Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shrouded in Mr. E.…

[UPDATED 5.5.10]

A friend of mine recently replied––very incredulously and rather peevishly––to some of the links about the Shroud of Turin I put on my Facebook (and later expanded into a post here). He said,

I just don't get it. None of these scientists or the Pope ever really met this person named Jesus and watched his dead body wrapped in this thing, how in the world do they KNOW this character from a gospel storybook had his body wrapped in this thing? uh...let me guess, Michael Jackson never really died, and Elvis is still alive? Urban legends?

Whereupon I passed over this "reply" with a knitted brow, tired eyes, and a penal silence. Then he posted a couple "anti-Shroud" links on my profile, to one of which I responded:

I'll bite. Unlike yourself, I have studied the Shroud in more ways than just "youtubing." The Leonardo hypothesis is faulty for numerous reasons, but you've already made up your mind so I won't try confusing you with facts.

I didn't include it in my Facebook, but let me add a few tidbits about "the Da Vinci hypothesis" to illustrate how wildly it grasps at straws. "For starters," notes Isabel Piczek, "the first recorded exhibition of the Shroud in Lirey France was in 1356. Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452, a hundred years after the exhibition." Not a small gaff, I'd say. Piczek then goes on to list numerous technical failures on the part of Da Vinci's theoretically brilliant mind, including a wooden bicycle, a byzantine digging machine, a botched cannon, and even his Last Supper began disintegrating in his lifetime. And this is the man who crafted a shroud the principles of which has eluded countless scientists and critics for centuries? Lastly, Piczek reminds us, "he who wrote down in reverse every penny he spent, everything he ever invented, never wrote one word about the Turin Shroud."

If you are interested, here is a meatier essay by Richard Sorensen, specifically written to challenge the Savoy/Da Vinci hypothesis about the Shroud [LINK]. Here are some excerpts:

…one of the original members of the Shroud investigatory team claimed that the Shroud is a medieval painting based on his discovery of pigments on some parts of the surface. This was Dr. Walter McCrone who continued to claim that the Shroud was a painting done sometime in the early 1300s until his death in 2002. During the research efforts of 1978, he had been given several pieces of sticky tape which had been placed on the Shroud and then removed in order to analyze the surface material. However, what he failed to note was that one or more medieval artists had apparently used the Shroud as a template in order to make painted copies of it, and in the course of doing this, the copies were laid on top of the Shroud and some of the pigment from the painted copies was transferred to the surface of the cloth. However, it has been shown conclusively that the actual image on the Shroud was not produced by paint or pigment. Dr. McCrone also claimed that he did not find any blood on the Shroud, but later extensive testing has revealed that the Shroud indeed contains blood. Furthermore, the blood was apparently on the Shroud prior to the image – areas containing blood stains have no underlying image and therefore the blood seemed to prevent an image from being formed in those areas. …

The Shroud is linen, and raw unprepared linen repels water and is difficult to paint. … The “lines” making up the image are approximate 1/100 the width of a human hair, making it virtually impossible for the Shroud to be a painting or a rubbing, especially one created by a medieval artist. … There are no silver or silver-related compounds on the Shroud such as would be present in an actual photograph. The man’s head and knees are slightly bent, and therefore the image has foreshortening in it. The concept of foreshortening was first discovered and used by the Renaissance painters some time after the Shroud was first shown.

Keep in mind, also, that the predominant tradition in medieval European art was to depict the nail wounds in Christ's palms, not his wrists, and so it is extremely likely that a forger would have adopted this detail to achieve realism in his day. But the wounds on the Shroud show piercings through the wrists, not the palms, which undercuts the idea that the alleged forger got his ideas from contemporary art.

In any case, my tiny reply seemed to do the trick, because, not long after, he replied more reasonably:

I have never said I believe it was probably an image of Leonardo Da Vinci. But I am confused by how people consider the shroud that allegedly ever covered a dead man's body. It's just absurd. It looks like a painting, and it's less than 600 years old.

Whereupon I said,

Now this is a reply worthy of a response. I pretty much instantly, albeit glumly, tune out your brand of filosofee on steroids, so thanks for toning it down. (At the very least, maybe, um, work on your delivery, even in Facebook.)

Yes, to the untrained and uninformed eye, the Shroud does look like a painting, but to date no one has been able to explain how it was produced and only one passably good imitation has been achieved. Also, your claim that it's only 600 years old is based on outdated and controverted information about the C14 dating. That sample was compromised by the wool fabric it included, which had indeed been added to the original shroud in the 14th century or so. I posted the links I did because I find them interesting in their own right. As I tried to make clear in my heading about Frale's research, even if you just study it historically, with zero religious or metaphysical commitments in the bargain, it's a fascinating piece of history. There is nothing absolutely compelling to a fair inspector to "prove" Christ was wrapped in the Shroud and was raised. Indeed, there are not a few non-believing Shroudies who, on the one hand defend its unique and astounding historicity to the hilt, but, on the other hand, don't take it as a basis for faith. Some Shroudies say it was produced because the man inside it was not dead and therefore try to lever the Shroud as a disproof of the Resurrection. So I'm hardly trying to brandish it as a "proof" for what properly flows from divine revelation. I am just saying, "Be fair, be historical, be curious." It is at the very least an important plank in the cumulative case for the Christian worldview.

