Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Shroud of Turin

Until about 3 years after I submitted to Christ in 2009 I had always treated the Shroud of Turin as some kind of medieval forgery and not the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Circa 1988 it had been announced that the radioactive carbon 14 dating put the origin of the Shroud to around the 14th century and this more less settled it for me.

 Before becoming a Christian I had been skeptical about the reality of the Resurrection. Even after looking at the evidence for the Resurrection, which I found wiped out the objections of the skeptics , and coming to believe in the historical reality of a supernatural Resurrection    (as supernatural as the Big Bang, in which space-time-energy emerged from a fraction of  a pinpoint to give us life, the universe and everything)  I still dismissed the Shroud as a hoax or a confidence trick, as many Christians do today. In fact I was concerned that if it was a fraud it would only help to discredit the overall case for a Resurrection in the public mind, given the natural skepticism of some scientists who tend to be treated as guardians of truth, which they should indeed be as regards the logically accessible aspects of reality.

Recent YouTube presentations by respected scholarly teams (sindonologists) are making it difficult to ignore that this cloth defies natural laws by virtue of the unprecedented and unequalled nature of the image. It is most definitely not a forgery and I even saw a  BBC article by Philip Ball, the ex-editor of Nature, confessing to its extraordinary properties.

I have heard since that all the arguments which try to dismiss the authenticity of the Shroud's image have failed the scholarly peer review process (they nevertheless get picked up by journalists). No scientist has been able to explain the  unique nature of the image despite thousands of research hours and many research papers.

This could be world shattering for many and force those denying the resurrection on the grounds of conspiracy theories - which start from the erroneous assumption that the resurrection could not have happened- to reconsider their position.

see also

The Shroud of Turin, Authenticated Again


The initial carbon dating exercise in the 1980s gave dates around 1400 years after the Crucifixion (33 AD), which led most people to dismiss the Shroud as a medieval fake. The dating had been carried out by a reputable international team; but since then the date has been thrown into doubt because the dating process used a sample containing threads used by medieval nuns to repair the cloth.

In recent years it has been proposed that an earthquake which is fairly reliably known to have taken place in 33 AD, could have generated a neutron flux which would have affected the dating results by increasing the amount of C14 due to neutron bombardment of the C12 nucleus (the more C14 in the sample the younger it would appear to be). The latest date estimate puts the time of the cloth centrally within an error bar of several hundred years spanning the 33 AD date. Pollen analysis also backs this up. By itself this would not prove that the Shroud was the one that en-wrapped Jesus but the date is certainly much earlier than medieval and the Crucifixion date lies well within the error spread.


The trauma caused by the Crucifixion as described in the Gospels would have affected the physical nature of the blood emanating from the wounds caused. This is confirmed by analysis of the blood stains on the cloth. Moreover, the positions of the stains clearly correspond to the Crucifixion accounts. The evidence for this is startling in its detail. E.g. the spear wound indicated on the cloth is in forensic agreement with the John 19:34 account; the bloodstains on the head are clearly from a cap or crown of thorns as described in John 19:2.; 120 scourge marks on the body, front and back indicate about 40 lashes from a three-thronged whip, which was the standard whipping procedure adopted by the Romans at the time.

The colour of the blood stains is red. Normally one would expect it to be black after such a long period but in fact a body having undergone the trauma to which Jesus was subject would have chemically altered blood that would stay red , and containing bilirubin, and this is precisely what  the Shroud stains exhibit. The elevated levels of the bilirubin actually indicate the traumatic process of the Crucifixion as described in the Bible.


Biomechanical science indicates that a body pinned to a cross by nails through the palms could not bear the weight of the body – it must have been through the wrists, which is just what the image shows. The traditional belief was that the nails had been hammered through the palms, so any attempt at forgery would have tried to simulate this. All the iconography of the time indicated nails through the palms.


The image shows marks indicating a blow to the cheek as described in John 18:22: "And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand." As with most of the image features discussed these were invisible before the technology of the 20th century and there is no way anyone would have any motive for forging them, even if someone in medieval Europe had technology more advanced than any known or even envisaged today.


