Friday, July 7, 2017

c.15 June 1987: On this day 30 years ago in the radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud

© Stephen E. Jones[1]

This is part #4, "c.15 June 1987," of my series, "On this day 30 years ago in the radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud." For more information about this series, see part #1, Index. As explained in part #1, the first few significant days 30 years ago have already passed but I will catch up and thereafter publish each day's post as near to its 30th anniversary as possible. Emphases are mine unless otherwise indicated.

[Index #1] [Previous: 06May87 #3] [Next: 29Jun87 #5]

Background Prof. Harry Gove (1922-2009), the unofficial leader of the radiocarbon dating laboratories, recorded in his 1996 book, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," he had been told that in the Italian newspaper La Stampa of 27 April 1987, Prof. Luigi Gonella (1930-2007), the Archbishop of Turin's scientific adviser, had said that only two or three laboratories would be involved in the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, not seven as had been agreed at a Turin workshop of October 1986. Gove, an anti-Christian agnostic, was also troubled that the predominantly (but not exclusively) Christian Shroud of Turin Project (STURP) would conduct its own scientific tests on the Shroud in conjunction with the radiocarbon dating [27Apr87]. Gove, realising that due to his clashes with Gonella, his Rochester laboratory would not be one of the two or three laboratories chosen to date the Shroud, sent a telegram on 6 May 1987, with a letter to follow, to the heads of the six other laboratories and Dr Tite of the British Museum. The joint letter would be delivered to the President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Prof. Carlos Chagas Filho (1910- 2000) [Right [2]]. In the telegram Gove stated, "If the Turin workshop agreement is not followed to the letter, I am no longer willing to be involved ..." and his following letter demanded that, "... all seven laboratories must be involved in the tests" and that "... two or three laboratories ... so directly contravenes the Turin workshop agreement that it could severely jeopardize the carbon dating enterprise." But two of the six other laboratories, the non-AMS Harwell and Brookhaven, declined to allow their names to be used in Gove's letter, which was sent to Prof. Chagas on 11 May 1987 [06May87].

c. 15 June 1987 On 19 May Gove had met with Prof. Chagas in Boston [3], and received from him a `these things take time' explanation to Gove's question as to why there had been a delay since the Turin Workshop of October 1986 in dating the Shroud[4]. Chagas also told Gove that the Pope had given the Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Ballestrero (1913-1998), the "complete right to make decisions regarding the Shroud tests"[5]. Following Gove's meeting with Chagas almost another month passed and still there was no decision on dating the Shroud, which Gove in his anti-STURP paranoia, put down to:

"Clearly it was due to STURP's implacable desire to be part of the process"[5].
Gove's anti-Christian bias is evident in that it was not STURP's tests that Gove objected to but that they would be "part of the process"!

In his "frustration and annoyance"[6], Gove wrote:

"I decided to write a firm letter to Professor Chagas, which I sent to Canuto in mid-June. He had agreed to deliver it when he met Chagas in Rome in a couple of days"[7].
"Canuto" is Dr Vittorio Canuto, an astrophysicist at the NASA Institute

[Left: Astrophysicist Dr. Vittorio M. Canuto, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies[8].]

for Space Studies in New York City, was a scientific aide of Prof. Chagas[9].

Gove continued:

"In the letter, I sharply criticized the way in which the Turin authorities had handled matters concerning the shroud in the past and the way they were continuing to mishandle them[10]."
The egotistical Gove[11] was blind to his own part in creating difficulties for the Turin authorities in arranging the Shroud's radiocarbon dating by (as we shall see) his campaign to exclude STURP from the testing altogether and his attempt to get Rome to override Turin. Gove's "mid-June" letter to Chagas continued:
"I noted that the shroud had been subjected to a number of scientific tests of dubious value carried out in ill conceived ways by scientists of unknown reputation[12]."
This is both "untrue and unsubstantiated"[13]. In fact "the STURP members came from some of the most prestigious U.S. institutions, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia Laboratory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Air Force Academy and others, most of which were and are involved in the U.S.' nuclear and space programs"[14]. And what's more they knew vastly more about the Shroud than Gove and the other members of the radiocarbon dating laboratories.

