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"Just the facts, ma’am."

October 12, 2014 40 comments

imageRemember those words? That is what Sgt. Friday, played by Jack Webb, repeatedly said in the Dragnet TV show:

"Just the facts, ma’am."

1) I was buttonholed outside the ballroom where the conference was taking place. I don’t remember the exact conversation that took place. This is what I can reconstruct from what I remember:

“The facts are not in dispute,” the conferee said, suggesting that I was doing a disservice to the public by allowing facts to be questioned.

“Which facts? Which list of facts are we talking about?” I wanted to know.

“Certainly, not Fanti’s list,” he said.

Point made? I think so.

2) During the only truly skeptical-of-authenticity presentation, Speculations On The 14th Century Origins Of The Turin Shroud by Joe Accetta, someone leaned over and whispered,”Joe was part of STURP, he should know that [wood block printing with iron gall ink] won’t work because there is no image under the bloodstains. He knows the facts.”

3) Overheard during breakfast:  “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts’. Really?  See the posting Everyone’s Own Facts published on this blog June 20th, this year.

4) Also overheard during breakfast (same person): “If you want facts stay away from Porter’s blog.”

5) Oh, by-the-way:  Sgt. Friday never said those words in the TV show. No, really, that is factually incorrect! Those words are from a movie staring Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd.

Therefore, it was refreshing to hear Bruno Barberis, in his paper, The Future Of Research On The Shroud, call for re-examination of factual information. Here are a few of items that I quickly jotted down:

  • Iron concentrations at different places on the shroud, image and non-image areas, bloodstains, etc.
  • Presence of proteins at different places on the shroud
  • Oxidation and dehydration origins and characteristics
  • Aragonite traces
  • Pollen identification
  • Confirm that there is no image under the bloodstains
  • New and expanded analysis of the bloodstains

My notes are inadequate, but you get the idea. Oh, by-the-way, Barberis pointed out that the STURP results should be the starting point. In other words . . .

And Professor Barberis didn’t hold out much hope that this would happen soon. “I’m not the pope,” he said. And he doubted that he would be the next pope.

I think I should do what I started before and didn’t finish: discuss the facts that are out there in the public mind. Maybe I should tackle one fact a day for weeks and weeks.

Categories: St Louis 2014 Tags: ,

Everyone’s Own Facts

June 20, 2014 19 comments

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
— Daniel Patrick Moynihan

imageThe exception to that bit of wisdom from Senator Moynihan may be Shroud of Turin studies. It is not my intent to pick on Yannick Clément, in particular, but he just provided a useful illustration. Fact selection is a rampant problem when it comes to the shroud. We are almost compelled to ask, which facts are you using and why.  Yannick in a comment illustrates this:

Good enough for me means simply that I agree to consider something as a fact when two experts gets to the same conclusion while working independently of each other. One confirms the other in sum and that’s when we can take something for granted in science. Not before. In the case of the bloodstains on the Shroud, we can.

Just read the books published by Adler and Baima Bollone and you’ll see that the results of their analyses of the blood and serum stains (which was done with different tests, but which gave very similar results) was strong enough for both of them to claim that these stains are not made of something else than human blood and serum and even more, that these stains comes from a highly traumatized person, which is in total sync with the body image.

If that’s not good enough for some people, that’s good enough for me.

(bolded emphasis above is mine)

Is it good enough that John Jackson and his “team of research associates” and, separately, Alan Whanger found x-ray-like imaging on the shroud? Robert Siefker and Daniel Spicer have confirmed that:

There are images of teeth and bone structures associated with the face, as well indications of finger bones all the way to the wrist. . . . John Jackson and his team of research associates have observed these features and they are mutually confirmed by Whanger and other researchers.

The implication in the use of the word mutually is clear. They mean exclusively. Two experts have concluded the same thing. So, by Yannick’s definition, is this a fact?

Was it good enough that a consensus of experts at Valencia concluded that:

The body image is created by molecular change of linen fibres. There are also bloodstains. There is no body image beneath the bloodstains.

(bolded emphasis above is mine)

It took some squawking by other experts to get the above paragraph amended, something called by some the Valencia Compromise Parenthetical. It now reads on David Rolfe’s site:

The body image is created by molecular change of linen fibres. There are also bloodstains. There is no body image beneath the bloodstains. (For the avoidance of doubt, this characteristic does not exclude the possibility that the molecular change may have taken place in an impurity layer at the linen surface).

When is a fact a fact? Two people working independently and finding the same thing?  Really?

If we apply Yannick’s words, “that’s when we can take something for granted in science”  to other areas of science we can get ourselves in all sorts of trouble. Certainly, for a long time, experts working independently concluded that we lived in a static universe. James Jeans, Fred Hoyle and Albert Einstein, though they held different working views, arrived at similar steady-state conclusions. It would take others to dismantle the fact of a static universe. It would take Einstein admitting he was wrong.

Certainly in the field of evolution we can find independent experts concluding for irreducible complexity as evidence of a designer god. Can we say that working independently and concluding essentially the same thing, Michael Behe, Stuart Burgess, William A. Dembski, Phillip E. Johnson, and Stephen C. Meyer make Intelligent Design a fact? 

Note: We can even find two experts who will tell you James R. Schlesinger said what is attributed to Moynihan. And we can find two others that will tell you the opposite is true.

I don’t know what makes anything a fact when it comes to the Shroud of Turin.

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