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Badder Still: Bad Archaeology at Bad Archaeology

So the blog owner at Bad Archaeology doesn’t like what I wrote. Let’s take it bit by bit:

And finally, there’s a recent criticism of the page devoted to The Turin Shroud. Rather than comment, the person who disagrees with what I wrote, a blogger called Dan Porter, has written an entire blog post, Bad Archaeology at Bad Archaeology (how I wish I could have used that title!). In his comment on Bad Archaeology, he calls it a “comprehensive response”, but it’s far from comprehensive. It cherry picks elements of the page for specific criticisms, but I found that I had to delete only two errors of fact.

Only two errors of fact? I agree I should not have used the word comprehensive. Point well taken.

What Dan Porter has done has been to use the very dubious claims of Ray Rogers that the linen samples used for radiocarbon dating were contaminated, . . .

Is this how good archaeology is done, claiming something is dubious without the least bit of explanation? Dubious? Why? To the contrary, a mountain of evidence now exists in support of Rogers. It is indeed the carbon dating undertaken in 1988 that is dubious. Click on Read More below to see a comprehensive enough list of reasons to doubt the carbon dating.

. . . to press on with the silly notion that the image on the Shroud encodes three-dimensional data (an inexplicable miracle!) and generally disagree with what I wrote.

What his criticism did allow me to do was to test the claims about the encoding of three-dimensional data in images. I took a well known facial image and processed it with results that look fairly similar to those obtained from the Shroud. It even rendered unevennesses in the photographic print as three-dimensional! Another miracle!

It is painfully obvious that over at Bad Archaeology the concept of the three-dimensionality in the image is not any better understood than it is by our friend Sciencebod over at Science Buzz. It is painfully obvious because BA resorts to mockery. No one that I know of claims that the 3D data content or how it plots to an elevation is miraculous. Where did BA get that idea? Granted, some people think the image was recorded by the Resurrection. That part would be miraculous. Others do not. Rogers, for one did not. Plenty of people who participate in this blog don’t think so. For an introduction to the 3D encoding read Sciencebod’s 3D Problem.

The green picture of Einstein (copied over from BA) is supposed to explain what? Any picture will plot something even indented eyebrows. Is that understood at Bad Archaeology?


1. Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425 Issue 1-2, 2005, pages 189-194, by Raymond N. Rogers, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of California) – The peer-reviewed article is available on Elsevier BV’s ScienceDirect® online information site. The abstract reads:

The combined evidence from chemical kinetics, analytical chemistry, cotton content, and pyrolysis/ms proves that the material from the radiocarbon area of the shroud is significantly different from that of the main cloth. The radiocarbon sample was thus not part of the original cloth and is invalid for determining the age of the shroud.

Ironically, Rogers was trying to prove that the “results are accurate and the samples came from the shroud.”

2. Microscopical Investigation of Selected Raes Threads from the Shroud of Turin by John L. Brown, retired Principal Research Scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Energy and Materials Sciences Laboratory. This is a 2005 independent, by-different-means confirmation that the carbon 14 dating was flawed.

3. The 2008 work of Bob Villarreal and a team of nine scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory which confirmed that the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin is wrong. According to Villarreal:

[T]he [1988] age-dating process failed to recognize one of the first rules of analytical chemistry that any sample taken for characterization of an area or population must necessarily be representative of the whole. The part must be representative of the whole. Our analyses of the three thread samples taken from the Raes and C-14 sampling corner showed that this was not the case.

4. Chemistry Today (Volume 126, Number 4, pages 4-12, July-August 2008 by M. Sue Benford and Joseph G. Marino). Discrepancies in the radiocarbon dating area of the Turin shroud.

5. A 2009 paper, Cotton in Raes/Radiocarbon Threads: The Example of Raes #7, by Thibault Heimburger; published on the STERA site.

6. A 2010 paper, Carbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin: Partially Labelled Regressors and the Design of Experiments, co-authored by Marco Riani, Anthony C. Atkinson, Giulio Fanti and Fabio Crosilla; recently published on the website of the London School of Economics. The abstract reads:

Due to the heterogeneity of the data and the evidence of a strong linear trend the twelve measurements of the age of the TS [=Turin Shroud] cannot be considered as repeated measurements of a single unknown quantity. The statement of Damon, Donahue, Gore, and eighteen others (1989) that “The results provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval” needs to be reconsidered in the light of the evidence produced by our use of robust statistical techniques.

But even in going back to 1988, we can’t help but notice warning signs that something was amiss that the testers, themselves, seemed to ignore. Perhaps that was a disservice to each other and the public at large.

Responding to criticism « Bad Archaeology

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