The Whole Story -- Both Sides of it

  1. The Whole Story -- Both Sides of It.

         Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a happy old couple with just ONE problem – there was an axe stuck in their ceiling. In truth, the couple wasn’t all THAT happy because they constantly worried that someday that axe would fall out of the ceiling and kill somebody.
          One day a tired and hungry stranger came along and the old couple invited him in for a rest and a meal. While eating, the couple told the stranger about their life together, pointing out that the one sour note in all their happy existence was that (damned) axe stuck in the ceiling. At which point, the stranger got up on his chair, and with a quick tug, dislodged the axe from the ceiling…

    1.1. Our Purpose:
    1.1.1. “We” are a small team of 'commentators' imported from
    1.1.2. We believe – apparently, contrary to current popular opinion – that the preponderance of evidence regarding the Shroud of Turin somehow, but clearly, favors the Shroud's authenticity…
    1.1.3. ("Authentic" meaning simply that the Shroud was, in fact, the burial cloth of Jesus -- at this point, we are not claiming that there is anything supernatural about the Shroud…)
    1.1.4. We also believe that we will be doing a great public service if we can bring our conclusion to worldly consensus.  (Such a conclusion should give anyone serious pause – whether believer or nonbeliever, and whether the image on the Shroud is supernatural or not -- and should also put any sarcastic skeptics into their rightful places… which would be a good thing.)
    So, our purpose here is to show that the preponderance of evidence clearly favors shroud authenticity, and to bring that conclusion to a worldly consensus...

    Our Plan
      1.  But then, how could we possibly bring our conclusion to a worldly consensus..?
      2. Well, we do have the Internet at our fingertips.  And what, for instance, if we could get Wikipedia to accept our conclusion?
      3. Not to worry, just a thought…
      4. But then, we do have a plan. As we see it, there are three basic requirements for advancing our cause:
        1. Actually effective debate (about the shroud),
        2. Between acknowledged experts,
        3. Hosted by a popular website…
      5. Given such a situation, we believe that our side would at least begin to develop a worldly consensus for authenticity.
      6. Note that what we have in mind is written debate.  (Don’t discourage yourself by trying to imagine actually effective oral debate.)
      7. For an extensive discussion of human debate, its problems and potential solutions, go to ***.
      8. If you wish to discuss the Shroud, and the debates here between the experts, just register for our audience (jury) forum.  Doing that, you will also have an opportunity to cast your votes as to which side you think is winning the overall debate, as well as to which side you think is winning each particular “sub-debate”…

    1. Why Debate?
      1. To effectively weigh the evidence, we (humans) need to ‘hear’ both sides of the story.
      2. In addition, we need to hear each side from the side itself – not both sides as represented by just one of the sides…
      3. But then, once we humans lean towards a particular side, listening to the other side becomes rather painful -- so mostly, we avoid doing it…
      4. But that's true until we can do more than listen – until we are given the chance to respond to the other side's “foolishness”…
      5. Or even better, until we are given the chance to ‘listen’ to an expert from our side respond…
      6. Juxtaposed pro and con articles in the newspaper make for a good step in the right direction – but only a small step. Unfortunately, such attempts inevitably leave all sorts of “loose ends,” and change very few minds.
      7. What we need to hear is dialogue between the two sides as they respond back and forth to each other's questions and comments.
      8. In other words, what we all need to hear is debate.
      9. But then, what we really need to hear is effective debate -- and, effective debate hardly ever happens

    2. Why not?
      1. We humans hardly ever have effective debate, when a method for insuring effective debate should prove positively revolutionary… (For example, just think what the different legislatures could do if their legislators were able to keep their debates honest, objective, open-minded, fair and friendly. They could create a whole new world! Maybe, they could save this one!)
      2. Yet, no one seems to be looking for such a method (except our small team of commentators)…
      3.   Has this issue been carefully studied and discarded as insolvable? Probably not.
        1. We can’t find anything about any such studies on Google – positive, or negative.
        2. If we actually scrutinize the situation, a lot of specific problems become obvious. And then -- once those specific problems become obvious -- potential specific solutions, to those specific problems, do also...  What’s going on here?
      4.  We appear to be stuck with the conclusion that the possibility of fixing – or even, improving upon this situation -- hardly occurs to us humans.  (Much like it didn't occur to the old couple, in the story above, that the axe could be dislodged on purpose, and much like it doesn’t occur to dogs that a door can be opened by pulling on it with a paw…)
      5. But then, for some reason, the possibility did occur to one of us (and we’re sure that there are others out there dabbling with the issue also) – and, the rest is history.  So we offer, here, a theoretical solution...
      6. Not that our specific proposed solution will necessarily work, but it does make a lot of sense – and clearly (it seems to us), a method for improving human debate is something that we humans should be seriously pursuing, whatever…
      7.  Can we humans significantly improve upon our ability to have effective debate?  That's the question.  Our answer: “Sure we can!”
      8. To answer that question, we needed to seriously scrutinize human debate.  Here's what we came up with.