The image was formed by a process which no team of scientists has been able to reproduce over the last several decades, possibly one involving high energy radiation. It was not produced by any kind of pigmentation. One singular characteristic of the image is that it was in the form of  a negative which comes out as a positive on a photographic negative, much to the astonishment of Secundo Pia when he developed his two glass plates in 1898 when the Shroud was first photographed. In fact as photography advanced the image became increasingly clear. Without the invention of photography no one would ever have seen the image at all.

[ In addition to the evidence above there is a close correspondence to the results emerging from an investigation of what is probably the tomb of Christ and the head cloth used after the Crucifixion. New evidence on this subject is available and I hope to insert a link to it later.]

Very advanced technology has been applied to the Shroud, including the VP-8 Image Analyzer which NASA used to construct three dimensional images from ordinary photographs of, for instance, the moon’s surface taken from two different angles. When applied to the Turin Shroud image this has somehow yielded a 3D image of Jesus Christ that does not distort as it rotates. At this time I do not know the physics and mathematics behind this and believe there are aspects to this process which nobody understands.

The information extraction power of the VP-8 enabled experts to interpolate the presence of a lepton, a coin used at the time of Pontius Pilate, placed in each eye socket. It had been customary to do this. Even part of the inscription round the edge of the coin was determined and found to correspond to that used on the lepton at the time of Pilate. 


There is one aspect of the Shroud image which is so enormous in its implication for the human race and the entire universe that I am almost hesitant to mention it for fear that it will immediately label me as a crank in many people's eyes.

Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the image is that the markings penetrate barely a fibre's thickness down into the cloth, on both sides. Nobody has been able to produce such an image using any technology known to man. For reasons that at this time I do not understand it has been seriously proposed that the only possible explanation of this and other aspects of the image lies in the same theoretical domain as black holes and event horizons. 

The proposal is that information from Christ at the moment of death passed into the entire universe instantaneously and that a new universe and a new humanity is in the process of being created. (NB: modern physics posits that any particle in the universe can instantaneously interact by quantum entanglement with any other particle in the universe, since at the start of the Big Bang every particle was confined to the same quantum space .)

A whole team of scientists is involved at both a theoretical and an experimental level. See this video by a particle physicist Dr Isabel Piczec


How did the Shroud get from Jerusalem to Turin, in Italy? Christian relics were frequently transported for safety because of Islamic and other attacks prior to the Crusades. The Moslem conquerors had reached Spain, having violently subjugated 2/3 of the Christian world (hence the Crusades), by the time of the Shroud’s final resting place in Turin, Italy. Before the Moslems there were still many enemies of Christianity, such as the Romans before Constantine, the non-Messianic Jews and the Vandals. So it is not surprising that the cloth did not begin to be openly talked or written about until it was safe.

I am in no way an expert on all this so let me refer you to some of the sites I came across in putting together the above:

There is also an iPhone app called Shroud 2.0 which pulls together a lot of evidence, as well as innumerable books.

Apart from online sources such as the above I used this book

So what if the shroud is indeed genuine, as looks increasingly likely?

It will add to the already substantial evidence for the reality of the Resurrection event which changed history and the meaning of which is still being hotly discussed and argued about 2000 years later after huge moral, social, artistic, scientific and technological upheavals made in its wake.

There is no doubt in the mind of any genuine believer that the Resurrection is as real as the other supernatural event which came to light only a few decades ago: the creation of space and time from existential nothingness 13.8 billion years ago, from behind an event horizon, i.e. the Big Bang, an occurrence for which the evidence has been steadily mounting since the 1920s.

The argument must at some point shift from whether there was a Resurrection to its deep significance for humanity. Forget religion. The implications could totally shatter our view of reality if the quantum aspects become widely accepted since it casts light on every aspect of life of every person on the planet as well as all of life and every particle in the universe.

So watch this space.


Friday, 2 March 2018

Robotics and AI: more jobs and a more human world?

Much of the western world has operated in a way to saddle itself with large numbers of unemployed people with no prospect of job security or of doing anything that seems really worthwhile. Making money and making sure you enjoy yourself, if possible not at other people's expense, seems to be the ethos of a spiritually arid age.

