5X5 Episode 33

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5X5 Episode 33
Shroud of Turin: Resurrecting the controversy
20th August 2008

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5X5 32 5X5 34
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
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The Shroud of Turin - Shroud scientists try to resurrect the controversy[edit]

You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide 5x5, five minutes with five skeptics, with Steve, Jay, Rebecca, Bob and Evan.


S: This is the SGU 5x5 and tonight's topic is the shroud of Turin. Researchers John and Rebecca Jackson are calling for a reinvestigation of the famous carbon-14 dating that dated the shroud of Turin to the mid 14th century, the same century that other lines of evidence also point to.

B: Well, you know what? I say go ahead, retest it! You know, redo the carbon dating. Let them do it and let's see what the conclusions are with some more modern technology and everything, like… who cares?

R: The only problem I see… I'm fine with a close circuit of idiots testing and retesting and retesting the thing, but the fact is it's been debunked so many times! Joe Nickell debunked it conclusively and you know, it's kind of wasting newspaper space now. It's in the L.A. Times. I mean, shroud of Turin stirs new controversy, really? I mean, come on people, we're pretty much over this!

B: But we can't expect the media to do it correctly, but the bottom line is I would actually like to see it happen again. And I think it's not a bad thing for them to retest it with modern equipment, because every time they retest it and they say 'no, it isn't' and another generation of people gets to hear that it's not the real thing.

E: Yeah, but here's the reason why they want to retest it. They said at a conference sponsored by the Shroud Science group at Ohio State University the past weekend. Los Alamos National Laboratory presented findings that the 1988 test results were flawed, because samples tested came from a portion of the cloth that may have been added to the shroud during medieval repairs.

S: Yeah , that's lame! So here's why this is completely lame. The artistic evidence, the historical evidence, all points to a medieval forgery. A 14th century forgery. The three independent labs did the carbon-14 dating in 1988 and they found that it dates to the mid 14th century, like 1349-50 , within a very very small margin of error. The shroud scientists, those who are claimed to be scientifically investigation the shroud, but who clearly are dedicated to the conclusion that it's a 2000 year old genuine artifact from Jesus. They have been fishing for any excuse to debunk the carbon-14 dating. Initially they said it was from bacterial contamination throwing the data off. Now they're saying it's from the repairs sections, and they said maybe it was the fire. They just keep going from one excuse to the other one. But here's the thing: what they're saying is that whatever contaminated the shroud to throw off the carbon-14 dating happened to throw it off exactly by the right amount to make the date come out to exactly what we predicted it would be based upon all the other lines of evidence. That makes it an extraordinary coincidence if they're right. These guys have made many other claims before as Steven Schfersman, who is a geologist who maintains a website, skeptical to the shroud said. He's had other ideas but they've all been shut down and this one would be shut down too.

B: Plus, the repairs seems pretty funny to me, because when you look at a high res image of the shroud, the repairs from the burns and from the fire that the shroud suffered, it's pretty obvious where they are and where the damage was. I just can't imagine you're cutting snippets off of this shroud and you're gonna...

S: Yeah...

B: … you're gonna pull it from these areas that were blatantly repaired areas. To me that was very surprising that they would even suggest that.

E: They're suggesting that the scientists back in 1988 totally screwed up, effectively.

J: So let them go through the process again. We will see the results, and no one really is gonna be harmed by them going through this testing again. I think it would be a good exercise just to reestablish the fact that the carbon dating was correct the first time.

S: But we know what's gonna happen. The carbon dating would confirm the date, approximately, and it will change nobody's mind. The shroud scientists will not alter their opinions, because obviously they're not swayed by evidence. They'll find some new round of excuses, cause they want to test and test and retest until they come up with the result that they want.

R: Yeah , I think that this is just a way to get it back in the news and to get it back in peoples' minds, when it should be something that quietly fades away and is never seen again. Because, there are so many valid criticisms even aside from the carbon dating. It's… I mean it's just silly… like, let it die. It's not real, people.

B: And what really upset me… the one line that upset me more than anything in this article, and it really made me really realize that they would just… the facts are kinda meaningless things to them. The article says that they concluded that the shroud was not painted, dyed, or stained, and that the blood stains were real. That was a supposed conclusion from the 1978 team of scientists "led by Jackson".

E: Uhmmm...

B: My God! That can't be further from the truth. If you can't even get that information right… I mean, each pretty much generally believed now that it's tempera paint from all the scientific studies done, that this was paint and there is no blood on it. And they can't even believe that by now, then the facts don't mean anything.

R: Exactly!

B: Have any of you guys seen the technique where they carve a bronze plate to look like a face and its sloped in a 3D… the carving is 3D and then what they do is they heat the plate up and then they kind of burn the image onto the cloth? That was one techniques that they mentioned.

S: Yeah, there are artistic techniques that can exactly duplicate the shroud. And Bob's right, there's paint on the shroud, not blood. Every independent scientist who didn't dedicate their life to proving that it was a miraculous relic has come up to the conclusion this is a medieval forgery. It's only people dedicated a priori to the belief that it's the burial shroud of Jesus who come up with these different findings.

S: SGU 5x5 is a companion podcast to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a weekly science podcast brought to you by the New England Skeptical Society in association with skepchick.org. For more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at www.theskepticsguide.org. Music is provided by Jake Wilson.


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