A Skeptical Response
Studies on the Radiocarbon Sample from the Shroud of Turin
by Raymond N. Rogers
Thermochimica Acta 425:189-194, 2005
Steven D. Schafersman, Ph.D.
Consulting Scientist and Administrator of the
The Skeptical Shroud of Turin Website
February 8, 2005
Revisions: Feb 28; March 10; March 14, 2005This report is my initial response to the controversy and publicity recently generated by the publication of the journal article by Ray Rogers cited above. It contains my initial thoughts and is subject to change. Please feel free to forward it and cite it using Web citation format, but it is subject to change and will eventually be expanded into a journal article for official publication that will contain references and illustrations. For several reasons, I had to write this present version quickly and informally, and it may contain errors that, if present, will be corrected. Although I point out the errors of logic and scientific evidence in Rogers' paper, I include my own speculations and suspicions, for which I obviously lack real evidence. It should be clear which is which. Future investigation needs to be conducted. Please contact me if you find errors at the email address below. Some revisions have already been made. The most recent version of this paper will always be on the Web at http://freeinquiry.com/skeptic/shroud/articles/rogers-ta-response.htm.
Introduction: An Exercise in Pseudoscience
Ray Rogers, a retired chemist who formerly worked at the Los Alamos national laboratory (and who passed away on March 8, 2005, after illness with cancer), recently published a pro-authenticity Shroud of Turin paper in a legitimate and peer-reviewed chemistry journal, Thermochimica Acta (hereafter TA). The Rogers paper makes two claims: First, the piece of the Shroud linen that was age-dated using radiocarbon technology in 1988 was actually a much-younger patch of cloth that allowed the radiocarbon labs to reach an incorrect medieval date. Second, using his own age-dating method, Rogers claims that the Shroud is actually much older than the early 14th century radiocarbon date. This paper has created a minor media frenzy, since it is one of the few Shroud papers published in a legitimate scientific journal in two decades, and--more importantly--explicitly makes the claim that the Shroud dates from the first century and is thus authentic. For these reasons, and quite understandably, observers perceive that Rogers' paper must be exceptionally reliable. Unfortunately, these observers would be wrong. This response examines the scientific issues and elucidates the reasons why the Rogers paper fails in its claims in every instance.
In past years, Rogers has published many pro-authenticity papers in various pro-authenticity and pseudoscientific journals, symposia, and websites devoted to the Shroud of Turin, and the public press justifiably took no notice, since private publishing outlets for UFOs, astrology, creationism, and other pseudoscientific topics are numerous (and fill supermarket newsstands and pseudoscience conference book tables). Mainstream media writers know that such privately-published pseudoscientific outlets contain no data or findings that possess legitimate scientific value, and ignore them. The well-know Shroud of Turin website at http://www.shroud.com, for example, has posted seven of Rogers papers in the last three years, including two in which Rogers examined the same evidence, made the same analysis, and reached the same conclusions that he did in the TA paper (one of these seven papers apparently had been published previously in an obscure journal, but I cannot determine if the others were). These papers justifiably received no attention by the mainstream media. It is only when he was able to get a pro-authenticity Shroud paper published in a legitimate scientific journal that public attention was given to his claims. The real story in this controversy is not the mistaken age of the Shroud of Turin, but the misjudgment of a science journal editor and the breakdown of its peer review process.
There is a very recent similar example in which a legitimate biology journal published a paper about intelligent design creationism; as with the present case, the journal had never treated this topic before, but the editor was suitably pliable. He claims he was not biased, but it is clear from his abundant written justifications after the fact that he was indeed biased (but apparently not religiously so; the issue is more complicated, and to understand it you have to be knowledgeable about the details of alternative theories of evolution and biosystematics). And it appears he sent the creationist ID paper to very friendly unnamed reviewers whom he knew in advance would approve it (no official associate editor was used for the peer review; any evolutionary biologist actually familiar with the content and context of the submitted paper would have rejected it). As is typical with creationist ID papers, it contained plenty of legitimate and reliable scientific information and had the veneer of scientific respectability, but it also contained subtly illogical arguments, speciously misused data, and omitted the vital scientific information that completely refuted its pseudoscientific conclusions. It should never have been accepted for publication by the editor. The editor later resigned and the journal's officers, elected councilors, and past presidents published a statement saying that the paper was "inappropriate," had "no credible scientific evidence supporting it," and "does not meet the scientific standards" of the journal. Rogers' paper in TA has characteristics identical to the ID pseudoscience paper in almost every detail. I believe that a future investigation will reveal that his TA paper's editorial history will also be similar, and I further suspect that there will be similar editorial board repercussions.
