On the Turin Shroud, 4

One of the problems with pseudosciences is that, to refute them, almost a career in refutation is required. When in November of 1989 the group of sceptics known then as CSICOP visited Mexico City, I was completely lost in the paranormal. However, unlike people in general I always had a predisposition for honesty, in the sense of being able to change my worldview if coming across facts and solid arguments based on facts.

The visit of CSICOP to the city where I live changed me in many ways. The sceptic who had published a critical book on the Shroud, Joe Nickell, had been unable to come. But for the first time I spoke with the professional critics of parapsychology: two academic psychologists whose hobby was to read all the important journals of parapsychology, and publish their critique in specialized journals. It was because of their work that I learned the enormous amount of dedication that the refutation of a single pseudoscience, such as parapsychology, requires.

But the problems do not end with finding a couple of motivated sceptics. Their criticism may be true, but the popularization of the criticism was difficult to divulge, especially previous to the Internet. In 1989, for example, the Skeptical Inquirer was only sold by subscription, a smaller magazine and more pleasant in its reading than what is currently sold in newspaper stands. Very few knew the work of Nickell and other sceptics on the Shroud. What the market wants are the paranormal claims big time; not taking the sweets away from children. Consider this candy for example:

Jerusalem, Friday before Passover, c. AD 30. The body of a crucified man lay on a slab in a rock-hewn tomb just outside the city walls. It had been placed there by Joseph Arimathea, a secret disciple of the man Jesus, and Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin who brought a large amount of spices to be placed in the folds of a new linen shroud. Joseph placed a great stone in front of the tomb and left in a hurry as the Sabbath was fast approaching.

Sometime during the following night and before the first glimmers of dawn of the first day of the new week, there was a quick flash of blinding light. The stone before the tomb was jarred away; the body vanished, but on the slab remained the Shroud with strange images of the man some called the Son of God.

The passage was not written by a believing sindonologist, but by a sceptic portraying what believers want to hear. With that paragraph David Sox opened the first chapter of his book The Shroud Unmasked, published immediately after the Carbon 14 tests revealed that the relic had been manufactured in the Middle Ages. However, this is where you see the huge advantage that believers have over sceptics in a market society.

Scepticism does not sell. What sells well are sweets for adults who are still children.

The copy I have of Sox’s book, which I read in 1989, is made of cheap paper. If we compare it with the elegant books of Ian Wilson, with whom Sox worked closely, Sox’s book seems, at first glance, extremely modest. Nonetheless, despite the quality of the paper and the covers, given that Sox does not violate Occam’s razor his books are more relevant to understanding the relic of Turin than those of his popular colleague.[1]

I am tempted to rephrase what Sox says in The Shroud Unmasked but here I would just like to quote, in addition to the passage above, the first paragraph of the introduction:

There were times when I thought I’d never live to see the day the Turin Shroud faced its obvious test. The road to carbon dating has been long, contentious and convoluted. There are those who will not appreciate mine and other’s efforts to have this test. That’s their problem.

When you open Pandora’s Box, you have to be prepared for whatever comes out. I have always wondered why many so fascinated with the Shroud mystery were afraid to see the end of the story.

This volume explores the road to the test, and recognises there is undoubtedly more yet to come in the Shroud story. At least now that the identification of the cloth with the historical Jesus has been removed, the new sleuths into the mystery can be more objective than most observers have been in the past.

Update of 21 May 2018: Further thoughts about the relic, and the correspondence that a real scientist addressed to me, will appear: here.

__________

[1] Wilson violates it by lucubrating a hidden history of the shroud from the 1st century until its actual appearance in the Middle Ages, as we shall see.

4 Comments

  1. Ok, you mentioned a couple of times “Joe Nickell,” I made a very quick investigation. He is the “modern Sherlock Holmes,” he investigates also “historical” frauds.
    But he believes in global warming, he even praised “Al Gore.”
    More importantly, he’s a Holocsust believer, I’ve just read a ludicrous article called “Haunted Gas Chamber”. I’m not kidding.
    He helped the US government in the extradition of John Demjanjuk, a “Nazi monster”, he talks also about “Treblinka death camp”, and “Sobibor death camp”, he scorned what he called “Holocaust revisionists”, “Nazi apologists”, and “conspiracy theorists.”
    He himself is a fraud.

    • Logical fallacy Dr Morales. If a normie believes stupid normie stuff, does that invalidate his other work in his area of expertise? Nickell’s area of expertise are claims of miraculous phenomena, especially in religious contexts.

      I’m busy and will not debate Nickell here, whom I’ve met personally. If you know Spanish I could direct you to my site where I’m starting to rebut what an erudite theologian said about the Turin shroud.

      Otherwise you will have to wait here patiently how I address, in many instalments, every claim by self-styled ‘sindonologists’.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: