?”

Roger, just a few hours ago, wrote in a comment on this blog:

Wouldn’t the Jesus image show large distortions caused by the unavoidable wrinkles in a shroud of fabric wrapped around a body? If you wrinkle photo paper and use it to develop a photo, then flattening it out would show many lines and voids where the image was interrupted by the creases and folds. Why are there no actual wounds? If a person were subjected to brutal torture by the Romans, shouldn’t there be some actual laceration and swelling? The flagrum was designed to tear through and remove flesh. How was there no flattening of the back or buttocks when the image is to represent a corpse laying on it’s back?

Even a body in rigor mortis flattens on the contact points.

You are right. The Yankees should have won. Now contrast that with this from a story that appeared exactly one year ago in CBN News, a publication of the Christian Broadcasting Network:

… “It is certainly the funeral fabric that wrapped a tortured man.”

[Giulio] Fanti used to research, the cloth, and the three-dimensional projection of the figure to confirm that the man sustained numerous wounds on his body before death.

“I counted 370 wounds from the flagellation, without taking into account the wounds on his sides, which the Shroud doesn’t show because it only enveloped the back and front of the body,” Fanti explained … .

You are right. The Cardinals should have won.

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Colin Berry: Sindonology’s 10 Biggest Mistakes

April 5, 2019 18 comments

image.pngIn a comment, Colin Berry tells us what he is planning on his own site.  I’d like to focus on each of the ten items that he will be discussing.  We can discuss them here and provide him our thoughts. He writes: 

As flagged up in an earlier comment, this long-in-the-tooth, dare I say somewhat jaded critic of the supposed supernatural Linen, is currently planning as we speak a new (and possibly final) posting on his own site.

Reminder: it’s to be entitled “Sindonology’s 10 Biggest Mistakes”.

Here’s a summary list of what’s on the drawing board:

1. Mistaken assumption that Secondo Pia’s discovery of the negative image via photography implies that ‘photography’ was required for initial image capture.

2. Mistaken assumption that the response of the body image to 3D-rendering software implies pre-existing “unique encoded 3D infomation”.

3. Mistaken conclusion that the faint body image is confined to the primary cell wall of the linen, with that supposed ‘ultra-superficiality’ needing some kind of subtle radiation-derived process.

4. Mistaken assumption that the Turin “Shroud” should be viewed as a “burial shroud”, whether real of simulated. The biblical account from first three Gospels suggests otherwise (J of A’s linen being intended merely for dignified transport from cross to tomb).

5. Mistaken assumption that the lack of lateral (“wrap around”) distortion of the body image rules out an imprinting mechanism dependent on physical contact (no air gaps).

6. Mistaken assumption in the 1981 STURP Summary that the image chromophore was due to chemical modification of the linen cellulose, with no mention of extraneous additions (whether Rogers’ ‘starch impurity’ or more recent proposals involving use of white flour as imprinting medium (my own Model 10)..

7. Premature radiocarbon dating, needing disfiguring removal of single chunky fabric rectangle. C-14 dating should have been postponed till the procedure worked with single excised threads, taken from multiple sites to exclude charges of “repair patches”.

8. Failure to identify the chemical nature of the image chromophore, especially to discriminate between chemically-modified cellulose and a chemical modification of extraneous coating (notably a Maillard-reaction involving starch or flour coating to generate high molecular weight melanoidins).

9. Pseudo-pathology based on assumption that bloodstains can be equated with body wounds, despite absence of any evidence for there being tears, punctures etc in the imprinted body image per se .

10. Failure to give proper recognition to the key role in French medieval society of the first documented owner of the Linen, namely Geoffroy de Charny, close confidante of his monarch, King Jean II (“The Good”). G. de Charny was prime mover in creating the “Order of the Star”. Possibility that the Linen was intended initially as a centrepiece for Star ceremonial, rudely interrupted by death of G.de Charny at the Battle of Poitiers, 1356. bearer of the Oriflamme,to say nothing of the capture/ransom of his monarch.

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David Hume and the Image on the Shroud

March 30, 2019 24 comments

Someone in the Shroud Science Group forwarded this to me knowing that I would have fun with it. I normally don’t report on discussions in SSG, respecting the fact that this is a semi-private discussion list.  The topic is generic enough and not so shrouded in shroud stuff that I need to worry. Here goes:

For example, we might see an atheist like David Hume arguing:

1) Premise: Miracles, by definition, are a violation of natural law;

2) Premise: Natural laws are unalterably uniform;

3) Conclusion: Therefore, miracles cannot occur.

Here we see that, by unjustifiably defining miracles in premise #1 he cannot help but conclude that miracles cannot occur. This, of course, IS begging the question.

We can say that David Hume was unjustifiably defining miracles and we could be right. But we could be wrong, too.  Actually, I tend to agree with Hume on both premises. It’s the unmentioned assumed premise that is the problem.