Ray Rogers is a member of STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project, an organization totally composed of believers in the authenticity of the Shroud) and accepted the authenticity of the Shroud from the very beginning of their work in the middle 1970s. He accepts all the shoddy work that STURP passed off as science two and three decades ago. As is well known, STURP's analyses on image formation, identity of the blood, sticky tape pollen, and history were hopelessly incompetent and unscientific, despite their claims and posturing to be rigorously scientific. There is no real blood of any kind on the Shroud. Both the image and "blood" were applied by an artist. These facts were conclusively proved beyond even a shadow of doubt by microscopic chemist Walter McCrone, whose microscopic analysis revealed the presence of abundant iron oxide (red ocher) and cinnabar (vermilion) pigments on the Shroud. He published the photographic and chemical evidence in his papers and book. I have microscopically observed these pigments myself on Shroud fibers and can attest to this fact (see below). Joe Nickell first showed that the quality of the Shroud image could not be a direct image transfer by any natural mechanism from a human body due to inevitable distortion, and so must be an artistic rendition, and he demonstrated an easy way that the Shroud could be created by molding a wet linen cloth over a bas relief carving or cast and daubing or tamping red ocher pigment on it that makes an image appear that is very similar to the Shroud's image. I was the first to point out many numerous inconsistencies and logical lapses involving the Shroud's speculative history, unnaturally elongate Gothic-art body shape, Palestinian pollen fraudulently applied to sticky tape samples, supposed but non-existent photographic negative quality, alleged 3-dimensional quality, and other anomalous features, and to explain how the STURP members went wrong. All of these facts are by now well known among informed scientists and are completely accepted.
There are many other avenues of evidence that prove the Shroud is a late medieval artifact. The Skeptical Shroud of Turin website at http://www.skeptic.ws/shroud/ mentions all of them in several papers and a PowerPoint presentation by myself and others. In brief, every competent and honest scientific investigation of the Shroud of Turin has proven that it is a medieval artifact, a reproduction or representation of the Shroud of Jesus Christ (not a medieval fake, but a 1st century fake!). Ray Rogers and his STURP colleagues continue to pursue their Shroud pseudoscience, in opposition to empirical evidence, logical reason, and skepticism--the hallmarks of legitimate science. In violation of good scientific practice and honesty, Rogers's TA paper completely ignores all of this evidence that refutes his analysis and conclusions. Rogers' paper is an exercise in pseudoscience and should not have been published in Thermochimica Acta. The editor of that journal should be ashamed. So should the STURP "scientists," but I don't expect that to happen soon.
At the beginning of his paper, Rogers states that the early 14th century radiocarbon date "came as a surprise in view of the technology used to produce the cloth, its chemical composition, and the lack of vanillin in its lignin," and the date "does not agree with observations on the linen-production technology nor the chemistry of fibers obtained directly from the main part of the cloth in 1978 [two references cited]." This is nonsense: First, the references he cites are STURP papers that were written with an obvious pro-authenticity bias and lack of scientific objectivity; although published in legitimate scientific journals, their methods and conclusions are suspect and I claim they are exercises in pseudoscience; McCrone conclusively refuted the conclusions of these two papers in his book. Second, these papers contain no data or analysis to support a First Century date using any scientifically-recognized age determination method. The methods Rogers cites--observations of linen-production technology, chemistry of fibers, and amount of vanillin in lignin--are, unlike radiocarbon dating, useless in accurate and precise age determination. At most, they would allow suggestions of age, and suggestions are notoriously unreliable and subject to bias, which is the case here. Rather than Rogers being surprised at the late medieval date of the Shroud, we are the ones who should be surprised at such obvious credulity on the part of a trained scientist, and that his specious arguments have been published in a legitimate scientific journal. I am more than surprised; I am shocked, shocked!
