Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Shroud Dating May Have Been Inaccurate - Radiocarbon Expert

I was going to post this in February's Shroud News, but since I have not yet posted January's Shroud News (although I am working on it!), I felt this was too important to wait! The article is in bold to distinguish it from my comments.

Shroud Dating May Have Been Inaccurate - BBC Interviews Radiocarbon Expert, LifeSiteNews.com, February 5, 2008, Hilary White ...

[Left: Prof. Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit]

NOVARA, Italy ... The techniques used in 1988 by three separate teams of scientists to date the Shroud of Turin to the middle ages, may have been inconclusive, a radiocarbon dating expert at Oxford University has told the BBC. This is astonishing news, not that the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud of Turin was "inconclusive" (to put it mildly!), but that finally, in the 20th anniversary year of that dating, a radiocarbon scientist has the honesty, and the courage, to admit it. And not just any radiocarbon scientist, but the Director of one of those three radiocarbon-dating laboratories (Oxford) that 20 years ago produced that "inconclusive" result, and claimed that it was "conclusive" (see `tagline' quotes).

According to the Church official in charge of the Shroud, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, director of Oxford's Radiocarbon Accelerator, whose specialty is the use of radiocarbon dating in archaeological research, told the BBC that radiocarbon dating techniques have developed since 1988, and that the Shroud's long history of travel, exposure to the elements and handling could have skewed the results. Indeed! This has been repeatedly pointed out by the Shroud pro-authenticity community, but they have generally been ignored, and/or dismissed as having a religious bias (usually with derogatory terms such as `true believers,'`religious fanatics,'`flat earthers,' etc).

But such dismissals are a prime example of `the pot calling the kettle black' in that by the same token, those in the Shroud anti-authenticity community have an anti-religious bias. Modern science is so completely dominated by Naturalism, the metaphysical assumption that "nature is all there is" (i.e. there is no supernatural), that most scientists are blissfully unaware of their own personal anti-religious bias, and are therefore predisposed to accept evidence too easily that points to the Shroud not being authentic and too easily reject evidence that points to it being authentic.

For example, Prof. Harry E. Gove, co-inventor of the

[Right: Harry E. Gove, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Rochester]

Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating method that was used by all three laboratories, was aware that "scientists ... can sometimes obtain a desired scientific result by subconscious manipulation of the technique or the data" by "having preconceived notions of what the answer should be," so he was very (if not fanatically) concerned to neutralise the "belief that the shroud was the genuine article":

"It is well known to scientists that one can sometimes obtain a desired scientific result by subconscious manipulation of the technique or the data. It is a human flaw that must be carefully guarded against. It is most easily circumvented by not having preconceived notions of what the answer should be. A belief that the shroud was the genuine article was the stuff of which STURP was made and I am happy to say that, in the end, they played no role in its carbon dating." (Gove, H.E., 1996, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," Institute of Physics Publishing: Bristol UK, pp.8-9).
with no apparent self-awareness of his opposite "preconceived notions of what the answer should be," namely that "the shroud was" not "the genuine article"!

The BBC interview, that has yet to be broadcast, was discussed by Mgr. Giuseppe Ghiberti,

[Left: Giuseppe Ghiberti, Papal custodian of the Shroud of Turin]

president of the Diocesan Commission for the Shroud of Turin, at a conference in Novara Italy. Mgr. Ghiberti speculated that the Shroud's long history, including travels from Palestine to Europe, damage by fire in the 16th century, and much handling over the centuries could have influenced the outcome of the tests. Indeed! As Ian Wilson pointed out, if "Many materials ... may be impossible to remove subsequently," by "pre-treatment," including "glues, biocides," "ordinary packing materials such as paper, cardboard, cotton wool and string" which "contain carbon and are potential contaminants," as well as "Cigarette ash":

"What seems unavoidable, as has been candidly pointed out by Professor Murdoch Baxter of the Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre, East Kilbride, is that `other unaccounted-for sources of error occur during the processing and analysis of samples [italics mine].' [Coghlan, A., "Unexpected errors affect dating techniques," New Scientist, 30 September 1989, p.26] Just what those unaccounted for sources of error might be is undoubtedly the hardest question to answer. Quite definite is that there are varieties of contamination that can affect the reliability of carbon-dating readings. Although pre-treatment, involving cleaning of materials to be carbon dated, is standard procedure, and was certainly carried out with maximum possible thoroughness in the case of the shroud samples, doubts surround the extent to which this procedure can ever be 100 per cent effective, particularly in the case of highly porous materials, such as linen, which do not have the advantage of being able to be independently cross-checked by dendrochronology. As again remarked by Dr Sheridan Bowman, in her recent British Museum publication on radio-carbon dating: `Many materials used for preserving or conserving samples may be impossible to remove subsequently: do not use glues, biocides, ... [etc.]. Many ordinary packing materials such as paper, cardboard, cotton wool and string, contain carbon and are potential contaminants. Cigarette ash is also taboo.' [Bowman, S., "Radiocarbon Dating," British Museum Publications: London, 1990, p.56]" (Wilson, I., "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, 1991, pp.175-176. Emphasis original).
then the Shroud "provides an almost copy-book case of an object seriously unsuitable for carbon-dating," having even in its "universally accepted history subsequent to the mid-fourteenth century" been "subjected to centuries of smoke from burning candles," "involved in a serious fire in 1532," and having a "backing made up from ... holland cloth" which "has now been in the closest contact with the shroud for over four hundred and fifty years":
"In the light of such concerns, the shroud's known history, that is, its universally accepted history subsequent to the mid-fourteenth century, provides an almost copy-book case of an object seriously unsuitable for carbon-dating. Quite aside from it having been subjected to centuries of smoke from burning candles, an equivalent surely to cigarette smoke, well-known also, not least from the scorches and patches it carries to this day, is that the shroud was involved in a serious fire in 1532. In this latter it came so close to destruction that the silver of its casket melted, destroying one corner of the cloth as it lay folded inside. Knowing that this process could only have happened at temperatures in excess of 960°C, silver's melting-point, Manchester textile specialist John Tyrer has remarked: `In these circumstances moisture in the shroud would turn to steam, probably at superheat, trapped in the folds and layers of the shroud. Any contaminants on the cloth would be dissolved by the steam and forced not only into the weave and yarn, but also into the flax fibres' very lumen and molecular structure ... [They would] become part of the chemistry of the flax fibres themselves and would be impossible to remove satisfactorily by surface actants and ultrasonic cleaning.' [Tyrer, J., Shroud Newsletter, British Society for the Turin Shroud , 20 October 1988, p.11] Furthermore, two years after the fire the shroud was sewn onto a backing made up from three portions of sixteenth-century holland cloth. Inevitably this linen must contain carbon with equally as much contamination potential as the paper, cardboard and cotton wool mentioned by Dr Bowman. And it has now been in the closest contact with the shroud for over four hundred and fifty years." (Wilson, 1991, pp.176-177).

