Skip to comments.A Review of the Recent National Geographic Channel Documentary (on the Shroud of Turin)
Posted on 07/31/2007 11:36:37 PM PDT by Swordmaker
First, I would like to thank all of you who wrote or called me after seeing the program. I truly appreciate hearing your comments and your individual points of view. I am also sorry that it is simply impossible for me to respond to every e-mail I receive.
When I was first asked to appear in a television documentary about the Shroud of Turin, sometime in 1996, I was very insecure about taking a public stand on the Shroud and wondered if I should do it at all. Somewhat ironically, since I am Jewish, I consulted with a Catholic priest who was a close friend of mine and asked his opinion on my participating in the program. He urged me to participate and wisely pointed out that the program's producers would undoubtedly get someone to speak on camera if I didn't, and it might be someone far less knowledgeable than I was on the subject. That seemed like good advice, and I have appeared in many documentaries on the Shroud since. Some have been good ones, treating the subject with dignity and presenting both sides of the issues fairly, while others have chosen to create programs promoting a very specific (and not necessarily balanced) point of view. Sadly, the quality of all Shroud documentaries has dramatically declined in recent years, and I have become less and less satisfied with the results. Of course, when you appear in these programs, they tape each interview separately and edit everything together later. Thus, they can carefully pick and choose the statements that fit the direction they wish to take their program, even if those statements are out of context. As the one being interviewed, you are solely at the mercy of the producers and the editor.
Consequently, I did not have the highest expectations for the National Geographic Channel program, "Is It Real? Secrets of the Shroud," that premiered on July 23, 2007. As the program progressed through the first 35 or 40 minutes, there were some minor errors (the date of the most recent fire in Turin was 1997, not 1992), but I was somewhat encouraged, since it seemed that both sides of the issue were being dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner. However, when they came to the discussion of the potential error in the c14 dating due to reweaving (the ONLY theory supported by peer reviewed scientific data), they allowed one of the skeptics to simply dismiss the entire idea as "nonsense" with a wave of his hand and a smile on his face. They failed to even mention the work of the late Ray Rogers, whose paper (published in 2005 in the prestigious journal Thermochimica Acta), provided the hard scientific evidence that the sample used to date the Shroud in 1988 was anomalous and the subsequent c14 dating was in error. This critical omission came as a great surprise to me, since I spent more than an hour during the taping discussing the importance of Rogers and his work. I fully expected they would at least mention Rogers, but hoped for much more and even made footage of Ray himself available to the producers for inclusion in the program if they wanted to have him explain his work in his own words. To my great disappointment, they simply chose to ignore this critical evidence and dismiss it with a demeaning wave of the hand. It was at this point that the entire program made a hard turn in a very different direction.
For the remaining twenty minutes of the program, they stayed on a single theme, a theory often referred to as the "swoon theory," and one that has actually been around for centuries. That theory proposes that Jesus was not actually dead and was rescued from the tomb sometime between Friday night and Sunday morning. At the end of every statement from Holger Kersten, the person promoting this theory, I fully expected to see a response by Dr. Frederick Zugibe, the noted forensic pathologist who had appeared earlier in the program. And yet, that never happened. They just allowed Kersten to go on and on about how the Shroud proves the man was alive, not dead! Never mind that every qualified medical and forensic expert ever to study the Shroud has agreed that there is post-mortem blood on the cloth and signs of rigor mortis, all credible and convincing evidence that the man was dead. It was Dr. Zugibe himself who concluded from his study of the Shroud as a crime scene, that the man depicted was so badly beaten, scourged, crucified and speared that he died from multiple types of shock. Kersten defended his position by claiming that dead bodies cannot bleed, even though Zugibe (with over 20,000 autopsies in his career), has published time lapse photographs of a cadaver on his autopsy table continuing to ooze blood over a period of many hours. Sadly, the producers missed a perfect opportunity to remain fair and give the viewer a credible response to this weatherworn theory by having a noted expert like Dr. Zugibe, who was already appearing in the program, respond and rebut Kersten's claims. There certainly was ample time for a rebuttal. But no, that is not what was done. Instead, they dedicated a full third of their program to this one theory that has long ago been dispelled by the evidence on the Shroud itself! And no rebuttal was ever forthcoming. They simply ended the segment by having the narrator state that very few people accepted Kersten's theory. I doubt that many viewers even noticed.
So in the end, what started out as a reasonably fair and balanced debate about the Shroud of Turin, finished with a resounding thud in a final segment that seemed to be much less about the Shroud and much more about disputing the entire basis of Christianity! Too bad that they didn't save that debate for another program and finish on the same level that they started on. Unfortunately, the best rating I can give this program is a meager 55%, which in my experience is considered a failing grade. Let me repeat what I have said so many times in the past. If you are interested in accurate information about the Shroud of Turin, the best place to go is the actual science. Remember that the primary purpose of television, including documentaries, is entertainment, and standards of accuracy are neither imposed nor even required. In other words, they can say anything they want to, even if it is completely incorrect or biased. The same is true of commercial books, and sadly, even websites. If one is honestly interested in the truth, one must be careful to choose truly reliable sources. Sadly, I am more and more convinced that television won't be one of them.
This article introduces a major update in Barrie's website Shroud.com done on July 31, 2007. Barrie's website is indispensable for students of the Shroud of Turin. It is the primary clearing house of scholarly and scientific articles published about the Shroud around the world.
It was interesting until they spent the last 20 minutes on the German guys conspiracy theory. But then it was all explained because this conspiracy is consistent with the Koran... like that made it okay. I must admit, it was scary to me.
Shock from the scourging would most likely have been sufficient to kill more than 75% of the people who were so whipped. In fact, history reports that is why Roman citizens were routinely given only 40 strikes... to limit the possibility the victim would die before the actual crucifixion.