Rogers' paper is not science, but classic pseudoscience: it is an example of nonsense-mongering and overreaching, of willingness to use any method, no matter how scientifically unsupported and disreputable, to confirm one's a priori beliefs. I can't understand how this clumsy, invalid, and totally illogical paper passed peer review in a legitimate scientific journal. Actually, I can understand how this lapse happened. When an author submits a paper on a topic that the journal has no history of dealing with, it is not uncommon for the editor to ask the author to suggest peer reviewers. I believe that Rogers simply suggested the names of a few of his fellow Shroud pseudoscientists who he knew would provide favorable reviews. These individuals probably had legitimate reputations in their non-Shroud research, and thus had some scientific legitimacy, and the Thermochimica Acta editor accepted their names without objection. I suspect that the TA editor, having no way to independently judge the veracity and competence of these reviewers, went along with their favorable reviews (this needs to be confirmed by an investigation; it is possible that the editor himself was biased; the biology journal paper discussed above is another example of this as later revealed). Rogers' paper has nothing to do with the usual topics covered in TA; he could have submitted his paper to a dozen journals for all we know before finding one whose editor was incompetent or lazy enough to not understand why Rogers' paper was pseudoscience and thus deserved to be rejected outright.
Rogers' Analytical Methods: Deception and Illogic
In his paper, Ray Rogers relies on papers that were neither peer-reviewed nor published in legitimate scientific journals for his belief that the radiocarbon date was taken from a patch ingeniously rewoven into the Shroud linen so that its presence could not be detected. The authors of these papers, M. S. Benford and J. G. Marino, claim that a patch of 16th century material with a weave identical to the Shroud's was undetectably spliced into the 1st century Shroud to give it a 13th century date. But this is nonsense. It is certainly a remarkable coincidence that, according to these authors, their claimed rewoven patch--when combined with "original" Shroud cloth in the proportions subjectively determined by unnamed "textile experts" looking at photographs!--just happens to give an early 14th century date, the same as the date actually measured by radiocarbon dating! Amazing. But in fact the mixture of 16th and 1st century cloth would give a date much younger than the 14th century (about 7th century). The date obtained by the separate university radiocarbon labs exactly matches the date obtained by independent historical analysis, i.e. the early 14th century date when the Shroud first appeared and is believed by Shroud skeptics to be created by a late medieval artist, thus mutually supporting both dates. Benford and Marino submitted their ridiculous speculations in a paper to the scientific journal Radiocarbon, but it was justifiably rejected after peer review. Now, Rogers uses the same mistaken and incompetent speculations to support his conclusions in a paper that was published in a different scientific journal, Thermochimica Acta. I conclude that peer review failed this time for this journal.
As pointed out by Antonio Lombatti (personal communication), editor of Approfondimento Sindone, the skeptical international journal of scholarship and science devoted to the Shroud of Turin, only after one month of careful study on where to cut the linen samples for dating were the samples removed from the Shroud. This process was observed personally by Mons. Dardozzi (Vatican Academy of Science), Prof. Testore (Turin University professor of textile technology), Prof. Vial (Director of the Lyon Ancient Textiles Museum), Profs. Hall and Hedges (heads of the Oxford radiocarbon dating laboratory) and Prof. Tite (head of the British Museum research laboratory). There is no way these scientists and scholars could have made such an error and failed to see that the cloth samples they removed was really from a patch, "invisibly" rewoven or not.