In 1988, three groups of scientists made an attempt to use radio carbon dating techniques to determine the age of the Shroud, concluding that the linen cloth could only date to the middle ages and not to the first century near east. Their "concluding that the linen cloth could only date to the middle ages" is despite Prof. Gove before the 1988 radiocarbon-dating being very concerned that the then "new procedures" were "fraught with peril," in that if "one of the three laboratories obtained an outlier result as one did in the British Museum inter-laboratory comparisons" then "it would be impossible statistically to identify it and ... would all have to be included in the average thereby producing an incorrect result":
"My main concern was that this highly public application of the AMS technique, which I had played a major role in inventing and developing, be successful. The new procedures seemed to me to be fraught with peril. If one of the three laboratories obtained an outlier result as one did in the British Museum inter-laboratory comparisons it would be impossible statistically to identify it and the three measurements would all have to be included in the average thereby producing an incorrect result. The inclusion of the other laboratories would have obviated this potential risk. As it turned out my fears were not realized. The three laboratories performed their measurements flawlessly and the final result is a public triumph for AMS if not for the `true believers'. That the shroud's age is the historic one is the dullest result one could have wished for. But in science as in many other aspects of life one does not always get what one wishes." (Gove, H.E., "Letter To The Editor: The Turin Shroud," Archaeometry, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1989, pp.235-237, p.237).

According to the 1988 studies, the Shroud, venerated for centuries by Catholics as the burial cloth of Christ, could only have been a hoax or the product of some unknown natural process. So against all the odds of: 1) the Shroud being "an almost copy-book case of an object seriously unsuitable for carbon-dating"; 2) major anomalies in "the dry run" intercomparisons tests before the dating of the Shroud, where radiocarbon dates for the same three ancient artifacts differed between the laboratories by "1100 years," 450 years" and "over 1100 years" respectively:
"More germane to the issue is the dry run of C-14 testing, which was detailed in the journal Radiocarbon in 1986. Scientists used C-14 to date an Egyptian Bull Mummy linen (the wrappings from an ancient Egyptian burial) as well as two Peruvian linen cloths. The results of this testing using the new accelerator method was extremely revealing. First of all, it underscored the fact that the method is somewhat wanting in accuracy. On the Egyptian Bull Mummy linen, the dates ranged from 3440 to 4517 B.P. (before present)-a span of 1100 years. Although the known age of the cloth was 3000 B.C., the closest date they could get using C-14 was 2528 B.C. ..., a date which required a calibration of 472 years to correct it. That should raise plenty of eyebrows. The second sample, one of the Peruvian cloths, was not much better, with a span of 450 years and the closest date 250 years off. Finally, the third, also a Peruvian cloth, had a span of over 1100 years and the closest date less than 100 years off. This Peruvian cloth was a much easier target to hit because the date was `guesstimated' between A.D. 1000-1400. That range gave the testers a built in window of +/- 200 years to start with! After the tests on these three samples were run, the farthest dates were 1549 years, 709 years, and 439 years off respectively. To allow that margin of error on calibration alone would be ridiculous. Moreover, even admitting that errors of contamination would radically affect the test results still underscores the inherent weaknesses of this dating method. In fact, when the testers accredited these poor results to contamination during pretreatment and reran the tests with significant improvement, the oldest cloth still showed an error of nearly 1,000 years. Most importantly, it was 1,000 years on the young side !" (Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., 1990, "The Shroud and the Controversy," Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville TN, pp.53-54. Emphasis original).
we are expected to believe that, "The three laboratories performed their measurements flawlessly and the final result" just happened to be "That the shroud's age is the historic one," i.e. ~AD1260-1390 or AD1325 ± 65 years. That is immediately before the Shroud's undisputable historic appearance at Lirey, France in AD1355.

That means that the pre-treatment by the three labs would also have to have been done "flawlessly i.e. they were each able to remove all the contamination of extraneous, younger carbon, that would have accumulated over "the Shroud's long history of travel, exposure to the elements and handling" and fire which would "have skewed the results."

