It is thus but may not be–Richard Dawkins should ignore the challenge


Revised (Paulette’s concurs by email) to remove a couple of sentences that Colin Berry complained were attacks on his character. Ironic?

Paulette writes:

Wait a minute, people. The Dawkins Challenge is not about the C14 testing. It is not about redoing the tests or even explaining them away. It is about explaining the image.

David Rolfe’s letter to Dawkins states, “The challenge then, if you choose to accept it, is to explain how the Shroud and its image might have come into existence. You will find a list of the most significant image characteristics here. If you cannot pin it down then, in all conscience, you should, at least, give it the appropriate respect as an enigma. If you can explain it then this site’s title becomes a misnomer and you will have solved a great mystery. Everyone would like to see this matter resolved. Could you be the one to do it?”

Charles Freeman wrote, “I am totally mystified by the Challenge unless David Rolfe can provide Richard Dawkins and his assembled team of textile experts with a scientific laboratory at the Challenge’s own expense and permission to take the Shroud there for a full examination. Otherwise it is like asking a doctor to diagnose an illness of a patient without seeing the patient.”

To which Louis replied, “Charles, This doesn’t seem necessary as all the significant image characteristics are available to him as they have been to others, Garlaschelli (Italy) and Allen (South Africa) being only two of them. It is thus evident that these characteristics have been accepted even by people, scientists included, who have not made a full examination. The ball, therefore, seems to be in Dawkins’ court.

Freeman then responded, “Louis, And you think that science has not advanced since these studies were made? Modern methods would achieve a vastly more sophisticated analysis of the Shroud and it would be right for Dawkins to refuse to accept the challenge on these grounds alone.”

Although I am convinced that the shroud is authentic and Dr. Freeman is not, I must agree with him in what he has written about the challenge.

Louise, in what I quoted above, wrote, “It is thus evident that these characteristics have been accepted even by people, scientists included, who have not made a full examination.”

Absolutely not. Each, including Dr. Garlaschelli and Dr. Allen, have used or claimed different image characteristics. xxx xxx

When David Rolfe first issued his challenge he used as criteria a list from a paper by Giulio Fanti. He assumed that people accepted the list until he discovered that nobody accepted it. Nobody! Then he put together a cabal of folks at Valencia and declared a list of image characteristics by consensus. Even Dr. Fanti agreed with it before he didn’t. Even Barry Schwortz agreed with it before he understood it contradicted everything he had been saying for years.

Point one of that list now reads, “The body image is created by molecular change of linen fibres. There are also bloodstains. There is no body image beneath the bloodstains. (For the avoidance of doubt, this characteristic does not exclude the possibility that the molecular change may have taken place in an impurity layer at the linen surface).”

Read, ‘It is thus but may not be.’ Amazing! Absolutely amazing! The part in italics and parentheses was added later after Dr. Rolfe discovered that half the world of shroud studies did not agree with the first sentence approved by the Valencia cabal.

There are seven points in the list. There should be at least twenty. By omitting points – what happens when you form a list by a committee – you unintentionally imply that certain characteristics are not important.

We should admit the truth. Let’s be honest. We don’t have a good handle on the image characteristics. Science has advanced significantly since original studies were made. Modern methods should achieve a vastly more sophisticated analysis of the Shroud. Richard Dawkins should ignore the challenge until new methods can be employed.

I agreed with a complaint by Colin Berry and have blue-penciled out some wording and replaced it with what I felt was appropriate. Apologies to Colin Berry and David Rofle.

