Saturday, January 31, 2015

Popular Forensics

Source 1 - Popular Mechanics article, January 2015
Source 2 - Lefty troll rant that cites the January article above but that was pre-dated back to Christmas day, 2014
Popular Mechanics published an article about a project to use forensics to reconstruct what the face of Jesus might have looked like.

The second article linked to above is by a chap trolling Christians on Christmas day on the subject. Presumably the author would dislike that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe looks like an Aztec woman, or that Japanese art depicts the Holy family with Asian features. Well, we have to surmise that; his ire is expressed only for white people - or, as the author put it, right-wing racists.

The Popular Mechanics article remarks that had our Lord looked the way He is popularly depicted in Western art - i.e. taller and leaner and with different hair than His contemporaries - then "surely the authors of the Bible would have mentioned so stark a contrast." This is chicanery: the Bible doesn't go in for descriptions of the physical attributes of individuals unless there was a spiritual significance (e.g. Jacob's limp); an ancient Greek storyteller might have done so, but the old Jews as a rule were sparse in such descriptions. The article later adds, "It is clear that his features were typical of Galilean Semites of his era." Presumably, but saying something is "clear" when it is actually just assumed is not good science, is it?This quote from the Popular Mechanics articles is telling: "our tendency to sinfully appropriate him (Jesus) in the service of our cultural values." It is sinful to alter the record in support of one's preferred outcome - that is a species of prejudice - but how is it sinful to reference a historical event when it does in fact support one's cultural values?The Norton article would have done well to mention the qualifier included at the end of the original Popular Mechanics article: said Richard Neave - the medical artist retired from The University of Manchester in England who performed the forensic exercise that produced the portrait above - this "re-creation is simply that of an adult man who lived in the same place and at the same time as Jesus. As might well be expected, not everyone agrees." The article continued, "Forensic depictions are not an exact science...The details in a face follow the soft tissue above the muscle, and it is here where forensic artists differ widely in technique...some artists pay more attention to the subtle differences in such details as the distance between the bottom of the nose and the mouth. And the most recognizable features of the face—the folds of the eyes, structure of the nose and shape of the mouth—are left to the artist..."

Finally, this forensics reconstruction was done based on three well-preserved skulls from Palestinian men who were contemporaries of our Lord. I think it's an interesting exercise to perform; still no word, however, on the same exercise being done on the remains of people born of only one parent. Would that influence the outcome? Scientifically, we must reserve judgment.

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