Lincoln Tunnel’s Newest Billboard

A new sign, posted by the very large, non-denominational Times Square Church has replaced the the previous Atheist Christmas theme sign. I sort of like this new word cloud sign.


More About Jull’s Paper in Radiocarbon Journal

Giulio Fanti writes:

imageIn reference to the paper on the TS (Turin Shroud) just published in the Radiocarbon Journal, there are very few news from my point of view. In fact I had the occasion to perform a parallel study and I know that there is not so much additional material physically visible on the TS linen fibers to explain a significant variation in the resulting date.

Instead, in agreement with a statistical study recently published (London School of Economics Site), and in agreement with a new chemical study in publication, from a Spanish University, I am convinced that there is a non negligible chemical contamination of the cellulose contained in the TS linen fibers. This contamination could be responsible for the variation of many centuries in the resulting date.

In addition, we must remember that the body image of the Turin Shroud has not yet explained by science and many hypotheses for this explanation make reference to a burst of energy. Therefore we are not able to define which ambient factor could have interacted with the TS linen. This is in contrast with one of the Libby’s postulates (he was the C-14 method inventor) for the radiocarbon dating and therefore every radiocarbon result relative

Questions About Arizona’s Carbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin

A reader writes:

The unintended consequence of Jull’s attempt to defend the 1988 work done by Arizona will be the opposite of what he hoped for. Yesterday’s questions become new again. Did the lab combine results as widely believed? Did the lab not report all of their measurements? Why hasn’t the lab, even after all these years, revealed all of the test results for each subsample?

What sample “split from one used” in 1988 are we talking about? How many other bits and pieces of shroud material does Arizona have tucked away? What really went on in Arizona?

This paper can do nothing but remind us of why the 1988 carbon dating of the shroud must be considered invalid. The evidence of cotton and dyestuff is overwhelming, Jull’s failure to find it not withstanding.

Absence of Evidence

Do you remember when Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” He was trying to justify his belief that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As strange as it may seem, the maxim is an example of itself. If you go to newspaper archives you might think the maxim is from 2002. But if you do a bit of research you see that Carl Sagan, who most often gets the credit for the maxim in scientific circles, used those words in 1995 in The Demon-Haunted World. But history goes back more than that. In 1972, Richard Berendzen, the chairman of a conference of scientists (including Sagan) meeting to discuss the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, attributed the maxim to the great British cosmologist Martin Rees. And, yes, Rees had used words to that effect a few years earlier. Actually, the English writer William Cowper (1731-1800) had written something very similar. He wrote “Absence of proof is not proof of absence.”

Why is this important? For two reasons. It demonstrates how any of us, from time to time, may not have a good handle on all the relevant facts. But more importantly, it is to stress how important this maxim is thought to be in science, in history, in law, in just about any endeavor.

imageThis is the wording of an abstract, published today, in Radiocarbon, a scientific journal of the University of Arizona. The authors are Rachel A Freer-Waters and A J Timothy Jull (pictured).

We present a photomicrographic investigation of a sample of the Shroud of Turin, split from one used in the radiocarbon dating study of 1988 at Arizona. In contrast to other reports on less-documented material, we find no evidence to contradict the idea that the sample studied was taken from the main part of the shroud, as reported by Damon et al. (1989). We also find no evidence for either coatings or dyes, and only minor contaminants.  

Now how does Jim West read this and explain it over at his blog, Zwinglius Redivivus? Like this:

The fraudulent ‘Shroud of Turin’ has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt to be a medieval forgery.  Poor Witherington and the others who continue to assert its authenticity. What will they do now?

That is Ben Witherington, by-the-way, a prominent, highly regarded Protestant theologian. I think Ben will see through this ever-so-obvious fallacy. It is sort of like drawing a single M&M from a package, not seeing red and declaring that there are no red M&Ms.

What about John Brown’s confirmation of Ray Rogers work? Can that be ignored simply because the folks in Arizona didn’t find anything similar? What about the confirmation of Rogers’ findings provided by Bob Villarreal and several other chemist from Los Alamos? What about the robust statistical analysis published on the London School of Economics site that shows that the cloth samples are non-homogeneous? Is this to be ignored?

Remi Van Haelst, a retired industrial chemist in Belgium, noted that the results failed to meet minimum statistical standards (chi-squared tests).  He asked why the wide variance in the dates between samples. Was it because of testing errors? Or was it because the sample was not sufficiently homogeneous? Bryan Walsh, a statistician, examined Van Haelst’s analysis and further studied the measurements. He concluded that the divided samples used in multiple tests contained different levels of the C14 isotope. The overall cut sample was non-homogeneous and thus of questionable validity. Walsh found a significant relationship between the measured age of various sub-samples and their distance from the edge of the cloth. Though Walsh did not suggest invisible reweaving, it is consistent with his findings.