The German theorists proposes a conspiracy that has too many IFs. Most importantly, his theory lacks a "WHY." Why would the 1st Century conspirators do what the German's claim they did?
I made a Roman flagrum... and used it both on wood and on a side of meat. The lead balls of the ends imbedded themselves over a half inch deep in a pine board... and gouged out large chunks of skin on the meat even when used with just moderate force. I demonstrated this before a class at my church and it opened up an awareness of how brutal what most people thought was just a light lashing, really was. Too many forensic pathologists have examined the Shroud and declared the body "dead" to accept this novelists conspiracy theory.
What surprised me most was the remarkable lack of science in the National Geographic program. Ray N. Rogers' peer reviewed proof that the C-14 test samples were not physically, chemically or texturally consistent with the rest of the Shroud, thus proving the C-14 tests totally invalid, which is among the most recent findings, was totally ignored. Nor did they include the scientific evidence that shows what the image is actually made of... melanoidal by-products of starch fractions perhaps combined with putrecine and cadaverine, two gases emitted by dead bodies shortly after rigor mortise passes. This finding, also by Ray Rogers, proves that the image forming portions of the shroud fibers are definately NOT finely ground rust, Cinnebar, Red Ocher, Silver Oxide, Silver Sulfide, or Silver Nitrate, or any other man made pigment.
They did NOT refute the absurd, unduplicated assertions of "millions paint flakes" (vermillion and Red Ocher in egg white "10% collagen solution") claimed to be seen by Microscopist Walter McCrone. No one else has seen the quantities that McCrone claims exist on the samples he examined... nor have they been found in any much more critical scientific tests such as microspectrophotometry, Electro-spectrometry, X-Ray fluorescence photography, Electron-microscopy, etc.
No, the sceptics like Joe Nickel repeatedly mis-represent the actual peer reviewed research in favor of outdated findings of people who published in non-peer reviewed journals such as McCrone's self edited and self published vanity magazine The Microscopist. After a scientist states that the blood stains on the Shroud had passed over a dozen specific tests for human blood they present Joe Nickel, a stage magician and professional sceptic, saying they made heroic efforts but failed... which is totally false. They left Joe Nickel's lie as the final word on the research on the blood, ignoring recent work by the world's top experts on blood, blood porphoryns, Haemoglobin, blood by-products, and ancient blood research that has been published in rigidly peer-reviewed scientific journals and replicated.
"Regarding the blood, (Dr. John H.) Heller and (Dr. Alan A.) Adler concluded that it was actual blood material on the basis of physics-based and chemistry- based testing, most tests of which will be discussed, specifically the following: detection of higher-than- elsewhere levels of iron in blood areas via X-ray fluorescence, indicative spectra obtained by microspectrophotometry, generation with chemicals and ultraviolet light of characteristic porphyrin fluorescence, positive tests for hemochromagen using hydrazine, positive tests for cyanmethemoglobin using a neutralized cyanide solution, positive tests for the bile pigment bilirubin, positive tests for protein, and use of proteolytic enzymes on blood material, leaving no residues." . . .
". . . Heller (suggested), Lets chec with at least two other top hemoglobin hotshots and see if they are as sure as we are. Pick anyone you want. Adlers choice gave the answer of old acid methemoglobin. They then spoke via speakerphone to Bruce Cameron, whose double-doctorate is dedicated to hemoglobin in all its many forms, and upon receiving and plotting the numbers, Cameron said, You both should know what it is. Its old acid methemoglobin (a blood derivitive - Swordmaker) . I dont know why you wanted to bother me with something you know as well as I do.. Hey, wait a minute. Are you two idiots working on the Shroud of Turin? At this point, Heller and Adle shook hands after smiling at each other."
- The Shroud of Turins Blood Images: Blood, or Paint? A History of Science Inquiry," by David Ford.
Then to add injury and insult to ignorance and poor research (I could list quite a few errors of fact from the number of C-14 samples to the assertion the DeCharney family GAVE the Shroud to the Chapel in Lirey) they mount an obvious and un-countered attack on Christianity's entire belief base... that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the Dead. Not ONCE was Holger Kersten, the German writer, rebutted by anyone... including by any of the forensic pathologists or medical doctors (which the German writer is not) to refute the absurdities of healing by aloes and myrhh he spouts... or his assertion that the scourging was merely "superficial..." At least during the first 40 minutes, the did a point-counterpoint presentation. When the Kersten segment came on, no authoritative voice was presented to refute his web of conspiracy and inanities... and the narrator seems to agree with everything Kersten says.
Kersten also mis-quotes the Bible in his arguments... the Biblical "flow" of water and blood becomes a "trickle"...
All in all, I'm disappointed.
...a theory often referred to as the “swoon theory,” ...
Covered in the 1960’s by the book The Passover Plot.
I taped the show but lost interst rather quickly when this ‘new’ theory was advanced. It reminded me of the ONION article recently which advanced the theory that JFK wasn’t shot at all - his head simply exploded from too much MSG...
Sad, but not surprising. I gave up after 5 minutes.
Ya just never know what kind of agenda they have.
They seem to be especially prevalent around Holy Days, such as Christmas and Easter.
Thanks for the ping!
National Geographic bows to Communists. I was reading a recent article from a photographer about the ethics of digital manipulation of “nature” images.
He discussed a photo of his that was altered (pyramids were moved for better placement of the title of the magazine). The photo selected was a last minute “alternate” with the magazine already at the publisher’s when the Chinese government informed NG that they would not be permitted to send in photographers and reporters if they ran a photo of a child from Tibet on the cover.
Funny how some groups are treated with more “respect” than others.