This is Hawk, a horse my wife and I volunteer to help take care of at the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island.  Shown this photograph, my wife exclaimed, “What a beautiful horse.”

I said, “What a great photograph.”

What was the subject? Horses or photography?


“David,” (I’m speaking to David Hume across the ages.) “This morning, I awoke to find a great Southern Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana), draped in Spanish Moss, growing on my front lawn where last evening there had  been nothing but grass.”

“There must have been a great upheaval of the earth to accommodate the root ball,” said David with a sardonic smile.

“No, the lawn is undisturbed.”

“That Spanish Moss is impossible. It takes months and months to grow. And it doesn’t transplant well from one tree to another.”

“But it’s there. Spanish Moss, tree and beautiful lawn. It is there. It happened.”

“It can’t be, it violates the inviolable, the unalterable. It didn’t happen.”

“I agree,” I said. “It didn’t happen. It happened.”

Is the subject natural laws or is it miracles?  The unmentioned assumed premise is that one has something to do with the other. Photographers don’t make great horses great and horses don’t make great photographers great. And miracles and nature don’t play together in the same pasture.  (That was a terrible metaphor but you get the idea).

I suggest that miracles have nothing to do with natural laws at all. They are, I imagine (and to imagine is as far as I can philosophize) instantaneous and not disruptive to the environment.  So what happened to the dirt where the tree ball is now? In that same instant, it was no more. It is part-and-parcel of the miracle of the tree.  So, too, the Spanish Moss.

I imagine the stone before Jesus’ tomb was found in a new place but it got there without being rolled or slid or carried.  No motion!  No motion!  No motion!  And Jesus did not walk out of the tomb. The stone was not in a new place — one cannot say moved — so that Jesus might exit but so that his followers might see that he was gone.  Jesus the Risen Christ just appeared where he willed when he willed. He did not remove his shroud or pass through it. Nor did the burial cloths pass through him.

Jesus did not travel to meet up on the Road to Emmaus. He was just there. He was just there in the room that had locked doors.  He was just there on the Road to Damascus at the proper time and place.

Miracles, as I imagine them, just don’t mess with the environment. They don’t mess with nature. They don’t happen. They happened. They go from before to after, from not having happened to happened, without happening in-between.

And this is why I say that if the image on the Shroud is not fake and not a natural formation (I have not ruled out either as possibilities though I find them unlikely) then I imagine that the image was miraculous but not produced as a consequence of the Resurrection. The Resurrection didn’t happen. It happened. The image on the Shroud didn’t happen. It happened.  No, it wasn’t produced by radiation or any kind of energetic anything. Not scientific. Not pseudo-scientific.

Miracles, I don’t believe, can ever be proven by science or denied by science. Or by philosophy. Unless I’m wrong of course. Prove it.

But then again, my wife insists the subject was horses, not photography.




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Radiocarbon Dating of the Turin Shroud: New Evidence from Raw Data

March 23, 2019 37 comments

image.pngHat tip to Joe Marino for spotting this. The following was published yesterday, March 22, 2019, in Archaeometry, a Wiley publication. If you don’t have institutional access you can have access for 48 hours for $7.00, print-restricted online access for $16.50 or full PDF rights for $42.00.

Link:  Radiocarbon Dating of the Turin Shroud: New Evidence from Raw Data © Oxford University 2019

Abstract: In 1988, three laboratories performed a radiocarbon analysis of the Turin Shroud. The results, which were centralized by the British Museum and published in Nature in 1989, provided ‘conclusive evidence’ of the medieval origin of the artefact. However, the raw data were never released by the institutions. In 2017, in response to a legal request, all raw data kept by the British Museum were made accessible. A statistical analysis of the Nature article and the raw data strongly suggests that homogeneity is lacking in the data and that the procedure should be reconsidered.

Authors: T. CASABIANCA† Ajaccio 20000, France E. MARINELLI Collegamento pro Sindone, Rome, Italy G. PERNAGALLO Department of Economics and Business, University of Catania, Corso Italia 55, 95129 Catania CT, Italy and B. TORRISI Department of Economics and Business, University of Catania, Corso Italia 55, 95129 Catania CT, Italy

Fair Use Quote: A telling tidbit from page 6 of 9:

The same rationale applies to the intra-laboratory differences. We also computed the Ward and Wilson test for the raw radiocarbon dates of Arizona, and in both cases (raw 1 and raw 2), the null hypothesis was rejected. Using OxCal for Arizona Raw 2, the overall agreement index (34.6%) is below the threshold (with 12.8% for A3 and 43.0% for A6), whereas for Arizona Raw 1 the overall agreement index is lower (21.4%). Based on these results, a relevant problem emerges in the consistency between the Arizona raw radiocarbon dates and the published results from the other laboratories.

Ah, something that makes sense published in a real scientific journal.

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When colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

March 23, 2019 3 comments

Colin, please note that there is a question for you at the end of this posting.


Hugh Farey had observed:

My own view is that it is not God’s normal practice to produce miracles which tell lies.

