The idea of something being authentic is "just too powerful"

Joe Marino writes:

imageThe Military Channel has a new series called "Myth Hunters."  I just finished watching my recording from 16 January.  The 1 hour episode was called "Quest for the True Cross" and featured German author/historian Michael Hesemann [pictured].  (Hesemann gave one to two presentations at the 2001 Dallas Shroud conference.)

While historical documents, certain archaeological data and comparative paleography indicate that the titulus crucis from the Santa Croce in Rome is authentic, the C-14 dating performed in 2002 did not agree.  The results came out something like AD 842-1000.

The program spent several minutes on the Shroud.  Robert Wilcox was interviewed for that portion and expressed doubts about the reliability of the C-14 results in that case.  (Bob, you should have alerted us you were going to be on.)  But they let a C-14 scientist give the old line that C-14 is practically infallible.

Although the program did give most of the time to Hesemann, at the end they once again touted how reliable C-14 is.  The narrator ended by saying that believers won’t accept the reliability of the results in the case of the titulus crucis because the idea of it being authentic is "just too powerful."

Once again we have a case of mainstream science accepting the validity of C-14 dating over a wealth of other scientific and historical information that conflicts with the dating.

What has happened to science? When did it lose an open mind perspective?

17 thoughts on “The idea of something being authentic is "just too powerful"”

  1. Did I not read somewhere that: “If the results of C-14 tests confirm an author’s belief it is given prominence in their paper; If it is out by a few hundred years, it is relegated to a footnote; if it is out by several 100 years, it is ignored completely.” In the case of the Shroud, the results confirmed the skeptics’ view of the matter and so was given prominence!

  2. Did I not read over and over again in various studies that the C-14 1988 dating did not first put their samples under a microscope to see the dye, the glue and the spliced cotton with older linen?

    1. No you did not read anything of the kind. You may have read:
      “Because it was not known to what degree dirt, smoke or other contaminents might affect the linen samples, all three laboratories sub-divided the samples, and subjected the pieces to several different mechanical and chemical cleaning procedures. All laboratories examined the textile samples microscopically to identify and remove any foreign material.” (From Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin, Damon et al. Nature, 1989)

    2. Hugh: What then do you make of Rogers’ assertion that the area from where the samples were taken were contaminated by cotton, gum arabic, and dyes? Do we know if the labs came to the same conclusion, did they remove the contaminating material, or did they fail to identify it, or what? Did they only test pure linen, or merely subject the samples to routine testing, and then test that?

      1. The labs were careful to make sure that all contamination was removed, both physically, by vacuuming, ultrasound and tweezers and chemically, by solution in acids and alkalis. The cleaning process happens in a closed bath, and I do not know if any note was taken of the colour of the waste cleaning fluid to see if it had extracted anything. Probably not. They then tested pure, uncontaminated, specimens. If cotton was an intregral part of the specimen, then they tested that. If it was merely a surface contaminent, then they didn’t. They did not fail to identify contaminents. Oxford even sent a thread off to have it identified, while others mention, in particular, red silk fibres and shreds of wax. These were removed.

        So what was Rogers’s cotton, dye and gum arabic? The answer may lie in his Diagram 18, in Scientific Method Applied to the Shroud of Turin ( Although it is labelled “UV Fluorescence photograph” it looks nothing like one, and much more like an ordinary photo, but that doesn’t matter here. What is important is that the backing cloth under the Raes sample area is bright white, while the rest of it is much darker. This suggests to me that some attempt was made to stain the backing cloth to make it ‘fit’ the shroud better, quite possibly by smearing it with a cotton pad damp with a mixture of dye and gum arabic. Such a process would only affect the surfaces in contact with the cloth (which is why the backing cloth under the Shroud stayed white) and liberally scatter cotton, dye and gum over the margins of the shroud.
        Needless to say, all this gunk was removed and had no effect on the C14 dating.

  3. Hugh, you seem quite convinced the C-14 testing, and subsequent results, are impeccable. Do you see any problems at all for the C-14 data? Any potential Achilles heel at all?

  4. [T]he idea of it being authentic is “just too powerful.”

    Actually, there’s an awful lot of truth in that statement. It’s why opponents (I think the term fits) of the Shroud and other relics are so willfully determined to ignore any evidence favoring authenticity. They’re stuck in a cognitive loop: The Shroud _isn’t_ real because it _can’t_ be real, because if it is…well…it just _ISN’T_ real.

