Timothy P. P. Roberts has written a long reply to my long posting about his comment in which he stated that to not accept – dismiss was the word he chose – the “perfect” evidence of a medieval origin for Shroud of Turin “is a great disservice to the huge efforts of those involved in the radiocarbon dating testing.”
I disagreed. I explained why it was not a disservice and why the carbon dating results could not be accepted. I suppose that he accepts what I said because he has offered no rebuttal. Instead he has changed the subject.
It is a fun comment to react to when we consider first two astounding statements:
- an accusation about me and this blog: “. . . I know bad science when I smell it and this place fairly reeks”
- and a closing sentence that soars above the outer limits of probability: “Even If you were able to scientifically prove to me that this artifact was made Easter day I would still argue that it was more likely to belong to someone long forgotten who died the same day.”
- Ready, set, go:
Let’s agree: If the Shroud of Turin never existed the vast majority of the readers of this blog would still believe that a first century Nazarene named Jesus was Christ – the messiah.
You are probably right though I might be inclined to say a Galilean Jew who may have grown up or lived for a time in Nazareth. (Nazarene as Matthew used the term may have been an attempt at historizing prophecy). Certainly the title Jesus of Nazareth is commonly understood and we are talking about the same person.
The existence or non-existence of relics imparts no influence on the fundamental foundation of Christianity – namely “faith” in the premise of a messiah.
I agree. I might add that the historical narrative, while not scientific, influences faith.
Therefore, the scientific principle of observation, hypothesis, and testing toward repeatable results simply has no place in this blog.
Huh? That just doesn’t follow, that I can see.
The premise that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah is untestable.
I believe that you are right.
The premise that Jesus rose from the dead is untestable.
The premise that Jesus did is untestable.(sic)
Again, I believe you are right.
The messiah’s existence is purely a function of faith. Only YOU know the depth of your beliefs and the best examinations of OTHER people cannot prove whether YOU believe in a god. Your faith has no manifestation that produces repeatable results in the physical realm…and shouldn’t.
Belief in the messiah’s existence as the messiah is a function of faith. Given that, I have no issue with this, I again mention that I give weight to the historical narrative.
Some friends recently asked me to explain String Theory – the model used to explain many of the behaviors presented in the science of phenomenology and partical physics. After a short discussion one of the listeners interrupted me to say they had seen an episode of “Nova” that made String Theory seem very different from my perspective. I pointed out that “Nova” is designed to entertian the laymen and anyone who knows anything about any topic will always see the flaws in newspapers articles on that topic. Entertainment and scientific rigor are orthogonal in their goals. I suggested that two hours of entertaining public televison was not enough training to truly grasp the details and problems in String Theory – a topic is so obtuse that I can count on two hands the number of people for which it is understandable. None of them would claim String Theory is intuitive.
Did you count yourself?
The above tale is a long path to this statement: I have never read anything like this blog. It is very entertaining.
Unfortunately, that which entertains me is the consistent misrepresentation of peer reviewed scientific publications.
Do you want to back that up? That is a very strong charge, you make. I suppose you have some examples.
I give credit to Dan Porter for being driven and faithful to his search for a relic which proves the existence of the Christ.
I am not seeking to prove the existence of “the Christ.” I am not in search of a relic for that purpose. I think I have been consistent in saying repeatedly that 1) I don’t think that anyone can prove that the shroud is real and 2) I don’t believe that the shroud can be used to prove anything about the Resurrection or the divinity of Jesus. I have repeatedly said I don’t want that for I am disturbed by the notion of certainty replacing faith.
But I know bad science when I smell it and this place fairly reeks.
Again, a very strong charge. Examples?
The scientific principle is best guided by one goal: Do not strive to win the argument through rhetoric – work to bury one question in a mountain of irrefutable results. A pile of unrelated tidbits proves nothing but may have the appearence of winning the rhetorical argument.
A rambling rhetorical argument, if ever I have heard one. Examples?
You have faith in Jesus. Leave it there. Why soil your very real and personal faith with an unprovable premise that the shroud represents Jesus’s image?
Even If you were able to scientifically prove to me that this artifact was made Easter day I would still argue that it was more likely to belong to someone long forgotten who died the same day.
Humor me. Let’s pretend I have proven that this artifact was made on that very first Easter day. Argue away.
Original posting: Mixing Up Faith and Science on the Carbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin « Shroud of Turin Blog
Look up “argumentum ad hominem” in your Oxford Guide to Debate. In my response I do not insult you. I do not insult your faith. I do not insult your intent. I do dismiss your ability to scientifically validate an article of faith.
The Virgin Mary burned in my toast is silly. I cannot test whether the source of the image is providence, a bad toaster or a christian mental state. The Shroud is burned toast from a long time ago. It is your faith that makes it an image of Christ. I respect the scientific research of the shroud. However, I reject the snake oil of ideologues driven by the DESIRE to prove the unprovable. Faith is a private commodity and sellers of faith deserve contempt.
I can prove it is cotton/Linen, I can prove it’s age, I can prove it’s blood type. I cannot prove it is Christ’s image. Only your faith can transmogrify the shroud into Christ’s image.
Please, Dan, separate the desire to lash out at me from the discussion. I am imperfect and worthy of your smears – my argument is not.