Detailed photographs of the area from which the sample was removed clearly reveal that there was no patch there. (How could Benford and Marino's unnamed "textile experts" observe the correct proportions of 1st century and 16th century threads from the "patch" using photographs, while the legitimate experts named above--using both photographs and personal examination of the actual Shroud!--miss seeing that there was a patch there in the first place?) There is no 16th century patch in the area from where the 14C samples were removed; patches can be found only where the fire had burned the linen in 1532, and of course there is the Holland backing cloth. Both the patches and Holland cloth have weaves completely different from the Shroud's distinct herringbone pattern, which was easily identifiable by the radiocarbon dating scientists when they processed the cloth sample. Benford and Marino laughably publish a photo of a historical Shroud replica that they claim shows a missing corner section that was later patched; but this photo is a low-resolution JPEG image and the "missing corner" is really an artifact produced when low-resolution JPEG images are magnified beyond their true size! This anecdote just further illustrates their incompetence. Later, I learned that STURP physicist John Jackson also refuses to accept the claim that a patch was invisibly interwoven into the sampled corner of the Shroud since photographs taken with transmitted light through the entire area of the Shroud--prior to the sample being cut out--show a uniform extension of shadows and density-zones from the sampled piece to the unsampled area adjacent to it.
The tiny patch threads that Rogers analyzed are suspect: there is no official record of the supposed removal or donation of the radiocarbon dating sample threads or the Raes sample threads Rogers claims to possess (personal communication, Antonio Lombatti). "I received samples of both warp and weft threads that Prof. Luigi Gonella had taken from the radiocarbon sample before it was distributed for dating. Gonella reported that he excised the threads from the center of the radiocarbon sample" (p. 190). If Gonella's statement is true, then he seriously violated the protocols of sample removal and performed an irresponsible act. Furthermore, to receive threads of this spurious sample at this late date suggests that the threads are suspect and not to be trusted as really being from the sample sent out for radiocarbon dating. Rogers' entire argument rests on his analysis of these two tiny threads and the additional Raes sample threads he claims to possess. I have no evidence to disprove Rogers' claim that the Raes sample fibers--supplied to him by Luigi Gonella and supposedly taken from the original Raes sample adjacent to the radiocarbon samples--are from the Shroud ("I received 14 yarn segments from the Raes sample from Prof. Luigi Gonella . . . "; p. 189). But I question this claim also, since this was also undocumented and unsanctioned. The samples used by the academic radiocarbon labs to date the Shroud, on the other hand, were officially removed, witnessed, and sanctioned. Are Rogers' two tiny threads truly from the same sample as the ones used for radiocarbon dating? If not, Rogers' entire argument is invalid, since Rogers' claim is that the radiocarbon samples have completely different chemical properties than the main part of the Shroud, and he purports that his two tiny threads are representative of the radiocarbon-dated samples. He could only know this if the threads he tested were actually from the same sample used for radiocarbon dating, and we must trust the words of Rogers and Gonella for this (for Rogers' word, see below).
The alleged differences between the Raes sample and the main Shroud samples that Rogers elucidates include (1) different amounts of vanillin (main Shroud absent, Raes sample present), (2) cotton fibers and madder root dye in the Raes sample, but none in the main Shroud samples, and (3) the Raes fibers have been "dyed" with some chemical, but not the fibers of the main Shroud. Rogers is incorrect about all of these claims. For the different amounts of vanillin, see below. It has long been known that cotton fibers occur elsewhere in the Shroud, being observed by several investigators including Italian textile experts and Walter McCrone. I don't doubt that cotton fiber impurities made their way into the flax used to make the linen cloth; it would be difficult to keep them separate, and contrary to Rogers, such fibers are found throughout the Shroud. As for madder root dye, McCrone detected rose madder pigment on the Shroud's blood areas and reported this. It is reasonable to believe that this pigment could have ended up anywhere on the Shroud, including a non-blood area. Finally, as Walter McCrone determined, the entire Shroud is covered by a coating of very thin tempera protein paint used by the artist as a binder; its oxidation over time gives the Shroud its characteristic sepia color (a very light yellowish-brown; natural linen is white). The tempera binder was not used as a paint but to shape or mold the linen over a bas relief carving or cast and then used to bind the loose particles of red ocher pigment tamped on when still damp. Rogers identifies this as a "dye" only on the Raes threads, but in fact all Shroud fibers have this thin tempera coating and characteristic color, as is readily perceived by simply viewing the photographs. Rogers identification of a colored "dye" is the first admission by a STURP member that fibers of the Shroud have been painted or coated--which is certainly the case.