Gove continues with his "untrue and unsubstantiated" dismissal of past Shroud pro-authenticity research:

"First was the investigation by Professor Gilbert Raes of shroud samples removed in 1973. Not only were his discoveries of minimal significance, but his care of the samples and their subsequent control by Turin was so careless that the samples were judged not to be suitable for carbon dating[15]."
This is both false and unfair. It is false beause Raes was a textile expert and his discoveries about the Shroud as a textile were significant. Indeed Gove himself mentions one:
"His examination of the samples under an electron microscope convinced Raes that there were trace amounts of Egyptian cotton present in the predominant linen of the shroud. This could constitute evidence that the shroud was woven on a loom in the Near East previously used to weave cotton[16]."
And it is unfair because as the Foreword to Gove's book states, before the invention in 1977 by Gove and others of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating, it was not feasible to radiocarbon date the Shroud because the amount of cloth required to be destroyed was unacceptably high[17]. To expect a textile expert in 1973 to make provision for the future radiocarbon dating of his Shroud samples by a method that hadn't yet been invented, is just one example in his book of Gove's extreme and unscientific prejudice against the authenticity of the Shroud!

Besides, as Gove's own book states, Raes "stored the samples in a stamp box in his desk"[18]. So if that made them "not ... suitable for carbon dating," then how much more was the eventual radiocarbon dating sample "not ... suitable for carbon dating," when "hundreds of depictions of the Shroud being held up before the crowds during past centuries" shows the Shroud being held at that very same corner (see below) from which the radiocarbon dating sample was cut, resulting in

[Above (enlarge): "Ostension of the Holy Shroud" (1579) engraving by Carlo Malliano of the 1578 Exposition of the Shroud in Turin[19]. The radiocarbon dating sample came from the top left hand corner being held by a cleric's "sweaty hands".]

a cumulative "contamination from hundreds of sweaty hands at this corner"[20] of the Shroud!

Gove in his letter to Chagas next vented his "frustration and annoyance" at STURP:

"This was followed in 1978 by the STURP tests carried out by people who were already convinced they were dealing with Christ's shroud"[21]
This is simply false. Members of STURP included not only Christians but also Jews and agnostics:
"FOR THE PAST three years, this case of identity has absorbed the spare time of the thirty men and women associated with the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc. (STURP). With respect to the hereafter the group is an ecumenical one — among its members are Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, Episcopalians, Jews, Roman Catholics, and agnostics ..." (emphasis original)[22].
And even most of the Christians were not initially convinced that the Shroud was Christ's. In fact the initial attitude of many (if not most) members of STURP, including the Christians, was skepticism as expressed by the late Ray Rogers (1927–2005):
"The attitude of many of these scientists toward the central question posed by the Shroud of Turin-is it real or isn't it?-was well expressed by Ray Rogers when he joined the team: `Give me twenty minutes and I'll have this thing shot full of holes'"[23].
That initial scepticism included Ken Stevenson who became STURP's most outspokenly Christian member[24]:
"Like many who have studied the Shroud, the authors were initially skeptical of it. Stevenson first heard about it while a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He later returned to the Academy to teach on its faculty. Studies of the Shroud by his friends at the Academy persuaded him to examine the facts carefully and eventually drew him into the Shroud of Turin Research Project."[25].
Besides, since the evidence is overwhelming that the Shroud is authentic, it is Gove's naturalistic (nature is all there is, there is no supernatural) starting point, and its corollary, that they were not dealing with Christ's Shroud, which requires justification!

Gove's "untrue and unsubstantiated" attack on STURP continued:

