Cross-examining Zeitoun, continuedFebruary 26, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
Picking up where we left off from yesterday’s post, we find Jayman making some assumptions about the nature of the “apparitions”:
Fascinating, isn’t it? A projected (hoaxed) image would need something like smoke or clouds to project onto, and that’s just what we have at Zeitoun!
If an image were projected into smoke wouldn’t it obviously be a fake if one were to move to a different angle? What did they use when no smoke was present?
Any decent light show can do as much, and we’ve had non-electrical light sources for a lot longer than we’ve had electricity (ever hear of limelight, or flares?).
Care to provide an example of a light show that is convincing from multiple angles? It would also be helpful if it worked from more than 15 miles away. I tried searching for some light shows but all the images and videos were not what we need for this kind of hoax.
Jayman is assuming that the image in and of itself was convincing, and that any projector would have to be at least 15 miles away, neither of which is necessarily true. I know from personal experience that it’s possible to be convinced by what you think you are seeing, even when it does not correspond to what you’re actually looking at. People were convinced, but that is no guarantee, in and of itself, that their conviction was the result of an unimpeachable phenomenon. We need to look at whatever evidence we can obtain, to verify (or disconfirm) their conclusions.
On what basis can you call the parish superstitious and credulous? They apparently allowed numerous investigations into the matter and are in a much better position than you to know what happened. Also, I would think their Muslim neighbors (the majority of Egyptians) would have liked nothing more than to show this to be a hoax. It’s very un-Islamic for Mary to be bowing before a cross. All they had to do was put something between the projector and the smoke and the hoax would be found. Yet they could find nothing in a 15 mile radius.
The reason I called them superstitious is because they saw the projected image of an obvious icon, they smelled the smoke of the incense, and they jumped to the conclusion that this could only be the result of some kind of supernatural intervention. The longer I study this case, though, the less convinced I am that they even saw the projected icon. But we’ll get to that below. The fact that they allowed “investigations” is neither here nor there, since a good hoaxter will be only too glad to obtain the stamp of approval of some recognized authority, provided they feel they can get away with it.
Jayman raises the interesting issue of the Muslim attitude towards all this, which is not quite as simple as he might suggest. Muslims believe that Jesus was a genuine prophet of Allah, second only to Mohammed himself, and in fact Mohammed rather piggybacks on Jesus’ reputation, so discrediting Jesus would also discredit Mohammed, who accepted Jesus as valid. It’s true, however, that Muslims would object to seeing a “divine apparition” venerating a cross in what they would consider an idolatrous manner. In fact, they’re rather zealous about this sort of thing.
We would expect, therefore, that devout Muslims would not sanction these apparitions as genuine, even if they did see them with their own eyes. Yet the story from Zeitoun claims that Muslims did confirm these visions as genuine. And that brings us to a consideration of the two types of evidence from Zeitoun.
Jayman’s original reason for mentioning Zeitoun was to provide an example of how skeptics respond when confronted with photographic evidence. Most of the evidence from Zeitoun, however, is not photographic. It’s stories, word-of-mouth, hearsay. It’s what people say they believe they saw, or what they say they heard someone say that they believe they saw. And these stories don’t always add up, or prove to be consistent with the evidence.
The alleged reaction of Muslims is a case in point. The stories claim that Muslims witnessed the same things as the Christians, and were convinced that these “apparitions” were real. If that were the case, however, the Muslim reaction would have been different. Jayman’s point in mentioning Zeitoun was to try and prove that unbelievers will refuse to believe the evidence of their own eyes even when it’s right in front of them. If so, we ought to see Muslims denying the apparitions, due to the conflict with their deeply-held religious beliefs. They ought to have been even more skeptical than I’ve been. Yet the story claims they weren’t. Inconsistency.
One explanation for their non-antagonistic response would be if they didn’t actually see any veneration going on. If the actual phenomenon was merely amorphous blobs of light, which allowed people to “see” the visions they expected to find there (like I saw the different handwriting styles at the seance), then the Muslims would not see anything idolatrous. Their preconceived ideas about Mary (whom they revere as a Muslim saint as well) would lead them to perceive her as behaving in an orthodox Muslim fashion. The lack of definite detail would give each viewer the freedom to perceive whatever behavior he or she found most appropriate in a “divine apparition.”
There is other evidence, too, that the stories are inconsistent with the actual facts of the case. For example, Jayman responds to another commenter with the following:
The church was floodlit, which would not be conducive for projecting an image.
Here is a picture, taken slightly above rooftop level, showing an image of the “apparition”.
Notice, there are no floodlights on the roof, nor are there any above the roof. If there are floodlights, they must be on the ground, pointing up at the roof. This conclusion is reinforced by another photo, showing light shining up on parts of the rooftop structures, while leaving much of the roof area itself in deep shadow.
If we were taking pictures of an actual three-dimensional figure illuminated by floodlights from below, we ought to see the kind of “spooky-face” upside down shadows you get around the campfire when you hold the flashlight under your chin. Instead, we see images like this one:
Notice, the image shows Mary as being quite clearly illuminated from above and slightly behind, not from below and in front. In fact, if you look at the lighting in the images in general, you’ll notice that the shadows seem rather odd, i.e. either entirely missing, or inconsistent with the surrounding lighting.
What’s missing from the evidence at Zeitoun is any kind of photographic evidence taken from the roof itself. Even if piety forbade you to climb to the rooftop during a manifestation, you would have ample time during a 3-year period of steady manifestations to set up a number of remote-control cameras—assuming you wanted people to see what was really up there in the shadows.
The photographs we do have could easily be faked by either double-exposure (to produce the glowing images) or by using a simple dodge technique while printing the photographs. In fact, it would be particularly helpful, while producing such fake images, to overexpose the “apparition” so as to wash out any underlying detail and thus obscure the evidence. I’ve already noted that the photos of the “doves” flying around at night are curiously missing the inevitable streaks of motion blur that would result from photographing moving objects under low-light conditions. And have a look at this photo (helpfully labeled “REAL photo,” so we know it’s not fake).
Notice, it’s quite clearly a daylight photo, with the sun shining down on the heads of the spectators, and casting harsh, high-contrast shadows around the ears and under the eaves and archways of the church. Yet the sky above the ghostly image is dark, and the borders where the sky approaches the church dome and structures is quite clearly smudged and irregular, as though an artist had not dared to try and match the borders of the foreground exactly.
The more I look at Zeitoun, the more it looks to me like the actual apparition was just blobs of light, such as you would get from shining (non-electrical) lights on a simple cloud of smoke, augmented by people’s desire to see a miracle and by a number of clearly faked photographs. And yes, I know that the story says that some “expert” pronounced that the photos could not possibly be the result of photomontage. But that’s the hearsay evidence, the story that is neither backed up by, nor consistent with, the photographic evidence we do see.
The definition of gullibility is when you believe whatever someone tells you, just because they tell you, despite a lack of evidence or even the presence of contradictory evidence. Jayman originally suggested Zeitoun because of the physical evidence, but when that evidence failed to pan out, he had nothing left to appeal to but the assumption that we ought to believe whatever the Egyptians tell us, just because they say so, and despite inconsistencies within their stories, and between the stories and the photographs.
Zeitoun is either a hoax, or a genuine miracle that has been deliberately constructed so as to have all the hallmarks of a hoax. Since the world is blatantly free of the day-vs-night sort of consequences that would result from the existence of a God Who genuinely loved us and wanted us to be saved by knowing and believing in Him, I think we can safely eliminate the latter conjecture.