Colin Berry on STURP
When I finally got around to reading Colin’s latest posting, the words “Rambling Wreck” came to mind. (Sorry for being so late getting around to Colin’s postings but timing is everything with him – one never knows if he is done or where he is rambling to).
To football fans (that is American football, Colin), the term "Ramblin’ Wreck" refers to Georgia Tech’s mascot, a 1930 Ford. But according to Wikipedia the term…
has been used to refer to students and alumni of Georgia Tech much longer than the car that now bears the name has been in existence. The expression has its origins in the late 19th century and was used originally to refer to the makeshift motorized vehicles constructed by Georgia Tech engineers employed in projects in the jungles of Central America. The Wrecks were constructed from whatever the engineers could find—mostly old tractor and automotive parts—and were kept running by the engineers’ ingenuity and creativity
Disabuse yourself of the idea that I am referring to Colin’s rambling wreck style of posting. (To find what he posts go to his blog and then search for the words “Put more simply.”) I’m thinking more about how he uses an otherwise interesting write up on his experiments, Progress report on my new model for the Turin Shroud. Might the sepia body image be a surface film of nitrated protein derived from wheat glutens? to fire a broadside at STURP.
… Put more simply, the scientist needs to have an inkling of underlying process or mechanism in order to know where to concentrate manpower and resources. Without that inkling he or she could waste years or decades thrashing around for an answer, accumulating masses of data that throw little or no light on the problem.
Folk can probably guess where this is leading – to STURP and its technology-obsessed approach to the Shroud, arriving in Turin with all that hardware, but without a single good idea about where to concentrate resources. Indeed. most of its efforts were focused on testing a dud hypothesis, something that should have been plain to see back in 1978, and indeed in 1898, namely that the Shroud might simply be ‘just a painting’. How could Secondo Pia’s negative image possibly have been ‘just a painting’. A negative image implies an IMPRINT, one where the template determines the final image, where there is no obligatory artistic free-hand process at the final imprinting stage. One has a master template – a real person, or maybe just a statue or bas relief- that gives a slave imprint – a tone-reversed negative of the master. Why on earth would an ad hoc task force of scientists and engineers bother to focus so much effort in testing for whether the Shroud was ‘just a painting’ when the primary objective should have been to deduce the process that resulted in a negative imprint?
STURP’s prime focus should have been on deducing (a) the nature of the template and (b) the nature of the imprinting process – whether entirely passive or human-aided. In short, the project should have been one about reverse-engineering.
Colin does a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking:
That’s the optics and physics dealt with. Now for the chemistry (and botany): is the image intrinsic to the linen carbohydrates, or is it associated with an extrinsic coating ("impurity layer")? An answer to that question could be (or have been) gained by use of high resolution light or scanning electron microscopy, especially ofcross-sections of TS body image fibres. Various mechanical and/or chemical/enzymatic procedures could have been used to remove a putative impurity coating, to see what was underneath – an intact or degraded fibre, with or with its primary cell wall. (Ah yes: the PCW – an entity that somehow fails to receive a single mention in the 1981 STURP Summary despite being the most superficial part of the linen fibre, and despite having a thickness (200nm) that corresponds, approximately, with Rogers’ estimate of TS body image thickness).
And then he dumps on Rogers, Jackson, Adler and Heller:
Overview of STURP’s damp squib (no big bang, just a handy smokescreen for some)
Why did STURP set up its straw man target (if you’ll pardon the internet lingo), i.e. that it was ‘just a painting’? Given all the effort expended in ruling out what should have been self-evident from an imprinted negative image, why did it end up telling us next to nothing positive about the TS image?
If one looks at the research activity of its demob-happy leading lights subsequent to publication of the 1981 Summary, it’s clear why the latter took the form it did. It left the road clear for narrative-spinning pro-authenticists to drop any pretence of scientific objectivity, and to go inserting fantasies as if fact into the Shroud literature. I refer to Raymond N.Rogers with his Pliny era special pleading (starch fractions, saponins etc initally, with more later in the pipeline re spliced repair threeads and missing vanillin precursors for challenging the radiocarbon dating), to John Jackson for his wacky radiation-imaging/collapsing cloth ideas, and to Adler and Heller for their "blood too red /trauma bilirubin" fantasies. None of that massive self-indulgence, that wholesale retreat from strict scientific objectivity would have been possible if STURP had done its job properly, and focused on the TS as (probably, indeed almost certainly) a simple contact imprint, one requiring manual assistance, and thus consistent with the radiocarbon dating and medieval forgery.
The stultifying STURP project, with no realistic prospect of a return visit to Turin for years, nay decades, had its intended effect – to create a smokescreen-protected frozen conflict, one in which the pro-authenticity pseudo-science tendency could operate with impunity. Thank goodness that STURP’s attempts to oversee the 1988 radiocarbon dating (mixing and matching with a broader-based examination of pre-Lirey "history" was rejected. Just imagine the result: a few pen drawn circles on the Pray Codex – the coffin lid, not Shroud as we are/were led to believe – would have been produced as a trump card, grounds for rejecting that oh-so-arrogant ‘error-prone’ methodology for which an endless source of contaminants can be invoked – new repair threads, bioplastic films, thymol, radiation-induced C-14, carbon monoxide, smoke …
Is the broadside justified? Contrast Colin’s view a recent comment by John Klotz:
One of the good things that has happened recently is the leadership role now being played by Bruno Barberis at Turin Centro. At one conference he held STURP as a model for future examinations of the Shroud but a “STURP” with true international membership..
There is no question in my mind that John Klotz has carefully studied the work of STURP and understands it. I think Colin is mostly just shooting from the hip, so to speak.