Rogers' new method of using the amount of vanillin in a sample to determine its age is useless and incompetent. According to Rogers, the vanillin in authentic Shroud fibers is missing, but the Raes "patch" fibers do possess vanillin from his tests. Thus, he concludes that the amount of vanillin (a breakdown product of flax over time) can be used to age date his samples, and because "the Shroud and other very old linens do not give the vanillin test, the cloth must be very old," thus making it "very unlikely that the linen was produced during medieval times." But this is subjective, non-quantitative nonsense: to demonstrate the efficacy of his new dating method and thus prove his claim of age discrepancy, Rogers first must date his Shroud samples by independent methods and must also independently demonstrate the effectiveness of his vanillin-dating method using other independent samples to calibrate the method, and he fails to do both of these! Rogers refers to the presence of vanillin in "all other medieval linens," but he provides no evidence to support this statement. This is shoddy and unreliable methodology and reasoning, totally unacceptable for publication in any scientific journal. Its publication proves unprofessional favoritism on the part of Thermochimica Acta's editor.
There are some curious anomalies in Rogers' paper that deserve attention. Rogers states, "STURP was not allowed to take radiocarbon samples in 1978; therefore, it was useful to devise independent methods for age determination to test the validity of the published data [in Damon, 1989]. Are we to believe that STURP foresaw, eleven years in the future, that the independent (of each other and especially of STURP) academic radiocarbon labs would find that the Shroud was created in the early 14th century, and STURP must therefore devise independent methods for age determination to test the validity of that date? Of course, that's nonsense; STURP had never devised such tests in 1978, and Rogers developed his new method long after the famous 1989 paper in Nature, and did so only after he had become convinced by others that samples of a clever invisible patch had been dated by colossal error. During the years following the 14th century date, believers in the authenticity of the Shroud came up with over a dozen ways by which the radiocarbon scientists could have gone wrong. Readers will no doubt be knowledgeable about the absurdity of these ad hoc and overreaching explanations, and Rogers himself understood that all would never be taken seriously by legitimate scientists (some examples were contamination of the linen by a bioplastic coating, bacteria, fungi, chemicals released during the fire, the addition of younger extraneous 14C by several speculative methods, etc.) But Rogers temptation to believe was too strong, and he allowed himself to be seduced by one particular suggestion: the skillfully and invisibly rewoven patch in the very spot from which the radiocarbon samples were taken and with exactly the correct proportions of threads of the correct age to give the aberrant early 14th century date.
Of course, we scientists must always be grateful to STURP for allowing us to get the correct radiocarbon date in the first place: STURP's overwhelming and obsessive certainty in the authenticity of the Shroud--derived from the massive self-deception of believing their own bogus scientific data and illogical conclusions--gave the Catholic Church the confidence it needed to permit scientific dating of the Shroud and proving once and for all that it was First Century in origin. Members of STURP literally convinced the Catholic Church to proceed with the radiocarbon dating program that allowed truly neutral, skeptical, and mostly secular scientists (and thus completely different in character from STURP personnel) to get their hands on a piece of the Shroud and subject it to a legitimate and competent scientific test. I believe if the Church thought it was possible to get a Fourteenth Century date, it would never have permitted the sampling and dating, since its goal has always been to milk the Shroud for its faith-strengthening qualities. For two decades, STURP has been attempting to make up for their error and get back in the good graces of the Church. I always smile when Rogers and the other believers in the Shroud's authenticity suggest another dating experiment. As they well know, it will never happen! The Catholic Church was burned by scientists and never want to experience that again.
