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Dissent of the day with a bit of a response

Stephen J. Waddock, an artist, computer artists and graphic artist writes:

Typical of most apologetics, you have have misrepresented both the view of Richard Dawkins and Science regarding Carbon-14 dating. Dawkins does not “admit it is controversial”. His comment/position regarding the Shroud and Carbon-14 dating is:

The dating of the shroud remains controversial, but not for reasons that cast doubt on the carbon-dating technique itself. For example, the carbon in the shroud might have been contaminated by a fire, which is known to have occurred in 1532. I won’t pursue the matter further, because the shroud is of historical, not evolutionary, interest.

I have not misrepresented Richard Dawkins (pictured). Moreover, I fully agree that the controversy is “not for reasons that cast doubt on the carbon-dating technique itself.” However, the example Dawkins gives of fire contamination from the 1532 fire is outmoded and was never really taken too seriously by many people. I assume it is because of inadequate fact checking by the publisher that it appears in print. After all, why would Dawkins research this topic thoroughly given that the book – you are, of course, referring to The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, a wonderful book, which I thoroughly enjoyed and with which I have no scientific issues on the topic of evolution – is not about the shroud. I am a little surprised, though, that a book published in late 2009 doesn’t have a better handle on the scientific developments pertaining to the carbon dating of the shroud that took place over a period of two decades after the test. It is an unfortunate tarnish.

I’m sure you agree that in all matters of science, no conclusion, even carbon dating, should ever be thought of as final and unchallengeable. Why even Einstein was wrong. You should read the posting, here in this blog, called Mixing Up Faith and Science on the Carbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin.

and, you wrote:

and…

Different kinds of radioactive decay-based geological stopwatches run at different rates. The radiocarbon stopwatch buzzes round at a great rate, so fast that, after some thousands of years, its spring is almost wound down and the watch is no longer reliable. It is useful for dating organic material on the archaeological/historical timescale where we are dealing in hundreds or a few thousands of years, but it is no good for the evolutionary timescale where we are dealing in millions of years (1986, p. 226 emp. added).

…but hey, what’s a more-than-little misrepresentation of someone’s position when your arguing for god.

Now, you are citing a different book: The Blind Watchmaker. That was published in 1986 as you say. That was before the carbon dating of the shroud. Nonetheless, what does it have to do with the shroud? And, by-the-way, I have no issue with that text. Nor do I imply that I do.

Is it the pot that calls the kettle . . . or is it the other way around? Oh, and how do you know I’m arguing for God? It wouldn’t do me any good, I suppose, to tell you that my theological perspective is that I should argue for truth no matter where it might lead.

(By-the-way, I share the view of theologian Alistair McGrath that The Blind Watchmaker in an excellent refutation of William Paley’s outmoded views on intelligent design.)

If the carbon 14 tests fail to meet basic and robust statistical standards for sample homogeneity, as they do; if there is credible evidence that what was tested was chemically unlike the whole cloth; and if the cloth contains measurable vanillin, as it does; then we cannot trust the carbon dating no matter how fine the science of radiocarbon dating is. Sadly, Richard Dawkins is apparently unaware of this.

Then changing to the matter of the image you remind me that I wrote, “We simply do not have enough reliable information to arrive at a scientifically rigorous conclusion.” To which you add:

Uh….yes, we do.

The image on the shroud could not have been made from laying the cloth over the face of a individual. It is impossible to accurately render a 2-dimensional image from a 3-dimensional image (of this depth) WITHOUT distortion. Absolutely,physically not possible.

This can be tested by applying a transferable solution to the face of a person and then laying to cloth on the face and applying pressure around the features of the face to transfer the solution to the cloth. When removed and flattened, there would be noticeable spacial distortions between the features of the face.

A more simple way to show this is not possible would be to take a simple character face mask and attempt to flatten it out. You would notice that the different depths of the mask would cause spacing distortion between features such as the eyes, nose and mouth.

Simply not possible.

Uh…. I’m confused. I agree with you. In fact, just about everyone who has ever thought that the shroud was real during past one hundred years agrees with you. It’s a red herring, a favorite argument used by Joe Nickell who doesn’t want to deal with facts.  The point is that we have no idea of how the image was formed. Really, we don’t. And skeptics don’t either.

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