"Not only did these measurements yield negligibly significant results, but they subjected the shroud to a number of intrusive stresses."
These are both false. Among STURP's highly "significant results," were: 1) the Shroud is not a painting; 2) the image is a physical change of the linen fibrils (i.e. dehydration, oxidation and conjugation); 3) the Shroud had covered a real human body; 4) the blood is real human blood; 5) the image is three-dimensional; and 6) no known naturalistic process or combination of processes can account for the totality of the image:
"A Summary of STURP's Conclusions ... No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils [that constitutes the image]. X-ray, fluorescence and microchemistry on the fibrils preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image. Ultra Violet and infrared evaluation confirm these studies. Computer image enhancement and analysis by a device known as a VP-8 image analyzer show that the image has unique, three-dimensional information encoded in it. Microchemical evaluation has indicated no evidence of any spices, oils, or any biochemicals known to be produced by the body in life or in death. It is clear that there has been a direct contact of the Shroud with a body, which explains certain features such as scourge marks, as well as the blood. However, while this type of contact might explain some of the features of the torso, it is totally incapable of explaining the image of the face with the high resolution that has been amply demonstrated by photography... The scientific concensus [sic] is that the image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself. Such changes can be duplicated in the laboratory by certain chemical and physical processes. A similar type of change in linen can be obtained by sulfuric acid or heat. However, there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image, nor can any combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances explain the image adequately[26]."
Since Gove must have known this, his anti-Christian prejudice directed at STURP had evidently overridden his scientific objectivity in this matter. And as for Gove's unsubstantiated claim that STURP had "subjected the shroud to a number of intrusive stresses," to give one example of the lengths to which STURP went to minimise stress to the Shroud, instead of using metal tacks to secure the Shroud as past expositions had done, STURP in their 1978 examination of the Shroud used magnets to position the cloth on their own stainless steel examination table[27].

"Gove's incredible letter continued..."[28]:

"I stated that almost every aspect of the STURP organization was distasteful to many other scientists. This included their clear religious zeal, their questionable sources of support, their military mind set and, last but not least, their assumption that the Turin Shroud was their property as self-appointed investigators of its origins and properties."
Gove the agnostic[29] anti-Christian (see above) forgets that he is writing to a representative of a Christian church, criticising STURP for allegedly having "religious zeal"! Since many (if not most) scientists are atheist/agnostics[30], it would not be surprising if those who knew about STURP would find their taking the Shroud seriously as the very burial sheet of Jesus (rather than rejecting it out of hand), as "distasteful." But so what? Since when has personal "distaste" been a scientific criterion to exclude qualified scientists from carrying out a scientific investigation?

It is not clear what Gove meant by STURP's, "questionable sources of support." But whatever Gove meant, there was nothing "questionable" about STURP. Everything STURP did was at the highest scientific and ethical plane. All STURP's scientific findings were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals[31]. And as for ethics, Gove's `snake in the grass,' undermining of STURP, without STURP's knowledge so it could respond was highly unethical:
"Until Gove's book was published in 1996, STURP scientists were at a complete loss to explain their elimination from the testing and dating of the Shroud or to explain fully the controversy surrounding the removal and dating of the Shroud sample. Gove's book supplied many answers. From the beginning of STURP's carbon dating efforts in 1979 until the publication of Gove's book in 1996, STURP scientists were unaware of Gove's deep-seated animosity toward them and of his efforts behind the scenes to eliminate them[32]"
Gove personal distaste of STURP having a "military mind set" is actually a backhanded compliment! STURP's founding members John Jackson and Eric Jumper were US Air Force officers as well as scientists[33]. And if it were not for their military-trained planning and and organisation, the transporting of STURP's eight tons of equipment[35] [Right (enlarge)[36].] and over 30 team members[37] to Turin in October 1978, to carry out 120 hours of round-the-clock examination of the Shroud[38], would not have happened.

As for Gove's "their [STURP'S] assumption that the Turin Shroud was their property as self-appointed investigators of its origins and properties," it is self-evidently false that STURP assumed that the Shroud was its property. And the fact is that STURP was appointed by the Archbishop of Turin in 1978 to investigate the Shroud, and STURP had submitted a proposal to the Archbishop of Turin to carry out further tests in conjunction with the radiocarbon dating, and that proposal was under active consideration. Indeed if anyone was self-appointed and considered the Shroud to be his property, it was Gove! Who appointed him? On what authority did Gove write his letter to Chagas, threatening that, "if STURP participates in the carbon dating enterprise in any way" he would "guarantee" the withdrawal of all the laboratories from the Shroud's radiocarbon dating?

Gove in his letter to Chagas then made "comments and suggestions" that even he realised were "presumptuous":

"Now, however, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, under Chagas, had a chance to change all this. I went on to make some comments and suggestions noting that, in so doing, Chagas might consider me presumptuous. Among these were the following: 1. Without the continued leadership of Chagas as president of the Pontifical Academy, the present carbon dating consortium would probably become disenchanted and withdraw their participation[39]."
This is tantamount to blackmail by Gove, but there is no evidence that the other laboratories cared whether or not Chagas and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences were in control of the dating. And in fact when it was announced by Turin Archbishop Cardinal Ballestrero on 10 October 1987, "that only the Oxford, Arizona and Zurich laboratories would take part in the testing" and "that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (and thereby Professor Chagas), should have no further part in the project"[40], the three chosen laboratories had no problem with that.

