Special Cracking of the Voynich Manuscript

The Story

“For only the second time so far this year, the Voynich manuscript has been decoded.”  – Dr. Eve Siebert

The Voynich manuscript is “an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system,” carbon dated to the 15th century CE. Another set of researchers are claiming to have decrypted it, as Siebert describes on Virtual Skeptics:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdRme2oDGbE&start=1316s&end=2450s]

Why this Pleading is Special

Multiple exceptions are being proposed by this pair of researchers.

  • The researchers begin by claiming to have “positively identified” illustrations of plants, whose identities have not been established (in part due to some illustrations exhibiting characteristics of multiple or mutually exclusive species of plants).
  • The new date proposed by the linguistic researchers, 1521 – 1576 CE, disagrees with the carbon dating of the manuscript.
  • If a problem emerges with the expected translation, as with “hellebore”, a modifier from another language is assumed, and once that exception (the special pleading) is applied, the predictive model works perfectly again (circular reasoning is a logical feature outside the scope of this journal).

The special pleadings are also compounded by begging the question (or circular reasoning), an entirely different logical feature outside the scope of this journal, whereby each “translation” is used to confirm the next.

In the paper, one plant’s identification, “Hellebore,” was sourced to a blog article. This isn’t a special pleading, but if we were editing Wikipedia, it would raise some WP:RS flags.

Earthquake Neutrons Shroud Relic from Aging?

The story

The story was covered by Doubtful News. Check there for comprehensive coverage.

Turin Shroud may have been created by earthquake from time of Jesus (telegraph.co.uk):

The Turin Shroud may not be a medieval forgery after all, after scientists discovered it could date from the time of Christ.

The Italian team believes the powerful magnitude 8.2 earthquake would have been strong enough to release neutron particles from crushed rock.

This flood of neutrons may have imprinted an X-ray-like image onto the linen burial cloth, say the researchers.

In addition, the radiation emissions would have increased the level of carbon-14 isotopes in the Shroud, which would make it appear younger.

Why our pleading is Special

Possible de-aging of the shroud (or other artifacts) is considered “special pleading” because we are introducing an exception to the criteria by which age of an object is measured, based on a proposed (but not yet substantiated) mechanism by which the input criteria might have been corrupted.

If we could demonstrate that this mechanism occurs as described (i.e. a physical experiment yields predictable results), and further, that there is good reason to suspect we are not invoking this mechanism arbitrarily, then our pleading would no longer be special.

For more information, see “special pleading” at The Fallacy Files.

Shroud of Turin from Wikimedia Commons

Ragnarok Postponed

“That needs to go in the Journal of Special Pleading.” – Sharon Hill

Virtual Skeptic panelist and Skeptical Humanities Editor Dr. Eve Siebert is unconvinced of the prophetic signs pointing toward the occurrence of Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse.

Here are some of the signs Siebert attempts to explain away:

  • World Serpent
  • Thor’s absence
    • Note that while Thor has in fact visited us in theaters since the emergence of the aforementioned oarfish, he has since made a hasty retreat back from Midgard, and hasn’t been seen in theaters since. Any expert on Norse mythology (i.e. the Marvel Universe) would likely agree there is a consensus on that point.
  • “Wolf, Army of the Dead, all that…”
    • The wolf has made an appearance in Sochi with the help of Jimmy Kimmel, and I’d like to point Dr. Siebert to a certain popular AMC Robert Kirkman series.
  • Unrelenting Winter…
    • Coinciding with Thor’s absence, his Avenging teammate will be facing an “unrelenting winter” of his own against Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes1 (Captain America’s third major movie role since 2011).
Captain America: The Winter Soldier from Wikimedia Commons
Captain America: The Winter Soldier from Wikimedia Commons

However, this explanation yields a complication. It appears that while Saturday is certainly close to the actual date, the wintery component doesn’t arrive until 4/4/14. So we’ll look forward to the end of the world then. Unless it’s a “spiritual apocalypse”…

Watch the Journal of Viral Advertising for more updates.

1No, I’m not putting a spoiler alert up for anything that happened more than nine years ago in the comics.

About what some might see as a lack of journal content…

“You don’t have much content. I’d expect more from a ‘Journal’ publication.”

It’s true that the Journal of Special Pleading (JoSP) might seem, based on all outward appearances, to be a relatively new upstart blog. If this Journal were comparable to a brand new blog, one could reasonably arrive at that conclusion. However, it would be unfair to judge the content of JoSP purely based on the criteria by which most publications are measured, primarily because of the nature of the subject matter covered by this most prestigious journal. For a pleading to be “special,” it must first satisfy very stringent aspecific criteria. Such criteria sets it apart from an ordinary pleading, and makes them relatively hard to come by. So owing to this criteria, what might appear to be a mostly empty WordPress blog might actually be a comprehensive collection of the developments of a discipline.