Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Testing the Shroud of Turin

When we started out with Lovemarks, I couldn’t resist having a go at metric maniacs who dismiss every idea unless it is nailed to the floor with facts. In fact I so disliked the way they sucked out emotion, I called them 'research vampires'. To their faces. What is it about people that they want to reduce everything to numbers? Last week Jack Welch said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Good!! Look, I can count as well as the next guy and I do appreciate that gravity is here to stay, but sometimes measurement just blinds you to what’s important.

That’s why I was astonished to see that science is having yet another probe at the Turin Shroud. Now I don’t think it matters whether you are a believer or not, the Shroud of Turin is a remarkable icon. Millions of people believe that it is the cloth that wrapped Jesus Christ when he was buried and that the image is a representation of him. Over the years, the Shroud has not just attracted believers but it has drawn scientists. They just can’t let this bone go. They test, they measure, they analyze, and now they photograph to bring this icon down to size. The first photograph was taken in 1898 and the latest effort is a 12.8 billion-pixel job cobbled together from 1,600 high-definition images. The conclusion from the Oxford lab was that the Shroud was a fake. Again. It was what science resolved 20 years ago and yet in 2000, when it was last displayed, three million people saw it. This is about emotion and faith, not about reason. Testing the Shroud to prove it is real is just as silly as trying to show it’s a twelfth century con job. As long as people feel such a passionate connection with it, all the photographs, measurements and carbon dating won’t make a scrap of difference. Millions will make the pilgrimage to see the Shroud the next time it is displayed publicly in 2025. Let it go guys.