Continuing with Gove's point "1." above:

"This action would be guaranteed if STURP participates in the carbon dating enterprise in any way[41]."
So such was Gove's anti-Christian animosity (if not hatred) towards STURP that if it participated in the carbon dating "in any way," Gove would try to get the laboratories to "withdraw their participation" in the carbon dating! Again, it is unlikely that the laboratories would have agreed with Gove's ultimatum. Turin's eventual cancellation of STURP's proposed tests was presumably nothing to do with Gove's threats but, consistent with the reduction from seven laboratories to three, a need to assert control over the entire testing which had grown too large and complex.

Gove's remaining points "2" to "4" are a rag-bag of his personal complaints about STURP that, even if they were true, were comparatively trivial:

"2. If the delays in carrying out the carbon dating were sudden concerns for conservation, then conservation experts should be contacted by the Pontifical Academy and not by STURP. 3. At the American Chemical Society meeting in Denver, it was stated that shroud samples would be removed from behind the patches for stable isotope ratio measurements by STURP. Such measurements would tell whether the flax from which the shroud linen was made was grown in a climate that was warm or cold, wet or dry! I described this, quite charitably, as outrageous nonsense and asked whether there was nothing that could be done to hold STURP in check. 4. I also reminded Chagas of the pressure STURP representatives had subjected Madame Flury-Lemberg to at the time of the Turin workshop and, exaggeratedly, compared it to the Spanish Inquisition. I noted that Madame Flury-Lemberg was a gentle person quite unschooled in dealing with people like Mr Lukasik and his colleagues like the Reverend Dr Dinegar. I observed that the STURP members had been extremely discourteous to Madame Flury-Lemberg and had pressured her unduly. I had hoped the involvement of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences under Chagas' leadership would bring a proper degree of international scientific dispassion and integrity to the scientific endeavours to solve the mystery of the Turin Shroud. So far it had not because, clearly, he was unable to control the antics of STURP."
It is further evidence of Gove's blindness to his own attitude towards STURP that he sees no contradiction in comparing STURP with "the Spanish Inquisition" and his claim to, unlike STURP, possess "scientific dispassion"!

Gove concluded his account of his letter to Chagas with, "I never received any reply from Professor Chagas nor any indication of how he reacted to it":

"One would be amused by the whole farce if one did not feel so saddened by the consequences STURP's activities would have in elucidating the mystery of the most important relic or icon — whichever it turned out to be — in the Christian world. "In conclusion, although I am sure all of us who will be directly involved in the carbon dating hope the shroud will be subjected only to sensible and prudent scientific examination and testing, there is nothing we can do about whatever activities are being planned by STURP. What is in our power, however, is to ensure that STURP plays no role in carbon dating. STURP is nowhere mentioned in the Turin Workshop Protocol. We count on you to ensure that at least this one measurement will be carried out in a credible way without being tainted by STURP. After a sample is removed for carbon dating STURP can carry out any measurement they wish, however frivolous, as far as I am concerned." It was a tough letter — not couched in diplomatic niceties — but it reflected the frustration and annoyance I felt at the way things were going. I never received any reply from Professor Chagas nor any indication of how he reacted to it. By then he may have realized, as I did not at the time, that his boss, the pope, had cut him out of the action."
Presumably Prof. Chagas, who "was deeply religious and sought to reconcile science and religion as best as possible"[42] would have been deeply disappointed with Gove's extremely (if not fanatically) antagonistic attitude towards STURP, as revealed in his letter. Indeed, if the decision had not already been made (see next 29Jun87) it may well have led to Chagas recommending to the Pope that, to minimise further conflict, neither Gove, nor STURP, nor even the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, be involved in the Shroud's radiocarbon dating!

Continued in the part #5 of this series.