    3. The problems with debate.
      1. But first, what must happen in order to have actually effective debate?
        1. Both sides must be able to effectively present their significant evidence and arguments.
        2.  Or, in other words (as strange as this might sound), the two sides need to agree upon precisely what it is that they disagree about (think about it – we'll explain later)…
        3. To have effective debate, the two sides do not need to finally agree with each other regarding the actual issue at hand.
      2. Moving right along – from at least one perspective, we humans have just two basic obstacles in our way to effective debate.
        1. Our nature, and
        2. Our current issues.
      3. In regard to human nature,
        1.  Our basic problem here is that once into debate, our reflexive behavior takes over, and we unconsciously slip into a fight/flight mode.
        2. In that mode, we
          1. Become oblivious to any good intentions we might have previously had towards seeking the truth,
          2. Seek only to win instead (or, at least seek only to avoid losing instead),
          3. Do whatever winning requires (if possible),
          4. Place a premium upon quick (often foolish) answers, and
          5. Are essentially oblivious to what we are now doing…
        3. This is a totally natural human reflexive syndrome once we become even partially committed to one side of a story. That’s how we humans are. We just haven't appreciated the supreme potency of this syndrome…  It takes over.  We zone out.  Seriously!  This is the heart of the matter.
        4. The reason this happens is that our natural reflexes evolved in a much earlier time -- and, it’s our old reflexes that take over under stress…
        5. In seeking only to win, we
          1. Insult our opponents (We have numerous ways of doing this).
          2. Refuse to yield the floor.
          3. Refuse to answer our opponent’s questions.
          4.  Pretend to answer their questions while ‘dancing around them’ instead.
          5. State opinion as fact.
          6. Raise our voices.
          7.  Grasp at straws (while pretending they’re trees).
          8. Exaggerate. And,
          9. Flat out lie.
        6. In placing such a premium upon quick answers, we don’t have time to
          1.  Understand our opponent’s argument.
          2.  Really understand our own argument.
          3. Think twice.
          4. Step back from the canvas.
          5. Look before we leap.
          6. Say what we mean.
          7. Keep from going off on tangents defending things we didn’t mean.
          8. Realize we’re wrong.
          9. Admit we’re wrong.
          10. Cool off.
          11. Apologize.
        7. But probably, the real key here is how “unconscious” we are of what we were doing. Psychologist would say that we know what we're doing, but only at a “preconscious” level – which isn't nearly good enough to cause us to stop doing it…
      4. And then, in regard to the complexity of our controversial issues,
        1. It so happens that our typical debates are really quite complex -- are like “exponential trees.”
        2. This complexity makes our shifting of gears -- from seeking the truth to trying to win at any cost – and getting nowhere – so easy to do.
        3. Because of this complexity, “when useful,” we can slip easily and unnoticed from one loose end (branch) to another -- leaving loose ends all over the place…
        4. And, this is why we humans hardly ever get anywhere in debate – why we go in circles -- and, why the members of our audience don’t know what to think, and don’t change their minds. It’s all these loose ends.
        5. Now, this didn’t happen when our reflexes were evolving – and, might made right…  Things were much simpler then.
        6. These days, in trying to be rational and civilized (you might need to slow down here),
          1. One side will say that such and such is true because of arguments 1 through 7.
          2. The second side will say that argument 1 is wrong because of its (the second side’s) own arguments A, B and C; that argument 2 is wrong because of arguments D and E; that argument 4 is wrong because of argument F; that argument 6 is correct, but doesn’t take argument G or H into account.
          3. Note that the second side has already left arguments 3, 5 and 7 hanging, and given multiple answers to 1, 2 and 6…
          4. The first side then comes back and claims that argument B and C are wrong because of argument 8, 9 and 10; that argument E is wrong because of 11; that H is wrong because of 12, 13, 14 and 15...
          5. More loose ends and multiple answers.
          6. Etc.
          7. Pretty soon, we’ve got a serious morass of loose ends on our hands -- even if all of this is in writing.  (Just think of what this is like when the debate is oral! This is why we’re all so intellectually screwed up and hardly ever get anywhere in a serious debate.)
      5. So, those are our nominations for the two basic obstacles regarding effective debate.  Our old, simple, reflexes are simply not up to their new complicated, tasks.
      6. Or better yet, we still have our old reflexes and old cans of worms – but our old cans of worms are now open!
      7. So, when we complain that our debates never “get anywhere,” too many “loose ends” is the underlying problem -- and these loose ends are caused by a combination of our animal nature, and the complexity of our controversial issues…
    1. Our solution. (How we plan to stifle those natural, but currently problematic, human reflexes in debate.)
      1. We start out on this website.  This website is currently anything but popular, but we do have time -- and high hopes.  But also, we might at some point be able to convince another, actually popular, website to take on our cause.


