The age-old debate over the Shroud of Turin is being resurrected this Easter — thanks to the attention of a new pope, the creation of a "Shroud 2.0" app, and a new book that claims the cloth dates back to Jesus’ time.
The claim immediately faced a wave of criticism, including a harsh statement from Turin’s archbishop that some say has driven a stake into the book’s heart.
Believers say the centuries-old shroud bears the imprint of Jesus, chemically captured in the cloth at the time of his resurrection. Skeptics say it’s a cleverly done medieval fake, wrapped up in highly debatable scientific claims that just won’t die.
Boyle checked in with Joe Nickell and Vatican Insider:
"As is typical of a religious rather than scientific agenda, their news was shrewdly released just in time for Easter," Nickell said in a blog posting. "That alone casts doubt on the claims, but there is more."
Nickell pointed out that Fanti’s tests "involve three different procedures — each with its own problems — which are then averaged together to produce the result." He said that stands in contrast with 1988’s mass spectrometry tests, which yielded a date range between 1260 and 1390. Fanti says those earlier tests were not "statistically reliable," but Nickell and most scientists are sticking with the verdict rendered in 1988.
As a professional skeptic, Nickell can be expected to voice doubt about the book. But criticism also came from Archbishop Nosiglia.
Because there’s "no degree of security" as to the authenticity of the fiber samples, the shroud’s custodians "cannot recognize any serious value to the results of these alleged experiments," Nosiglia said in a statement quoted by La Stampa’s Vatican Insider. The archbishop’s comments "put stakes into Fanti’s work," Vatican Insider reported.
Somehow I suspect that shroud science is not truly dead, but what do you think? . . .