But the problem is that if, as Prof. Ramsey now acknowledges, "the Shroud's long history of travel, exposure to the elements and handling could have skewed the results" then how is it that the three laboratories just happened to agree on the too good to be true date, "1350 AD ... the time its historic record began":

"The first sample run was OX1. Then followed one of the controls. Each run consisted of a 10 second measurement of the carbon-13 current and a 50 second measurement of the carbon-14 counts. This is repeated nine more times and an average carbon-14/carbon-13 ratio calculated. All this was under computer control and the calculations produced by the computer were displayed on a cathode ray screen. The age of the control sample could have been calculated on a small pocket calculator but was not-everyone was waiting for the next sample-the Shroud of Turin! At 9:50 am 6 May 1988, Arizona time, the first of the ten measurements appeared on the screen. We all waited breathlessly. The ratio was compared with the OX sample and the radiocarbon time scale calibration was applied by Doug Donahue. His face became instantly drawn and pale. At the end of that one minute we knew the age of the Turin Shroud! The next nine numbers confirmed the first. ... Based on these 10 one minute runs, with the calibration correction applied, the year the flax had been harvested that formed its linen threads was 1350 AD-the shroud was only 640 years old! It was certainly not Christ's burial cloth but dated from the time its historic record began." (Gove, 1996, p.264).
Especially as that was the date, i.e. "shortly before the first exhibition, or about 1355," predicted in 1981 by the late Shroud anti-authenticity theorist Walter McCrone in 1981:
"My conclusions published in October 1980-March 1981 (McCrone and Skirius 1980) (McCrone 1981) were as follows: `Our work now supports the two Bishops and it seems reasonable that the image, now visible, was painted on the cloth shortly before the first exhibition, or about 1355. Only a carbon-dating test can now resolve the question of authenticity of the 'Shroud' of Turin. A date significantly later than the first century would be conclusive evidence the `Shroud' is not genuine. A date placing the linen cloth in the first century, though not conclusive in proving the cloth to be the Shroud of Christ, would, no doubt, be so accepted by nearly everyone. Our work would then indicate later embellishment of an earlier image or, much less likely, that an artist was able to obtain a 14 x 3+ foot linen cloth dating from the first century. That an artist either enhanced an earlier image or created the entire image is inescapable.'" (McCrone, W.C., "Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin," Prometheus Books: Amherst NY, 1999, p.138).
including McCrone's very words, "conclusive evidence" being twice used by the author(s) of the 1989 Nature paper which announced that, "The results of radiocarbon measurements at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich ... provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval":
"Very small samples from the Shroud of Turin have been dated by accelerator mass spectrometry in laboratories at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich. As controls, three samples whose ages had been determined independently were also dated. The results provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval." (Damon, P.E., et al., "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16 February, 1989, pp.611-615, p.612).

"The results of radiocarbon measurements at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich yield a calibrated calendar age range with at least 95% confidence for the linen of the Shroud of Turin of AD 1260 - 1390 (rounded down/up to nearest 10 yr). These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval." (Damon., et al., 1989, pp.611-615, p.614).And despite:

That the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud could be manipulated to give the desired result was admitted by "the unchosen" four laboratories who were "privately ... saying the three" chosen laboratories, "were going to make certain they agreed":
"[Cardinal] Ballestrero gave the laboratory representatives a letter to enable the containers to pass though customs without any difficulty. Teddy Hall placed his in his briefcase, and with Hedges was the only one of the scientists to meet television cameras when returning home. They didn't say much to BBC except when pressed about when the world would know the answer. Hall responded: `We've waited five years for this.' In another interview Hall repeated his earlier remark that `I'd be hopping mad if I wasn't chosen', but added: `Having only three labs doesn't undermine the validity of the dating. I think it was absolutely the right decision. You only need one lab to get it badly wrong to confuse everything, and the chances of that are higher with seven than with three. [Schoon, N., "Analysing the Strands of Time," The Independent, 25 April 1988] That was hardly the way the unchosen saw the matter, and privately they were saying the three were going to make certain they agreed - no matter how long it took." (Sox, H.D. , 1988, "The Shroud Unmasked: Uncovering the Greatest Forgery of All Time," The Lamp Press: Basingstoke UK, p.134).
and by Prof. Gove who did not deny as impossible the claim by Brookhaven National Laboratory's Dr. Garman Harbottle and Harwell Laboratory's Dr. Robert Otlet that "there was no possibility this time of any outliers because the three labs would consult together so the answers would come out the same":
"On 25 April at 11 am, Harbottle called. He had learned from Otlet that the shroud samples had been removed on 21 April 1988. Hall had flown into London on 25 April with the samples in hand and he received a lot of publicity. The archbishop had been, according to Harbottle, furious about Hall's trying to commercially capitalize on the venture. Harbottle also said that the BBC were going to film the measurements at Zurich. He said that, according to Otlet, there was no possibility this time of any outliers because the three labs would consult together so the answers would come out the same. I must say I thought that Otlet was being either paranoid or surprisingly cynical." (Gove, 1996, p.252).
There is in fact evidence of collusion because[the then British Museum coordinator, Prof. Michael Tite, later admitted that "results from each testing centre have been circulated to the others with a proposal for a coordinated date on the Shroud from the samples":
"Contrary to Tite's protocol letter which stated the labs would not communicate with one another, he acknowledged that the `results from each testing centre have been circulated to the others with a proposal for a coordinated date on the Shroud from the samples....' [Shroud News, October 1988, p.7 ] Years later it was reported that the Arizona laboratory had produced eight different measurements rather than the four mentioned in the Nature report. [Van Haelst, R., "Radiocarbon Dating the Shroud of Turin: A Critical Review of the Nature Report," p.7]" (Guerrera, V., 2000, "The Shroud of Turin: A Case for Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, p.132).
And Gove himself records that "the date" AD1350 that Arizona laboratory's Prof. Douglas "Donahue announced to me when I was present at the first radiocarbon measurement on the shroud" was leaked by one of the laboratories, probably Arizona, the first of the three laboratories to date its portion of the Shroud, to a 'Cambridge University professor" who had nothing to do with the dating:
"The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle also carried the story on the front page of their 27th August edition under the headline 'UR (University of Rochester) scientist rejects story of relic's age'. The subhead read 'London paper claims tests show Shroud of Turin a fake'. The report read: `The ... London Evening Standard yesterday reported, without attribution, that radio-carbon tests at Oxford University showed the shroud was made about 1350. ... The article stated that Luckett, whose university is an ancient rival of Oxford, was not connected with the tests but had been associated with investigations of the shroud's history. `He wrote in a separate article in the Evening Standard that laboratories "are rather leaky places" but did not elaborate.' ... An Associated Press story appeared in the 9 September 1988 issue of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle headlined 'Shroud's age remains secret Oxford research chief says', with the subhead 'He claims forgery report was just a guess'. Teddy Hall was quoted to this effect in the Oxford Mail. The article went on `But Dr Richard Luckett, a Cambridge University professor, said he stood by his word, adding, "I had an absolutely marvellous leak from one of the laboratories and it wasn't Oxford." Luckett, last month, said tests at Oxford showed the shroud was made in 1350. ... I must say I wondered about Luckett's date of 1350 because it was the date Donahue announced to me when I was present at the first radiocarbon measurement on the shroud in 6 May 1988. Of course, it also corresponds very closely to the shroud's known historic date. However, I still assumed Luckett had said he got the number from Oxford. When I read that he claimed he got it from one of the other two labs I worried that it might have come from someone who was present at Arizona during the first measurement." (Gove, 1996, pp.278-279).
The highly publicized study was published in 1988 in the scientific journal Nature. That conclusion, however, has not halted the debate over the origin of the Shroud, although Church officials have declined to allow the fragile cloth to be so closely examined since then. If no further samples of the Shroud's linen will be allowed to be destructively tested, then hopefully eventually some of the Shroud's pollen will be radiocarbon dated.

