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The Challenge for Stephen Now

Hugh Farey shows why Stephen Jones and a reader of this blog who agrees with Stephen are wrong:

Let’s define terms then, shall we? The Shroud was made in AD25, and some random quantity of patching was added in 1535. What are the chances that the resultant date would be between 1260 and 1390? Is that the question? The answer (easily calculable using Christopher Ramsey’s OxCal and an online carbon dating calculator) is about 1/10. I’m happy to agree that a probability of 0.1 means that an event is unusual certainly, but a miracle? Astronomical? No, it’s not obvious. People should try some calculations before they jump to conclusions.

However another reader – let’s call him reader #2 – writes:

Mr Jones argues that it would be a miracle if a combination of 1st Century linen threads and contamination including medieval repair threads could produce a date of 1325 plus or minus 65 years. Why is it not like mixing black paint into white paint to make a certain shade of gray? It is only a question of how much black paint. The odds are 100% that the right amount exists.

But Stephen qualifies himself by saying what are the chances given a combination of chance factors. So it is not 100%. It is probably, as Hugh states, about 10%. Ignoring Hughes advice about doing the math, I decided to trust his statistical efforts. What Hugh calculates is about like rolling 5 (or 9) with a pair of dice, hardly the stuff of miracles. Without his improbability claim, Stephen just doesn’t have much left by which to refute the repair hypothesis first put forth by Benford and Marino.

Stephen for years has done an outstanding job of examining, quoting and citing historical evidence of all sorts. So I must ask, now that we have been focusing on The Untold Story of the Holy Shroud by Carlos Evaristo, doesn’t the repair theory suddenly seem much more probable? The challenge for Stephen will be to convince us that computer hackers employed by the KGB seems more probable.

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