Let’s correct Ethan the Freethinking Historian. We’ll do so in bold. 

On Episode 30 of Radio Freethinker . . . we talked about the Shroud of Turin and some recent scientific tests that disproved its authenticity. (We’ll hold off on this because Ethan contradicts himself, further on down).

But before we go any further let’s discuss what the Shroud of Turin is. The shroud is a 14 x 3 foot piece of cloth with the image of a man who appears to have been killed by crucifixion. Supposedly, this is Jesus Christ and supposedly it’s stained with his blood, although the Catholic Church does not officially recognize it as authentic.
. .

Since then the shroud has been subjected to carbon dating and now the recent scientific experiments by Luigi Garlaschelli. . . .

What Garlaschelli did was prove that with materials available in Medieval Europe, one could leave such an imprint on a piece of cloth. Not really, but read on.

Now this does not prove the shroud is a fake (emphasis mine, contradiction his, and I agree), it was already proved a fake when it was carbon dated several times in 1980’s. It was only dated once in 1988. One sample was divided between three labs. It has now been proved (if Ethan can use that word, so can I) that the sample was from a mended area of the cloth containing old and much newer thread. Moreover:

  • The combined evidence from chemical kinetics, analytical chemistry, cotton content, and pyrolysis/ms proves that the material from the radiocarbon area of the shroud is significantly different from that of the main cloth. The radiocarbon sample was thus not part of the original cloth and is invalid for determining the age of the shroud. – from Thermochimica Acta, an international science journal, “Studies on the Radiocarbon Sample from the Shroud of Turin” by Raymond Rogers, January 2005.

Rogers work has since been confirmed by numerous chemists, including John Brown at Georgia Tech and Bob Villarreal at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The shroud was estimated to be no older than 1260, which would put it right in the period of time of pilgrimage and charlatans creating holy relics and then making a profit off them. Now, it is understood to be no later than 700 CE and perhaps earlier. Moreover, history reliably traces it back to 544 CE and there is some evidence that points back to at least the third century.

The only “controversy” was that scientist weren’t sure how the image was transferred to the cloth, which led some to proclaim that it could only be a real miracle. Actually, most scientist who have actually studied the image on fibers and thread from the shroud, under a microscope, believe that the image was formed by some natural process, possibly an amino/carbonyl reaction. Did some proclaim a miracle. Sure. That is to be expected. But the implication is misleading, not very freethinking.

However Garlaschelli proves that it was indeed possible, they placed a sheet over a volunteer and then rubbed it with a pigment containing traces of acid. Then the cloth was artificially aged by heating it in an oven and washing it, this process removed the pigment from the surface but left a fuzzy, half-tone image similar to that on the Shroud. After that you just have add some burn marks or blood stains to get the final product.

Similar in appearance but not similar chemically, physically, optically. It proves nothing except that some arts and craft method can be used to make something that looks like the shroud.

If there is a lesson to be learned, don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.

Ethan the Freethinking Historian’s blog: Debunking the Shroud