  5. The raison d’etre of the BSTS is to investigate the Shroud in all its aspects. Just because one man, even if he is the editor, throws doubt on one particular hypothesis doesn’t of itself mean that the question of authenticity is solved, and even if it were, it would not detract from the fascination the image inspires of so many people, and its pre-eminent position as an icon of Christianity.

    I don’t know how many “opponents of the Shroud” Jeff knows, or knows about. I know several, and can assure him that they are not “willfully determined to ignore any evidence favouring authenticity.” On the contrary, I often find that the reverse is the case. There are commenters on this very blog who declare something along the lines of “either the Shroud is genuine or it is the work of Satan so anybody who denies its veracity is one of his ministers.”

    I am inclined towards a 13th century origin for the Shroud, mostly on the basis of the C14 date which I do not think has been satisfactorily discredited. If that makes me an ‘opponent,’ I should be grateful to know if there is any evidence at all that I appear to have ‘willfully determined to ignore.’

  6. It is true that the C14 date has not been satisfactorily discredited in scientific papers, however there are also many doubts about the entire procedure beginning at Turin and ending with the three laboratories that have not been satisfactorily answered.
    Now on another recent thread I was indirectly accused of “over-speculation” when it came to the Jospice Mattress Imprint, and also had to read that both this image and the one on the TS were possibly the work of artists. I will leave the question about an artist and theTS to Shroudies who have better images and data. What I want is a detailed paper on how an artist produced the image on the mattress, not forgetting to tackle each and every minute detail we have about the imprint, including the details prior to and after Les’ death.

  7. Any truth to French rewoven cotton fibers compressed into the linen fibers in that area?
    And why the varying range of dates from high Arizona 1430 to low 1238? What about the absence of lignin that Rogers documented in the Shroud’s linen fibers he tested.

  8. These are some of the doubts mentioned in the first paragraph above that have to be addressed. A number of papers have been published, the doubts have not been removed, and the debate is still raging.

  9. And too, Hugh, if you are favoring a 13th century origin of the TS… what would provide that impetus save for the 1988 C14 dating? Looking at the image itself there can be no denying the Roman flagrum lashes, the crown of thorns, the body killed by crucifixion, none of which practices were used in the 13th century. It would be a very far fetched 13th century cult willing to contrive such a forgery. Not even the Cathars would conceive of such a notion! Looking at the image alone one relates it immediately to the Jesus of the Gospels… not to a 13th century forgery.

  10. Sadly, I can’t provide pat replies for every anomaly observed on the shroud, and I agree that the vanillin question certainly deserves more investigation. Also, although they did not discuss the cause, I was impressed by Riani and Atkinson’s statistical analysis of the chronological gradient along the sample strip. I don’t know where you get your age-range from. The Nature paper gave 1390-1260, although I believe 1330-1260 is a better assessment.
    As for a 13th century creation. if the image is intended to represent Christ it is hardly surprising that it shows the marks of the wounds as listed in the Gospel. How accurate they are we cannot guess, in the absence of any archaeological evidence – they may be hopelessly wrong. And it was not necessarily a deliberate forgery by a far fetched cult. Byzantine Christianity specifically requires that mass be said on a symbolic shroud, Byzantine altars are wrapped in symbolic shrouds, and Byzantine priests are given a symbolic shroud when they are ordained. Symbolic shrouds are paraded through the streets at Easter tide. Many of these are elaborately decorated with representations of the dead Christ. There were, and are, a lot of symbolic shrouds about.

    1. Letter from Theodore Angelos-Komnenos to Pope Innocent III complaining of pillage: “most sacred of all, the linen … Our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before his resurrection …in Athens.” Clearly it was no longer in Constantinople after 1204, but was headed to western Europe, where there there seems to have been little appreciation that altar cloths had burial cloth significance. Hardly corroborative of a Byzantine 13th c. creation therefore!

      Alternatively: Vignon, De Lage, Barbet, Willis, Bucklin and Zugibe, to name only a few forensic pathologists all agree that the wounds are anatomically accurate, and differ only in matters of minor detail. Conclusion would then have to be some genius Byzantine found a suitable victim matching the facial features of the then known Mandylion in wide circulation, and inflicted on him the punishment described in the gospels, as well as having the secret of how to create an image that has eluded the scientific establishment to this day. It doesn’t have legs, Hugh, and can’t run! Or maybe the named pathologists don’t constitute in his mind an appropriate forum of peer review??!!

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