Originally posted March 3, 2013:
You’ve likely heard of Dan Brown’s best-selling book “The Da Vinci Code” and the subsequent movie adaptation. The book has sold tens of millions of copies, while the movie, with more than $757 million in box office revenue, stands as the 22nd highest grossing film of all time as of July 2007 [Source: IMDb]. Brown’s story centers around the theory that Jesus married his follower Mary Magdalene, had a child with her, and that the descendants of that marriage live today.
The book also invokes two other popular theories, both of which have been discounted by art historians: that Mary Magdalene, rather than the apostle John, sits on Jesus’ right in Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting, and that a disembodied hand in the painting holds a knife. For years, amateur theorists and art historians alike have considered whether “The Last Supper” contains hidden imagery. The latest theory du jour has generated so much excitement that several da Vinci-centered Web sites crashed from an overwhelming amount of traffic.
Slavisa Pesci, an information technologist who’s taken up an interest in da Vinci’s iconic painting, created an interesting visual effect by overlaying a semitransparent, mirrored version of the painting on top of the original. The result is that two figures that look like Templar knights appear at both ends of the table, while someone possibly holding an infant stands to Jesus’ left. Pesci also cited the presence of a previously unseen wine goblet in front of Jesus. Pesci suggested that it may be a depiction of the first Eucharist, when Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine at the Last Supper to represent his body and blood. Pesci didn’t indicate who he thought the baby might be, but many amateur scholars have said it’s the child of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
As for the meaning of these ostensibly hidden images, Pesci has no comment, though he believes they may be a product of da Vinci’s noted love of mathematics [Source: AOL News]. Da Vinci was also known to write from left to right and from right to left, a technique called mirror writing.
Pesci’s theory and its possible relationship to da Vinci’s mirror writing, while alluring, present some problems. Chief among them, one da Vinci scholar notes, is that the original painting has deteriorated over time [Source: AP]. The mural is no longer as vivid or crisp as it was when da Vinci first unveiled it. The composite image is distorted and blurry, a problem made worse by the original’s current, faded condition. Still, Pesci’s composite image does seem to show something or someone.
Before we dissect this and other theories about “The Last Supper,” let’s investigate the painting’s history and subject. Leonardo da Vinci completed the work between 1494 and 1498. It’s a wall mural in the Church and Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The painting depicts the famous Biblical scene known as the Last Supper, when, shortly before his death, Jesus predicted that one of his followers would betray him. “The Last Supper” actually shows the moments immediately following Jesus’ pronouncement, explaining why his followers appear engaged in a frenzied conversation. The painting is considered remarkable for, among many celebrated features, its realism and for portraying the apostles as full of emotion and taking part in an intense discussion rather than simply standing quietly behind the table [Source: The Cenacolo].
By Marc V. via Listverse
Thanks to never-ending reports of encounters and sightings, UFOs are easily one of the most recognized and well-known icons of modern pop culture. In fact, the fascination has even spawned whole religions with UFOs and aliens as the centerpiece. Of course, we also mustn’t forget the different UFO conspiracy theories being continuously peddled by people who either really want to know the truth or are just plain wacko. In any case, it’s certain that these conspiracy theories will never go out of style, especially when most of them are just downright insane.
10 • There Is An Alien Satellite Hovering Over Earth
This conspiracy theory states that a 13,000-year-old satellite called the Black Knight is orbiting our planet. As the story goes, Nikola Tesla was the first man to discover its existence after he began receiving radio signals in 1899 which he believed came from space, a claim also made by amateur radio operators in the early 20th century. Later on, newspaper reports in the 1950s and ’60s detailing the discovery of a mysterious object in space coupled with supposed photographic evidence helped to fuel belief in the Black Knight’s existence.
If this supposed satellite really does exist, then why is it there? According to Scottish writer Duncan Lunan, the Black Knight satellite is actually a space probe that contains a map to a faraway alien planet called Epsilon Bootis, and the unidentified radio signals are in fact an attempt by those inhabitants to communicate with humans. Although skeptics have sought to debunk the alien satellite as nothing more than space junk or debris, believers have continued to insist otherwise.
