Shrouded In Mystery Just Like It Ought To Be

It struck me as odd when the guardians of the Turin Shroud allowed it to be radiocarbon dated back in the mid eighties. I mean why risk undermining both its spiritual and monetary worth? It wasn't as if its popularity was waning at the time.

I was not surprised, although as a lover of the esoteric I was disappointed, when all three independent results showed the cloth to be no more than about 800 years old. As it was exactly that time that the shroud was first mentioned (as far as we know) in the historical record its comparatively recent provenance was predictable. I was also not surprised by the various challenges to the scientist's results by those who really wanted the artefact to be from the time of Christ's crucifixion. For example it was alleged that the scientists had gotten hold of a piece of a medieval cloth that had been used to patch up the much older (in their opinion) shroud. At least that excuse for the Thirteenth Century dating was within the realms of possibility and demanded only a belief that mistakes do happen. The latest big idea designed to give back a possibility of authenticity to the Turin Shroud requires a far greater suspension of disbelief than belief in the relic has ever demanded from its fans in the past.

According to LIVE SCIENCE, "The new theory hinges on neutrons released by a devastating earthquake that hit Old Jerusalem around the same time that Jesus is believed to have died. (A) group of scientists, led by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino in Italy, suspect high-frequency pressure waves generated in the Earth's crust during this earthquake could have produced significant neutron emissions. These neutron emissions could have interacted directly with nitrogen atoms in the linen fibers, inducing chemical reactions that created the distinctive face image on the shroud, the scientists say. The reactions also could have led to 'a wrong radiocarbon dating,' which would explain the results of the 1989 experiments, Carpinteri said in a statement."

Don't worry if this sounds like complete gobbledygook to you as that is exactly what it sounds like to members of the less bonkers parts of the scientific community. Basically, there is absolutely no proof that such a thing has ever or could ever have happened.

To be honest I have no idea why some people have an overwhelming urge to either prove or disprove the mythological. It's what I don't get about militant atheists and Christian fundamentalists alike. What's it matter if something is scientifically real or not as long as you don't intend to shove your beliefs down everyone else's throats? For me that applies to everything from the Virgin Mary appearing at Walsingham to the resurrection of Christ including, on the way, creationism and the efficacy of the sacraments etc.etc.

But then I'm a theological libertarian. I don't expect anybody else to believe the mythology that is important to me but neither do I put up with people bugging me about the possible unreality of my mythology (whatever reality is technically supposed to be). Heck, I believe that when he was a teenager, Jesus visited England with his Uncle Joseph of Arimathea. I expect a lot of readers of my blog, when they have come across my mentioning of this event in the past, have concluded that I am pulling their leg in my eternal pursuit of getting a laugh. But they would be wrong as I truly do believe it. This particular myth is an important component of the foundation of my sense of belonging, my socialism, my Pelagianism and my paganism, my orthodoxy, my humanism, my belief in miracles, my wonder, my hope and, in conclusion, my God. But I'm happy for you all to be amused by it rather than being convinced of it. There is no proof that it actually happened and I don't want there to be. If there was proof then it would be knowledge of the same type as the invasion of Britain by the Romans. That fact affects my life quite considerably but it doesn't affect my soul. The myth of Christ on the shores of Cornwall does effect my soul as, no doubt, the myth of the Turin Shroud effects the soul of millions of people throughout the world to a greater or lesser extent.

Another thing I have never understood is the need that some people have to explain how conjurers do their tricks. What is the point of going to a magic show intent on proving the magic is real or unreal? A sensible person goes to a magic show to enjoy the magic. Otherwise that person is wasting the price of the ticket. Similarly, there is no point in approaching the miraculous with either a desire to prove it to be authentic or a desire to show it up to be a sham. Quite honestly, you are missing the point and being a first class spoilsport whilst you are at it. From dust we came and to dust we shall return. The bit in between is short and full of shit. We might as well grab happiness and comfort when and where we can. Who are you, Mr Science Is Everything, to kick us back down to the mundane earth with, what is at the end of the day, merely your definition of reality?

The number one unproved but ferociously promulgated premise in the world today is the one that insists that scientific truth is always "better" than any other explanation. It is a premise that is thrown in our faces by both militant atheists and religious literalists as if it is a priori. But it isn't a priori. It is a faith statement, that is all. There are times when the scientifically proven fact is more important than mythological belief (for example in some areas of medicine). But I strongly believe that there are many instances where mythological belief trumps scientific "reality" and to go out of your way to destroy such beliefs is tantamount to replacing the active ingredient in a course of chemotherapy with sugar water.



Shrouded In Mystery Just Like It Ought To Be — 2 Comments

  1. [Hey, Viking Red, where’s a suitable-for-oggling avatar? ;-/]

    Agree, agree, agree, agree, [Crazy@rse goes off on a “Jesus in Blightey” tangent: whatevs floats his boat!], agree, agree, agree, agree.

    FWIW, I’ve also heard the “Smoke from a medieval fire contaminated the carbon” theory re the SoT, also. While the Shroud is visually interesting, it matters not a whit to my faith.