In 2005 a second analysis indicated that the cloth sample used by the 1988 teams had been taken from a part of the Shroud that was not part of the original cloth. That was by the late chemist Ray Rogers, who in an article in a leading peer-reviewed chemical journal, reported that "microscopic and microchemical observations prove that the radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin" and so "The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the shroud":

"In 1988, radiocarbon laboratories at Arizona, Cambridge, and Zurich determined the age of a sample from the Shroud of Turin. They reported that the date of the cloth's production lay between A.D. 1260 and 1390 with 95% confidence. This came as a surprise in view of the technology used to produce the cloth, its chemical composition, and the lack of vanillin in its lignin. The results prompted questions about the validity of the sample. Preliminary estimates of the kinetics constants for the loss of vanillin from lignin indicate a much older age for the cloth than the radiocarbon analyses. The radiocarbon sampling area is uniquely coated with a yellow-brown plant gum containing dye lakes. Pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry results from the sample area coupled with microscopic and microchemical observations prove that the radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin. The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the shroud." (Rogers, R.N., "Studies on the Radiocarbon Sample from the Shroud of Turin," Thermochimica Acta, Vol. 425, Nos 1-2, 20 January 2005, pp.189-194).
If Rogers was right (which is disputed even within the Shroud pro-authenticity community) and the sample tested was a 16th century patch which was rewoven into the Shroud, it still will not explain how all three labs dated that 16th century patch to "1350 AD... the time its historic record began," unless by an amazing coincidence the patch itself was 14th century!

The interview with Dr. Ramsey will be broadcast by the BBC on Easter Saturday. This promises to be very interesting! Maybe this is the beginning of Ian Wilson's prediction that, "the shroud, even now, frail and discredited as it might seem, is part of a cosmic drama not yet played out":

"But the alternative, inevitably, is even more daunting. In the shroud we have a piece of cloth that men cast lots over when they put it to the test (remember the cowboy boots?). A piece of cloth they mocked when their instruments of destruction showed it, seemingly, as of mere human frailty. Is it not all strikingly evocative of what they did when they committed the body of Jesus himself to crucifixion and the grave? And did not something mind-blowingly unexpected happen to this, just when Jesus's followers felt at their most defeated? It all gives one the unnerving feeling that the shroud, even now, frail and discredited as it might seem, is part of a cosmic drama not yet played out." (Wilson, I., "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, 1991, p.189).
See also this same story in La Stampa, Catholic World News, ReligionAndSpirituality.com and Interfaith,

Posted: 12 February 2008. Updated: 8 November 2016.


"There followed in February 1989 a formal paper in the highly respected, international scientific journal Nature, carrying as its signatories the names of twenty-one of those most closely involved in the carbon dating. After carefully setting out all the procedures that had been followed to obtain the dating result, the paper commented: `These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the shroud of Turin is medieval.' [Damon, P.E., et al., "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16 February, 1989, pp.611-615, p.614]" (Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, pp.9-10).

"Inevitably there were a number of individuals, among them the present author who, having conducted their own prior researches on the shroud, felt that the word `conclusive' for such a date seemed overstrong, particularly given that carbon dating on its own could certainly not yet offer any explanation for how someone of the Middle Ages had produced an image of the shroud's extraordinary subtlety and complexity. Nonetheless, such was the seemingly overwhelming acceptance with which the results were received that most objections of this kind, if voiced at all, were tossed aside by the media. To the glee of the British press, Oxford's Professor Hall derisively labelled such protestors `Flat-Earthers'." (Wilson, 1991, p.10).