Whatever our spiritual beliefs or indifference to the spiritual aspect of reality it cannot be denied that meaningful work is essential to the well being and balance of most people. It is an important role of a government to steer the country it governs towards an economic structure which generates meaningful jobs and careers. This means encouraging industries and enterprises, state or private, which create value-added products and services i.e. products and services which bring in the money needed to finance social services and investment for the future, and above all, to provide people with lifelong, meaningful employment, either with one organization or a variety of employers, ensuring that adequate training is available.

Here are some schemes which could employ a huge number of people, paying them good wages to do useful work. All are compatible with or driven by the growth in robotics or artificial intelligence.

  • Robot ships to clear up the oceans (briefly described in my novel 2077:Knights of Peace).This could provide a great opportunity to generate both IT and heavy engineering work, bringing back to life many a derelict shipyard (e.g. like those on the UK’s northern coast – Tyneside etc.) and creating entirely new ones. It could not only provide worthwhile employment and stimulate local economies but solve the burgeoning problem of microscopic, non-digestible plastic particles entering the marine food chain, including sea birds.

  • Roads and pavements, millions of miles of them world-wide, need ripping up and replacing with smooth, high quality surfaces. Consider the market for a robotic machine that stops over a crumbling section of motorway or clearway, say, pulverises the existing material and replaces it with a smooth, tough, durable surface within an hour. The market would be mind boggling and  a boost to the engineering industry, employing humans to design, develop, test, manufacture and market the machines as well as operate and transport them.

  • Laying of new roads and railways. Again, a robotic machine that could lay down strips of finished road by the mile would have a vast market worldwide. Imagine the sales potential of China and India alone as well as  the investment and employment opportunities for western economies.

  • Footpaths and small roads over mountains, rough terrain and marshland are especially useful in rural and tourist areas. Teams of skilled individuals equipped with robot-based systems could lay these down more efficiently than at present. The market would be enormous in the developing world, allowing small remote communities to share in the growing prosperity of the wider world as well as allowing medical aid to reach them more quickly. Hopefully, food aid would be less in demand as the communities prospered.

  • High tension overhead power cables need repairing rapidly so any robotic help could reduce the down-time. As completely new national grids are installed there will also be a big market for technological assistance in doing this rapidly. Again there would be a boost to employment as new infrastructure is manufactured, installed and maintained. As with all infrastructure the more functional and efficient it is the more smoothly the economy runs and the higher will be the quality of life of the people.

  • Robotic repair systems for use on sewage pipes, drains, water supply lines, gas pipes and buried cable conduits, especially in metropolitan areas, are already being used but there is no doubt plenty of scope for innovation. The demand for such technology in the developed and developing worlds should be enormous, with more employment opportunities in both.  Local people would be needed to operate, supervise and complement the robot repair technology and there would be many jobs in design, manufacture, commissioning and installation.

  • Caring for our fellow humans when their physical or mental faculties require this is primarily a personal task, requiring great kindness, skill and dedication by gifted individuals. If robotic devices could be developed to help the carers at a practical level (e.g. fastening buttons or handling soiled clothing) this would allow them to spend more time on personal interaction and transform the nature of care work.                                                                                                                                                                                