Several times Rogers refers to the lack of vanillin in all "samples from anywhere on the shroud," and "there was absolutely no coating with these characteristics [the colored encrustations, alizarin dye, red lakes, and swelling gum] on . . . the main part of the shroud." But how could he know this, since he apparently did not perform his "home laboratory" tests for vanillin and coatings on samples from the main part of the Shroud. After careful reading of his paper, I could find no place in which he reports his data of such tests beyond claiming that it is true. Nor do the two STURP references he cites report on such tests, including the all-important presence or absence of vanillin. Walter McCrone, on the other hand, found proteinaceous tempera binder and abundant colored particles on the main part of the Shroud, especially in the blood and image areas. I think Rogers found some of the protein coating material and pigment on his tiny threads and leaped to the false conclusion that this was different from the rest of the Shroud. Therefore, the rewoven patch hypothesis must be correct!
All truly scientific dating methods, including radiocarbon dating, have a level of evidentiary support and verification--which scientists refer to as using controls, replication, and calibration if necessary--that Rogers' new method of vanillin concentration does not. Instead, Rogers concluded--using the questionable sources of Benford and Marino--that the supposed "patch" first existed and was therefore younger than the rest of the Shroud before he developed his new dating method. Then he developed his new but faulty dating method so that it would validate his a priori belief! Rogers did test his method by aging lignin samples at elevated temperatures for 24 months, but this is laughably inadequate. He was not able to adequately calibrate his exponential decay curve, an essential part of any proxy chemical dating method. Nor was he able to eliminate or correct for the many different temperatures and environmental conditions the Shroud has been exposed to during its existence, all of which would explicitly make his chemical method useless. As is well known from historical sources, the Shroud has been exposed to several fires, boiled in water, and perhaps even boiled in oil. The boiling treatments were used by skeptical individuals in a pre-scientific age to test the authenticity of the Shroud and other supposed Shrouds, of which there were several dozen at that time! That the Shroud of Turin was subjected to at least one water boiling is discussed in several books that relate its history; fake Shrouds would have had their paint boiled off, but the Shroud of Turin was apparently the only Shroud to pass the boiling test, because its creator used an unusual and clever method to make sure it that was quite sturdy; its image was originally much brighter and visible, but the boiling left the pale, ghostly, thin reddish image we have today that must be photographed through a filter to reveal the image with sufficient contrast. In conclusion, there is no reason to accept Rogers' vanillin-in-lignin method as a valid scientific technique for precise age determination. His claim that it does provide a good age is incompetent nonsense.
Jay Ingram, writing in the Toronto Star, discusses a topic with which I was not familiar. Ingram interviewed Clint Chapple, a biochemist at Purdue University, and Malcolm Campbell, a botanist at the University of Toronto. Chapple points out that it was odd that Rogers used a powerful and precise technique, pyrolysis mass spectrometry, to assess the carbohydrates in the cloth, but didn't choose to apply that technique to the vanillin. This was odd because the incredible accuracy of this technique as applied to vanillin is scientifically well-documented. "I've published using this method and have this instrument in my own lab. The method would have easily revealed the presence (or absence) of degradation products like vanillin had the author been seriously interested in testing his hypothesis," Chapple says. Instead, Rogers used a staining technique that reveals the presence of vanillin if you get a color change. But this is a qualitative, not a quantitative test.
Malcolm Campbell states that, "in biological sciences, a scientist would be hard-pressed to get their paper published if they ever attempted to quantify vanillin on the basis of this staining technique." Staining is a rough guide to the presence of vanillin and cannot detect very small amounts. (In fact, the pyrolysis mass spectrometry was conducted by Rogers and STURP in 1981 when they had access to the facility, but Rogers only had his home laboratory, so a poor and inadequate staining technique was all he could manage.) Campbell and Chapple identified other flaws in the paper, such as the same lack of controls and replication that I describe above. As Ingram writes, "these should have been enough to deter the editors of Thermochimica Acta from publishing it. Why didn't they? Maybe they were unfamiliar with the chemistry of linen and its breakdown products; maybe they have a soft spot in their heart for the shroud. Who knows?" Ingram concludes, "the incident just underlines the fact that the Shroud of Turin will never go away, and believers will try anything, including arguments masquerading as science, to prove its authenticity."