"Shooting the Fox There are two main ways of dealing with foxes. Ladies and gentlemen dress up smartly, mount fine horses, and have a splendid time chasing them all over the countryside before finally watching them being torn to bits by hounds. Farmers shoot them. It is considered unsporting but is quick and effective. For our present purposes to shoot a fox is to bring an argument to a sudden conclusion by cutting through the peripherals and getting to the heart of the matter in one stroke. Often people get to love an argument for its own sake. Indeed they can get so wrapped up in it that they lose sight of its original purpose. If you have the wit and presence of mind to grasp what is essential you can score a speedy and decisive victory. Take as an example the controversy surrounding the Shroud of Turin. This holy relic was traditionally supposed to be the shroud that had covered the body of Christ. In some miraculous way the image of Jesus' body had become printed on the cloth and could, using a photographic negative, be clearly seen. But was it genuine? It was a truly fascinating argument with endless ramifications. For example, the image was only clearly visible, as mentioned before, if you first photographed the cloth and then viewed the photographic negative. Yet, even if the shroud was, as some suspected, a fake, it certainly predated the invention of photography by many years. How could anyone produce a fake that was only visible using a process that had not yet been invented? The complications were endless. The nail holes in the body were in the correct place. Traditionally painters and sculptors had shown Christ's wounds to be in his hands. Anatomically and historically this was nonsense because the hands would not have borne such a weight. The actual method of crucifixion was to drive the nails through the wrist bones. The shroud showed this quite accurately. On the other hand the image on the shroud showed the hands modestly covering the genitals, but if a body has been `laid out' the hands would not normally reach so far. Also the image showed that blood had run from the wounds. Biblical evidence tells us that the body was washed before burial and, of course, dead bodies do not bleed. This argument looked set to go on for ever. It got extremely heated and some of the scholars involved got so emotionally and intellectually bound up in the struggle that religious conversions were reported to have taken place among them. Then, at long last, permission was given to take a small portion of the shroud and subject it to carbon dating. The results were conclusive. The cloth was of such late manufacture that the image could not be genuine. The fox had been shot. In a way it was a pity that such an entertaining argument should come to such an abrupt end. Many of the issues that had been raised were interesting and worthy of serious consideration but, once the fox was dead, they were quickly disregarded by all but a dedicated few." (Allen, R., 1996, "How To Win Arguments: The Complete Guide To Coming Out On Top," Thorsons: London, pp.71-72. Emphasis original).

"Scientifically the coup de grĂ¢ce came on 16 February 1989 with the scientific journal Nature's publication of the radiocarbon-dating laboratories' formal technical report. Authored by no less than twenty-one of the scientists who had played some part in obtaining the final result, this claimed `conclusive evidence that the linen of the shroud of Turin is mediaeval'. [Damon, P.E., et al., "Radiocarbon dating of the shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16 February 1989, pp.611-615] As the Oxford laboratory's Professor Edward Hall repeatedly stressed in accompanying interviews and talks, no one of any scientific worth could any longer believe in the possibility of the Shroud being genuine. If they did, they might just as well join the Flat Earthers. Thus it seemed that anyone who had previously upheld any serious case for the Shroud's credibility, among whom I numbered myself, had been dealt a fatal stab to the heart. And sadly, the quality of argument on the part of those who refused to accept that they were `dead' quickly degenerated into the unworthy. For some Shroud supporters in continental Europe, for instance, the chief defence offered was that it was the radiocarbon dating, not the Shroud, that must be the fraud." (Wilson, I. , 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, pp.8-9).

"All this inevitably gives rise to the question, can anyone any longer be quite so sure of radiocarbon dating's claim `conclusively' to have proved the Shroud a mediaeval fake? Can we really still believe in a mediaeval forger? Of course, it may still be difficult to conceive that the radiocarbon dating of 1988, as conducted by three internationally respected scientific laboratories, could have erred by as much as 1300 years. But is it not time, now, to look just a little more critically at the technique's own credibility when its scientists so confidently claim `accuracies' to within a hundred years or so?" (Wilson, 1998, p.174-175).

"On the other side of the Atlantic, Professor Hall was similarly upbeat. In a lecture provocatively entitled `The Turin Shroud: A Lesson in Self-Persuasion' he told a packed audience of the British Museum Society in London that radiocarbon dating had so conclusively proved the Shroud to be a fake that anyone who continued to believe it genuine had to be a `Flat Farther. And in the March of 1989 his efforts to drum up the maximum publicity reaped their rewards when he was able to announce (for publication on, of all days, Good Friday) that his laboratory's future was secure. Following his retirement from the Oxford laboratory, this was now to be awarded a permanent professorship, financed with a million pounds donated by forty-five rich businessmen. Who was the person chosen for this post? Dr Michael Tite." (Wilson, 1998, pp.185-186).

"Archaeologists, who routinely call upon radiocarbon-dating laboratories' services, tend to shy from openly criticising the results they receive, even if they do not necessarily agree with some of them, but one who certainly has had no such qualms is Greece's Spyros Iakovidis, speaking at an international conference in 1989: `In relation to the reliability of radiocarbon dating I would like to mention something which happened to me during my excavation at Gla [in Boeotia, Greece]. I sent to two different laboratories in two different parts of the world a certain amount of the same burnt grain. I got two readings differing by 2000 years, the archaeological dates being right in the middle. I feel that this method is not exactly to be trusted.' [Iakovidis, S., "Thera and the Aegean World III.," Proceedings of the Third International Congress, Santorini, Greece, 3-9 September 1989 , Vol. 3, 1990, p.240] Nor are such examples isolated and anecdotal. In the same year of 1989 Britain's Science and Engineering Research Council commissioned a special inter-comparison trial for radiocarbon-dating laboratories in which altogether thirty-eight different laboratories took part, collectively representing both the conventional Libby method and the accelerator mass spectrometer one. Each laboratory was given artefacts of dates known to the organisers, but unknown to them. The shock finding of this totally scientific trial was that the laboratories' actual margins of error were on average two or three times greater than those that they quoted. Of the thirty-eight who participated, only seven produced results that the organisers of the trial considered totally satisfactory, with the laboratories using the new accelerator mass spectrometer technique faring particularly badly. [Coghlan, A., "Unexpected errors affect dating techniques," New Scientist, 30 September 1989, p.26.] It is also a matter of record that the Oxford laboratory ... inevitably the highest profile of any, actually declined to take part. Yet this is the method that we are supposed to believe `conclusively' proved the Shroud a mediaeval fake." (Wilson, 1998, p.193. Emphasis original).

