Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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

© Stephen E. Jones[1]

This is part #5, "29 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 soon 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: 15Jun87 #4] [Next: 10Oct87 #6]

29 June 1987 Prof. Harry Gove (1922-2009) [Below right[2].], the unofficial leader of the Shroud radiocarbon dating laboratories[3], phoned Prof. Vittorio Canuto [see 07Jul17], an astrophysicist at the NASA Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and at the time a scientific aide to Prof. Carlos Chagas Filho (1910-2000), the President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences[4]. The purpose of the call was to find out whether Canuto had an update on the long delayed carbon dating of the Shroud[5]. Canuto told Gove that Chagas had received a copy of a letter dated 21 May 1987, addressed to the Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero (r. 1977-1989), from Pope John Paul II (r. 1978-2005), but executed by the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal

[Left[6]: Vatican Secretary of State (1979-90), Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (1914–98). It was to Casaroli that Ballestrero appealed, "that the Pontifical Academy was taking things away from him"[7], and it was Casaroli who wrote the letter of 21 May 1987 transferring control of the carbon dating from Chagas and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome to the Archbishop of Turin[8].]

Agostino Casaroli[9]. The letter contained instructions to Ballestrero on the procedures to be followed in radiocarbon dating the Shroud[10]. But because the letter was from the Secretary of State to Cardinal Ballestrero with only a copy to Chagas, Canuto was unable to divulge its contents[11]. However, Canuto did reveal to Gove that the procedures differed substantially from the Turin Workshop Protocol agreed to by the seven laboratories in October 1986[12] [see 27Apr87]. Chagas was evidently playing his usual "double game" of leaking confidential information to Gove through Canuto[13] Why else would Chagas send Canuto in the USA a copy of a confidential letter from Cardinal Casaroli to Cardinal Ballestrero, unless Chagas wanted Canuto to reveal its contents to Gove?

Gove arranged a conference phone call which took place the next day, 30 June 1987[14], between Canuto in New York, and the leaders of the USA laboratories: Donahue in Arizona, Harbottle in Brookhaven, and himself in Rochester. Despite originally saying the day before that he was unable to divulge to Gove the contents of Casaroli's letter to Ballestrero of 21 May, Canuto had prearranged with Chagas that he wouldn't volunteer anything, but neither would he lie if asked[15]. So when asked in the teleconference about "communication between Turin and the secretary of state," Canuto read key parts of the letter out to the conference call participants:

"It's good to talk to more people because I did not want to volunteer that information, but since you are asking I have to give it to you. The letter from the secretary of state to Ballestrero begins by saying 'Dear Cardinal: We have received a letter from Carlos Chagas on 8 October 1986 ..."[16]
This included, "although never explicitly stated by Canuto," that there would be a reduction in the number of laboratories to "two or three"[17]. So, "Chagas's secretary and confidant [Canuto] had ... failed the basic rule of confidentiality"[18], because there was a third option besides volunteering and lying: to reply, as he had the day before to Gove, that he was unable to divulge the contents of private communication between Casaroli and Ballestrero. And Chagas even more so had "failed the basic rule of confidentiality," because Canuto would not have had a copy of Casaroli's letter without Chagas having sent it to him, and Chagas could have reminded Canuto of the third option, to not divulge to the laboratories the contents of Casaroli's letter to Ballestrero, but didn't. The problem then was, as stated by Gove:
"... how we could use the key information contained in it [Casaroli's letter], even though we were not to know in detail what it was"[19].
Brookhaven laboratory's Garman Harbottle came up with "a way out" which involved lying, in falsely claiming that they were responding to a two months old quote of the Archbishop of Turin's scientific adviser, Prof. Luigi Gonella (1930–2007), in the Turin newspaper La Stampa of 27 April 1987 (see 31May17), when in reality they were responding to Cardinal Casaroli's letter of 21 May 1987 to Cardinal Ballestrero, leaked to them by Chagas via Canuto:
"Harbottle said that he thought there was a way out. We could refer to the La Stampa article. It quoted Gonella as saying only two or three laboratories would be involved. We could always assume that was an authoritative statement and that article certainly was in the public domain. Harbottle said that we could use that as a basis for soliciting opinions on what to do next. We could privately tell the laboratories that there was more to it than that"[20].
The conference call ended with the participants agreeing that Gove would contact the heads of the other laboratories and tell them that:
"... the decision announced in La Stampa, that there would only be two or three laboratories involved, was going to be approved by the pope and the cardinal [Ballestrero]. We had information from a source I could not disclose, that this was the way it was going to be. What was their reaction to it?"[21].
Starting on 30 June, Gove phoned non-participants in the teleconference in the following order: Woelfli of Zurich Laboratory (p.198); Edward Hall of Oxford (p.198); Michael Tite then of the British Museum (p.200); Bob Otlet of Harwell, England (p.202); and Jean-Claude Duplessy of the Gif-sur-Yvette laboratory in France (p.204); to inform them of the teleconference, that there was information from a credible source that only two or three laboratories would do the Shroud dating, as mentioned in the 27 April La Stampa article, and would they each agree to sign a joint letter to the Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Ballestrero, requesting that seven laboratories as agreed in the October 1986 Turin workshop protocol be adhered to[22]. Even though Gove's proposed joint letter would include, in Gove's own words, that:
"... if there were going to be such major revisions in the protocol to which we had all agreed, including the people in Turin, that either they had to have another meeting with the people directly involved in carbon dating or we would just say to hell with it."
Woelfli agreed that his name be added to it (p.198). But when Gove rang Hall, he interrupted Gove to say:
"Now look Harry, I suggest that you don't do anything. If you do anything to your enemies in Turin it will be curtains ... I think you should say that we believe that the meeting should be held and leave it at that and not say 'otherwise we will withdraw'. As soon as you start threatening people, you will only get their backs up" (pp.198-199).
Hall evidently realised that Gove knew that his Rochester laboratory had no chance in being among two or three chosen to date the Shroud [see 19Jun17], so Gove was selfishly prepared to risk that no laboratory would date the Shroud, if his didn't[23]! Gove agreed to omit that threat to withdraw all the laboratories from the radiocarbon dating (p.199) and Hall agreed to sign the joint letter (p.202). Gove also phoned participants in the teleconference: Donahue (pp.199, 202) and Harbottle (p.199) to inform them of Hall's position and to further develop the joint letter. Canuto translated the letter into Italian so that Ballestrero was more likely to read it first without him needing to ask Gonella to translate it from English to Italian (p.201).