Ray Rogers and STURP
For over twenty years I have claimed that arguments based on science and technology that purport to demonstrate the Shroud's authenticity are nothing more than pseudoscience, and pro-authenticity Shroud advocates are pseudoscientists. This includes Ray Rogers and all the other STURP members with the exception of Walter McCrone, a former member of STURP and the single individual with scientific integrity and professional competence among them. The item above from Jay Ingram, describing Rogers use of a highly precise instrument for one test but not using it for the more important one--using instead a clumsy and inadequate method that appreciably gives the desired results--is essentially the story of STURP. Through the years, STURP members have used a battery of highly accurate and precise instruments and methods, but also clumsy and laughably incompetent techniques combined with illogical reasoning and massive self-deception, to reach fantastic and ultimately false and prejudiced conclusions. Every aspect of the Shroud and its study by STURP has examples of this.
For example, STURP published several papers that concluded that real blood was present on the Shroud, but all their precise tests for protein, iron, albumin, and other substances proved nothing of the kind. Two groups used specific tests for blood and published the results, both finding none. The first was the 1973 Italian Commission, who used at least six sensitive tests for blood, blood species, and blood type; all were negative. The second was the late Walter McCrone, the world's leading forensic microscopist, chemical microanalysis, and the person best qualified on the planet at that time to use microanalytical forensic tests for blood on tiny samples. At that time, McCrone was working as an associate of STURP, so he had complete access to the important Shroud sticky tape samples. His articles in The Microscope, other scientific journals, and book, Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin, contain his negative blood results with full documentation. STURP, however, continues to mendaciously ignore and impugn these results. I suspect that the STURP pseudoscientists actually did first use their own specific tests for blood, but when they were negative, they unethically suppressed them and published instead their highly technical and instrument-intensive methods that, with convoluted, labored, and illogical reasoning, gave them the conclusions they desired. These mistaken results were then published in technical journals with sympathetic editors that apparently never dealt with microscopic forensic methods of this type before.
Another example was the elaborate instrumentation, experimental equipment, and contrived methods used by STURP investigators to achieve an image transfer from a human body to cloth that had the necessary "photographic negative" quality noticed early in the previous century and the "three-dimensional coding" noticed more recently. The alleged photographic negative effect is in reality not a true photographic negative, but the Shroud image has greater tonal densities in high-relief areas and lower tonal densities in low-relief areas. The so-called 3-D coding gives the Shroud image a 3-D quality of topographic relief when processed through image analysis software that converts tonal gradations to a third axis of height or topography. All of this elaborate equipment and painstaking testing was a useless waste of time and unnecessary expense, since, as I demonstrated many years ago, the photonegative quality of the Shroud image is not a true photographic negative but a faux-photonegative, and the alleged 3-D coding are completely natural and easily attributed to the tonal gradations in pigment application by the artist, using either a bas relief rubbing (suggested by Joe Nickell and my favorite explanation, which I explained automatically creates a faux-photonegative image with tonal gradations such as the Shroud possesses) or a direct faux-negative, tonal-gradation painting (Walter McCrone's hypothesis, which he believes is a simpler explanation, but which I consider to be more complicated and requiring more skill on the part of an artist).
The most notorious case of the incompetent misuse and nonuse of scientific instruments by STURP remains their examination and explanation of the Shroud image. STURP used energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (EDS) to analyze the Shroud surface, and found calcium, iron, and protein in the Shroud "blood," thus "confirming" in their minds the presence of blood. Unfortunately for STURP, as McCrone points out, blood also contain potassium and chlorine in high amounts, and their absence means that this was not blood. Again using EDS, STURP did detect iron and calcium, but not protein, in the non-blood image areas, and claimed this was due to an alkaline iron salt precipitation that occurred naturally during the linen retting process. They also concluded that the lack of protein was evidence that McCrone's tempera binder hypothesis was incorrect. But EDS is not sensitive enough to detect the small amount of protein present; McCrone used more sensitive methods to reveal its occurrence. Calcium is present due to the linen and water residues, and iron is present due to red ocher/iron oxide pigment particles.