"This is not to say that any of the possible sources of contamination that have been pointed out in this chapter were necessarily the reason why the Shroud radiocarbon dating erred by thirteen centuries, if indeed this was the case. As we will he learning later in this book, there is another possible source of error that even the science of 1988 would have been some way from anticipating. Rather, the point of major concern is that the radiocarbon laboratory scientists, in their eagerness to present a copybook example of the accelerator mass spectrometer method's prowess before the world, seriously neglected to take due account of any way in which their findings might be wrong in respect of the Shroud. In the Nature report they described their findings as `conclusive'. Professor Hall, in his post-dating lecture to the British Museum, most ebulliently derided any suggestion of how his laboratory's findings might be in some as yet undetermined way mistaken. And this even though neither he nor any of the other laboratory scientists could offer any properly thought-out explanation for how the Shroud image might have been made in the century they claimed it to be made. ... And of the Shroud itself, and the utterly valid question of how, if the carbon-dating method really is right, someone of the fourteenth century produced a fake that `good', one looks in vain for the slightest light on this in Gove's book. Professor Hall said likewise that this question was of absolutely no interest to him and he would be giving no thought to it. But the Shroud simply cannot be left in such limbo. The carbon-dating verdict was either right or it was wrong. And if it was right, just how could someone have produced something like it back in the fourteenth century?" (Wilson, 1998, pp.193-194. Emphasis original).

"Unfortunately, as often happens, the newspapers printed the results prematurely. The London Times stated on August 27, 1988 that Oxford scientists had leaked the results. Shortly thereafter, the Vatican made an announcement in Turin, Italy on October 13, 1988. The results of the test were first officially published in an article entitled `Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin' in 1989 in Nature Magazine. [Damon, P.E., et al., "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature February 16, 1989, p.612] The official report stated that the Shroud of Turin was dated between 1260-1390, and this would make the Shroud between 607 to 737 years old. ... The report stated the following conclusion: `The results of radiocarbon measurements at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich yield a calibrated calendar age range with at least 95 percent confidence for the linen of the Shroud of Turin of A.D. 1260-1390. These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is medieval.' [Ibid.] Headlines all over the world jumped on this report and, ignoring the vast body of evidence to the contrary, and the warnings of the perils of the C-14 test, prematurely accepted the results of this one test to condemn the Holy Shroud as a `fake or fraud.' Sensationalism was the operative word. The newspapers in New York, as an example, capitalized on the negative test results of the Holy Shroud. Some headlines read as follows: `Test Shows Shroud of Turin to be Fraud, Scientist Hints,' read the New York Times on September 22, 1988. `Turin Shroud Made After Crucifixion,' was the Associated Press headline in the Daily News, September 28, 1988, which went on to explain that the Shroud was created almost a millennium after the death of Jesus. `Shroud of Turin Legend in Tatters: Carbon Tests Date it to the 14th Century,' was the headline in the New York Post on September 28, 1988." (Iannone, J.C., 1998, "The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence," St Pauls: Staten Island NY, pp.164-165).

"The first lab to report its results to Tite was the Tucson laboratory on May 6, 1988. The second lab to submit its data was Zurich on May 26. Finally, Oxford submitted its results several months later on August 8, more than ample time to hear of the results of the other two labs. Subsequently, the journal Nature reported that `the results of radiocarbon measurements in Arizona, Oxford and Zurich yield a calibrated calendar age range with at least 95% confidence for the linen of the Shroud of Turin of A.D. 1260-1390... . These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval.' [Nature, February 16, 1989, p.614] Even before the data was officially reported to the proper Church authorities, there were leaks in the media. Sox, who was privy to the tests in Zurich, anticipated the publication of the results by producing a program for the BBC which aired on July 27, 1988. The program, originally entitled Verdict on the Shroud, was surreptitiously renamed Threads of Evidence when the results were not forthcoming. The following month, on August 26, the headline for London's Evening Standard was `The Shroud of Turin is a Fake.'" (Guerrera, V., 2000, "The Shroud of Turin: A Case for Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, p.131).

"Then ten years later, in 1988, radiocarbon dating of the cloth was done by three independent research laboratories. In the February 1989 issue of Nature (one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world), it was announced by these scientists that the cloth was a fraud. The cloth was far too young to have existed at the time of Christ. Of all the data ever collected on the Shroud, scientists finally found one piece of evidence that questioned the possibility that the Shroud wrapped the body of Christ. With this evidence, they concluded `conclusively' that the image must have been created during the Middle Ages by some natural or man-made process. They failed to mention that their `conclusive' conclusion was based only on circumstantial evidence. It is the weight that is given to this single piece of evidence from radiocarbon dating which clearly demonstrates how scientists, wanting to reach a predetermined conclusion, will let their own prejudices dictate how they interpret the data. To declare conclusively that this article is a fake based only on radiocarbon dating, you need to manipulate the scientific facts, accepting some and ignoring others. And declaring the Shroud a fake raises some very difficult questions that cannot be answered by the state-of-the-art technology. Because of the significance placed on one piece of evidence, the only evidence that questions the Shroud's authenticity, other questions regarding how and why it was made are simply tossed aside." (Chiang, R.G., 2004, "Science and the Shroud," in "Overcoming Prejudice in the Evolution Creation Debate: Developing an integrative approach to Science and Christianity," Doorway Publications: Hamilton ON, Canada)

