Monday, August 11, 2008

The fox guarding the chickens

The United States continues to export creationism to the rest of the world. A recent issue of the Irish Times reports that a Protestant politician who heads the Northern Ireland government's education committee is pressing to have the biblical account of creation taught in schools alongside the standard evolutionary story, as a legitimate scientific alternative. The same gentleman has suggested that the visitor's center at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland -- a remarkable formation of ancient lava columns -- include the creationist argument that the rocks are 6000 years old. I am happy to report that no such nonsense is going on in the more substantially Catholic Irish Republic -- at least not yet.

In the same issue of the Irish Times, the weekly science columnist, Dr. William Reville, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Public Awareness of Science Officer at University College Cork, weighed in on the Shroud of Turin: Is the linen cloth with an image of the crucified Christ at Turin's cathedral the authentic burial cloth of Jesus or a medieval forgery? Reville ostensibly adopts an open-minded attitude, but his credulity is breathtaking. He recommends reading Is the Turin Shroud a Fake? by Ian Wilson and Barrie Schwortz, one of countless book supporting the Shroud cult, without directing his readers to a more skeptical source. I would have thought the issue was pretty much settled by the 1988 radiometric tests reported in Nature, but it's not in the cards that any scientific evidence -- or application of Ockham's Razor -- will dissuade true believers.

Reville writes:
What if the TS [Turin Shroud] really is the burial cloth of Christ? The Gospels record that the disciples found the tomb empty and the linen cloth left lying there. The Gospel account of the resurrected Christ is that he was entirely different to a physically embodied Christ -- able to pass through walls, and to appear and disappear suddenly. What if his resurrection involved nuclear events in his dematerialization? Dr. August Accetta, California, has carried out a fascinating experiment in which he injected himself with a radioactive compound used in medical imaging to show up internal organs. He then assumed the pose of the man imaged on the TS and a gamma camera imaged the radioactivity emanating from his body. The results astonishingly replicated most of the features of the image on the TS.
With this sort of thing from the Public Awareness of Science Officer at UCC, can a 6000-year-old Giant's Causeway be far behind? If Dr. Reville takes at face value that a man can rise from the dead and pass through walls, then why not an authentic Shroud of Turin or a six-day creation. If you believe one miracle, then why not all?