A three-page, must-read, from Joseph S. Accetta, STURP Emeritus, just floated in from the cloud: A Commentary on the C14 Dating of the Shroud
Before addressing the C14 issue it might be worthwhile to inquire as to why the Shroud was subjected to scientific scrutiny in the first place. Was it to establish some sort of bridge across the great abyss of science and religion? Was it to render a scientific justification for religious belief and to allay the general skepticism of the scientific establishment? The 1978 STRP expedition was organized by a couple of devout Catholics and given a bad rap because somewhere along the way what was rendered as an opinion by some STRUP members became interpreted as a collective scientific conclusion. This had no basis in fact as reflected in the general skeptical or even hostile attitude by some members of the scientific community. After all if the Shroud was authentic would it underscore the resurrection of Christ which is one of the fundamental tenets of the Christian religion? But isn’t all of this a matter of belief and faith anyway? What if it were authentic, how does that change things? I would propose that its significance depends on which particular religious group one embraces ranging from Catholics who may venerate the cloth to Baptists who already know everything and may totally ignore it. The bottom line is the Shroud is not an article of faith no matter what the authenticity outcome might be. At best it would underscore what is already a matter of faith long since firmly embedded in Christian beliefs. That it would change the general skeptical outlook by the scientific community is unlikelyAccetta, J. S. (2023). A Commentary on the C14 Dating of the Shroud. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/100120646
And this, which is so true:
If you are looking to science to establish what you already believe then you are going to have to play by its rules like it or not.ibid
Accetta rightly admits at the beginning of his article that the C-14 sample “was taken from a less than desirable area of the cloth” but much of what he subsequently says does not logically follow. Science is supposed to be rigorous. If the sample upon which the conclusion was made is “less than desirable,” then scientific rigor is absent from the start. We thus have a likely “garbage-in/garbage out situation, in which the conclusion is faulty because the scientific predicates are faulty.
Another puzzling phrase was “the affair was allegedly tainted by a degree of what may be politely called logistical mishandling.” First of all, it wasn’t allegedly tainted,” it was definitely marred by (and I feel no need to be polite here) malfeasance and manipulation. My 800-page book, The 1988 C-14 Dating Of The Shroud of Turin: A Stunning Exposé and an additional supplement of over 80 entries meticulously documents via multiple sources (including some very rare documents) examples of egos, agendas and political maneuvering by both the C-14 scientists and Church officials before, during and after the testing.
I’m also perplexed by his sentence: “There is not much in the way of original historical or scientific material to write about.” Despite the fact that there has not been direct access to the Shroud in recent decades, additional knowledge regarding its history and scientific analysis is constantly being discovered.
Accetta asks if the C-14 results had gone the other way would authenticists have criticized the “alleged mishandling and missampling” with as much fervor. Probably not. But that’s basically irrelevant. What’s important is the true date of the sample, not either side’s reaction to it. He then suggests that had the dating come out 1st century, because so many clerics were involved, would it be fair to question their bias. That’s irrelevant, mainly because those clerics wouldn’t have been in a position to manipulate the dates to make it come out 1st century. And, if they had, one would have to look more at their actual actions, not their putative bias.
Accetta mentions that “polarization is not a phenomenon confined to American politics.” To use that as an analogy, to say that one should trust the C-14 dates despite bad sampling and “logistical mishandling,” is to agree with those who characterized the January 6 U.S. Capitol attack (in which 5 people died and 140 police officers were injured) as a “normal tourist visit.”
Although I agree with Accetta that “the Shroud is not an article of faith no matter what the authenticity outcome might be,” that’s not going to keep people from studying it. It’s somewhat the spiritual equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. He then asks if the Shroud is literally 1st century, could the image have been artificially added later? Well, of course. But what does the historical and scientific evidence show? There is plenty of historical and scientific evidence that points toward both the cloth and image having originated in the 1st century. It’s not as simple as his statement, “It just simply shows up in the 14th century.” He asks a common question: why was it not mentioned in the gospels? Since the Jews and Romans would have wanted to destroy such a cloth, it’s reasonable that they wouldn’t have wanted to draw unnecessary attention to it. There are many articles in the Shroud literature that go into great detail about this.
Accetta stated, “there is no scientific or historical evidence that the image itself is inexplicable.” As far as history goes, Christian tradition refers to cloths “not made by human hands.” Obviously, that doesn’t mean the claim is automatically true. Accetta says that one possibility is that the Shroud is “14th century vintage.” Along those lines, it’s a possibility that the Shroud of Turin is literally “not made by human hands.”
Accetta asserted that, “given that all 3 labs came up with approximately the same date with some expected minor variation, a common mistake is not at all likely.” Given that all 3 labs were using the same sample as opposed from different parts of the cloth, there is no guarantee that the sample was representative of the whole cloth. And regarding the “minor variation,” statistical evaluations, including in peer-reviewed journals, show that the date ranges were not minor at all. Don’t forget that the British Museum refused to release the raw data until they were forced to by a Freedom of Information request.
He also claimed, “there are very few people on this planet that are in a rational position to question the competence or integrity of the 3 laboratories involved.” How so? The idea of releasing raw data is so that fellow scientists can evaluate their work. Why did the British Museum refuse the data? Accetta seems to be suggesting that the 3 labs are somehow reproach. To return to the political analogy, it seems similar to a U.S. political group that seems to think their leader should not be held accountable for any action, no matter how grievous. And at the risk of beating a dead horse, I personally have documented in great detail in my book and a supplement actions that certainly should be questioned. He also claims that the labs would not have overlooked the possibility that the sample had some more recent threads mixed in. Since they did not chemically characterize the samples, how would they know? And why did Ray Rogers find a gum dye mordant and cotton in an actual leftover C-14 sample he was given to analyze? Rogers would always post to the Shroud Science Internet Group: “how much evidence is needed?”
Accetta brings up the point that the dates that the labs came up with are very close to the date that the Shroud was known to have historically surfaced. The C-14 scientists knew very little about the Shroud, but they did know it surfaced in France around the 1350s. Given the fact they had, against the agreements set out, consulted with each other, I don’t find it surprising at all that 1350 is almost exactly midway between their 1260-1390 range dates. Obviously, that’s a personal observation on my part, but given that the statistics of the labs have been seriously questioned, the observation may be well warranted.
Accetta says that STURP’s results have not been corroborated by others, so authenticists who criticize the C-14 results should not be so enamored with the former. However, there were huge differences between the two tests. STURP spent 17 months preparing for their 5-day-around-the-clock testing in 1978 and spent countless hours publishing numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals. As a group, it concluded that the Shroud was not made by an artist. Surely that has to carry some weight. The C-14 testers, on the other hand, broke multiple protocols, spent a few weeks at most on the testing, and submitted a single paper that was accepted in a similar few-weeks-time frame. Their work has been highly criticized by numerous scientists and researchers.
Accetta proposes additional testing to help resolve the question. With that I wholeheartedly agree.
Forgot to mention: Accetta mentioned that “the Church has made no ex-cathedra claims regarding the Shroud’s authenticity.” The Church never makes declarations on any relic’s authenticity. If they know that a relic is definitely a forgery, they will forbid veneration, but if it is possibly authentic, they will allow veneration. The fact that they do allow veneration means that they do not accept the C-14 labs’ verdict about the Shroud being medieval.
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