"Nevertheless, as it is with the theory of evolution, this naturalistic theory of the Shroud has been given serious consideration because it does not require the existence of a supernatural force. By having a totally naturalistic explanation, it is no longer necessary for skeptics to worry that a supernatural force could have created the image on the Shroud. Although the Picknett and Prince theory is very, very weak, it does represent a significant change in the attitude of the skeptics. No longer do these skeptics insist that the image on the Shroud is a painting. This turnabout may have been encouraged by the fact that the radiocarbon dating showed `conclusively' that the Shroud was too young to have been around to wrap the body of Christ. Possibly, with the assurance of the radiocarbon dating, the opponents of the Shroud have been more willing to concede that the facts are indeed overwhelmingly in favour of the image not being a painting. Unfortunately for the skeptics, who had their day when the radiocarbon results were first reported, radiocarbon dating is not thought to be as conclusive as it once was. It is quite possible that antique relics, like the Shroud, which have been exposed to everything from extreme heat and smoke to the touch of human hands, have too many variables associated with them to accurately determine their age using radiocarbon dating." (Chiang, 2004, "The Shroud: A Primitive Photograph").

"Since the Shroud is made of materials that were once living plants, radiocarbon dating can be applied to the Shroud. Before 1988, the Shroud had already undergone several forensic tests made by many experts in the field, and each finding supported the belief that this cloth was approximately 2000 yrs old, and that it originated from Israel. For example, the weaving is distinctive to the time of Christ and microscopic pollen grains found embedded in the cloth are from plants endemic to regions around the Dead Sea. Supposedly, radiocarbon dating would be able to tell us whether or not the cloth were old enough to have been around at the time of Christ. If it were significantly younger than expected, this would support the theory that it was not the death shroud of Christ. And if, by chance, this cloth were as young as the Middle Ages, this would confirm the theory that the image was produced by someone using a natural process to help support a fledgling church. In the winter of 1989, Damon et al. announced to the world the results of the radiocarbon dating. Their article in Nature stated, `The results provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is Medieval.' [Damon, P.E., et al., "Radiocarbon dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 1989, pp.611-615] It is interesting that a reputable science journal like Nature would permit any author to claim that his results were conclusive unless one takes into account the deep-seated prejudice that the scientific community has against any theory that is not purely naturalistic. To claim conclusively that the Shroud is Medieval demonstrates this prejudice and deflects attention from the difficult questions regarding the Shroud's origin. The evidence they presented was not conclusive; it was, at best, supportive. The only definitive conclusion that can be made from this data is that the Shroud has enough carbon 14 in it to suggest that it is relatively young - provided that the assumption concerning the amount of carbon 14 in it to begin with is true, and that carbon 14 was not added after the cloth was made. To conclude that the Shroud is Medieval is an extrapolation of the facts, and should, in proper science, never be portrayed as `conclusive.' Conclusive proof should be reserved for data that are independent variables free of unprovable assumptions. The amount of carbon 14 in the cloth, and the rate of decay of carbon 14, are testable variables that can be measured over and over again, but the amount of carbon 14 present in the cloth when it was originally made, and the exclusion of extraneous sources of carbon 14 after death, are assumptions that must be accepted by faith." (Chiang, 2004, "The not-so conclusive radiocarbon dating").

"The international team of scientists who convened in 1987 to put a date on the shroud probably did not expect to banish such fantasies. But by applying radiocarbon dating to the fabric, they were at least employing the most definitive of archaeological tools. Or so they thought. The textile sample was cut from the shroud in Turin Cathedral in April 1988, under the supervision of textile experts, representatives of the laboratories in Arizona, Oxford and Zurich selected to perform the analyses, a conservation scientist from the British Museum, and the Archbishop of Turin. The three measurements indicated with 95% confidence that the shroud's linen dated from between AD1260 and 1390. This, the researchers said, was `conclusive evidence that the linen of the shroud of Turin is medieval" [Damon, P.E., et al., Nature, Vol. 337, 1989, pp.611-615]. ... And yet, the shroud is a remarkable artefact, one of the few religious relics to have a justifiably mythical status. It is simply not known how the ghostly image of a serene, bearded man was made. It does not seem to have been painted, at least with any known historical pigments." (Ball, P., "To know a veil," Nature news, 28 January 2005).

2 comments:

schweizer said...

Sunday, March 23, 2008
Shroud of Turin

Current controversy about the shroud of Turin

In relation to the current debate regarding the accuracy of the carbon dating, following which the Vatican announced the shroud to be a 14 century forgery, it is important to know that the carbon dating was correct but carried out on samples which were not from the original cloth. The church had absolutely no interest in providing a genuine sample of the shroud because it would show that the person, (presumably Jesus) who had been wrapped in it, was not dead but had survived the crucifixion. The amount of blood shown on the cloth could not have been from a person who had been dead for three hours, particularely taking into account that it was customary that the upper part of the body was elevated when entombed. Hence it would appear that the cloth provided by the church for carbon dating was an almost identically looking cloth dating from the 14th century.
Earlier pollen tests carried out on the shroud had shown it to have originated from the area of Jerusalem from the first century.
Erwin

Stephen E. Jones said...

Erwin

>Current controversy about the shroud of Turin

Thanks for your comment.

>In relation to the current debate regarding the accuracy of the carbon dating, following which the Vatican announced the shroud to be a 14 century forgery,

I am a Protestant, so I have no brief to defend the RC Church. But the fact is that Vatican never "announced the shroud to be a 14 century forgery." As I pointed out in a recent post, "Shroud of Turin may not be a fake after all! ", that was the invention of the British media.

