Did a single thread get tested in 1982. Is it important to know? And why?

imageAs I was making a pot of coffee this morning, Jason Engwer was posting a fascinating and important article to Triablogue: The 1982 Carbon Dating Of The Shroud Of Turin.

Once I got to these two paragraphs I couldn’t stop to refill my cup:

There seems to be widespread agreement, among the accounts circulating, that this dating test on the Shroud took place in the early 1980s (my sense is that the large majority say 1982) in California, involving one thread from the Shroud near the area of the 1988 carbon dating, producing two dates differing by several centuries for each end of the thread, one date being close to the time of Jesus and one several centuries later. For example:

"[John] Heller took me back to the train station that evening [in 1984], and as we sat waiting for my train back to New York City, he told me in strictest confidence about a secret C-14 run that had already been made on a thread from the Shroud. He said . . .

Most people, in quoting others, use ellipsis to truncate a quote, feeling perhaps that what follows is not so significant to them. I mean something else. I’m advertising: go read the whole article. But, if you haven’t done so yet, this should inspire you to do so:

It seems to me that Adler’s behavior at the Turin workshop in 1986 supports his credibility on this issue. (The Turin workshop was a meeting, attended largely by scholars in relevant fields, that had the objective of formulating plans for the upcoming carbon dating of the Shroud.) During the course of the meeting, Adler argued for taking samples from multiple places on the cloth and advised that the cloth’s edges and water stain areas be avoided (Harry Gove, Relic, Icon Or Hoax? [Bristol and Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishing, 1996], 153; William Meacham, The Rape Of The Turin Shroud [Lulu, 2005], 74-5). Those recommendations would undermine the significance of the sample allegedly used in the 1982 test. Why would Adler lie about a test in 1982, yet try to persuade the Turin officials to conduct the later carbon dating in a way that would so much undermine the purpose of his lie?

Haven’t jumped over yet? “Here’s my tentative conclusion. . . “, writes Jerry. Not fair fast scrolling to the bottom. Read every word up to Jerry’s conclusion. Now read the conclusion..

So what do you think? Did it happen? Is it important?

19 thoughts on “Did a single thread get tested in 1982. Is it important to know? And why?”

  1. I just sent the author the following email: “I AM EXTREMELY UPSET AT THE WAY YOU’VE PAINTED SUE’S INVOLVEMENT.

    – What Sue Benford reported about her alleged telephone conversation with Rossman is unlikely to have occurred in a couple of ways. For one thing, it’s unlikely that Rossman would confess to a stranger over the telephone.

    – Secondly, it’s unlikely that he’d say that he didn’t want to discuss the matter any further just after confessing. While people sometimes do things that had seemed unlikely, and the scenario Benford described might have occurred, we’re being asked to accept a sequence of events that’s improbable upfront.

    – Benford made some misleading claims about the 1988 tape of Adler, and she claimed to have had an unlikely telephone conversation with Rossman. Has Rossman similarly been misleading or made unlikely claims in a relevant context? Not that I’m aware of. I see no way to deny that Rossman has more credibility.

    YOU MAKE A BLANKET STATEMENT “Benford made some misleading claims about the 1988 tape of Adler…” YOU GIVE NO SPECIFICS–WITH ALL THE IN-DEPTH DETAIL YOU HAVE IN THIS ARTICLE YOU GIVE NO DETAILS TO BACK UP THAT STATEMENT. SHE DIDN’T MAKE ANY MISLEADING CLAIMS.

    REGARDING WHAT SHE REPORTED ABOUT THE PHONE CALL TO ROSSMAN, SHE WOULD NOT HAVE RISKED HER AND MY REPUTATIONS AND A POTENTIAL LAWSUIT BY CLAIMING THAT ROSSMAN SAID SOMETHING HE DIDN’T. JUST BECAUSE WHAT HE SAID AND HIS FOLLOWUP ACTION IS UNLIKELY DOES NOT GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO CAST ASPERSIONS ON MY LATE WIFE.

    AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR ARTICLE YOU ASK ANYONE WITH INFORMATION TO CORRECT OR EXPAND. PLEASE CORRECT THIS.

    1. Is there the possibility that Rossman was appropriating the work of Wasserburg? Perhaps Rossman knew Wasserburg had done the work but Rossman for some reason was going to take the heat (or the glory) for the prohibited tests?

      Way to much speculation involved with this whole avenue of though for my liking. Doesn’t mean there wasn’t some skullduggery afoot, but like the lab hacking theory — a few crumbs of hard evidence would go a long way to making this all matter.

      1. The answer to your question is yes. The excessive confusion in all of this makes the aspersions cast on Sue all the more aggravating.

        1. In this case, instead of saying yes to specific proposed possibility, I should say that given the extreme confusion, anything is possible.

    2. Joe,

      We’re in a situation in which reputations are at stake on both sides. If you’re going to frame this situation as one involving “casting aspersions”, then there’s no way to take a position on these matters without casting aspersions in one direction or the other. If it’s wrong in principle to do that to your wife, then it’s wrong in principle to do it to somebody on the other side. But that’s what you’ve been doing.

      My reference to misleading claims was about the distinction between Jerry Wasserman and George Rossman. In your 2002 article that Caltech responded to and your later reply to Caltech, you say that Adler identified the scientist in question as Rossman. That’s misleading. If Adler gives both the first and the last name of the scientist, and both names differ significantly from George Rossman, then making an unqualified statement that Adler identified Rossman is misleading. Your claim could have been made without any intent to deceive, yet still be misleading. (Elsewhere in my article, when discussing whether people like Heller and Adler lied, I refer to “lying”. I deliberately avoided that sort of terminology in the section we’re discussing. I was intentionally leaving the language ambiguous.) For reasons I explained in the article, it’s probable that Adler was referring to Wasserburg. To lead people to the conclusion that Rossman was identified instead is to mislead. Even if the misleading didn’t involve an intent to deceive, it’s still a form of misleading that Rossman hasn’t been guilty of in any relevant context, as far as I know.

      When Ray Rogers raised doubts about your wife’s credibility, as described in the Ottawa Citizen article I cited, did you respond to him with the sort of all-caps, “I AM EXTREMELY UPSET” approach you’ve taken here? Rogers’ comments were harsher and more dismissive than mine. I think my comments were more restrained than they needed to be and appropriate for the context.

      You and your wife significantly mishandled your treatment of the 1982 test, and that mishandling has led a lot of people astray on that issue for more than a decade. But I’m grateful for the many good things you and your wife have done in Shroud research over the years, and I’m sure you’ll do more in the years to come. I hope your future work will include a revisiting of the 1982 test. You have the tape of the 1988 interview with Adler, which gives you a significant advantage that the vast majority of other researchers don’t have.

      I wish you well. I don’t want to be acrimonious.

      I’ll expand on some of these things when I get a chance to respond to your email, probably tonight or sometime tomorrow.

      1. My reference to misleading claims was about the distinction between Jerry Wasserman and George Rossman.

        Couldn’t simply be both Wasserburg and Rossman involved in that 1982 test? That would explain apparent inconsistences, as I hardly believe the whole job was performed by a single person.

      2. O.K.,

        How would we get to the conclusion that Rossman probably, not just possibly, was involved? I’m not aware of any evidence to that effect aside from Sue Benford’s alleged phone call with Rossman, which I doubt occurred as she described. I’ve explained some of the reasons why in my article, and I have other reasons.

        I suspect that most people over the years who have accepted the Rossman allegation have done so primarily on the basis of Al Adler’s alleged testimony. What if those people had known that Adler names the scientist he’s discussing as Jerry Wasserman?

