Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Jones

imageStephen Jones is starting a new “mini-series of posts, setting out the case for fraud in the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud . . .”

This is the last paragraph of part 1 of Stephen’s series:

. . .  I cannot prove that there was scientific fraud in the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, although I firmly believe that to be only viable explanation. All that I can do is to set out the evidence for: 1) what went wrong in that dating; 2) the bias and dishonesty of those involved in the dating; and 3) suggest various ways that scientific fraud might have occurred in that dating. And then leave it to the `men and women of the jury’, my readers, to make up their own minds, based on that evidence.

The preceding paragraph in Stephen’s posting is a quotation by Richard Feynman from his book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)

It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty – a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid-not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, And how they worked-to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated. Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can-if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong-to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it … the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another … I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. (emphasis here is by Stephen)

But are we talking about fraud? Stephen is:

What do I mean by "fraud"? By "fraud" in this context I mean at least the definition of Broad and Wade [right in their book, Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science], of "making results appear just a little crisper or more definitive than they really are, or selecting just the `best’ data for publication and ignoring those that don’t fit the case": (bolding by Stephen)

This ‘mini-series’ sounds promising. Stephen isn’t joking and the title of this posting, being as it is a play on the title of Feynman’s most famous book, is meant as a full-throated compliment to Stephen, assuming he pulls it off.

14 thoughts on “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Jones”

  1. I rather look forward to Stephen Jones’s “Case for the Prosecution,” and hope that I may be allowed to put the “Case for the Defence.” Probably here, as he does not admit of contradictory arguments on his own site.

    He has already attempted to sway the jury by misrepresenting Robert Hedges, one of the radiocarbon scientists. It was the opinion of the radiocarbon team that it would be so improbable for extra neutron radiation to have given a 1st century cloth exactly the date proposed by the forgery hypothesis by chance that the idea could be effectively discounted, and it was much more likely that the Shroud was, in fact, datable to the time they dertermined. Jones, blithely assuming an incontrovertible 1st century date, uses this statement to mean that, since the probability of producing a 13th century date by chance was discountable, it must have been produced deliberately. He has ignored the fact that the radiocarbon scientists were referring specifically to random neutron radiation as the cause of the discrepancy, and implies that no process at all could result in a 13th century date by chance. In saying this he ignores the work of Benford, Marino, Rogers, Villarreal and Brown, all of whom have demonstrated that interpolated weaving could have produced a 13th century date entirely fortuitously.

    De Wesselow is quoted as making a similar argument: “If the carbon-dating error was accidental, then it is a remarkable coincidence that the result tallies so well with the date always claimed by sceptics as the Shroud’s historical debut.” But this is only one half of an opinion. The other half says: “If the carbon-dating was accurate, then it is no coincidence at all that it tallies perfectly with the first known accounts of the Shroud’s appearance.”

    Jones finds a 1st century provenance for the Shroud “overwhelming.” I, on the other hand, do not. However, even if it were, in fact even if it were proved, that would not of itself be evidence of fraudulent radiocarbon dating.

    I have no doubt that Jones will quote Harry Gove and Emanuela Marinelli at length, as they detail any amount of clumsiness, miscommunication and irregularity over the taking of the radiocarbon sample, none of which I dispute. And none of which is fraud.

    I look forward to the Prosecution’s opening statement…

  2. He’s wise to qualify his ‘fraud’ charge to a softer form of ‘scientific fraud’ but it’s still, for academics, a cannon shot across the bow. I will expect the lab(s) to take serious legal action against Jones to protect their integrity. Failure to respond to this public charge would be tantamount to admitting he was right. Mr Jones best be prepared to spend some time in court where the stakes will be much greater than winning opinions on a blog.

    1. Yes, he needs to be careful. The radiocarbon dating labs are serious professional organisations whose prestige depends on their credibility. An accusation of fraud against any one of them or any named living individual involved in the testing might well bring Mr. Jones some unwelcome attention. In English law the onus will be on him to prove the fraud.

      As some may remember he accused me of knowing that the Shroud was authentic but deliberately writing articles to say that it was not in order to make money. As a freelance academic whose professional life depends on me being respected as such, I assume I could have taken him to court. If I had, he would have had to prove that I knew the Shroud to be authentic (how could he have done that?) and that I had made money from something I had written about it. As I have never had a penny paid for anything I have written about the Shroud, I think i would have won the case hands down.
      But then the judge would have turned round and said – ‘Well, who is this Jones guy? Does anyone take him seriously? Certainly he does not seem to have many visitors to his site and is very reluctant to accept alternative points of view. So really you can’t say that your reputation has been damaged, Mr. Freeman. I will just award you £1 to make the point that he was in the wrong and issue an injunction to tell him to stop making such claims.’
      So perhaps it would pay Mr Jones to have professional legal advice before he goes further with his series.

  3. Stephen Jones ; ‘All that I can do is to set out the evidence for: . . . 2) the bias and dishonesty of those involved in the dating.’ Careful careful, Mr Jones. Just check first whether any of them are still alive.

    1. Agreed, Paulette, especially as the issues over the carbon-dating have already been explored in depth over 25 years. What is this series of articles going to add and what is his agenda/ audience anyway?
      I often feel that Mr. Jones might do well to take complete break from the Shroud and develop some other interests!

  4. The mistakes in the 1988 carbon dating started in Turin when Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero, O.C.D., supposedly influenced by the Carmelite way of thinking — there are no material supports — left everything in the hands of Professors Giovanni Riggi and Luigi Gonella. There is evidence to support this allegation, and that is a photograph where the prelate appears leaning over the Shroud, published in one of the older issues of the BSTS newsletter.

    To make matters worse, the protocols prepared by Professor Carlos Chagas were ignored and the rest of the story is known to everyone in the realm of Shroud studies.

    Cardinal Ballestrero did give an interview to a Carmelite magazine shortly before he died, saying that he had been manipulated. What did he mean by that?

    1. From my reading of the interview, it does not seem to me that Ballestrero said to have been manipulated. Of course he said that there had been pressures (among others from sindonological circles) aiming at performing the radiocarbon dating (as is well known), but this does not imply that he had been manipulated. At any rate, here is the text of the interview (in Italian) if you can manage to understand it with the help of an automatic translation.

      Click to access DSS001_10%20-%20intervista%20Ballestrero.pdf

      I have the issue of the magazine and the above text online seems to be adherent to the original. There may be some slight error in the transcription, for example “con più con intendimenti devozionali” (p. 21) has to be corrected to “non più con …” (no longer with). At the end of the previous page the sentence “Penso sia indiscutibile” has the “indiscutibile” in bold type, not so in the original. This sentence was in answer to a question about any intervention of freemasonry, but I have little doubt that there must have been a misunderstanding with the interviewer. In his answer Ballestrero does not mention freemasonry.

  5. I read the interview years ago. Do you have an explanation for why Cardinal Ballestrero changed his mind?

    1. I don’t know. But I would think that Ballestrero had never explicitly endorsed a fake Shroud. In 1988 he had to announce the results of the laboratories, what else could he do?

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