>it is important to know that the carbon dating was correct but carried out on samples which were not from the original cloth.

If this is claiming that "the carbon dating was correct" then I don't necessarily agree that it was. It is very difficult to radiocarbon-date old linen, especially when it has wrapped a body, due to flax fibres being highly porous and comprised of microfibrils arranged in a rope-like spiral, giving it an enormous surface area that can absorb and retain younger carbon and then resist it being removed.

As for "carried out on samples which were not from the original cloth," this could be either from a fraudulent switch of a 14th century linen sample for the Shroud; or from the sample being from a re-woven patch of the Shroud. There is some evidence for both theories, but I am not yet convinced of either one.

>The church had absolutely no interest in providing a genuine sample of the shroud because it would show that the person, (presumably Jesus) who had been wrapped in it, was not dead but had survived the crucifixion.

This Kersten & Gruber (and others') conspiracy theory is implausible on at least two grounds: 1) the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence is that Jesus was dead (see below); 2) if the RC Church really thought that the Shroud showed that Jesus survived the crucifixion and wanted to cover it up, it has had plenty of opportunities to destroy the Shroud (including two fires, one as late as 1997) and also to distance itself from the Shroud's authenticity.

But instead the RCC has gone to immense lengths to preserve the Shroud, and despite all the claims that the Shroud is a fake, the RCC has never agreed with those claims (despite media hype to the contrary).

Moreover, even after the 1989 carbon-dating result, the RCC has continued to exhibit the Shroud in 1998 and 2000 as though it was the genuine article, with Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI publicly stating their personal belief in its authenticity.

It is in fact the "Jesus ... was not dead but had survived the crucifixion" theories that are themselves dead! Among the best evidence that Jesus did die on the Cross was provided by New York State medical examiner Dr. Frank Zugibe, who pointed out that "If Jesus had been alive after the spear wound, the soldiers and others at the site would have heard a loud sucking sound caused by breath being inhaled past the chest wound" (a fact no doubt well-known to the Romans soldiers, which is presumably why they did it):

"There are at least three signs on the Shroud that Jesus was dead when He was buried. First, the body of the man in the Shroud is in a state of rigor mortis, in which the muscles stiffen, keeping the body in the position the person occupied just prior to death. Such a state is complete in about twelve hours after death, begins to wear off in twenty-four hours, and disappears in thirty-six to forty hours. Of course, these times are variable and imprecise, and therefore somewhat unreliable. Closely related to rigor mortis is a state called cadaveric spasm, an immediate stiffening, a rather sudden contraction of the muscles that occurs quickly after some violent deaths. Rigor mortis is observable on the Shroud in several places. The head was bent forward, the feet were somewhat drawn up, and the left leg in particular had moved back toward its position on the cross. Especially visible in the three-dimensional image analysis of the Shroud are the retracted thumbs and the `frozen' posture of the chest and abdomen. As was also noted by Bucklin, the entire body was quite rigid and stiff, occupying some of the positions it did on the cross. The second evidence of death in the man of the Shroud is the post-mortem blood flow, especially from the chest wound. If the heart had been beating after burial, the blood literally would have been shot out onto the cloth. But the blood oozed out instead. Also, a comparatively small quantity of blood flowed, and there was no swelling around the wound. Finally, the blood from the chest, left wrist, and feet separated into clots and serum and was much thicker and of much deeper color than it would have been prior to death. Zugibe also mentioned a third piece of evidence based on his medical experience. If Jesus had been alive after the spear wound, the soldiers and others at the site would have heard a loud sucking sound caused by breath being inhaled past the chest wound. Zugibe related that when answering a distress call after a man had been stabbed in the chest, he heard the loud inhaling of the unconscious man all the way across the room. He saw this phenomenon as `a direct refutation of the theory that Christ was alive after being taken down from the cross." [Zugibe, F.T., "The Cross and the Shroud," Angelus Books: New York NY, 1982, p.165]" (Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., "The Shroud and the Controversy," Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville TN, 1990, p.113. Emphasis original)

>The amount of blood shown on the cloth could not have been from a person who had been dead for three hours, particularely taking into account that it was customary that the upper part of the body was elevated when entombed.

There in fact is not all that much blood on the Shroud (see above, "a comparatively small quantity of blood flowed"). And despite claims to the contrary, dead bodies can still bleed by oozing, even days after death, as the floor of any butcher shop will show.

>Hence it would appear that the cloth provided by the church for carbon dating was an almost identically looking cloth dating from the 14th century.

The RC Church did not provide the cloth, except by making the entire Shroud available for cutting off the sample. And the sample was cut off, not by a RC priest but by a scientist, the late Prof. Giovanni Riggi, in a videotaped ceremony which was attended by, amongst others, the British Museum's representaive and the chiefs of the three radiocarbon-dating laboratories.

As I said above, it is possible there was a sample switch later (although I think it unlikely), but then it would have been done after the Shroud sample had been cut off, and was therefore no longer under the control of the RC Church.

>Earlier pollen tests carried out on the shroud had shown it to have originated from the area of Jerusalem from the first century.

Agreed, but that was from the same Shroud that the RC Church provided for the sample to be cut from.

This also undercuts the RC Church "had absolutely no interest in providing a genuine sample of the shroud" theory, because: 1) the pollen samples were taken by foresic scientist Max Frei at scientific examinations of the Shroud in 1973 and 1978. If the RCC thought the Shroud showed that Jesus survived the crucifixion, it would never have allowed those scientific tests, let alone allowed Frei, a Protestant, to take pollen samples from it.

But no doubt this will make no difference to conspiracy theorists like yourself, to whom evidence against the conspiracy just shows how devious the RC Church was in making it look like there wasn't a conspiracy!

Stephen E. Jones