20 thoughts on “It is thus but may not be–Richard Dawkins should ignore the challenge”

  1. I have read in the message the following interesting words :
    >Modern methods should achieve a vastly more sophisticated analysis of the Shroud …
    Modern methods (= AFM and CFM controls, etc.) can solve the problem,
    I agree on that statement because I tried to point the attention to the SPM controls in 1998 (in Turin, during the International Congress).
    But it seems that few researchers want to work in this direction. Until now no clear results.
    In 1998 the claims by Prof. Fanti focused the attention toward the NMR, now he has changed idea and speak about the mechanical analyses, perhaps the controls will be in the field of the SPM.
    — —
    So …
    What is your own exact idea about the modern methods ?
    What is your preference ?
    — —
    For instance :
    I believe it will be possible to map the Shroud with the new advanced microscopies.
    Before that important and difficult control we can work using the few linen fibrils (without the destructive methods = No 14C !) taken in the past.
    — — —
    B.T.W. : What is your opinion about the strange Strontium controls ?
    These controls are not interesting for the discovery of the true epoch and for the possible B.I.F.
    — —

  2. I think the takeaway is this: If Freeman thinks it is unfair to challenge Dawkins without full access to the Shroud etc., how is it he can so blithely opine on the Shroud without the same?

    1. I never comment on the scientific evidence other than to raise the query of how to square a blood grouping of AB with the commonly held view that this blood grouping was not known before AD 900. I leave all the discussions about Maillard reactions etc, aside. It is BECAUSE I am not a scientist that I call more up-to-date scientific tests. It would fill in the gaps which I am unable to make a judgement on.
      I came into this field because I was shocked by the inadequacy of Wilson’s work on the Shroud- not the only one,of course: Byzantine scholars in general and Yannick Clement on this site share this view. Having worked for two and a half years on relic cults as well as many more years than that on the history of early Christianity with work peer-reviewed and published by university presses, I felt I had something to offer.
      I did start work, many years ago, as an archaeologist and have much more confidence in radio-carbon 14 dating than some others here , as I am aware of how many dating problems it has solved to everyone’s satisfaction. Any reputable person working in a r-c lab knows all the pitfalls that can distort dates and will state these alongside their findings but overall the accuracy is greater than most other forms of dating. It should be one ,but only one, element in achieving a final dating of the Shroud. It should certainly be able to rule out a first century date if the Shroud is not authentic.

      1. Freeman; “I never comment on the scientific evidence other than to raise the query of how to square a blood grouping of AB with the commonly held view that this blood grouping was not known before AD 900.” – Mr. Freeman I suggest you do some research into this area as it has been found that the AB blood grouping is not a recent blood group and the ‘commonly held’ view you mention, has never been substantiated, nor can anyone place where it came from or by whom. Several findings in Egyptian and Peruvian mummies, amongst other findings have shown blood type AB existed thousands of years ago. So there is absolutely no truth to the statement that AB only dates to 900 AD, none whatsoever.

        As to your statement on C14; Hogwash! Your comment above, alone proves to me you have very little to no understanding on radiocarbon dating, its shortcomings, and it’s certain fallibilities to NOT be taken as any answer to any age determination on it’s own.
        To state otherwise shows a naivety on the subject.


      2. Reply to Ron. I base my ideas on the accepted works of scholarship. In the case of radiocarbon dating, pages 136- 147 in the most authoritative work on archaeology, Renfrew and Bahn’s Archaeology, Theories, Methods and Practice, sixth edition, 2012 , sets out the issues well. These pages have lots of tables and discussions on the strengths and limitations of radiocarbon dating and in the same chapter look at all the other dating methods. They conclude,p.143, ‘If we seek to answer the question’When?’ in archaeology, radiocarbon has undoubtedly offered the most generally useful way of finding an answer…radiocarbon has transformed our understudying of the past, helping archaeology to establish for the first time a reliable chronology of world cultures’. So, rather than taking my word for it, I shall refer you to Bahn and Renfrew whose credentials are easily found online.

        The Egyptian and Peruvian examples have long since been shown to be false- I think it was even on this website that it was shown how retesting had shown that the Egyptian examples in particular were not AB blood at all.

      3. Further to Ron: On AB in Latin America for the pre-European contact populations. As they are almost all O in Latin America and with virtually no As or Bs known, AB is virtually impossible in the pre-1490s population. ‘Type O is particularly high in frequency among the indigenous populations of Central and South America, where it approaches 100%’. This is easy to check and one study of ancient burial sites failed to find a single corpse that was not O.
        In any case as there was no contact with Europe before the 1490s, this is irrelevant for the Shroud.