And that got me thinking and searching for more insight around that wisdom.

“The idea of an All-Perfect Being lying involves a logical contradiction, just like the idea of a square circle,” wrote Jimmy Akin in Why God Can’t Lie (Or Sin) two years ago in the National Catholic Register.

God, we may believe is omnipotent but that does not mean he can lie and at the same time be perfect, Akin had argued, just as he cannot create a four-sided triangle or make Colorless green ideas sleep furiously,

Hugh was talking about the Resurrection and the notion from some that the miracle would have changed the radiocarbon date of the shroud. Part of this idea, it was thought, was that some forensic detritus, telltale isotopes, would have been left behind. Hugh thus said:

Hedges’ point was that unless there was some reason to suppose these indicative isotopes were there, there was no point in wasting time and effort (and money?) looking for them. The reason “a miracle might have resulted in such isotopes” is not sufficient. Nobody goes prospecting for gold in a mountain range on the basis of an irrational belief.

Of course, you (and for that matter Bob Rucker and Mark Antonacci) may be right, and the miracle of the resurrection did produce exactly the results you suggest, but until some expert in miracles can persuade the custodians of the Shroud that it’s worthwhile looking for them, they are unlikely to bother. My own view is that it is not God’s normal practice to produce miracles which tell lies, such that if the apparent medieval age of the Shroud is produced by a miracle, it is more likely to be thanks to a deceptive power than an honest one.

I recall a discussion from 2013.  Mark Antonacci was then petitioning for a chance to look for indicative isotopes.  At that time Colin Berry suggested a problem with that:

. . . 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.

What was the “and a lot more besides”?  Scarey stuff! Mark Antonacci had written:

A leading hypothesis published in Scientific Research and Essays in 2012 asserts that partic

le 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. (emphasis is mine)


The paper Mark was citing was, Particle radiation from the body could explain the Shroud’s images and its carbon dating.  It was by non-other than Mark himself. Scientific Research and Essays is one of many “open access” journals from Academic Journals, a Nigerian online-only journal publisher “solely financed by the handling fees received from authors (currently $550). See Open Access: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

David Goulet was quick to comment on Colin Berry’s problem back in 2013:

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. :)

This whole nuttiness of trying to prove the resurrection is troubling.  Paulette had commented:

Suppose Antonacci’s tests show what he expects. Suddenly it will be the skeptics who will scream about contamination and conspiracies. And I might need to agree with them. But not to worry. It is not going to happen.

And Louis wrote:

As commented more than once on this blog:

a) If the TS is ever “proved” to be a fake it will not demolish Christianity

b) If it can be “proved” in some way or the other that it demonstrates the Resurrection, there will still be many more questions to answer.

One more thing, and since I am not a scientist I may not be asking this in the right way: Colin, are chlorine-36 and calcium- 41 the isotopes created by resurrection events?  Don’t we want to make sure that what isotopes might be found on the shroud are not the result it being stored near a source of naturally occurring radiation?

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No, really, why is there an image on the cloth?

March 18, 2019 59 comments

image.pngPerhaps it is all in how we ask the question. Is it, who moved the stone? Or, is it, why was the stone moved? Was it necessary to move the stone so that Christ could exit the tomb — the One who could be where He wanted to be when He wanted to be — the One who could suddenly appear behind locked doors or out somewhere on the road to Emmaus or Damascus? 

Or was the stone moved so Peter and the Beloved Disciple could see in, see that the tomb was empty and see the burial cloths lying there?  Was that necessary?  Were the post-resurrection appearances not enough?

And the burial cloth, now in Turin, that many of us believe is or might be a burial cloth mentioned in the Gospels, has a faint image of a man on it.  Why?  Consider, too, maybe it was a cloth used instead beneath the cross or used to transport the body to the tomb. Nonetheless, why an image? 

Without the image, there would have been no history of a cloth with Christ’s image upon it during the first twelve-hundred years leading up to the Fourth Crusades, no Lirey story worth telling, no startled Secundo Pia, no VP-8 epiphany moment, no STURP and no endless discussion now. Is that why?

Is it why as much as how in the sense that we wonder if the image was caused by an accidental energetic consequence of a miracle? Is that why?

Or a natural phenomenon? Is that why?

Is it why in that a forger at some time in history felt he needed an image in addition to ample signs of brutality? Is that why?

No, really, why is there an image on the cloth?

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Microsoft 3D Builder

March 15, 2019 10 comments

3D Builder

I’ve been playing with Microsoft 3D Builder for Windows 10. It recalculates heightmap projections so quickly you can jiggle your mouse or your finger on a touch screen and jiggle the image. That helps with spotting features.

The software is free and apparently only runs on Windows 10.  It took less than two minutes to install and only a few minutes to figure out.  It is designed for preparing images for 3D printing but it works well as a quick visualization program. You can rotate views and change viewing angles by simply dragging the object on the screen.



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