      1.  Each side in these debates will have just one spokesperson.
      2.  We spokespersons (SP’s), however, will not need to go it alone – we are encouraged to recruit all the help they need.  Just that, as SP’s, we will have ultimate say over -- and responsibility for -- what gets said.
      3. You in the audience (jury) are referenced to section 5, above, so as to better evaluate the merits of each side’s case.  You will be urged to score us SP’s based upon our degree of enslavement to, or freedom from, the natural pitfalls of human debate.
      4. To elaborate upon (and somewhat repeat) our take on these intricacies, it is our opinion that we humans are much more reflexive -- and much less conscious -- than we tend to think that we are. And this unconscious reflexivity is what renders us so impotent when it comes to participating in actually effective debate.  (Whereas, a physical fight or race would actually get somewhere and render a verdict.)
      5. This section presents a theoretical overview of human debate and its general, as well as specific, problems. It will provide a set of guidelines as to the dos and don’ts of actually effective debate, and will encourage the audience to score the spokespersons accordingly – is the particular opponent advancing effective debate, or is s/he sabotaging it?
      6.  These intricacies of human debate suggest a hierarchy of goals for the spokespersons to keep in mind: Seek to find the truth (rather than to win) -- which suggests in turn that the spokespersons
        1. Debate “in good faith” (be open-minded, honest, objective, fair and friendly), and
        2.  “Zoom in” (slow down, and keep narrowing our focus).
      7.  Our side will do its best to follow these guidelines.
      8. We SP’s will be urged to stick to the guidelines -- and to politely point out infractions that our opponents might commit.
      9. We will be urged to watch for our own infractions, and own up to them when recognized…
      10. The actual debate will proceed much like a civil trial in an American court.
      11. Our side will provide a “brief” (opening statement) summarizing our case.
      12.   Your side may do the same -- or just figure on “attacking” (addressing) ours. I'll refer to the latter case as the "one-brief option."
      13. In that one-brief option, once the brief is given, each side will develop its own "exponential tree" upon that one brief.  Each side will do that by determining, at each juncture of its own tree, which branch will be pursued next.  (As debates develop, they tend to become quite complex – hence the “exponential tree” terminology.)
      14. In the two brief version, each side will develop an exponential tree upon each brief.  In such a case, we'll have a total of four trees.
      15. At this point however, it would probably be best to start off with just two trees. Our side will start with our brief, and control discussion regarding it. The other side will start off with their brief and control discussion regarding it. 
      16. Our side plans to go from one branch of our tree to one branch of the other side, and back, etc.  We'll encourage the other side to do the same, but that will be up to them.
      17. The basic reason we need to keep narrowing our focus (and go to all this trouble) is that claims and responses in human debate tend to have multiple parts (a lot of multiple parts).  We would keep narrowing the focus by leaving all but one of those parts behind -- each step of the way -- and thereby, growing these exponential debate trees one lopsided branch at a time…
      18. The basic claim here is that the best way to actually "get somewhere" in an argument (debate) as it tries to branch out exponentially, is to follow only one branch at a time. Complete that branch, then back up to the next “branching.”
      19. When we SP’s in a debate try to negotiate numerous branches at one time – as seductive as that may be -- our mental set is not sufficiently patient, we keep missing critical turns (“exits”) and the debate goes nowhere but in circles.
      20. Here, our side is hoping that by clearly separating the trees, we SP’s won't be confused by the forest :)
      21. This new "focusing" approach can be quite tedious.  But then, tedious and slow is much better than exciting and circular; 10 times 1 is a lot better than 100 times 0.
      22. And also, teams can be developed -- and each branch could be handled by a different teammate (though that handling would be entered only by we SP’s after personal approval).  And, being on the Internet, there would be no end of possible teammates.
      23. And finally, it isn’t that every specific disagreement (branch) would have to be addressed. We would try to expose a pattern, or a smoking gun, early on and save ourselves a whole lot of tsuris (Yiddish for “grief”).  We would select each new branch to be pursued with that in mind -- choosing first that which we see as the most promising for our side.
      24. A separate forum will be provided for the audience (jury). The audience will be urged to study the guidelines and do their “scoring” of our debate accordingly. They will also be encouraged to point out infractions as well as unexpected adherence.
      25. By watching the audience forum, we SP’s should learn quickly how we are doing re the guidelines and, hopefully, adjust our methods accordingly.
      26. Where we fail to properly adjust, we will be suspected of championing houses of cards.
      27. Clearly, we cannot be made to follow the guidelines, but an alert and “noisy” audience should keep us under control. And after all, it’s only audience opinion that matters anyway; and, an out of control spokesperson will not score well with the audience.
      28. The audience, and we SP’s will be reminded that the ultimate objective here is not for SP’s to agree with each other, or for the members of the audience to agree with each other, or even for an impartial Judge to make the final decision for all of us.  We will all be reminded that the ultimate objective of this debate is for the evidence and logic of both sides be presented as effectively as possible -- so that the individual members of the audience will be as well informed as possible when making their own individual decisions.
      29. One general guideline, of which we SP’s should be constantly reminded, is to "slow down and zoom in." The natural tendency for us humans in debate is to speed up -- and, to thereby miss our turns (curves in the road).
      30. In line with our comment above about unconscious reflexivity (5.3.3), we SP’s will keep "zoning out" and will need to be constantly reminded of what we are supposed to be doing instead...  Seriously.
      31. One way to summarize the guidelines for us is to "argue in good faith.” We should be constantly reminded to keep our efforts honest, objective, open-minded, fair and friendly.
      32. Another focus for us SP’s should be to make sure that we understand our opponent’s case before we start arguing our own. In the beginning, the audience should see lots of questions.
      33. And, instead of aiming for agreement, we should be aiming for ‘tying up,’ or ‘nailing down’ every last nuance of every last specific disagreement. If that remains our target, members of the audience will have their best chance at finally, and actually, understanding the disagreement and the available evidence, and for making the best decisions possible (given that available evidence).
      34. And again, with a little luck, we’ll find a smoking gun early on and close our case…