      4. Not that it is relevant for Shroud studies . . .

        Distribution of ABO blood types
        in various modern Indigenous Amerindian populations
        Test results as of 2008[80]

        PEOPLE GROUP O (%) A (%) B (%) AB (%)

        Peru 100 0 0 0

  3. Paulette, do you think we can go on for new tests on the Shroud without settling the question of the 1988 radiocarbon dating ?

  4. There is no point in mincing words. It is evident that the main characteristics listed in the challenge are valid and there seems to be no justification to still insist on carbon dating. New developments in science can help, but the Church always moves slowly. And, as I told Charles, the relic is not part of the deposit of faith.

    1. As I have previously underlined with Paulette, in my opinion, the science move slowly !
      No new (or strange) destructive 14C tests are required to know the truth !
      We have to work testing the linen fibrils and using the SPM (= Scanning Probe Microscopy) techniques we can see what happened (also … after the centuries).
      IMO this is the right way to follow.
      Why after 14 years (starting from the year 1998, in Turin !) there is no true answer ?
      Where are the comparisons about the areas involved (in some manner) in the burning, with respect the other areas ? This is an important question.
      You cannot point the finger toward the Church for that lack of scientific knowledge on linen fibrils and thin layers (under the adequate advanced microscope the scientific truth will be the answer).
      When you want to work then you can use the different combinations, for example : AFM and Raman, etc. … These comparisons are another important step.
      So …
      What is the meaning for the strange discussions about the 14C ?
      Now we can work in a different manner (without destructive works) !
      Do you agree ?

  5. Valencia did not unfortunately bring anything that was really new and paved the way for fresh controversy. As mentioned previously, new advances in science can extract more information from the Shroud, but the main characteristics appearing in the challenge remain basically intact. It appears that the ecclesiastical authorities are cautious, probably the result of the controversy that has been going on for years, much of it generated by inflated egos, and hesitate to take any action that may lead to another bombshell (the first was the restoration).

    We will have to wait for the BSTS meeting, which is promising. Fresh developments are sure to come from there.

    1. I follow the discussion and I see that you speak (in a vague manner) about the advancement of the Science, but you disregard the SPM way.
      Why ?
      It seems that in Valencia there was not the paper with the SPM analyses, but (as I have underlined before) this is a key point in the researches around the linen fibrils and the thin layers …
      But, before to go in the details about the possible analyses SPM, I also see another thing to discuss :
      I have observed that you (and the other friends) disregarded the Raman analyses of the year 2002 (by Renishaw).
      What happened ?
      We have not yet read the inherent results.
      It seems that we have not yet the paper. It was not published.
      Why ?
      Have you found the rough Raman data obtained in 2002 ?
      Perhaps they failed the control or there is another reason to wait …
      What is your opinion ?
      This is a particular question, but I consider as an important step the discussion about the lack of data for the Raman analyses of the year 2002, before to speak about the new scientific analyses.
      What is your idea ?

  6. Piero, if you are referring to my previous comment, my advice is for you to have a look at other things I have written and refrain from making comments like “and the other friends”. From where did you get the information about “the other friends”? What exactly in my comment about the advances in science demonstrates a “vague manner”, if it refers to advances in general? You must contact the many scientists involved in Shroud research to get the information, but in a professional way.