On 6 July 1987 the joint letter in Italian was sent by Western Union cable to Cardinal Ballestrero, with copies to Donahue, Duplessy, Hall, Harbottle, Otlet, Tite, and Woelfli as well as to Cardinal Casaroli, the Vatican, the Holy See Mission to the UN (where Casaroli was staying - p.204), and to Chagas (p.204). On 2 August, Hall sent a letter to Gove which Gove described as "breaking ranks" (pp.205, 207):

"He [Hall] recalled our telephone conversation concerning what he described as my 'broadside' to Turin (the letter in Italian to Ballestrero) he had told me he considered unwise. He said he had agreed to sign it as a friendly gesture. He had since learned it had displeased the archbishop ... He stated that from now on he and Hedges intended to distance themselves from the two camps, me on the one hand and Professor Gonella on the other. He thought that any further hectoring would only prolong the decision. He hoped for a positive decision for the shroud dating sometime in the future. Meanwhile he intended to keep quiet and await developments from Italy. He hoped this would not cause offence but he wanted to make his position clear" (p.205).
As we have seen above, and as we shall see, the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud was far from being normal, objective, science, because of Gove's "unscientific, anti-Christian, prejudice" [31May17], which had turned what could have been a model of good, co-operative science, into a bitter power-struggle between the laboratories and the Turin Archdiocese, which already had corrupted the laboratories into: 1) being read to without permission key excerpts from a confidential letter between Cardinal Casaroli and Cardinal Ballestrero; and 2) then lying that it was an old article in La Stampa that they were responding to. This was far from the high standard of good science that the leading physicist Richard Feynman (1918–88) called for in his 1974 Caltech graduation address:
"It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty ... I'm talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying ..."[24]!
Continued in part #6 of this series.

1. This post is copyright. I grant permission to quote from any part of it (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. Wilson, I., 2009, "Obituary - Professor Harry Gove," BSTS Newsletter No. 69, June. [return]
3. Sox, H.D., 1988, "The Shroud Unmasked: Uncovering the Greatest Forgery of All Time," The Lamp Press: Basingstoke UK, p.95; Antonacci, M., 2000, "Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical, and Archeological Evidence," M. Evans & Co: New York NY, p.192; de Wesselow, T., 2012, "The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection," Viking: London, p.164. [return]
4. Gove, H.E., 1996, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," Institute of Physics Publishing: Bristol UK, p.84. [return]
5. Gove, 1996, p.193. [return]
6. Bonnici, E., 2007, "Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (1914-1998)," Find A Grave, August 13. [return]
7. Gove, 1996, pp.193-194. [return]
8. Gove, 1996, p.193. [return]
9. Ibid. [return]
10. Gove, 1996, p.193. [return]
11. Gove, 1996, pp.193-194. [return]
12. Gove, 1996, p.194. [return]
13. Petrosillo, O. & Marinelli, E., 1996, "The Enigma of the Shroud: A Challenge to Science," Scerri, L.J., transl., Publishers Enterprises Group: Malta, p.29. [return]
14. Gove did not give the date, but he had phoned Canuto on 29 June (p.193) and then after the conference call, on 30 June, Gove phoned Willy Wolfli of Zurich Laboratory (p.198). [return]
15. Gove, 1996, p.196. [return]
16. Gove, 1996, p.194. [return]
17. Gove, 1996, p.195. [return]
18. Petrosillo & Marinelli, 1996, p.37. [return]
19. Gove, 1996, p.194. [return]
20. Gove, 1996, p.195. [return]
21. Gove, 1996, p.197. [return]
22. Gove, 1996, p.197. [return]
23. See also Antonacci, 2000, p.195. [return]
24. Feynman, R.P., 1985, "Cargo Cult Science," in "`Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman!': Adventures of a Curious Character," Unwin Paperbacks: London, Reprinted, 1990, pp.341-343. [return]

Posted: 13 September 2017. Updated: 7 August 2019.

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