Yawn: yet another new sighting of the Shroud in medieval art (well, a ‘water stain’ anyway)

pam moon water stain match red arrows

There’s a  new (?) lady on the block called Pam Moon who has assembled  what I consider a somewhat derivative collection of debating points (CO, bacteria, fungi  bla bla) against the 1988 radiocarbon dating. It’s been showcased today, Ash Wednesday, on David Rolfe’s  ‘Shroud Enigma Challenge’  site (the only enigma being what David Rolfe  thinks Richard Dawkins  has to do with the Shroud of Turin). You can also read about it on Dan Porter’s site today.

There is much I could say about pseudo-science posturing as science. I’ve been content to leave a raspberry or two on Rolfe’s site.

In passing, the lady wishes to add another sighting of the Shroud in medieval art – the one above – to add to the laughable Hungarian Pray Codex (you know, the one that shows the Shroud’s ‘poker holes’ – that’s if you if you look hard enough with the eye of faith, and mistake an anachronistic  sarcophagus lid for the Shroud itself, and don’t bother asking why latterly acquired ‘poker holes’ come to be on a newly purchased length of linen).

This time we are asked to believe that the inverted V where the rib cage meets the abdomen represents the top half of the diamond shaped water stain on the Shroud (see red arrows in graphic above).

It takes no great observational skills to home in on a particular feature, and claim there’s a perfect match. Turning that kind of hunch into science is another matter. It has to be supported by other evidence. Where is that evidence?  Symbolic?  Why would a medieval artist want to incorporate a water-stain in a picture of the crucified Christ? Is the assumption that he did not recognize that diamond as a water stain? Oh come now! Is it not more probable that the inverted V was the artist’s way of flagging up the trauma of crucifixion –  a prominent rib cage due to the stresses inherent in body weight being supported by nails alone?

And if the artist was so keen to signal that he had seen the Shroud, then why did he not include the following features too: only one of two nail wounds visible  – and in a wrist, not the palm,  the curious reversed 3 on the forehead etc etc.  (Late addition:  Oh, and unlike the Man in the TS,  this one has thumbs, the absence of which from the Pray Codex is one of those ‘trophy findings’.)

Sorry, Pam, but you have just added to that mound of detritus  called pseudo –  aka junk science – as if there were not enough of that already. Who are you, by the way? What are your credentials as a researcher? Peer-reviewed publications? Or is Shroud-science something that anyone can do?

Oh, and that preamble* of yours was hardly calculated to win you a sympathetic  hearing from the scientific fraternity now, was it?  You know, the ones who stick to the verifiable science, and don’t try to mix it with contentious history, far less theology.  I may decide to cut-and paste it here later, in all its religious fervour and glory.

*   “In the Christian church Ash Wednesday is a day of prayer, repentance and preparation for the road to the cross.  With relation to the Shroud of Turin, there is much we should repent of as a society and as ‘Shroudies. In the last 25 years, since the carbon-14 date, there has been a kind of blind devotion to science, without qualifying it with other disciplines such as history or theology. Science has been elevated into a god in our age; a god who, in a jealous rage, seeks to deny the existence of any other God.

For Christian Shroudies, another area that needs reflection, prayer and repentance is the attempt to ‘prove’ the Shroud. The Christian way is to walk ‘by faith not by sight‘ (2 Corinthians 5:7). Finally, sometimes there is the need to repent of an adoration and obsession with the Shroud as an object in itself, rather than as something which points us to Christ.

At the very beginning of this research I was given a ‘picture,’ like a wide awake dream or a vision. I was playing hopscotch in the sun on one of the paths of a place that looked like the Tuileries in Paris.  Jesus stood at the side of the path, standing in the sun.  I was like a child, playing a game, just looking at the patterns on the ground, and Jesus watched me play.  Behind us was a wall of smoke and darkness that rose high into the sky.

I have interpreted this picture to explain how, as I kept looking at the patterns on the Shroud, I saw new things of which I wasn’t aware initially. The ideas came as gifts from the Holy Spirit, one after the other. There are times when we need to humble ourselves and adopt the simplicity of a child before God can speak to us. And there is so much more to find: Jesus said, “seek and you will find.” The more we study the Shroud the more we will see. The wall of smoke I took to be the blinding of the kind of fundamentalist scientific writing which seeks to ‘prove’ that God doesn’t exist.  It has kept a generation out of the sun. I pray that the time is coming when the darkness lifts.  Sooner or later it will blow away.”

Methinks Pam Moon would be well advised to think some more about the philosophy and modus operandi of science, pure and simple, free of other mental constructs that may or may not be ‘true’ but are essentially untestable. I commend this quote from the wiki entry on ‘philosophy of science’, especially the few words I have formatted in bold’:

“Working scientists usually take for granted a set of basic assumptions that are needed to justify the scientific method: (1) that there is an objective reality shared by all rational observers; (2) that this objective reality is governed by natural laws; (3) that these laws can be discovered by means of systematic observation and experimentation. Philosophy of science seeks a deep understanding of what these underlying assumptions mean and whether they are valid.”

I personally could collaborate with any scientist from any culture, any philosophy, any religion, basically by agreeing to mentally blank out  – as far as is humanly possible- all ideas that are non-testable, focusing entirely on the testable. That’s what’s meant by “being scientific”. The latter may seem limited to Pam. But let me ask her this: suppose the 1988 radiocarbon dating had come back with 35BC to 40AD as the age of the Shroud?  Would she be writing lengthy PDFs on the myriad of factors that could have compromised the methodology? Would she be pontificating on the limitations of science, stripped of historical or theological context? Nope, one suspects she’d be trumpeting the authenticity of the Shroud, telling us that it’s been proven with incontrovertible hard evidence!


About Colin Berry

Retired science bod, previous research interests: phototherapy of neonatal jaundice, membrane influences on microsomal UDP-glucuronyltransferase, defective bilirubin and xenobiotic conjugation and hepatic excretion, dietary fibre and resistant starch.
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