A reader writes:
I was just reading your post The Shroud of Turin story brings up all the usual issues about click-bait journalism. You suggest reading The Shroud of Turin, pseudoscience, and journalism by Joel Achenbach in his Washington Post blog.
I was amazed to see that his blog picked up 2084 comments as of this evening. In scanning through them I noticed our own Colin Berry being himself. [See screenshot above]
More to the point. This story about a mythical earthquake and mythical science about neutron radiation from earthquakes affecting carbon 14 dating has damaged shroud credibility in a big way. Right up through the upcoming exhibition in 2015, this ludicrous bit of pseudoscience will be quoted in newspapers as the so called “scientific” reason why those of who think the shroud is real believe the carbon dating is wrong. Forget Fanti. Forget the repair hypothesis. Something needs to be done. With all due respect you and your wonderful hip blog and Barrie Schwortz appearing on late night radio is not enough. The Shroud Science Group should issue a public condemnation of Alberto Carpinteri’s paper published in the journal, Meccanica.
I found the comment by Colin and put the screenshot on top.
Should the SSG do anything? I’m not sure. Will this story carry that much weight? Time will tell.
The New Republic has picked up Jerry Coyne’s blog post and called the piece “Pseudo-scientists are still trying to convince you that the Shroud of turin is real. Don’t believe them.” Coyne has dressed it up a bit and added, as he tells us in his blog:
Thanks to the readers’ suggestions, I’ve added Richard Carrier’s objections to the “earthquake hypothesis” and also linked to Greg Paul’s article noting the unrealistic proportions of the “Jesus” image on the Shroud.
Comments are flying at New Republic. Here is part of one that caught my eye by someone called nsecchi:
My purpose [is] to suggest that the Shroud of Turin be given longer shrift than that afforded by the author of the piece. The 1986 carbon dating that he lays such credence to has been recognized to surely be incorrect. The part of the cloth tested was from a patch, done in medieval times, to the Shroud. The Shroud of Turin does have mysteries that make it unique in human history. It was certainly not painted as the author believes. The Shroud of Turin warrants an unprejudiced study, in greater humility than that afforded by the author of this piece. .
And here is one by FMcManus:
I don’t understand why so many people who hate religion spend so much time disproving things almost no religious people believe. And in this case, the religious people who do believe the things disproved would insist emphatically that those beliefs are ancillary and unimportant to their fundamental convictions.
As a Catholic myself who has found the Shroud interesting and unusual, I’ve often hoped its mysterious quality would not ever be explained by scientific investigation. But at the same time, I’ve also hoped scientific investigation would rigorously examine the Shroud and all the claims surrounding it precisely in an attempt to reveal it as non-supernatural. It’s been a few years since I did much reading on the subject, so I don’t know where things stand now.
The earthquake theory strikes me as rather absurd on its face, and simply not worth the debunking it’s subjected to in this article. But the tone of the article is so absurdly shrill, so intent on adopting a sneering contempt for its subject, that it’s inconceivable anyone really interested in scientific investigation of the Shroud would take it seriously. One comes away from it with the impression Jerry Coyne obtained his understanding of religion from reading nothing more sophisticated than a handful of Chick comics.
When you openly despise the people whose beliefs you loathe, you’re not being scientific. You’re just being a bigot.
Of course I’m picking with bias. Your mileage may vary.
So what do we all think. Is this a big deal problem? Should SSG get involved? Is this blog hip?