Giovanni Riggi, the person who actually cut the carbon 14 sample from the Shroud stated, "I was authorized to cut approximately 8 square centimetres of cloth from the Shroud…This was then reduced to about 7 cm because fibres of other origins had become mixed up with the original fabric …" Should this be ignored?

Giorgio Tessiore, who documented the sampling, wrote:  “…1 cm of the new sample had to be discarded because of the presence of different color threads.” Should this be ignored?

Edward (Teddy) Hall, head of the Oxford radiocarbon dating laboratory, had noticed fibers that looked out of place. A laboratory in Derbyshire concluded that the rogue fibers were cotton of “a fine, dark yellow strand.”  Derbyshire’s Peter South wrote: “It may have been used for repairs at some time in the past…” Can this be ignored?

Gilbert Raes, when later he examined some of the carbon 14 samples, noticed that cotton fibers were contained inside the threads. This, of course, Villarreal and his team confirmed.

Alan Adler at Western Connecticut State University found large amounts of aluminum in yarn segments from the radiocarbon sample, up to 2% by energy-dispersive x-ray analysis. Why aluminum? That was an important question because it was also possible evidence of dying. Alum is a common mordant.

Are we to draw our conclusions based on found evidence or like Donald Rumsfeld on evidence not found.

There will be more on this subject soon.

Worldwide Showing of The Real Face of Jesus (Updated)

imageReports are still coming in that The Real Face of Jesus will be shown at Christmas just about everywhere in the world. Here is a list of countries we have heard about so far: US, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc.

Here are some times we know about for Christmas Day for the showing of this very important Shroud of Turin special: In the U.S. you can watch the documentary on History, Christmas 10 pm ET, 9 pm CT, 8 pm MT and 10 pm PT (but check local schedules). Australia and New Zealand, 6:30 AM. Zimbabwe and southern Africa on the History Channel, through the South African satellite TV service DStV, at 8.30 pm in Zimbabwe (6.30 pm GMT) on Christmas Day.

New Information: It will be shown on Christmas Day at 8AM in HK, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia.   In Thailand it will be shown 1 hour earlier.  (Hat tip Rebecca Jackson)

Check schedules for your part of the world through these links:

Continue reading “Worldwide Showing of The Real Face of Jesus (Updated)”

The Contagious Transcendence: Christmas Truce of WWI

imageSteven and Michael Meloan who wrote, The Shroud (available in paperback and Kindle ebook) have an interesting Christmastide op-ed in The Huffington Post:

A mysterious peace swept across the Western Front on Christmas Eve 1914.

The Western Front, during World War I, was a system of trenches lined by wooden posts and barbed wire, stretching nearly 500 miles from the North Sea coast, south to the Swiss border. Typically, soldiers were only separated by 70 yards of "no man’s land," so close they could hear enemy voices in the lull between sniper fire and artillery rounds. Weather at the end of 1914 was brutal, relentless freezing rain had turned the trenches into a numbing river of mud. The first year of the war had already claimed roughly a million soldiers.

By Christmas Eve, British troops had received "Princess Mary Boxes," tins containing chocolates, butterscotch, cigarettes, tobacco and a picture card of Princess Mary. German troops each received a large meerschaum pipe, and fine cigars for the officers. As darkness fell, fighting along the entire front mysteriously dwindled, until finally there was profound silence. According to letters from soldiers, some German infantrymen had received tiny tennenbaum trees, and began decorating them with candles and placing them on the parapet amid the barbed wire. The British were captivated by the twinkling lights appearing along the trenches. Then they heard faint singing, Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht. The melody was unmistakable. Some of the Brits began to sing along in English. Then Christmas greetings were shouted back and forth. Finally, a few brave soldiers arose from the trenches with offerings of food and tobacco. Before long, no man’s land was filled with soldiers greeting one another, exchanging food, trading buttons from their uniforms, and showing pictures of loved ones. Sometimes a stuffed sandbag served as a soccer ball, and impromptu games began with jackets marking the goals. Festivities and camaraderie lasted all through Christmas day.

Steven and Michael Meloan: Contagious Transcendence–The Christmas Truce of 1914

Now this would be a top religious story of the year

imageAn Episcopalian reader writes in relation to the previous posting:

So my question is when will we see The Right Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori wearing HER bishop’s mitre and carrying HER crosier while participating in Roman Catholic masses?

No time soon, I imagine. And it’s The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, which is proper for an archbishop even though the title Presiding Bishop is used in the United States.

My other question is what does this have to do with the shroud?

Directly? Nothing. In the long run I hope everything. I have faith that the Shroud of Turin has ecumenical implications.