        1. Frankly, I am tired of all this badgering, so I am now done. I do have other things to do.

  2. We have recently excoriated unjustfied accusations of wrongdoing among the radiocarbon scientists, so it would be very wrong to suggest that the mysterious thread radiocarbon dated in 1982 was actually stolen from the King of Italy in 1978, wouldn’t it? So who authorised who to pull it out?

    And if, by any chance, the owners of the shroud discovered that while in STURP’s custody, someone had not only pulled out a thread, but that it had also, in specific defiance of what was permitted, been carbon dated, would they not have refused STURP any further participation in any scientific study of the shroud, say in 1988?

    Just askin…

  3. I feel as if we’re beating a dead horse. I stand by the original story as it was told. I stand by the comments that I sent to the author, which I had posted. I have responded further to the author via private email.

  4. Re the mysterious thread radiocarbon dated in 1982:

    In the 2005 Alan & Mary Whanger’s paper, “Radiological Aspects of the Shroud of Turin”, to the astute observer’s eye, figures 19 and 20 of the corner where the official carbon dating was done in 1988 do show the exact location of the roughly 8cm long missing thread that was used in the non official 1982 carbon dating test.

  5. I did bring up that point in a private email to the author.

    Joe, you have the audio tape. Who is mentioned there: Rossman, Wasserburg, or both?

    1. It was a hybrid: Wasserman! But “Jerry” was also mentioned, suggesting Wasserburg. But Rossman answered in the affirmative when Sue asked him on the phone if he had been involved. This is emblematic of the extreme confusion in this whole thing. I don’t believe this will get sorted out to anyone’s satisfaction.

        1. I should also point out that at the time Sue talked to Rossman, we were unaware of Wasserburg’s existence.

  6. Joe, you seem to contadict yourself. To my question who is mentioned on the tape: Rossman, Wasserburg, or both, you answered:

    It was a hybrid: Wasserman! But “Jerry” was also mentioned, suggesting Wasserburg.

    When I asked anothere question, where did you get info about Rossman from, you referrred me to http://www.shroud.com/late02.htm It is written there:

    Not only does the tape reveal the institution performing the test, but also refers to Dr. Rossman as the person who did the testing. On the tape, Adler further describes Rossman as a leading expert in the niche area of “moon rocks.”

    So where did Rossman came from? Was it just a guess, combining the phrase “Jerry Wasserman” + moon rocks clue with the closest possible name? Just asking because the claim seems to be a little misleading.

    You wrote also:

    In addition to the audiotape of Adler’s interview, we also have the phone records documenting our two brief phone calls to Rossman’s home on the date specified.

    Are those just the billings, confirming those phone calls indeed took place, or perhaps you have recordings of those conversations?

    1. The fact that people like O.K. are having to ask these questions in 2014, more than a quarter of a century after the tape of Adler was recorded, is a problem. Why has that portion of the tape not been posted online as an audio file, posted in transcript form online, described in detail online, or published in a book, for example? Why can we get occasional quotes and descriptions from people who have a copy of the tape, but with the full content withheld? What legal concerns would allow some people to have the tape, allow them to play it for some people, and allow them to discuss portions of the tape with some people (or with the general public, as Joe and his wife did in 2002), but wouldn’t allow them to make the fuller contents of the tape more widely known? Why do we keep getting such highly selective snippets of the tape’s contents after the tape has been in existence for more than a quarter of a century?

      And why did Joe and his wife not expand on their comments after their response to Caltech? They had years to describe and document the evidential nature of the phone records they had, explain how much Joe could corroborate the phone call, document that people had heard Rossman’s name circulating in association with the 1982 test prior to 2002, produce a transcript of the relevant portions of the tape, interact with Caltech’s claims about the dating capabilities their staff had in 1982, etc. Instead, it’s been a dozen years since Joe and his wife’s response to Caltech, and there’s been no follow-up. That’s one of the reasons why their side of the dispute has some significant credibility problems.

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