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KC’s Science-Based Life and the Shroud of Turin

May 12, 2011

A reader writes:

imageYou are right, Kyle (I guess he prefers KC) has created an excellent website emphasizing skepticism. If I may be permitted to offer a criticism of this young man’s work it is that his website preaches too much to the choir (we Christians know that problem all too well). Science-Based Life is in danger of becoming just another ‘science is cool’ and ‘skepticism is cool’ website, albeit better written and better organized than many.

Now that he has said he will, KC has a chance to significantly break away from the pack by taking on the authenticity of the shroud. He can do so only with a fresh approach. If he parrots Joe Nickell or focuses only on the CSI (formerly CSICOP) material he will flounder. Nickell was KO’d when Skeptical Inquirer offered Ray Rogers the privilege of writing a letter to the editor to refute a Nickell article in the same issue (Volume 29.3, May / June 2005) in which it was published. KC should start with that letter to gain some perspective.

I think KC should then read the whole of Ray Rogers’ FAQ. It should take him the better part of an hour to absorb. He should remember that Rogers, like him, was skeptical of the shroud’s authenticity after the carbon dating results were published in Nature.

The lack of worthy, truly scientifically-minded skeptics, since 2005, has been disappointing. We, who think the shroud is real, need to be better challenged.

Click the ‘Read More’ tag below for a copy of the Letter to the Editor.

Links to the FAQ are below as well.

BTW: Ray Rogers, a distinguished chemist, was a Fellow of the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Originally, the home of the Manhattan Project during World War II. It is now part of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Rogers had been a charter member of the Coalition for Excellence in Science Education in New Mexico. He campaigned vigorously for the teaching of evolution, and against teaching creationism, in the public schools.

He also served on the Department of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board as a civilian with the rank equivalency of Lieutenant General. He had published over fifty scientific papers in ethical peer-reviewed science journals. He was a member of New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR), an organization affiliated with CSI. 

imageKim Johnson of NMSR wrote the following in an obituary on Rogers: “He was a Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and tried to be an excellent, open minded scientist in all things. In particular, he had no pony in the ‘Shroud of Turin’ horserace, but was terribly interested in making sure that neither proponents nor skeptics let their scientific judgment be clouded by their preconceptions. He just wanted to date and analyze the thing. He died on March 8th from cancer. He was a good man, and tried his best to do honest science.

Here is the Rogers FAQ on the web:

Click the ‘Read More’ tag below for a copy of the Letter to the Editor.

    Raymond Rogers’ Letter to the Editor
    of Skeptical Inquirer Magazine

    Dear Editor:

    Joe Nickell has attacked my scientific competence and honesty in his latest publication on the Shroud of Turin. Everything I have done investigating the shroud had the goal of testing some hypothesis [Schwalbe, L. A., Rogers, R. N., "Physics and Chemistry of the Shroud of Turin: Summary of the 1978 Investigation," Analytica Chimica Acta 135, 3 (1982); Rogers R. N., Arnoldi A., "The Shroud of Turin: an amino-carbonyl reaction (Maillard reaction) may explain the image formation," in Melanoidins vol. 4, Ames J.M. ed., Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 2003, pp. 106-113].

    My latest paper [Rogers, R. N., "Studies on the radiocarbon sample from the Shroud of Turin," Thermochimica Acta 425/1-2, 189-194 (2005)] is no exception. I accepted the radiocarbon results, and I believed that the "invisible reweave" claim was highly improbable. I used my samples to test it. One of the greatest embarrassments a scientist can face is to have to agree with the lunatic fringe. So, Joe, should I suppress the information, as Walter McCrone did the results from Mark Anderson, his own MOLE expert?

    Incidentally, I knew Walter since the 1950s and had compared explosives data with him. I was the one who "commissioned" him to look at the samples that I took in Turin, when nobody else would trust him. I designed the sampling system and box, and I was the person who signed the paper work in Turin so that I could hand-carry the samples back to the US. The officials in Turin and King Umberto would not allow Walter to touch the relic. Walter lied to me about how he would handle the samples, and he nearly ruined them for additional chemical tests. Incidentally, has anyone seen direct evidence that Walter found Madder on the cloth? I can refute almost every claim he made, and I debated the subject with his people at a Gordon Conference. I can present my evidence as photomicrographs of classical tests, spectra, and mass spectra.

    Now Joe thinks I am a "Shroud of Turin devotee," a "pro-authenticity researcher," and incompetent at microanalysis. If he ever read any of my professional publications, he would know that I have international recognition as an expert on chemical kinetics. I have a medal for Exceptional Civilian Service from the US Air Force, and I have developed many microanalytical methods. I was elected to be a Fellow of a national laboratory. A cloud still hangs over Walter with regard to the Vinland map. Joe does not take his job as "Research Director" very seriously. If he thinks I am a "true believer," I will put him solidly on the "far-right" lunatic fringe.

    Joe did not understand the method or importance of the results of the pyrolysis/mass spectrometry analyses, and I doubt that he understands the fundamental science behind either visible/ultraviolet spectrometry or fluorescence. He certainly does not understand chemical kinetics. If he wants to argue my results, I suggest that we stick to observations, natural laws, and facts. I am a skeptic by nature, but I believe all skeptics should be held to the same ethical and scientific standards we require of others.

    Raymond N. Rogers
    Fellow (Retired)
    University of California, Los Alamos National Laboratory
    Los Alamos, NM, USA

    1. Yannick Clément
      May 12, 2011 at 10:51 am

      I fully agree with this reader comment. And I would like to add this : I believe the shroud is genuine but I don’t mind at all that there is skeptics out there who challenge his authenticity. This is healthy for the debate. At least, I hope those skeptics can be honest and go where the FACTS lead them.

      Also, I want to say that it’s not the skeptics I fear the most in the shroud world but what Ray Rogers call “The lunatic fringe” ! Those who want to use the shroud to “prove” the resurrection of Jesus. They try hard to prove what science will NEVER be able to prove. Those are the real dangerous people out there…

    2. Yannick Clément
      May 12, 2011 at 11:01 am

      I also want to say that honest christian (like I am) can see, with the shroud, a SIGN of the resurrection of Jesus but never a PROOF. I think it’s really important to understand this distinction… The shroud to me is a sign of the resurrection, just like the empty tomb was.

    3. May 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm

      Thank you for your kind words and criticism. I would say however, that although these kinds of discussions may seem like “preaching to the choir” for those of us who are involved in science and skepticism, I think that a site that promotes science and skepticism towards the general public is valuable. Keep in mind, most of this is unknown or uninteresting to the laity.

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