Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shroud of Turin, Part Three: Innuendo of Wrongness!

So apparently, my response to the response of somebody's response of my review of some Shroud of Turin documentary on the BBC has elicited a response.

How insightful is this criticism of my position?

The Shroud of Turin was carbon dated in 1988. The conclusion of those tests was that the cloth originated between 1260 and 1390.

Color me shocked. The test they did to check the date of the shroud in 1988 found exactly what I say it found. The Shroud of Turin is a 14th century hoax. But, lets see why this clear and scientific evidence should be overturned.

However, tests recently conducted at the Los Alamos National Laboratory by a team of nine scientists under the direction of Robert Villarreal confirm what chemist Raymond Rogers found and published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Thermochimica Acta (Jan. 2005): The tested sample was not representative of the shroud’s cloth. Rogers’ findings had also been confirmed by Georgia Tech’s materials forensic chemist John L. Brown.
The idea generally is that some new carbon must have gotten into the samples and caused all the different carbon tests to register an incorrect date of about the same time. How does this happen? Generally speaking, it doesn't. They have claimed that there was bacteria on it or that it soaked in some new carbon during a fire. However, to make the Carbon tests properly register what looks like 1360ish to really be about the year 31, we need some about half the same to be contaminated with carbon from the year 2689. In reality, it's easy to explain how you could screw up a carbon-14 dating to have it far too old. But, to get it far too recent is quite hard to do.

So contamination, in general doesn't work without contamination of some carbon with greater than the rather steady ratio of atmospheric carbon-14. So rather than that they need to say that the entire set of samples taken from the Shroud itself are not taken from the shroud. How do they do this? Cue, invisible thieves of carbon dating!

In the 1500s, the shroud went on a tour of Europe, and security wasn't tight, Benford said. It's possible somebody removed a small piece of the shroud and patched it using "invisible weaving," a common technique at the time that would've left the alteration unnoticeable to the naked eye.
That's right. Carbon dating is discredited by suggestions of invisible shroud thieves who, stole some of the shroud, but more importantly secretly replaced the section they stole with 200 year old cloth. Why they would replace it rather than just grab it and run away, seems a bit odd, but nevertheless that's the claim.

Even the Christopher Ramsey of the Oxford Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, which participated in the original tests, has concluded the needs for new studies. Not Ssnot, he knows better than scientists.

Go ahead and carbon date it again. I'm not going to stop you. We can take a larger amount, from more places, with more labs and get more data. We can carbon date parts with picture on it if that makes you happy.

It isn't that the first study was flawed, rather that if you keep whining about the fact that it's a 14th century hoax, we'll be happy to debunk it again with some more data. I'd be fine to burn the entire thing up checking every thread for it's carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio.

A scientist will acknowledge that we might not have all the answers. A fundamentalist ignores such caution.

This however is a major problem with the posters claims about the Shroud and myself. I am believing the science because that's what the science concludes. I am clearly on the side of science here.

I don't have all the answers, but on this topic I know where the evidence leads. We have a very good dating of the cloth to about the time the cloth was first seen. We have scientific data that allows us to conclude that it's 14th century. Suggesting that the carbon dating is wrong because of Jesus emitted a lot of alpha particles when he resurrected (actually suggested by Shroud folk) or because to spare the Shroud from the Romans time travelers retrieved the shroud and moved it 1400 years into the future (not actually suggested but just as plausible) is stupid, but I'll hear you out. If you want to to actually believe it, you need some actual evidence. You need something more than blanket suggestions of supposed reasons for inaccuracies in order to actually conclude anything.

You don't get to claim discreditation of the science with innuendo of wrongness. You don't get to say, maybe some elves stole some of the cloth and secretly wove some 14th century cloth into the shroud during the 16th century and therefore the carbon dating is wrong. No. You said it's from the 1st century. We carbon dated it: 14th century.

You need to prove that that carbon dating was wrong and that it's really from the 1st century. What we have instead is a claim that the carbon dating might be wrong if somehow the part that was carbon dated was really secretly replaced or repaired. You don't get to suggest with very vague language that it might be wrong and therefore it is wrong. No! No! No! That's not the way science works. You don't get to make your conclusion stick without actual evidence. Suggesting that the carbon dating is wrong is categorically different from showing that the carbon dating is wrong.

All of the supposed theories as to how the carbon-14 dates are all wrong, from alpha particle resurrection to secret thieves are all absolutely absurd. We could carbon date it again, but it was embarrassing enough the first time, however, even without this step the evidence is still firmly on the side of hoax because you don't get to suggest the test was flawed and use that to conclude the test was flawed. Suggestion != Evidence.

“I already knew that and found it utterly silly.” That is unquestionably fundamentalist talk; atheist fundamentalist talk — ignore the science.

No. I find it silly BECAUSE of the evidence. All of the proposed reasons why the tests were faulty take massive leaps to actually accept as true, unless one is clinging to the fundamentalism that the cloth must be accurate. It really wouldn't matter a jot to Christianity if it were a hoax. So the Shroud of Turin is fake, that doesn't change a damned thing. Piltdown man was fake, but human evolution still holds merit. Simply because somebody made a hoax to support something, doesn't mean that it must be wrong. Christianity is wrong because it's untrue, not because the Shroud of Turin is a hoax.

I've heard the "theories" as to why the carbon-14 tests were wrong. I've never seen a jot of evidence for these theories. So the scientific evidence is still heavily weighted on the side of "it's a damned hoax." This isn't fundamentalism, it's reasoned skepticism and following the evidence.

It takes considerably less of a leap of faith to conclude that the Shroud is a hoax than to conclude that the Shroud isn't a hoax.


Sparrowhawk said...

I never even understood why people would wanna be so cheap as to even CARE about the shroud of Turin. I mean, even if it were dated to the "time of Jesus", so what? All it means is it's a cloth with a face imprint on it from the time of Jesus? Was Jesus the only guy to press his face into a cloth?

The whole "relic" thing just seems cheap to me. It's like someone who would go backstage at a concert to steal their favorite musician's half-eaten sandwich and show it to all their friends.

Tatarize said...

Oddly enough, the way the image is made it can't be done by pressing your face against a cloth. That makes a weird sort of odd smudge rather than a clear drawing like that on the shroud.

But, yeah, I could concede it to the 1st century in the proper region and still have no reason to conclude it has anything to do with anything.

You run into this sort of crap with relic nonsense all the time. Everything from the first century belonged to Jesus. If this cave isn't the burial place of Jesus, it MUST be the burial place of Lazarus. Because caves don't exist without biblical people in them.