9 • MacArthur And Alien Warfare In The Future
Did Douglas MacArthur, the man who led the US against the Japanese and later the Koreans and Chinese, foresee a future war against aliens? According to a supposed speech he made in 1955, MacArthur warned that all countries of the Earth should unite, because the next war would involve humanity against aliens from other planets. Conspiracy theorists closely tie the general’s statements with his alleged involvement in the creation of the ambiguous Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit, a government agency supposedly tasked with investigating mysterious UFO crashes in the 1950s and which was later absorbed by the Air Force. As the story goes, the IPU’s findings that UFOs constituted a threat to national and global security was what prompted MacArthur to render his speech.
MacArthur’s statements, although somewhat sensationalized later on by the media, nonetheless manifested his belief that someday in the future, all of us might experience a real-life version of Independence Day.
8 • The US Government Secretly Sent Astronauts To Another Planet
According to this conspiracy theory, the administration of President JFK—and, later, Johnson—allegedly sent astronauts to a faraway planet called Serpo. The ambitious project began after the US government supposedly saved the life of an alien whose spacecraft crashed in Roswell. In return, the grateful alien established an exchange program with the government and made arrangements for two spaceships to pick it up along with a dozen specially trained astronauts in 1965. After 37 light-years, the astronauts finally reached Serpo and spent more than a decade learning about the planet and its inhabitants, a race called Ebens.
According to them, the Ebens numbered more than 600,000 but lived in a peaceful, government-free community. After 13 years, the team finally returned to Earth four members short after two of them died and another two chose to stay on Serpo. Unfortunately, there are no surviving members of the team today, as all of them supposedly succumbed to the high radiation levels brought on by the two suns of Serpo.
7 • Jesus Was An Alien
Remember the belief that the gods that ancient people worshiped and revered were actually aliens? If that theory is to be believed, then Jesus might have also been one, a fact that is supposedly being suppressed by the Church. As the theory goes, all the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ life hinted at extraterrestrial origins. His “virgin birth,” for instance, could be attributed to aliens artificially inseminating Mary, which in turn would explain why he could perform miraculous feats as well as communicate with otherworldly beings such as angels (who themselves were actually aliens).
Believers also point to Jesus’ statements that he was “not of this world” as hints of his real heritage. The theory goes on to say that after his resurrection, Jesus was beamed up into a spaceship and that the Catholic Church later suppressed the rest of the details by marking books such as the Epistles of the Apostles as apocryphal.
I hate to break it to you, LiveScience, but in the interest of accuracy, it’s probably time to take the word “Science” out of the name of your website.
What you’re promoting isn’t really science, any more than The History Channel has anything even remotely to do with history. You’re passing along to the public the idea that science is this mushy, hand-waving pursuit, where you can do an “experiment” to support an idea you’d already decided was true, generate essentially nothing in the way of data, and then claim that your results support whatever your original contention was.
I say this in light of a recent story called “Shroud of Turin: Could Ancient Earthquake Explain Face of Jesus?” If the very title makes you suspicious, then good; you’re starting out from the right vantage point.
Let’s begin with the facts. The Shroud of Turin is a piece of linen cloth that has been preserved for centuries as a holy relic — supposedly the sheet that covered Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. It shows the image of a naked man, with wounds similar to those described in the bible.
The problem is, the linen cloth was carbon-14 dated — a step that the religious powers-that-be resisted for decades — and it was conclusively shown to date to around 1350 C.E. It is, put simply, a fake. So you’d think that would be that.
As we’ve seen before, that is never that when religion enters the picture.
The article in LiveScience tells about a study headed by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino, in Turin, Italy, which discovered that when you crush rocks using a mechanical press, it can cause a brief emission of neutrons. From that single piece of information, he concludes the following:
- Earthquakes can therefore be associated with neutron emissions.
- The neutrons could interact with nitrogen atoms in the linen cloth (or in anything else, presumably), and mess up the carbon-14 dating protocol, causing it to give a wrong answer.
- The neutrons could also have burned a pattern into the cloth as they passed through it. Because the cloth was wrapped around a human body, it would have caused an image to appear on it, much like an x-ray.
