It is not even good conspiracy theory
He tells us in a new blog posting today that each AMS control console – that would be at Oxford, Zurich and Tucson – was hacked. This was done so that an elicit software routine could replace first century or earlier date measurements with dates that ‘cluster’ around 1325.
He specifically tells us:
The hacker was allegedly Arizona laboratory physicist Timothy W. Linick (1946-89), who with self-confessed KGB hacker Karl Koch (1965–1989), were both allegedly working for the KGB to hack the laboratories’ AMS control console computers, and the KGB allegedly executed them both to prevent them talking, within days of each other, if not on the same day.
Stephen then waffles a bit. It’s not a fact, he tells us, but a theory. And he might need to abandon his theory should new information arise.
How does he arrive at this? Well so far it is this:
- He claims to have proven the shroud is authentic by historical means. It doesn’t matter that others might disagree; I certainly do. He has used flimsy arguments such as The Letter from Alexius Comnenus and The Slanted Footrest of the Orthodox Cross. He is convinced and that’s good enough for him.
- He disagrees with any and all possible explanations as to why the 1988 carbon dating of the shroud could be wrong. He can’t think of anything else. He assumes, therefore, that it must be fraud. Moreover, he assumes it must be hacking.
For many weeks now he has been saying that Timothy W. Linick and Karl Koch are the hackers. I assume that he will present us with some evidence someday. It is not up to anyone else to provide new information that might lead him to abandon his theory. It is up to him to provide supporting information. Until then this is amateurish rumor-mongering. It is nutty.
I’ve asked the AMS lab at Arizona University if they’d like to comment. Meanwhile, can I look at Stephen’s often mentioned statistic from Harry Gove: “The other question that has been asked is: if the statistical probability that the shroud dates between 1260 and 1390 is 95%, what is the probability that it could date to the first century? The answer is about one in a thousand trillion, i.e. vanishingly small.” I don’t think Stephen understands how this was calculated, or why it is not applicable the other way round. It is a purely statistical calculation, relating to the variability of the results of the radiocarbon measurement, and is meaningless if taken literally. Harry Gove meant it as an esoteric joke.
Suppose, for the sake of example, that five people count a flock of sheep. They return with the figures 63, 67, 61, 65 and 64. What, asks a statistician, is the probability that there are in fact only 4 sheep in the field? To anybody (even a statistician) the answer is none whatever, but statistically the answer is not zero, and is calculable. The Standard Deviation of the figures is 2.24, and 4 sheep is about 27 Standard Deviations (SD) from the Mean. The chances of a number being less than 1SD is about 16%, less than 2SD is about 2.3%, and less than 3SD is about 0.2%. I can’t find a table that lists the probability of a number less than 27SD; it is both “vanishingly small” and also, significantly, not zero.
This was Harry Gove’s calculation for the Turin Shroud. The Mean and Standard Deviation for the radiocarbon dates was known, and the first century was sufficient Standard Deviations away for the statistical probability to be one in a thousand trillion or so. Of course, years, like sheep, are discrete objects, and not infinitely divisible like numbers, so the number is meaningless; Gove meant it as a joke, of course. Stephen seems to take it seriously, ignoring the fact that any year selected randomly between 4 billion BC and the present has a quarter of a million times better chance of being correct than one in a thousand trillion.
Hugh’s sheep analogy may illustrate what Science can do, however Science must first ask the right questions, and that requires a native sagacity which goes well beyond what Science can do.
We know quite a lot about sheep in NZ. Sheep numbers peaked in 1982 with 70 million sheep, about 22 per person. It has declined since then whereas the human population has increased so that the ratio now stands at only about 7.2 sheep per person, still higher than Australia’s at less than 5 sheep per person. Cattle, beef and dairy also outnumber humans in NZ and are about 10 million. Australian sheep stations are much larger than NZ’s and can cover several thousand square kilometres, think Kent and Essex plus a few smaller counties.
Hugh’s 60 or 70 sheep (I guess they don’t have so many sheep in UK) are actually Carbon-14 atoms, and the paddock he has them in is actually one small field in the whole property. Unfortunately Hugh’s sheep don’t have ear tags, so he doesn’t know if they belong on the property or not. It so happens that this field is on the very edge of the property, and the fences are poor and derelict, and several of the sheep have strayed into the field from the neighbouring countryside. It is in fact quite impossible to tell which sheep here belong to the farmer and which ones are strays. It is in fact quite possible that the farmer does have only four of his own sheep in this small field and the rest are strays. The farmer would dearly like to know how many sheep he has on the whole property. Knowing the state of his fences, it would be quite foolish of him to extrapolate the number of sheep in this one small field on the edge of the property with all its strays, and to attempt to estimate his ovine population from that. It would be much more pertinent to select a few representative fields, perhaps in the heart of the property, count the sheep there, and then to do his sums.
I trust the analogy I have outlined is sufficiently clear now, and that the point is taken.
“I’ve asked the AMS lab at Arizona University if they’d like to comment.”. Did you receive any reply Hugh ?.
” To anybody (even a statistician) the answer is none whatever, but statistically the answer is not zero. ” – I must tell you that I greatly appreciated this sentence Hugh. I think that “the answer is not zero” is not only valid on a statistical perspective, but also on a philosophical one. Questions like ” Who am I ?”, “Do I really exist?” , may seem irrational or senseless, but that’s not the case.
Ah! Cultural differences! 60 sheep is a reasonable flock for a small farm in England, and, unlike in NZ I dare say, a farmer would immediately recognise if two-thirds of his flock weren’t his, even if they were dyed to match…
No reply from Arizona, but it is a weekend. They may be waiting for part two of Stephen’s conclusive proof that they were riddled with Soviet spies in the 1980s, who remarkably had nothing better to do than adjust the dates of archaeological artifacts in a plot to bring down Christianity.
Sorry, but not even John Bull, sheep farmer extraordinaire, can identify one Carbon-14 atom from another. He doesn’t know which sheep are his, and which are strays, dyed or not!
It is doubtful that the laboratory at Arizona will take this seriously. Whatever, Stephen Jones should make his own ”calibrations” first, in the second part, to find a suitable role for Gorbachev, not Andropov, who was in power in 1988.
Comments are closed.