The reason your drive-by link irritated me is that it's evident you only "took up 'research'" on the Shroud just to score points back at my genuinely interested links about it. It's probably a reflex by now (a sort of ingrained anti-apologetical mindset) for you to immediately "check on Youtube [or Wiki]" about anything which challenges your metastasizing secularism/naturalism. So, you took up the gauntlet on a whim, thinking it's just "that easy" to "refute" Shroudies (like me haha) with some biased digging around in Youtube. But, alas, your first measured comment on the topic betrays your ignorance about the most basic features of the debate. I'm not even going to encourage you to look at more informative and fair sites, since I know your interest in the Shroud only goes as far as you can challenge it. Just drop it and scout for something new.

See "Is the Shroud of Turin a Painting?" by Isabel Piczek for a detailed analysis of how the Shroud meets, or doesn't meet, criteria for "being a painting". A few excerpts:

What explanation can we find for the occasional milimicron size paint pigment particles and tiny medium glomerates (if any) on the Turin Shroud?

From the excellent studies of Don Luigi Fossati, S.D.B. of Turin, we know that the Shroud image, -- through the centuries -- was copied many times by painters. Fifty-two (52) of these are known. These copies, according to the finds of Fossati, were laid down on the Shroud for "authentication" of the copy. Mr. Paul Maloney, a professional research archeologist living in the USA has suggested that particles of paint were passed from the surfaces of these "true copies" onto the Surface of the Shroud, when they were stretched over it and laid down on it. …

The Shroud image does not have any style and for that reason it does not fit into any period of art history. While here I do not wish to discuss art history and its aspects, because the richness and complexity of that subject would take up many pages, I must say, however, there is no such painting which would not fit with absolute precision into a particular era of art history and point out with reasonable closeness the artist who created the painting.

There is no directionality and no lights focus on the Shroud, neither are outlines in any way. These three elements exist on every painting without exception. These involve laws of nature. The lack of all these again proves the Turin Shroud cannot be a painting.

Also consider "Leonardo Da Vinci and the Shroud of Turin - Did Da Vinci produce the image?":

First of all, the image could NOT have been painted. There are no pigments and no brush strokes to be found. If it had been painted, there would be an outline on the image, and there is none. Also, a fire damaged the Shroud in 1532 so the flames would have made the paint crack if the image had been painted. There is no sign of any cracked paint. …

When the first photographs were taken of the Shroud, it was found that the negative image showed positive coloration, and additionally, there was enough detail to show small to one inch lash marks. This kind of detail is invisible to the naked eye so the fact of this negative image alone is enough evidence to prove that the shroud is not a painted forgery.

Also, Leonardo Da Vinci would have had to ask for permission from the Savoy family in Chambery, England to release the shroud to him in or around 1492. Then, in one single attempt, he would have had to produce his own photographic image without making a mistake. …

Another detail regarding Leonardo Da Vinci and the Shroud of Turin is that he was born in 1452, which is 100 years after what is supposedly the time the Shroud originated. There is also no evidence that any other photographic negative from that time in history was ever produced. As studies on the Shroud continue, there is evidence of much plant life as well as accurate detail of bodily injuries, pollen and dirt from Palestine which primitive photography or painting could not have produced.

And from the main page for that article:

The debate over the Shroud of Turin does remind us of one very important point, … [namely,] the historicity of the Christian faith. Christianity is not just a set of rules by which Christians govern their lives. It's a relationship with a real God who entered human history as a mortal man, and died so that we might have everlasting life.

William Meacham is an archeologist in Hong Kong, the author of a book about how the Shroud has been mishandled in last few decades from a purely archeological/methodological perspective. In a 1983 essay, "The Authentication of the Turin Shroud: An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology," Mecham writes:

Much publicity has been generated by the assertions of McCrone (1980), a former STURP consultant, that the image is a painting, judging from the microscopic identification of traces of iron oxide and a protein (i.e., possible pigment and binder) in image areas. The STURP analysis of the Shroud's surface yielded much particulate matter of possible artists' pigments such as alizarin, charcoal, and ultramarine, as well as iron, calcium, strontium (possibly from the soaking process for early linen), tiny bits of wire, insect remains, wax droplets, a thread of lady's panty hose, etc. (Wilson 1981). However, this matter was distributed randomly or inconsistently over the cloth and had no relationship to the image, which was found to be substanceless, according to the combined results of photomicroscopy, X-radiography, electron microscopy, chemical analyses, and mass spectrometry. McCrone's claims have been convincingly refuted in several STURP technical reports (Pellicori and Evans 1980:42; Pellicori 1980:1918; Heller and Adler 1981:91-94; Schwalbe and Rogers 1982:11-24). The results of previous work by the Italian commission also run totally counter to those claims (Filogamo and Zina 1976:35-37; Brandone and Borroni 1978:205-14; Frei 1982:5). Undaunted, McCrone (personal communication, 1982) continues to stake his reputation on the interpretation of the Shroud image as "an easel painting . . . as a very dilute water color in a tempera medium."

