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How many mistakes can you find?

The two paragraphs below, pertaining to the Shroud of Turin, were delivered as part of a debate speech by David J. Helfand, chair of the Department of Astronomy at Columbia University and co-director of the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory during a speech at Columbia. The number of errors of fact, both historical and scientific is extraordinary for such an esteemed scientist.

How many mistakes can you find?

The Shroud of Turin project began in the late 1970s when a group of scientists and engineers, a large fraction of whom came from the Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Laboratory (which I find a frightening thought), lugged millions of pounds of equipment over to Turin and were granted unlimited access to the shroud in order to perform scientific experiments on it to prove that it was the burial shroud of Christ. And indeed, the first experiments, all released through press releases and not scientific journals, were very encouraging. There was iron in the blood on the places where the nails had gone through the hands. The image on the cloth was not possible to produce prior to the age of photography and on and on.

Finally, ten years later, when the church relented and allowed two square centimeters of the cloth to be shipped off to two independent laboratories for double-blind tests of the age dating of the shroud, the age in both cases came back at about 650 plus or minus 20 years, or roughly, 1351 when historians had already shown that the Avignon Pope had excommunicated a French bishop for displaying a fraudulent burial cloth of Christ, "very cleverly painted." My question is, suppose the Carbon-14 data on the shroud had come back differently. Suppose it had come back with a date of A. D. 26. Would then Prof. McGrath or anyone else have said, "Oh, but science has nothing to do with religion, so we won’t take that data into account?"

Stay tuned. A copy of History Channel’s “The Real Face of Jesus?” DVD to the winner. Answer by comments or email to I’ll get back to you in the same way, if you win, to get a shipping address from you privately.

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