- The bible says that there was an earthquake around the time of Jesus’ resurrection, and the “stone rolled back from the tomb.” [Matthew 28:1-2]
- So: the Shroud of Turin is actually the burial cloth of Jesus. Therefore god and the Catholic Church and all of the rest of it. q.e.d.
Oh, come on, now. This qualifies as science? It’s about as bad an example of assuming your conclusion as I’ve ever seen. And if earthquakes interfered with carbon-14 and nitrogen-14 levels, then radiocarbon dating would never work, since earthquakes happen basically all the time, all over the Earth. And yet carbon-14 dating has been shown to be extremely accurate, over and over again.
Funny thing, that.
By Benjamin Radford via LiveScience
People who have stigmata exhibit wounds that duplicate or represent those that Jesus is said to have endured during his crucifixion. The wounds typically appear on the stigmatic’s hands and feet (as from crucifixion spikes) and also sometimes on the side (as from a spear) and hairline (as from a crown of thorns).
Along with possession and exorcism, stigmata often appears in horror films, and it’s not difficult to see why: bloody wounds that mysteriously and spontaneously open up are terrifying. However, stigmatics, who are typically devout Roman Catholics, do not see their affliction as a terrifying menace but instead as a miraculous blessing — a sign that they have been specially chosen by God to suffer the same wounds his son did.
Curiously, there are no known cases of stigmata for the first 1,200 years after Jesus died. The first person said to suffer from stigmata was St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), and there have been about three dozen others throughout history, most of them women.
The most famous stigmatic in history was Francesco Forgione (1887-1968), better known as Padre Pio, or Pio of Pietrelcina. The most beloved Italian saint of the last century, Padre Pio first began noticing red wounds appearing on his hands in 1910, and the phenomenon progressed until he experienced full stigmata in 1918 as he prayed in front of a crucifix in his monastery’s chapel.
Padre Pio was said to have been able to fly, and also to bilocate (to be in two places at once); his stigmata was allegedly accompanied by a miraculous perfume; the Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty, in his 1963 biography of the saint, noted that it smelled of “violets, lilies, roses, incense, or even fresh tobacco,” and “whenever anyone notices the perfume it is a sign that God bestows some grace through the intercession of Padre Pio.”
Journalist Sergio Lizzatto, in his book “Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age” explains the social context in which Padre Pio’s stigmata emerged: “In the first years of the twentieth century, when Padre Pio was a seminarian, the Eucharist — the body and blood of Christ — was at the height of its importance in Catholic practice. Communion was celebrated frequently and became a mass phenomenon. At the same time, asceticism was interpreted in ever more physical terms. Body language — ecstasy, levitation, the stigmata — was held to be the only real mystical language.”
Pio’s stigmata appeared, Lizzatto argues, because that’s exactly what the church and its followers expected to appear in its most devout servants: Jesus’ real, physical torment visited upon the holiest of men.
Though Padre Pio was widely beloved, many weren’t convinced that the friar’s wounds were supernatural. Among the skeptics were two popes and the founder of Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Agostino Gemelli, who examined Padre Pio and concluded that the stigmatic was a “self-mutilating psychopath.”
Still, Padre Pio garnered a widespread following and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Though Pio, who died in 1968, never confessed to faking his stigmata, questions about his honesty surfaced when it was revealed that he had copied his writings about his experiences from an earlier stigmatic named Gemma Galgani. He claimed ignorance of Galgani’s work, and could not explain how his allegedly personal experiences had been published verbatim decades earlier by someone else. Perhaps, he suggested, it was a miracle.
Is stigmata real?
So is stigmata real, or a hoax, or something in between? The claimed miracle of stigmata — like inedia, where people who claim not to eat food — is very difficult to scientifically verify. Veteran researcher James Randi, in his “Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural,” notes that “Since twenty-four-hour-a-day surveillance would be necessary to establish the validity of these phenomena as miracles, no case of stigmata exists that can be said to be free of suspicion,” and though the possibility of genuine stigmata can never be ruled out, “It is interesting to note that in all such cases, the wounds in the hands appear at the palms, which agrees with religious paintings but not with the actualities of crucifixion; the wounds should appear at the wrists.”
If stigmata is real, there is no medical or scientific explanation for it.