I would like to add some details from Meacham's essay about the forensic details of "the man in the shroud." Meacham writes:

Scientific scrutiny of the Shroud image began in 1900 at the Sorbonne. Under the direction of Yves Delage, professor of comparative anatomy, a study was undertaken of the physiology and pathology of the apparent body imprint and of the possible manner of its formation. The image was found to be anatomically flawless down to minor details: the characteristic features of rigor mortis, wounds, and blood flows provided conclusive evidence to the anatomists that the image was formed by direct or indirect contact with a corpse, not painted onto the cloth or scorched thereon by a hot statue (two of the current theories). On this point all medical opinion since the time of Delage has been unanimous (notably Hynek 1936; Vignon 1939; Moedder 1949; Caselli 1950; La Cava 1953; Sava 1957; Judica-Cordiglia 1961; Barbet 1963 ; Bucklin 1970; Willis, in Wilson 1978; Cameron 1978; Zugibe, in Murphy 1981). This line of evidence is of great importance in the question of authenticity and is briefly reviewed below.

The body was that of an adult male, nude, with beard, mustache, and long hair falling to the shoulders and drawn at the back into a pigtail. Height is estimated at between 5 ft. 9 in. and 5 ft. 11 in. (175-180 cm), weight at 165-180 lb. (75-81 kg), and age at 30 to 45 years. Carleton Coon (quoted in Wilcox 1977:133) describes the man as "of a physical type found in modern times among Sephardic Jews and noble Arabs." Curto (quoted in Sox 1981:70, 131), however, describes the physiognomy as more Iranian than Semitic. The body is well proportioned and muscular, with no observable defects.

Death had occurred several hours before the deposition of the corpse, which was laid out on half of the Shroud, the other half then being drawn over the head to cover the body. It is clear that the cloth was in contact with the body for at least a few hours, but not more than two to three days, assuming that decomposition was progressing at the normal rate. Both frontal and dorsal images have the marks of many small drops of a postmortem serous fluid exuded from the pores. There is, however, no evidence of initial decomposition of the body, no issue of fluids from the orifices, and no decline of rigor mortis leading to flattening of the back and blurred or double imprints.

Rigor mortis is seen in the stiffness of the extremities, the retraction of the thumbs (discussed below), and the distention of the feet. It has frozen an attitude of death while hanging by the arms; the rib cage is abnormally expanded, the large pectoral muscles are in an attitude of extreme inspiration (enlarged and drawn up toward the collarbone and arms), the lower abdomen is distended, and the epigastric hollow is drawn in sharply. The protrusion of the femoral quadriceps and hip muscles is consistent with slow death by hanging, during which the victim must raise his body by exertion of the legs in order to exhale.

The evidence of death in a position of suspension by the arms coupled with the characteristic wounds and blood flows indicate that the individual had been crucified. The rigor mortis position of outstretched arms would have had to be broken in order to cross the hands at the pelvis for burial, and a probable result is seen in the slight dislocation of the right elbow and shoulder. The feet indicate something of their original positioning on the cross, the left being placed on the instep of the right with a single nail impaling both. Apparently there was some flexion of the left knee to achieve this position, leaving the left foot somewhat higher than the right.


Chad said...

Dude, whoever made this shroud thing, he or she is very good. That's all I can say about it. But it still amazes me how people can come up with stories that turn into urban legends which are believed to be true. What about the Holy Lance? There are a bunch of these holy things I am sure...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I'll take this as your best attempt at "bowing out gracefully."


Agellius said...

"the Shroud does look like a painting, but to date no one has been able to explain how it was produced ..."

Indeed they have done extensive testing on it and determined that there is no paint or pigment on it whatsoever. The cloth is obviously colored in some places but there is nothing *on* it -- nothing that forms the picture, that is (there is blood on it however). It is most certainly not a painting.

Besides, it's apparently no easy thing to paint a perfectly lifelike picture in photographic negative -- that is, if there were paint on it, which there isn't. But in any case, what would possess a medieval to paint in photographic negative?(!!)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ah, sweet Agellius:

You still don't get it. We already KNOW it's got to be a fake since a) Protestant Americanism rejects relics and icons from the gut and b) instinctive secularism knows how wacky those Medievals were. Too much free time on their hands without Science so of course they concocted all kinds of gizmos and widgets… which… uh, defy current Science. ;) It really is a marvel and I think it's prudent to agree with Chad that, indeed, Whoever made it is Very Good. ;)


Unknown said...

Great minds ! I also use a curling wand to touch up shorter layers! Now my hair is longer, it’s mostly the same but I would curl my fringe.