  • Drivers displaced by driverless vehicle technology could be trained to help, both practically and at an interpersonal level, infirm or disabled passengers at the start, during and after their journey. Taxi drivers, for instance, often have good interpersonal skills which could be put to good use providing they are not burdened with excessive demands for political correctness or following of petty rules and regulations.                                                                                                                                    
  • Automated telephone menu systems are widely resented when they are inhuman (made more so by pretending to be otherwise), complicated and inflexible. There is a place for these but they need to be kept behind the scenes as well as improved. There will be a need to employ a new version of the switchboard operator able to interpret the customer's needs and match it to the right department and support them if they get disconnected. The operator would in turn need plenty of training and an up-to-date knowledge of the organisation's structure, which in practice changes continually faster than the IT (including telephone menu systems) designed to service it. In large companies or departments the operator would need support staff. Artificial intelligence could possibly be used behind the human front, to assist the operator                                                                                                                             
  • Surgeons could be greatly assisted by automated image recognition of X-rays, tomographs, f-NMR scans etc. to identify or eliminate disorders and diseases. If this approach proved very effective it would increase the turnover and complexity of work by medical secretaries and other ancilliary staff while at the same time dealing more effectively with many more patients. 
  • Medical research and frontier surgery could be greatly assisted by block chain technology. This could, e.g., give simultaneous access to research and pioneering treatments world-wide, before they had been published in academic journals. When a patient's life is at stake he or she may wish to sanction the use of experimental treatment where the risks are higher. Medical technology could advance more rapidly as geographically scattered workers are connected to the same block chain system.
  • Lawyers could be released to make better use of their talents by employing artificial intelligence to scan routine legal documents. This could lead to more secretaries and other posts requiring interpersonal skills.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  • Business services could be aided by artificial intelligence, leading to a simpler, faster, less burdensome process of setting up a small company. This could result in a growth in self employment and make possible enterprises driven by creative individuals less hampered by paperwork.                                                                                                                                               
  • High street banks are closing local branches and customer counter positions at an alarming rate as automated menu driven customer stations are brought in. It could be that if small businesses (see above) multiply there will be a greater demand for bank staff able to advise them and connect them to the appropriate sources of finance and expertise.
 Blockchain technology, briefly mentioned above in a medical context, enables people or devices in different departments or areas of work, interrelated in some way (so that each is affected by what is happening elsewhere in the organisation or project or operation, even when spread over different parts of the world) to instantly monitor real-time data anywhere in the system. This  will no doubt lead to new areas of human work not even envisaged today.

If I, a layman, can think up a list like this imagine what a dedicated think tank could come up with. So my hope is that readers may pressurise their MPs, senators, congressmen, local government officials, aid agencies and church leaders to move in this direction. Or plant ideas in the minds of existing and potential entrepreneurs, or, even better, start up their own companies to develop and launch such technology or use existing technology more imaginatively.

Robotics, machine learning and neural networks could be a way to help the developing nations while saving the developed ones from their past sins and improving the quality of life  of their own citizens.

John Sears


reach me at

Monday, 12 February 2018

Lessons from Marx and Lenin

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, edited by Friedrich Engels, was published in English in 1888. The original document appeared in 1848 and went through a number of editions and translations. It inspired the Russian Revolution and attacked the rampant free-trade world economy which had already emerged, while the ruling class which grew wealthy through it was labelled the bourgeoisie.

Marx, a Jewish intellectual, was writing at a time of rapid de-Christianization of Germany by German Idealism, the Hegelian Dialectic and Friedrich Nietzsche, a nihilistic philosopher who was hostile to the very values emanating from Jesus Christ. The forces at work in the 19th century set the scene for both Nazi and Communistic totalitarianism.

To quote, Marx considered that

 the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles...freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word the oppressor and the oppressed.

 Each time the fight ended either in a re-constitution of society or in the common ruin of the warring classes. During the late nineteenth century, largely as a result of industrialization and global free trade, the opposing sections of society were the bourgeoisie (the oppressor) and the proletariat (the oppressed), and he maintained that the time was ripe for a new struggle that would lead to a new social order: communism. The proletariat would be victorious, religion would be exterminated and all would live in peace and harmony, a brotherhood of man.

 The Manifesto’s attack on the bourgeoisie reads like that of many a modern columnist on the global capitalist system of today, which again is based largely on free international trade, with little regard for the social costs of production moving according to market forces, be these of labour or goods or raw materials, and in which everything in life is reduced to a commodity or assigned a monetary value. Even debt itself has been made a commodity in the form of collateralised debt obligations and futures.

Christianity is attacked by Marx because it has allegedly colluded with the ruling classes in subjugating and exploiting the lower classes for monetary gain, while at the same time he implicitly recognises the reality of the sacred and holy – e.g. in talking about money and the way everything in life has been given a price he says 

...all that is solid melts away, all that is holy is profaned

Yet the means he proposes for providing what he must have been regarded as a more humanistically just way of organizing our affairs makes no appeal to the holy. Everything happens in a material world with no spiritual dimension and God either does not exist or is irrelevant, being replaced by man. Morality itself becomes meaningless other than as a set of man-made rules. It is impossible to declare anything morally wrong by any absolute standard if there is no holy source of morality.  Yet he obviously believed in the notion  of holiness without wondering where it came from or how it was to be sustained when its source was ignored. 'Without God anything is permissible' (Dostoevsky). Those who killed 100+ million  people for the sake of  Mao Zedong, Marx and Lenin were breaking laws  laid down on humanistic principles for the benefit and flourishing of human beings. It was all done for the good of humanity. Similarly with cruel and lethal medical experiments on pregnant mothers and disabled inmates of Nazi concentration camps, or even medical experiments in the UK, for example, in the wake of World War II. It was all done in the name of human flourishing.