    1. First of all : I want to respect You and the International Meetings about the Shroud of Turin.
      — —
      You wrote : “”You must contact … “.
      In the past I tried to contact some expert in the field of the AFM, but I obtained no great results.
      In my opinion “the many scientists involved” in the studies don’t follow the right way : the advanced analyses about the material (taking apart the other interesting questions : old and new Carbon dating, etc.).
      Why ?
      What is the exact reason for that behaviour after 14 years (= 1998-2012) ?
      It seems that only Ray Rogers tried to do something using the XPS analyses.
      Recently Prof. Fanti claimed something in the field of mechanical controls, but the proper way (IMO) is the use of the SPM. In this manner we can observe the linen fibrils and the thin layers (= also the so-called “ghosts”, obtained from the tapes).
      — —
      What is your preferred way to control the linen sheet ?
      What is your professional level ?
      I am curious to understand your approach.
      For example : you discarded the question of the Raman analyses of the year 2002 (avoiding that argument), but this is (IMO) an interesting point to discuss.
      The Raman analyses can show something about the BIF.
      Now we can improve the precision (with respect the past Raman analyses of 2002) about the Raman analyses.
      Do you agree ?
      I hope you can send an answer also about this point.
      — —
      The other unclear statement that you wrote was the following :
      >the Church always moves slowly
      I don’t agree on that.
      In the case of the Shroud the Science moves slowly !
      After 14 years we still wait for the exact answer.
      This is a very long period without the right works (apart the first rough attempts).
      — —
      What is your answer ?
      — —
      In my opinion no researcher (= no big name) is interested in a “simple work” that don’t offer the adequate fame or reward.

  7. Piero, It looks like you misunderstood my first comment as it meant that in general whatever scientific work was done on the Shroud (STURP, for example) is still valid and therefore the challenge remains intact. Nothing was said about specific details because my background is not science, but articles are written on this topic whenever some significant discovery is made.

    The Raman analyses is indeed very important and my suggestion is that you contact Professor Giulio Fanti, who has a lot of experience and should be able to give you some guidelines.

    From my point of view, as far as the Shroud is concerned, yes, the Church moves slowly because it depends on what the scientists say and since there is a lot of conflict it cannot take any definite stand. A consequence of this is that Turin has remained silent when it comes to all those pleas for more scientific work and has even refused to make the microphotographs in its possession available.

    1. If I am right the argument to treat in this section was “the challenge and Richard Dawkins” (who should ignore or not the challenge). So, it seems that we are going a bit far from these things…
      — — —
      In any case the main problems to solve are the age (= the true epoch for the Shroud) and the BIF (= Body Image Formation).
      But there are several other unsolved questions.
      How to solve the problems ?
      You cannot work only on old basis (the findings of the STRP, etc.).
      We have to discover something about the linen fibrils (= the probable original epoch) and the thin layers on linen fibrils (= the probable BIF).
      How to discover the useful data ?
      In 1998 (in Turin) my answer was : using the new way : the SPM (= Scanning Probe Microscopy).
      After 14 years I have seen very few works (near nothing) that followed this way.
      You underlined that your background/curriculum is not in the scientific field, so (probably) it is useless to discuss in a deep manner the issues …
      For example :
      You wrote that Raman analyses are very important, but you don’t explained us the reasons for that importance.
      — —
      You suggest that I have to contact the Prof. Fanti, who should be able to give some guidelines. But you forget that Fanti, in 1998, indicated the NMR (and not the Raman analyses). So I was the first to suggest the SPM (in the same year 1998) and the next work by Fanti (probably) will be in that field.
      I add : the Raman analyses (used also in Forensic Science) cannot explain all the things.
      It will be useful to work also with other systems.
      In the past I required to Prof. Fanti some linen samples (adequately treated with the Corona Discharge) to submit to the AFM controls (in order to show the comparisons with the other treatments), but he refused because (first of all) he wanted to read the Plan or the Project prior to send the samples …
      But I am not a worker of a public or private corporation and I have not the adequate supports or a great amount of money to spend.
      Then this is one of the reasons for my previous generic words :
      >In my opinion no researcher (= no big name) is interested in a “simple work” that don’t offer the adequate fame or reward.
      Now I want to add : I am against the destruction of the linen samples and Prof. Fanti seemed to work with some destructions. This was a problem for me.
      If you think that i am excessively painstaking (or hair-splitting), think at the past destructive 14C tests…
      — —
      I hope that Fanti will be able to controls the linen samples without the destructions.
      — —
      And now :
      What is your answer ?
      — — —

  8. Dear Louis,
    If you want to improve your knowledges
    I believe that you can read the following study :
    Imaging Cellulose Using Atomic Force Microscopy
    Series: Methods in Molecular Biology
    Volume: 908
    Pub. Date: Aug-01-2012
    Book Title : Biomass Conversion : Methods and Protocols
    — —
    Try to see under the address :

    >Atomic force microscopy offers the capability of imaging surface structure at the subnanometer resolution and under nearly physiological conditions, therefore providing an ideal tool for cellulose characterization.
    — —
    This is one of the studies where the AFM is used to work on cellulose (and the linen fibrils are mainly composed by cellulose !).
    — —
    I tried to see also under the other addresses :
    (The images are copyrighted by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC).

