Part 3 is up: Did Stephen Jones make the case?

imageRead Were the radiocarbon laboratories duped by a computer hacker? (3). Did Stephen Jones make the case?

He didn’t intend to:

So it would not be surprising if the atheistic Soviet regime of the 1980s would see it as a legitimate target to discredit the Shroud, and through that Christianity, by one its agents hacking into each of the three radiocarbon dating laboratories’ computers, and replacing the actual radiocarbon dates of the Shroud that the laboratories’ accelerated mass spectrometers were determining, with bogus dates which when calibrated would cluster around 1325 +/- 65 years.

I have presented this proposal as a question, "Were the radiocarbon laboratories duped by a computer hacker?" because in the nature of the case, barring a belated confession, my proposal is unlikely ever to be confirmed as correct, even if it is correct. The hacker would be unlikely to admit it because he would be prosecuted and gaoled for breaking into government computers, as Hess was. And the laboratories would be unlikely to admit they had been duped by a hacker, even if they realised they had been. Whatever evidence there was in the laboratories’ computers, the hacker would almost certainly have deleted it, and even if he didn’t, it is most unlikely that it would still exist in the laboratories’ 1988 computers.

Anyway, in the final analysis it is the Shroud anti-authenticists’ problem to find a explanation for what went wrong with their carbon dating of the first-century Shroud to the 13th-14th centuries. As Thomas de Wesselow pointed out, we Shroud pro-authenticists don’t need to find an explanation of what went wrong with the 1988 radiocarbon date of the Shroud. We can just dismiss it out of hand as a "’rogue’ radiocarbon date" as archaeologists routinely do when a radiocarbon date is contradicted by the majority of the other evidence:

11 thoughts on “Part 3 is up: Did Stephen Jones make the case?”

  1. I personally don’t buy the Hacking claim. Manipulation of the sample would be as far as any one can go if we want to try to discredit the C14 dating. How can you dupe scientists who were there during the counting of the C14 atoms? They can tell before processing the data whether the date would be old or new. I heard one of them on an interview saying that within 5 minutes they knew this was not 2000 years old. If we suspect foul play it’s either the sample was manipulated (before splitting) or nothing. Nothing else makes sense as plausible.

  2. Stephen’s last three posts, on the possibility that the radiocarbon results were produced by a hacker, are so preposterous that, like Carpinteri, Ruello and Bruno Bonnet-Eymard, they weaken the overall credibility of the authenticist case to the point of ridicule. There is a lot of good scientific and historical evidence for authenticity, but if it comes in a package with this nonsense it is hardly surprising that Jerry Coyne, Joe Nickell and other critics regard the whole case for authenticity with contempt. With friends like these, as I said yesterday, who needs enemies?

    As usual Stephen’s basic axiom is that the shroud is genuine. Given that premise as indisputable, it would indeed be surprising that a randomly incorrect radiocarbon age would match the date when the shroud is first mentioned historically. However, in logic, the more improbable a corollary, the less sound is the axiom upon which it depends, and Stephen’s own incredulity actually forces a reconsideration of his basic premise as much as it does an expanation of the corollary.

    Be that as it may, he quotes the unlikeliness of the radiocarbon date matching the historical date as “one in a thousand trillion.” This comes from Harry Gove’s book where it is thrown in at the end of the book with no explanation. It’s nonsense of course. If there is no C-14 in a sample at all, it cannot be dated as older than about a hundred thousand years, and if it contains more C-14 than there is in the atmosphere, it cannot be dated, obviously, to a time in the future. Consequently even if a wholly random date was derived from radiocarbon dating, it would have a one in a hundred thousand chance of being correct. This is ten billion times more likely than Gove’s probability! If a range of a hundred years were acceptable, then the probability that a wholly random C-14 date was co-incidentally correct becomes one in a thousand.

    Still, one in a thousand is pretty unlikely, which is why the 1350 date cannot be dismissed as random, nor, because it conflicts with Stephen’s axiom, can it be dismissed “out of hand.” If it is wrong, it is wrong for a reason. Some sensible reasons have been put forward, more or less credible, but the hacker hypothesis is one of the least.

    1. The first paragraph by Hugh above summarises the problems in the controversy very well. We should only pay attention to whatever is worthwhile reading.

  3. I don’t need to read the article to completely dismiss the dream of a hacker doing this. We were not a connected world back then. There wasn’t a hacker that did it. It was done the old fashioned way: either it was simply poor science or there were payoffs.

    1. Andy, I would agree with poor science or payoff if it was just one lab. It’s three labs, so these claims are even less likely to happen (on a large scale). I do agree with poor science with regards to the sampling procedure or sample qualification before the testing. I also don’t like the fact that they won’t give access to raw data and remaining samples.

  4. This kind of stuff belongs in a paperback novel at best. Back in the U.S.S.R.? Really?


    It’s telling where objectivity lies when such far-reaching explanations are even considered. This kind of thing isn’t even close to poor science, it’s more like Bigfoot science.

    Hacked = Whacked

  5. The C-14 date range actually poses a problem, imo, for the forgery theory. Why would a forger go to the trouble to make something look 1st century but use ‘fresh’ linen? Wouldn’t you try and obtain older linen?

    Colin, if you’re following this, I can see why you have suggested the image was first your Templar, then later revised to be Christ. This hypothesis would explain why the linen was fresh but then needed to be artificially aged to look ancient.

    And before John and Yanonymous pipe in about the absurdity of that hypothesis, I’m not promoting it here. I’m merely pointing out how it is at least consistent in dealing with the problem of a forger brilliant enough to make something look so 1st century, yet failing to make it on older linen.

  6. Matthias :
    This type of rubbish is so counterproductive for the authenticist side

    Yes. This type of extreme reasoning supports the perception of “authentic at all costs” in the media and beyond.

  7. Sample comment, Andy: “I don’t need to read the article to completely dismiss the dream of a hacker doing this. We were not a connected world back then.” Oh, Yes we were, check Hacking history ref on Dan’s previous posting:

    Entry for 1988 (but there are multiple editing issues):
    “The Morris Worm. Graduate student Robert T. Morris, Jr. of Cornell University launches a worm on the government’s ARPAnet (precursor to the Internet). The worm spreads to 6,000 networked computers, clogging government and university systems. Morris is dismissed from Cornell, sentenced to three years probation, and fined $10,000.
    First National Bank of Chicago is the victim of $70-million computer theft.
    The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) is created by DARPA to address network security.
    The Father Christmas (computer worm) spreads over DECnet networks.”
    There are other salient entries dating from 1981.

    But the correspondents’ are right. It wasn’t hacking. It was ditching of the protocols, unrepresentative sampling, and the unfortunate choice of the sampling site. Nothing to do with the labs at all, except they acquiesced in accepting an unrepresentative sample.

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