The missing brain of Simcha Jacobovici

5 03 2007

It’s too bad it’s not possible to get 2 and 1/2 hours of your life back, because if it were, I’m sure a class action suit could be filed against the Discovery Channel/James Cameron/Simcha Jacobovici for producing the clunker that was The Lost Tomb of Jesus. I don’t remember everything from the show (my brain blocked it out so it won’t come back to hurt me twice over), but a few things still stick out in my mind that belie what a fraud this whole thing was.

1) When the results for the patinas come back and are compared, the documentary declares that the “lost” ossuary of James is a “match” (the exact word used in the show) with those found at Talpiot Tomb and not any of the random samples. The graphics whizzed by pretty fast, but it was clear that the compared ossuaries (I believe they were James and Mariamne) the levels of Si and O were vastly different, even more different than some of the random samples thrown out because of smaller deviations. During the follow-up show, Ted Koppel calls Jacobovici out on the issue, saying that the test did not prove the dubious James ossuary came from the same tomb, but rather that they were in tombs of potentially similar composition. Jacobovici squirms around in his chair and minces words about the “legal definition” of match and the way the word “match” was used in the show, but he clearly was caught with his pants down.

2) I found it suspect that the only “human residue” that DNA testing could have been done on were found in the supposed Mariamne and Jesus tombs, the story as to why the other tombs inconsistent from minute to minute during the show. At first Jacobovici says that he went as far as he felt was appropriate with the science, and then it’s an issue of there not being enough material, and then it’s an issue of museums cleaning out the ossuaries to the extent where there was no material left. Regardless of whether more genetic material can be isolated or not, Jacobovici again gets uncomfortable when Koppel calls him on the repeated assertion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, such an inference being impossible to make from the data. All the DNA testing said was that you have a male and female, unrelated through a mother, buried together in a tomb; saying anything more without concrete evidence is irresponsible, but that is exactly what Jacobovici does.

3) I’m not sure how much was dramatization and how much was real, but the last 15 minutes or so (where the tomb is rediscovered and entered by Jacobovici) appalled me. If the footage was not staged, then Jacobovici was absolutely careless in entering and messing around in the tomb, and I can only hope that the discarded scriptures found in the tomb were not authentic given the rough treatment Jacobovici gives them. At the end, the IAA shows up as the bad guy to say that Jacobovici has no permission to be doing what he’s doing, when in reality they’re saving what was already an exceedingly disturbed burial site.

4) Many of the ossuaries shown during the farce that was this show were ornate or had legible lettering, but the ossuaries of the “Jesus family” were plain with the names carved in rather casually and in a way that some are difficult to read. Could it be that someone added some of the names as a joke or hoax or for some other reason at a later time? Very is little is said as to traditions involving ossuaries during the show, the experts reading what the letters say typically just identifying the name but not giving any input (in the case of Dr. Cross at least, this is because he doesn’t agree with Jacobovici). The whole show reminded me of the entire controversy about the gnostic gospels experienced this past summer, texts discredited because Jesus is a giant, beats up on children, and does other things entirely inconsistent with other writings. Could these books be ancient fan-fiction?

5) Not much is said about the previous post, there are people who believe that Jesus is buried in India, and other who believe he’s buried in Japan, and there are still other people who believe that the bad feelings you and I experience come from tortured alien souls in our bodies. These days, just about anyone can string together some tenuous evidence to make a case for all sorts of conspiracies and pseudoscience, so simply the fact that a case can be made for this tomb actually housing Jesus, his wife Mary, and their son Judah doesn’t give it any credibility; the burden of proof lies with those espousing the claim and they failed miserably.

7) There was a little disclaimer before the show and a follow-up with Ted Koppel (I didn’t see the second half with the religious scholars because I didn’t care so much about the religious implications; Christianity will go on either way), but it pisses me off that the Discovery Channel even aired this show. Just because someone makes a documentary doesn’t mean that any channel has to show it; why didn’t the discovery execs tell Cameron and Jacobovici the show could not be aired unless it was more objective? I’m not saying the show shouldn’t have been put on the air at all, but why didn’t anyone put their foot down and say that such subjective crap has no place on a channel that’s supposed to be educational? Also, by time the documentary was over not many people wanted to watch the hour-long discussion afterwards, so the DC dropped the ball there as well by allowing the idiots most of the screen time and airing the rebuttal after most people would turn everything off.

I don’t know how much attention Talpiot Tomb will get in the near future; many archaeologists seem convinced that it is not authentic or especially valuable, although I would like to see DNA tests done (if possible) to see what familial relations there were among those buried in the tomb, if any. Actually, I do hope archaeologists and scientists step up to the plate on this one and publicly discredit Jacobovici and his assertions, as if this issue is let alone to slip away, there will always be people who say “Oh yeah? What about that tomb in Israel where they found Jesus?” and suggest some sort of conspiracy or cover-up. This is actually a wonderful opportunity to communicate how the scientific method does and does not work to the public, and I hope that scientists follow through on it.


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