Reason to Doubt – Shroud imaging

The second episode on Reason to Doubt discusses the imaging on the shroud.

The Shroud of Turin Image is NOT Jesus | Debunking the Shroud ep.2 (Artists, Radiation, & Chemistry)

They present some proposals on how the image was formed. First hypothesis they discuss is it was a work of art.

Hypothesis 1: Medieval artist w/ paint or stain

Number one explanation is that a medieval artist did it with some kind of paint or stain. They painted just like you’d expect an artist to do it. This was actually the first explanation that was posited in history.

This explanation for the Shroud has been around basically as long as we’ve known the Shroud has been around.

One champion of this model of the artist’s explanation was Walter McCrone. And he examined the Shroud using extremely powerful microscopes and he found vermilion and red ocher, which are pigments from the 14th century.

They admit it being a work of art has many problems.

There’s a lot of disconfirming pieces to this. Direct evidence of the fibers, and here I’m looking at the summary of Schwalbe and Rogers, could find no evidence of liquid being absorbed. So you can see a picture there of the image extremely faint but if you look all the way down with the microscope, there’s no liquid meniscus marks.

No fibers are cemented together, so like you don’t have two fibers glued together with some kind of material like if you had painted it.

There’s no evidence of brush strokes or any other mark of application. And also remember this is a half tone when you’re seeing those darker bits of brown there on the screen it’s not because the fibers themselves are any darker there’s just more darker threads. So it seems like that would be pretty hard for an artist to do.

Also the faintness itself makes it hard for an artist. So just looking at this you’re really up close I tell you that it’s dark and you can you can see like some are dark some are light but it’s really hard to like see that there’s an image. If you’re close to this in fact you have to to be like a few meters away before you can really like see the image. Until then it just kind of looks like a kind of stained piece of fabric.

And so that doesn’t necessarily preclude an artist from having done it. I mean the artists have been super intelligent over the ages. If there was an artist maybe they figured a way around it, but it would be another obstacle in the way of the artist hypothesis.

But if there was an artist involved it seems they used a method a lot more sophisticated than just taking a brush to the shroud. Like it clearly didn’t do that. So whatever they did if an artist was involved they used something more sophisticated than that.

Then they discuss the Maillard reaction.

Hypothesis 2: Maillard reaction (Ray Rogers)

So the next class of explanations has to do with chemical reactions.

The body that was wrapped in this shroud amidst gases so when when you die you’re going to emit gases, lovely things like ammonia and some other things called cadaverine and these gases are volatile. And these volatile gases can react with sugars the sugars that are on the linen to produce a Maillard reaction. And that would lead to browning and importantly would lead to Browning only on the surface, not all the way.

First of all like it’s a natural mechanism so that’s great. We don’t have to posit some kind of supernatural layer
to reality.

Then they discuss the issues with the Maillard reaction.

There are some problems. So first of all Ray wasn’t an expert on the Maillard reaction.

On top of that this hasn’t really been picked up a lot in the literature. I can only find two peer-reviewed papers that discuss this mechanism and they’re both pretty dubious.

So if we’re just recapping this section for the Maillard reaction one it’s a naturalistic explanation right so it would account for a good portion of the things that made the image. But what you found was that there’s not a lot of research done on it and the stuff that has been done wasn’t necessarily done in a peer-reviewed fashion. There hasn’t been any replication of the process to show it being duplicating a good hypothesis.

There are other issues with the Maillard reaction, but they don’t discuss those issues. See my list of issues with the Maillard reaction here:

The next proposal they discuss is radiation. Since Jordan is a nuclear engineer, they spend a lot of time on this one.

Hypothesis 3: Radiation

It’s time for some radiation and boy am I excited about this. If you don’t know I’m a nuclear engineer, which means I think radiation is super cool and so I’ve been reading a lot about it.

There’s a lot of problems with this model so start with the protons would need to have a very specific band of energy. The protons are flying off of Jesus body they hit this thread they need to be absorbed and just the first few fibers but never further, never further than three.

They’re like so turn around and hit the back side they went to the quantum realm real quick no it doesn’t really explain why the back side of the fibers would also be colored. But even worse than that while the Shroud would be like on Jesus face sometimes you know it’s also draped on the body so not every part of the image would have been in contact with the skin.

