On his blog, “Ssnot! – God Snot, Where God’s Not!”, Tatarize writes:
So I am apparently retarded. I watched something called the Shroud of Turin which was get this, about the Shroud of Turin and completely bogus nonsense.
The argument went like this,
The Shroud of Turin carbon dates to the 1360s. The Shroud of Turin was first seen around 1325. However, there were other fake shrouds which purported to be the burial cloths of Christ which dated back to the 11th century. So the Shroud of Turin dates back to the 11th century. There’s also some hood thing which dates back to the 5th century so clearly the Shroud dates back to the fifth century (because both of them have blood) that look nothing alike in pattern (it seriously overlays them and they look nothing alike). And therefore the Shroud of Turin is 5th century. However, we also know that the Gospels say Jesus was crucified and we have this cloth and so this cloth clearly dates back to the first century.
The first thing is to misstate the facts with a bit of incredulous drama. Let’s begin with the first sentence, “The Shroud of Turin carbon dates to the 1360s.” In fact, the results of carbon dating undertaken in 1988 estimated the date of the cloth between 1260 and 1390 C.E. This was reported in Nature, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
If we focus on peer-reviewed scientific journals, which is appropriate, we discover that those carbon dating tests have been roundly discredited. One need only refer to Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425, Issues 1-2 , 20 January 2005, Pages 189-194) and Chemistry Today (July/August 2008) to understand why. Robert Villarreal who led a team of nine scientists at the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory, using some of the most advanced methods and spectra tools, confirmed the findings in those journal accounts. He stated that the sample area was significantly unlike the rest of the shroud. In other words it is almost certain that the shroud itself was not carbon dated.
Christopher Ramsey, the current head of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, a lab that participated in the original carbon 14 dating of the Shroud, states on the Oxford website (posted in March of 2008) that because of new information “further research is certainly needed.” He went on to say:
It is equally important that experts assess and reinterpret some of the other evidence. Only by doing this will people be able to arrive at a coherent history of the Shroud which takes into account and explains all of the available scientific and historical information.
Atheists are quick to point out, correctly so, that many Christians ignore scientific and historical evidence, particularly when it comes to evolution. Yet, some Atheists do exactly this themselves. It is fine to believe that the shroud is not the real thing, but do so with facts that are correct. Draw conclusions from those facts. Make a good case. Don’t be a fundamentalist. We don’t know in certain terms the age of the shroud or its provenance. To assert that it is fake in the absence of real evidence takes a leap of faith no less than it does to assert that it is real.
Let’s look at some other points from the posting:
- “The Shroud of Turin was first seen around 1325.” — Actually the correct statement is that the earliest known written record of the shroud in Western Europe was in 1349 C.E.
- “However, there were other fake shrouds which purported to be the burial cloths of Christ which dated back to the 11th century.” — Let’s drop the word “fake” unless there is evidence to support that little bit of well poisoning. There is a drawing of what seems to be the shroud that dates to 1194 (late 12th century). There are documented descriptions of a burial shroud (not plural) from 944 that might be the Shroud of Turin. There is good but imperfect historical evidence that connects the dots between 944 and 1349. As with almost all records of artifacts from antiquity there are gaps in reliable documentation. This is normal. But one thing that seems quite certain, the same cloth documented in Constantinople in 944 is the same cloth that existed in the ancient city of Edessa in 544 C.E. Any trace that goes back beyond that, from a historical point of view ceases to be hypothesis and rests on the backs of legend and difficult-to-assess ancient writings. So we really can’t say. Possibility and plausibility is the best that we can do at this time.
- “There’s also some hood thing which dates back to the 5th century so clearly the Shroud dates back to the fifth century (because both of them have blood) that look nothing alike in pattern (it seriously overlays them and they look nothing alike).” — I suspect that Tatarize is referring to the Sudarium of Oviedo. The earliest plausible date for this cloth is the seventh century not the fifth. Records suggest that its journey to its present location began in 644 C.E. when Persians under Chosroes II invaded Jerusalem. To protect the Sudarium, it was moved out of the city to safety. We are uncertain of its route to Spain. It may have been first taken to Alexandria along with numerous other relics (real or otherwise, and stored in a chest or “ark”) and from there, in succeeding years, along the coast of North Africa ahead of advancing armies. Some historians have suggested a more direct sea route to Spain, but forensic pollen evidence indicates that the Sudarium was in North Africa, just as the presence of other pollen spores evidences that it was at one time in the Jerusalem environs. Whatever the route, we know that after it arrived in Spain, it was kept in Toledo for about 75 years. For some time after it arrived, it was in the custody of an early-medieval scholar, Isidore of Seville. Then in 718, to protect it from Arab armies, which had invaded Spain only seven years earlier, it was moved northward with fleeing Christians. In 761, Oviedo became the capital of a northern, well-defended enclave of Christians on the Iberian Peninsula and it was to this city that the Sudarium was brought for safekeeping. It has been in Oviedo ever since. As for the bloodstains matching the patterns of bloodstains on the shroud, it seems that they do. No the patterns don’t look alike. That isn’t what pattern matching is all about. It is at the margins, relative placement and the juxtaposition of certain features that the patterns match. It is fine to argue that they don’t match, but that argument requires more substance than a vague doesn’t look alike. “I think I see” and “I think I don’t see” are the weakest types of scientific argument: the tools of fundamentalist thinking.
- “However, we also know that the Gospels say Jesus was crucified and we have this cloth and so this cloth clearly dates back to the first century.” — This point doesn’t make any sense. That is not what the BBC special said.
- “The carbon 14 dating must be wrong! Perhaps some carbon-14 mixed into the linen via carbon monoxide. *tests* — Nope that doesn’t work at all. Still, it’s a mystery!” — That was a major weakness in the BBC documentary. So far as I know, only John Jackson of Colorado Springs thinks this is a possible explanation. Not a single scientist that I know agrees with him. But, yes, the carbon dating is wrong.
- “I am utterly astounded at how many hoaxes people buy into lock stock and barrel.” — I agree. But it can cut both ways.
- “In the end, I lost an hour of my time watching . . .” — Yes, I think you did. And more time writing about it with a complete lack of understanding. Too bad.
Shroud research needs skeptics who will engage the science and the history of this unsolved mystery. That ultimately is the best way for Christians and Atheists alike to resolve the truth about this cloth.