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MOSCOW, Idaho – The Shroud of Turin has long baffled scientists and scholars, Christians and skeptics for over seven centuries. The cloth bears a photonegative image of a man crucified and is thought by many to be the miraculously preserved burial cloth of Christ. Over the years, skeptics have been unable to convincingly demonstrate how any medieval forger could have produced such an image.
N.D. Wilson, a fellow of literature at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, believes that he has done just that.
“The Shroud has always been particularly mysterious because the image is both three-dimensional and a photonegative,” Wilson says. “Artists are simply not able to produce images like that on their own, and so many conclude the Shroud is an authentic relic of Christ’s resurrection. What I’ve done is demonstrate how easy it could have been for a medieval to create a three-dimensional photonegative.”
Wilson, who describes his experiment in an article published in Books and Culture, (March/April, 2005) as well as on his website, began his experiment by painting faces on glass. The painted panes of glass were then set on top of linen and left in the sun for various lengths of time. Dr. Scott Minnich, a microbiologist well-known in Intelligent Design circles, provided Wilson with scientific advice on structuring his experiment. Minnich was not expecting the results the experiment produced.
One of Wilson’s Shrouds, as it appears to the eye (left) and as it appears in photonegative (right)
“The success of these experiments was a surprise to me,” Minnich said. “And as Nate [Wilson] aptly concludes in his paper, it doesn’t disprove the Shroud’s authenticity. However, it does show an alternative hypothesis for its making that has not been considered to my knowledge. And I don’t think he goes beyond the data in his interpretation.”
Commenting on Wilson’s lack of scientific credentials, Minnich said, “It is the irony of science that often someone out of the mainstream shoots an outside shot with such accuracy.”
Though the images Wilson produced look remarkably similar to the Shroud of Turin, he does not believe he has proved the relic to be a fraud.
“I believe it to have been faked. But that’s not something I can prove,” he said. “What I have demonstrated is that in order to produce an image like the one on the Shroud, nothing more is required than the cloth itself, and a painting on glass. All things available to a medieval. A forger would have three-dimensionally encoded a photonegative onto cloth, without even being aware of the completeness of his art, or for how long he would be confusing the rest of us.”
Antonio Lombatti, a fellow researcher of medieval church history at the Deputazione di Storia Patria in Parma, Italy, was quite interested in Wilson’s findings.
“I am eager to examine his results under the microscope to check the chemical properties of his shroud. … What I really find interesting about Wilson’s experiment is that his shroud has encoded 3D data even if it was not produced with a real face or a bas-relief.”
Wilson said that his faith has surprised people: “I’m a Trinitarian Christian. I believe in the Resurrection and all that it means for this world. Either the Shroud is genuine or, as I believe, it is a lie about a great truth. I think Christians should want to see religious fraud exposed wherever we can find it.”
Scientists from around the world have already begun requesting samples of Wilson’s shrouds. When asked if he would distribute samples from his experiments, Wilson was unsure.
I haven’t thought that far ahead.”