    But, unfortunately (in that recent work, year = 2012) the cellulosic chains are not yet visible ! …
    — —
    If we know the length of the cellulosic chains we can know the degree of polymerization.
    — —
    Do you agree on that question ?

  9. Piero, Thanks for the leads. I appreciate your dedication and since you understand the topic very well why don’t you write a paper and submit it for publication or for posting on some website? It is not difficult to agree with you about the destruction and the problem seems to be that at times it is something that can not be avoided.

  10. I remember that in 2010 (after the IWSAI) a researcher indicated the emotion to see in vivo a genuine Shroud fiber at the microscope in transmission light, reflected light and between crossed polarizers. But no AFM controls … !
    — —
    In my opinion it’s difficult to avoid the little destructions when we want to work with the analyses. But, at least, the SPM techniques seem to be the right way because using the 14C tests there is a great destruction without repeatibility for the controls. Instead following the SPM controls we can work also on pollen without the great destructions and we can repeat the controls.
    In the past I tried to ask for the IWSAI, but my paper was not complete (with the new analyses).
    — —
    We can speak about the Turin Shroud, the Sudarium of Oviedo, the Manoppello Veil and the Tilma of Guadalupe for hours, but we have also to work in order to show (… if it is possible to receive the permission to investigate) what is the answer from the materials under the advanced analyses …
    Obviously we cannot destroy these relics/reperts during the analyses.
    — —
    In order to avoid the confusions it is better to work on similar relics (for Shroud and Oviedo’s Cloth are lignocellulosic materials instead the Manoppello’s Veil seems to be silkmarine byssus).
    — —
    B.T.W. :
    Yesterday I have found a very old AFM work (1996) :
    Atomic force microscopy of pollen grains, cellulose microfibrils, and protoplasts.

    At that time the level of the analyses was very rough :
    >The AFM analysis of the cellulose microfibrils did not show any substructures. …. !
    — —
    The problem was due to the convolution effects.
    It was also indicated a deconvolution technique (to calculate the true structure of a biomacomolecule) based on gold particle as reference.
    Now the new AFM systems have a good precision.

    Here the address for the old study :

    Click to access vanderwel96protoplasma.pdf

    — —
    Online :
    you can read something about the :
    “Stereo representation of atomic force micrographs: Optimizing the view”,
    by Z. Shao, A. P. Somlyo
    >The usefulness of stereographs for atomic force microscopy (AFM) is discussed and illustrated with AFM stereo images of biological macromolecules. The three-dimensional nature of AFM data makes such display particularly appropriate, as it contains the information in an optimal format for creating stereographs suitable for direct evaluation by the human observer. We describe a simple procedure that employs standard functions in a commercial AFM for creating such stereographs.

    But I am not a biologist …
    — —
    Previously I wrote :
    >If we know the length of the cellulosic chains we can know the degree of polymerization

    But we have also to take into account the centuries and the possible damages (= fungal attacks, Fire of 1532, etc.) and then we have to chosen the proper area to test (after the first attempts on linen fibrils already taken from the Holy Shroud in the past).
    — —
    Have you an idea about the useful address where to send a paper ?
    What is your idea ?

  11. Piero, Yes, the four relics you mention take a lot of time because a lot more investigation is needed. You could send your paper to and/or some website in Italy. Book reviews and other material on religion are taking a lot of my time right now, but if you need to contact me please ask webmaster Dan Porter for the e-mail address. Best wishes.

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