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Oh, Really: Debating the Shroud of Turin Incorrectly

August 19, 2008

Messing with Sasquatch — and the Shroud of Turin Asbury Park Press. Fred Simmonds writes:

The Shroud of Turin and Bigfoot are in the news, and the debates about them are similar.

Oh really? How do you compare two self-defined Sasquatch hunters with a hundred scientists, historians and researchers meeting at Ohio State University to discuss and present peer-reviewed findings and papers and find that similar? How do you compare self promoting, self published Sasquatch book writers with dozens of peer-reviewed articles in ethical scientific journals, thousands upon thousands of hours of hard science?

The faithful question the validity of tests on the Shroud and the purported remains of a Sasquatch. Detractors say the Shroud and Bigfoot legends were invented for marketing purposes.

That is true. Detractors will say that. I’ll give Fred that.

Researchers who dispute the results of radiocarbon dating of the Shroud will challenge those findings in the hope of conducting new tests to determine the age — and thus the authenticity — of what many believe is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

Actually, there is significant debate about the merits of conducting new tests without an international, secular oriented group of scientists first developing new protocols. This could take years. And caution is important in science.

Tests by three laboratories in 1988 showed that the shroud originated in the Middle Ages and not Biblical times, leaving what the Los Angeles Times called the “shroud crowd” reeling.

However, John Jackson, a University of Colorado physicist, hypothesizes that contamination of the cloth by elevated levels of carbon monoxide skewed the 1988 carbon-14 dating by 1,300 years.

Actually, if this reporter had bothered to do some research he might have discovered that this carbon monoxide hypothesis is pretty much ignored by scientists. In fact, at the conference in Ohio, it wasn’t discussed except for perhaps with an “oh brother” exasperation.  The fact of the matter is, as this reporter might have learned, using some of the most advanced analytical equipment available, a team of nine scientists at the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory confirmed that the material used for radiocarbon dating of the shroud in 1988 was not part of the shroud’s fabric. Previously, micro-chemical tests had demonstrated that the cloth is at least twice as old as the medieval date determined by the now discredited carbon 14 tests. This gives new life to historical and forensic arguments that suggest that the shroud might be the burial cloth of Jesus. That is what they are really saying, and they are being very scientific and very careful in what they say. How does that compare?

That’s crucial, because the historical record of the shroud dates to 1349, when a French knight wrote to the pope about a cloth he described as the burial shroud of Christ.

Actually, that isn’t true either. An historian knows that there are gaps in the historical record of just about anything. Historians bridge gaps. Easy skeptics laud them as evidence, which is a classic case of proving something by absence of evidence. There is actually good evidence from 1207 that Othon de la Roche, the French “Lord of Athens” had the cloth, taken from Constantinople in 1204. That this same cloth was moved from Edessa in the 10th Century, where it had been since about 544 CE. Oh, and by the way there is other documentation of the cloth that is the Shroud from 1192. But there is a gap in written material from about 1207 to 1349 due to the destruction of the library at the cathedral in Besancon, France.

Shroud skeptics maintain that the cloth is a forgery created by a medieval artist seeking to display it to relic-hungry pilgrims, the Los Angeles Times said in its story.

Yes, they do. Claims that are unsubstantiated are hardly evidence.

The Bigfoot claims will not stand up to the light of modern day science, and for good reason. The mystery of the Shroud, though, will be enduring.

Why does Fred think so? That would be nice to know. Read Fred’s Weather: Messing with Sasquatch — and the Shroud of Turin | APP.com | Asbury Park Press

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