Tim, how were you insulted? You wrote about porters blog, ‘I know bad science when I smell it and this place fairly reeks’. You are the one throwing about insults. You accused porter of ‘consistent misrepresentation of peer reviewed scientific publications’. Go ahead, give an example. You changed the subject when porter corrected you on the radiocarbon stuff. Now you are changing the subject again after throwing out insulting accusations. What did porter say to insult you? You say that your argument is worthy. What argument? Back up your claims for starters.
Timothy, if you feel that I have insulted you in some way, then I do apologize.
Sir, you did make some extraordinary statements. You wrote, “Unfortunately, that which entertains me [being my blog] is the consistent misrepresentation of peer reviewed scientific publications.” Would you be so kind as to offer some substantiation for that charge. A couple of examples would be helpful.
You also wrote of my blog and by implication of me, “I know bad science when I smell it and this place fairly reeks.” Again, sir, please be so kind as to back up this claim.
You wrote to me, “Why soil your very real and personal faith with an unprovable premise that the shroud represents Jesus’s image?” Frankly, sir, the pursuit of knowledge, even if it cannot go beyond hypothesis or informed inference, is completely consistent with my faith. To my way of thinking, one cannot soil faith by examination and study of any scientific, historical or philosophical premise, improvable or not. If anything, I think it is quite the opposite. It shines new light and meaning onto and into my faith.
You wrote, “Even If you were able to scientifically prove to me that this artifact was made Easter day I would still argue that it was more likely to belong to someone long forgotten who died the same day.” How is it that you think it is more likely to belong to someone else other than Jesus. I agree we cannot know it is Jesus. But I do think we can reasonably infer it if we can reasonably establish that the shroud is a first century burial shroud of someone who appears to have been crucified.
Timothy, you wrote, “I respect the scientific research of the shroud. However, I reject the snake oil of ideologues driven by the DESIRE to prove the unprovable. Faith is a private commodity and sellers of faith deserve contempt.” Are you referring to me? If so, please understand that I have never advocated proving the improvable. If you are not referring to me, then who?
Can you back up any of the above mentioned claims? Again, if I have insulted you, perhaps you could give an example. Regardless, accept my apology.
I present an example of bad science, in this case, bad statistics: I am stung by a Bumble Bee when I am five years old. The pain of the moment makes me sensitive to bees for my entire life. As an adult – while visiting Guatamala – I am stung again. I am unable to identify the stinging beast and I search everywhere for a large insect of the species Bombus. When I ask a local Guatamalan what kind of bumble bees they have there he shows me a a terribly poisonous variety that sends me into a tizzy. The wise Guatalaman asks to see the bumble bee sting and I show him the red pin-prick. He laughs and walks away whistling.
The item that was common to both the event in my youth and in Guatamala was a “sting”. A scientist would take the evidence (a sting mark) and identifiy the animal (or plant) that leaves that type of symptom. The layman’s assumption of a bumble bee (or any bee) is biased by their life experience and unfounded by statistics – Guatamala has a much larger population of stinging ants. The layman’s method is based upon a desired result – bumble bees.
So what? The shroud of turin was assigned an age based upon a statistical sample of Radiocarbon 14 dating. That date has error based upon a known sample size. By identifying noise in the equipment and accuracy of the C14 methods used, those error bars can be very accurately bounded by the sample size. The most familiar example of systemic error is for bell curve (Gaussian) distribution of the sample. Statisticians say the resulting error is some “sigma” the distribution.
The shroud date is a function of the age of the flax and cotton plants growth date and the natural rate of decay for the C14 isotope. That rate of decay is not linear and therefore requires calibration against another well documented example – Irish Oak Tree rings (dendrochronology) with their own error. Those errors are combine to present a 1 sigma answer. Sometimes it is easier for people to understand the error by saying the date is accurate to “plus or minus” some years.
The process was overseen by the British Museum and published in Nature. The shroud has been dated to within some sigma of error. That date does not fall near 32 AD. However, if that date fell exactly on 32AD, all I know is that the fabric was woven some time after the date the flax (and cotton) was grown. I know nothing about the image on the fabric. Most importantly, I don’t know if the image is of a dying, recovering or dead man.
A scientist would see the results of the Nature paper and set out to discover what natural process or man-made action in the 14th century created an image of a man on the sheet. A historian sets out to uncover the events which elevated the artifact to religious relic.
The layman sees only the image on the sheet (the sting of a bumble bee) and sets out to discredit the Nature article.
I don’t care whether your discomfort with the medieval date is a function of religion or a good understanding of statistics. You can easily eliminate your demon: just date another sample and reduce the error bars on the Nature results. But if you cannot do that – searching for an unrelated method to discredit the Nature paper is goal-based rhetoric and not science. However, it is tremendously entertaining! I find myself skipping lunch to read your blog!
I am no fool – I know that your “seeking” is stronger than my lesson in error analysis. I was destined to fail by addressing the wrong audience – a sampling error on my part. I wish you only the best and hope your readers are able to exercise their demons and find peace.
I do not believe that the shroud is authentic for various reasons. Radiocarbon dating is not one them. Sceptics would be well advised to never mention these badly bungled tests again.
Timothy Roberts doesn’t seem to realize that statistics, no matter how carefully done, cannot compensate for non-homogeneity or material intrusion in a sample. Neither peat bogs nor mollusks that lived in carbon enriched water nor shrouds that have been mended with new thread can be radiocarbon dated, no matter how brilliant one might be with statistics.
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