  In attempting to sweep away all the church institutions, which undoubtedly did sometimes depart radically from the teachings of Jesus Christ, Marx ignores the provenance of Christian values, i.e. what happened during the life of Jesus and within a decade or so of His Crucifixion: the parables and commands of Jesus Christ recorded by His contemporaries, the empty tomb, the widely reported Resurrection appearances, the vision of Saul, the first conversions of gentiles, the Pentecost, the miracles of the apostles and the persecution by the authorities. The Romanized institutionalized  church and its ramifications, which Marx despised,  did not begin until almost three centuries later. Even then, with all its faults, you only have to take a look at the non-Christian world of the time to see the difference.

 Marx seems to be correct in seeing that every economic order grows to a state of maximum efficiency while simultaneously sowing the seeds of its own downfall. This probably applies to any system of organizing human affairs, since nothing in life is static: circumstances change. Even the societies which claimed to be working towards the communist ideal collapsed from within. But he failed to realize that although a society may wish to redistribute bread more fairly, it cannot live by bread alone. Reality is not a machine., an economy and society with no soul. Well over 100 million died in the last century (more than in all previous history) because of this mistake, this departure from basic divine wisdom, as human beings were systematically killed in the name of atheist values or the human gods which always fill the spiritual vacuum left behind when the real holy source of reality is ignored by society. 

What Marx and his disciples failed to realise is that no human being or group of humans  can decide what is good by reason alone apart from God: there must be humility, love and truth, and these do not come from genetically expressed protein molecules, which themselves ultimately originate from God,  but from submission to our Creator made incarnate in humanity through the Christ.  See also 1984 revisited: collective postmodernism

 Today, like Marx, we decry the folly and greed of bankers and borrowers. To the extent that a new system is needed perhaps it should lie somewhere between the unfettered market-based one of today and a modified socialism, more internationalised in some respects, more localised in others. Or maybe something we cannot even envisage. Whatever system emerges let’s not forget the lesson of history: every man, woman and child should treat each other in accord with this command from our Saviour: ‘ one another. As I have loved you, so you must love each other.’ John 13:34. A command that must be held sacred in all the institutions of humankind as well as individuals. 

In western society we are subconsciously aware of this command largely through habit. However, this awareness needs to be refreshed and kept alive to be kept alive by a nucleus of genuine, radical Christian believers. The Spirit needs to be consciously cultivated and encouraged throughout society in order to make it more like heaven on earth.

For this reason I believe that prayers and Christian symbols need to become part of public life. The values of the Sermon on the Mount are not likely to be adhered to rigorously but awareness of these through church going and the occasional media event can only be a good thing in re-establishing the trust and mutual respect needed for society to be viable at all. Recent problems with social media illustrate this.

Returning to the Soviet experiment I recently came across a quotation from V.I.Lenin made when he was close to death, in 1924. He recognizes too late that scientific atheism is unable to bring about net social progress:

I have deluded myself. Without doubt, it was necessary to free the oppressed masses. However, our methods resulted in other oppressions and gruesome massacres. You know I am deathly ill; I feel lost in an ocean of blood formed by countless victims. This was necessary to save our Russia, but it is too late to turn back. We would need ten Francis of Assisi.

Today it looks as though Christianity is returning to its true foundation of infinite redeeming love generated by the Trinity and flowing through the whole of creation, bringing about justice by restorative love rather then retribution. Franciscans are definitely in the ascendant and Christianity as a whole is spreading fast in the world as a whole and even beginning to revive in western countries corrupted by materialism and pagan influenced reward/punishment  models from medieval times. Hopefully it won't be too late to avert upheaval and collapse.

 John Sears
Author, 2077: Knights of Peace