1. This post is copyright. I grant permission to quote from any part of this post (but not the whole post), provided it includes a reference citing my name, its subject heading, its date, and a hyperlink back to this page. [return].
2. "Carlos Chagas Filho," Academia Brasileira de Ciências, n.d. [return]
3. Gove, H.E., 1996, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," Institute of Physics Publishing: Bristol UK, p.190. [return]
4. Gove, 1996, p.191. [return]
5. Ibid. [return]
6. Gove, 1996, p.193. [return]
7. Gove, 1996, p.191. [return]
8. "Speech by Vittorio Canuto, Session III," YouTube, October 11, 2011. [return]
9. Gove, 1996, p.84. [return]
10. Gove, 1996, p.191. [return]
11. Wilson, I., 1997, "Recent Publications," BSTS Newsletter, No. 45, June/July; de Wesselow, T., 2012, "The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection," Viking: London, p.164. [return]
12. Gove, 1996, pp.191-192. [return]
13. Antonacci, M., 2000, "Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical, and Archeological Evidence," M. Evans & Co: New York NY, p.199. [return]
14. Marino, J.G., 2016, "The Politics of the Radiocarbon Dating of the Turin Shroud," Part I: Pre-April 21st, 1988, p.8. [return]
15. Gove, 1996, p.192. [return]
16. Gove, 1996, p.6. [return]
17. Gove, 1996, pp.ix, 7. [return]
18. Gove, 1996, p.6. [return]
19. "Books," Geocities, October, 2009. [return]
20. 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.192, 227. [return]
21. Gove, 1996, p.192. [return]
22. Murphy, C., 1981, "Shreds of evidence: Science confronts the miraculous-the Shroud of Turin," Harper's, Vol. 263, November, pp.42-65, 43. [return]
23. Murphy, 1981, p.44. [return]
24. Morgan, R.H., 1982, "Legal Action in USA," Shroud News, No 11, p.5. [return]
25. Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., 1981, "Verdict on the Shroud: Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Servant Books: Ann Arbor MI, p.9. [return]
26. "A Summary of STURP's Conclusions," October 1981, [return]
27. Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., 2000, "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," Michael O'Mara Books: London, p.33; Tribbe, F.C., 2006, "Portrait of Jesus: The Illustrated Story of the Shroud of Turin," [1983], Paragon House Publishers: St. Paul MN, Second edition, p.132. [return]
28. Antonacci, 2000, p.200. [return]
29. Gove, 1996, p.101; Wilson & Schwortz, 2000, p.9. [return]
30. Masci, D., 2009, "Scientists and Belief," Pew Research Center, November 5. [return]
31. Heller, J.H., 1983, "Report on the Shroud of Turin," Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston MA, pp.184-185; Antonacci, 2000, p.234. [return]
32. Antonacci, 2000, p.196. [return]
33. Murphy, 1981, p.43; Adams, F.O., 1982, "Sindon: A Layman's Guide to the Shroud of Turin," Synergy Books: Tempe AZ, p.93; Borkan, M., 1995, "Ecce Homo?: Science and the Authenticity of the Turin Shroud," Vertices, Duke University, Vol. X, No. 2, Winter, pp.18-51, 22; Iannone, J.C., 1998, "The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence," St Pauls: Staten Island NY, pp.8, 33; Wilson, 1998, pp.26-27; Guerrera, V., 2001, "The Shroud of Turin: A Case for Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, p.60; Oxley, M., 2010, "The Challenge of the Shroud: History, Science and the Shroud of Turin," AuthorHouse: Milton Keynes UK, p.202. [return]
35. Antonacci, 2000, p.47; Wilson & Schwortz, 2000, pp.67-68.; Tribbe, 2006, p.132; Oxley, 2010, pp.209, 212. [return]
36. Wilson & Schwortz, 2000, p.67. [return]
37. Guerrera, 2001, p.60. [return]
38. Heller, 1983, pp.117, 201; Antonacci, 2000, p.234; Borkan, 1995, p.21; Antonacci, 2000, p.194; Guerrera, 2001, p.60; Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, p.23. [return]
39. Gove, 1996, p.192. [return]
40. Wilson, 1998, p.183. [return]
41. Gove, 1996, p.192. [return]
42. "Carlos Chagas Filho: Scientific leadership and honours," Wikipedia, 30 June 2017. [return]

Posted: 7 July 2017. Updated: 15 September 2017.

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