So that means the protons have to travel through some air to get to the Shroud. But if they’re going to be low enough energy that they’ll only penetrate the outer 0.4 microns, they don’t have enough energy to move that space. Now that for that to work then you’d have to have a finely tuned profile of proton energies such that where the where the the fabric is touching the skin the protons are low energy so they don’t penetrate too far.

Something that radiation does is it travels isotropically and what that means is it travels about equally in all directions. If you just randomize all these things it’s going to roughly equal to the same everywhere. It’s not it doesn’t have any preference for up or down right.

Ours looks like perfectly vertical, but and there’s it would actually be like this because it’s draped on the dude’s head. But there’s nothing over here there’s no image on the side, so if it was actually radiation you’d expect it to go into every direction and you’d have uh some burning I’m going to call burning stop burning but some like darkening around the sides of this dude’s torso. It would basically make a less sharp image because it would be like a blurred.

But don’t worry they thought of this and they have a solution. This radiation is special radiation, see this radiation is vertically collimated.

They specifically discuss Robert Rucker’s neutron radiation hypothesis.

Hypothesis 3c: Neutron Radiation

We’re going to go to Robert Rucker’s vertically collimated radiation burst hypothesis. This is a hypothesis that is going to bear directly on the radiocarbon dating that we talked about last time.

To be fair this hypothesis does exactly that it makes some very firm predictions. Like if you made a measurement anywhere else on the Shroud either it’s going to have ridiculously high carbon 14 levels or it won’t. And his model requires it does and it even tells you about how many. In fact there’s so much carbon 14 there at the middle where like it was showing it would be 8400 years in the future.

Problems with Rucker’s neutron radiation hypothesis is that it is completely utterly and fully ad hoc. It is starting at the end point and working backwards.

Ruckers has said in interviews that the strength of his hypothesis is that it matches all the data. While this is true in fact he he the word he used was that it’s astonishing. It’s astonishing it matches this. It should be astonishing to absolutely nobody because that’s the input to his model. And this if you take nothing else away from this very long diatribe on radiation, understand this Rucker’s model has no value because all of the known data points are inputs to his model. It cannot help but to match them.

You remember that curve from before that showed like the carbon 14 date there’s no mechanism to tell him the number of neutrons. All he knows is that it must yield 1260 at this one spot and so he does a simulation and then normalizes his curve so it automatically agrees to the first requirement.

Until those testable predictions have in fact been tested nobody should put one picogram of certainty on this thing. It is completely and utterly useless as an explanation until that happens.

They do not discuss any other image theories and completely ignore Jackson’s cloth collapse theory.


That’s all of the main classes of image hypotheses. You’ve had your artist hypothesis hypothesis that someone painted it. There were issues with not seeing paint, not seeing the markers of paint, and that sort of thing. So if an artist did do it, he didn’t do with paint. You have the chemical reaction, which has a nice natural pathway and it seems plausible, but it hasn’t been demonstrated to actually like work. And it hasn’t been scrutinized in a lot in the peer-reviewed literature, so definitely problems there. And then you have the radiation hypothesis which is ad hoc from start to finish and completely nuts. You know it ignores a ton of problems and basically any kind of obstacle is just waved away as a miracle.

So they discuss only three proposals and none of them are presented as viable.

They then admit they don’t know how the image was made.

The one thing we can say for sure is that we don’t know how the image was made. That’s the takeaway everyone should take. That is the key point. the answer to how is the image on the Shroud of Turin made is we don’t know. But we don’t know does not mean therefore I do know and it was God.

I mean it if I had to pick I would throw I throw the radiation in the trash immediately because that’s just completely implausible. From there I’d be left with either some kind of natural thing so either it was a natural mechanism that happened to a first century thing which I don’t think it happened so probably it was a natural mechanism or an artistic rendering or some combination of the two in the 14th century.

Yet they can then conclude the Shroud of Turin is NOT Jesus? This is such a non sequitur argument. As they admitted, based on the explanations they’ve explored, at most they can say is they don’t know how the image was made.

Strangely, they never even considered Jackson’s cloth collapse theory. It’s not like Jackson is a nobody. He was the president and founder of STURP. There’s even a BBC documentary video about his theory. Perhaps they’d rather have a “I don’t know” position than admit there’s a theory that is more plausible than any other existing theory?