    1.  Our Brief (This debate will be like a jury trial, and you in the audience will be our jury.)

          Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:  We believe that -- contrary to current popular opinion -- the preponderance of evidence clearly supports the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin… (By "authentic," we mean only that the Shroud once covered the crucified body of the Biblical Jesus. “Authenticity,” here, does not require that anything “supernatural” be involved.)
          Here's a very brief summary of why we believe that the Shroud is authentic.
      1.   Despite what appears to be the current popular opinion, real evidence against Shroud of Turin authenticity is actually quite meagre. I.E, 
        1. Enthusiastic sceptics do not realize how much their enthusiasm depends upon "authenticity" (in regard to the Shroud) requiring supernatural intervention -- and consequently, do not realize just how meagre their real evidence is.
        2. The only significant evidence against authenticity has been the 1988 carbon-dating which concluded that the 13th century marks the earliest possible origin of the Shroud. However, closer scrutiny since 1988 has indicated that the carbon dating, itself, was invalid
        3. The few other specific tests that would seem to indicate that the Shroud was not authentic can also be explained and discounted.
        4. Numerous scientists have done “hands on” research on the Shroud itself (or, on "takings" from the Shroud), but aside from the scientists who did the Carbon dating, only one hands-on scientist has argued against authenticity... And closer scrutiny appears to invalidate that scientist’s methodology.
        5. And then, of the numerous “peer-reviewed” articles on the Shroud, only two have argued against authenticity.
      2.  Whereas, the evidence for authenticity of the Shroud is ... ‘incredible.’ I.E,
        1. The Shroud has been scientifically studied for a century, is perhaps the most scientifically studied of all ancient artefacts, is at least 654 years old  – and yet, no modern artist or scientist has been able to fully reproduce or explain it.
        2. We know that the Shroud existed in 1357 – however, it contains numerous details (many of them recently and scientifically discovered) that a 1357 forger would not see, know of, be able to depict, or have reason to depict.
        3. All relevant details of the Shroud fit with Biblical narrative. And where details depart from “tradition” (tradition not always reflecting, or being faithful to, Biblical narrative) they do fit precisely with recent scientific, archaeological and historical discoveries...
        4. The documented history of the shroud can be traced back with certainty only to the mid-14th century. However, several important clues show that the shroud probably existed long before that time.
      3. In summary.
        1. In our estimation, the evidence against authenticity is quite meagre, and the public is quite misled in that regard.
        2. Clearly, the most likely explanation of the image and apparent bloodstains on the Shroud is that they constitute some kind of ancient “imprint” of the body of a human male who happens to have been tortured and crucified precisely as was the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
        3. And, in that regard, the possibility that this man could be someone other than the historical Jesus of Nazareth would appear to be extremely low…
        4. Though, we still don’t know how the image was formed...