Skepticism should be applied to claims made about physical facts and events, as well as the truth-claims of individuals and belief sytstems. There is, however, a difference between skepticism and debunkery. Skepticism proceeds from doubt; debunkery begins and concludes with a kind of solidified, inevitable doubt necessitated by ideology rather than detailed survey and rational interpretation of fact(s). In this post I would like to address two examples of what I consider to be debunkery, and how they represent faith-statements rather than factually-based conclusions. I will be including links so that the reader can judge the “pro” side for him or herself. The two examples are the Shroud of Turin and the Roswell, New Mexico UFO “crash” case (aka “the crash at Corona”).
Denial of Shroud authenticity is mostly based on the C-14 testing of 1988. The testing occurred; a date was procured, with parameters limited to a period of approximately the 13th-14th century. Case closed. Or, perhaps, not. Critical review of the testing has found it, to say the least, somewhat lacking in normative features.
Prior to the testing, the number of laboratories was halved, much to the protests of the inventor of the test himself. The sample, selected after only about an hour of deliberation, was cut from a particularly contaminated area, which had not only been exposed to smoke and probably to soot, but also to an unknown number of unprotected handlings by human hands through repeated exhibition. The sample was discovered to contain cotton fiber, which should not have been present, as the cloth itself is a herring-bone weave of linen; that is, a strand of cotton had been sewn into the testing sample. It is not implausible that some late-Medieval hand may have attempted to repair this part of the cloth, introducing a foreign element into the dating; worse, perhaps, the segment itself was a replacement patch, not part of the original cloth. This raises the question of the sample’s originality. In any case, the Shroud’s current inadequate state of “knowness” surely demands further testing.
Decidedly, this baffling linen cloth should be retested, with new samples being cut from another section or sections. Although I am not a scientist, pinning the question of the Shroud’s authenticity on the results of a single test seems to me dicey at best. Especially when the test results contradict the “momentum” of the research so far completed, which in no way suggests that the Shroud is a human artifcact, whether a pious rendering, or an outright hoax.
The cloth’s means of image production continues to remain a complete mystery, and no attempt at reproduction has been able to fully duplicate the image while at the same time duplicating all of its anomalies, (for an example of one more, recent, failed “duplication”,
… and a shorter version:
including all of its 3-D features, and its forensic accuracy, Historically speaking, no explanation has been found for its transgression of typical Medieval art conventions, its very probable pre-Turin history – see Ian Wilson’s many works for referencing the pre-Turin Shroud; as well as Noel Currer-Briggs’ The Shroud and the Holy Grail), or its perfect conformity with the Cloth of Oviedo:
This being the case, I, the non-scientist, would think, intuit … guess, suspect … that a single test that countra-indicates all, or at least most, of the other evidence would itself strongly suggest re-testing. Sadly … the Shroud was not available for further testing, which is the fault of its owners, not of the testers. Even with the consideration that the testing conditions could have been better, it is not a case of “failed science”. Rather, it was a case of science not having been given the fullest chance to succeed/proceed. Hence my stringent, if not strident, insistence that the Shroud be tested again, and that a successful campaign toward that end will be a future outcome.
Now for some links. Concerning the dating-test flaws and the reasons for skepticism regarding them, please consult:
“The Jackson Paper” at
The Big Carbon Dated Mistake: Shroud of Turin and the Scientific Quest for God
Of provenance, chain of custody, proper care and suitability of samples
Some interested readers may find the above sites a somewhat penitential read, but I trust that their homework will be at least as serious as mine, and that their conclusions will follow from the data presented. I feel the same way about the links to be shortly provided against the ever-so-fictitious “explanation” for the Roswell event as an errant Mogul balloon.
The late science popularizer and UFO skeptic Carl Sagan said, “Something came down” in Roswell in July, 1947. Practically everyone agrees on this basic fact, with the obvious contention lying in the interpretation.
My basic “take” on this case is that the U.S. government lies whenever it wants, for any reason that it deems helpful to itself, and it lied about Roswell. Roswell at least proves this much. If the Roswell AFB’s intial announcement that it had found a “crashed disk” was a lie, then … why would they lie … and to the press? On the other hand, if the crashed disk was real, then why would they lie about it via an after-the-event-coverup (in our era of massive government, this question has several plausible answers)?
In any case, here we have either: 1) a primary lie (even though there is no understandable reason why trained, experienced personnel would attempt to magnify, all out of proportion, a still-recognizable weather device, into a big joke of a spacecraft, and then announce their fairy tale as fact to the papers); or a secondary lie which contradicted the original story (whether or not that was a lie).
For better or worse, Roswell has not, and will not. go away. I don’t pretend to know what happened on Max Brazel’s ranch on that stormy post-War night. I – we – all know that the government tells lies, and we know that the Roswell AFB did announce their discovery of a crashed disk. I – we – all know that Roswell AFB then announced that the discovery was a “mistaken” weather balloon.
Having acknowledged the basic truth-problems, they continued on into subsequent decades, through which the government has trotted out several explanations (justifications?) for its “take” on Roswell. The remarkable fact is that these governmental reports are mostly fanciful rationalizations for a “line” that began with the initial …”the Roswell ‘disk’ is really a crashed weather balloon” … announcement. Particularly pernicious is the repeated suggestion that the “disk” was a crashed Mogul “audio spy” balloon (it probably wasn’t), and that all reports of tiny alien bodies were garbled descriptions of AF crash test dummies (probably not, because such dummies only came into use approximately a half-decade post-Roswell). Both explanations are probably and plausibly false, as suggested in essays at the following links to the Roswell/UFO researcher Kevin Randle fully demonstrate, as follow:
Of course I realize the issues that are endemic to citing only a single source/author, but Randle’s articles work adequately as an introduction to alternatives to the government’s official story about Roswell-Mogul and the supposed general involvement of “weather balloons” in the case. For a brief overview of the case from a different site, please see:
I am not making any huge claims here. I am simply saying that:
The Shroud continues to be an anomaly, that its testing could have been better, and ought to be redone, if granted permission;
… and that …
“Project Mogul” as a full explanation of the Roswell incident is woefully inadequate and plaubibly indicative of potential governmental misdirection.
Thanks for reading.
The Shroud: Fresh Light on the 2000-Year-Old-Mystery, Ian Wilson, Bantam Books UK: 2011.
The Shroud and the Grail: a Modern Quest for the True Grail, Noel Currer-Briggs, St. Martin’s Press: NY, 1987.