Now, here's where the story really gets good. McCrone frequently complained that anyone with a simple polarizing microscope (an essential tool of forensic microscopy and visible in many photographs of him) could easily see and identify the abundant (millions) of tiny red ocher pigment particles that coat all the fibers in the image and blood areas. Undoubtedly, STURP members did see these abundant and colorful reddish particles on the Shroud image and blood fibers--but never on the Shroud non-image fibers--but, against all reason and evidence, decided they were naturally-occurring alkaline iron precipitates and then ignored them! To this day, STURP members continue to ignore the pigment particles, just as Aristotelian geocentrists ignored the clearly visible moons of Jupiter in Galileo's time. McCrone and even STURP published abundant photomicrographs that clearly show these particles, but only McCrone took the next essential step and identified them as red ocher, an iron oxide pigment made from the red natural rock mineral hematite ("blood rock"). This is the pigment that forms the Shroud image, and it along with vermilion pigment (the bright orange-red mercury sulfide mineral cinnabar) and rose madder pigment make up the blood images on the Shroud. Red ocher/iron oxide/hematite is easily identified by its color and by crossing the polarizing filters of the polarizing microscope and examining the refractive index of a particle. Hematite has a very high refractive index, blood a low RI, and they are easily distinguished using the proper technique. This technique is known to every forensic microscopist, optical mineralogist, and rock petrologist (I am an expert in the last category, and studied optical mineralogy to become a petrologist). But STURP members never used this simple and powerful technique. They apparently never observed the Shroud sticky tape sample fibers with a polarizing microscope, for if they had, they would have no trouble identifying the bright orange and red particles as red ocher/iron oxide/hematite, not "blood sherds" or "alkaline iron precipitate," which is what they incompetently called them.
STURP persistently claimed that the Shroud image was not a painting, even though it was clear from all evidence that it is (i.e. an artistic creation by painting or rubbing). In his TA paper, Rogers continues this deception. He states that the results of the "pyrolysis/ms analyses proved to be consistent with an array of independent observations and data [references a STURP paper], showing that the image was not the result of an applied material. With that conclusion established, the dozens of pyrolysis/ms data sets can now be reanalyzed to compare samples from the radiocarbon area with samples from the main cloth." In fact, Rogers' "conclusion" was never "established," but quite the opposite, and it is therefore not permissible to use the old 1981 pyrolysis/ms data in the way he does in the 2005 paper. Any scientist-reviewer with even a tiny bit of knowledge about the two decade-old Shroud controversy would have known that the Shroud is an artistic creation and that Rogers' claim here was not valid, and thus would have rejected his absurd paper.
I visited Walter McCrone's laboratory in Chicago several times over the years. In 1980 and 1981, I was able to observe several Shroud fiber samples using one of McCrone's polarizing microscopes. While not trained in forensic microscopy, I am an expert sedimentary petrologist and skilled with geological, biological, and micropaleontological microscopy; much of my academic research involved the study of microfossils, I currently consult in the petroleum industry using sedimentary petrology, and I assist my biologist wife with her zoological photomicrography and image analysis; I have six microscopes of various types in my house and access to several others at the local university and geological consulting lab where I work. Using crossed polars and Becke line movement, I quickly and easily identified the thousands of tiny particles I saw as the mineral hematite using its characteristic color and high index of refraction as criteria; this was a mineral I had observed hundreds of times before. Hematite is finely ground to make the pigment red ocher, which has been used throughout human history as the most common red pigment. The particles are definitely not blood shards or alkaline iron precipitates (such as iron sufide, iron carbonate, or iron nitrate); they are unquestionably iron oxide. I also observed some vermilion pigment particles, the mineral cinnabar; McCrone told me this was often used by medieval artists to represent blood. I saw no pollen grains on the slides I examined (I only studied a few), and McCrone told me they were rare. There were other particles in addition to the abundant linen fibers and red ocher particles which I could not identify; McCrone told me these were other pigments, wax, soil, and other particles.
STURP's Response to Critics
Over the years, I have repeatedly pointed out inconsistencies, logical lapses, and bogus claims in STURPS's and other pro-authenticity believers' reasoning, methods, and evidence. STURP gradually responds to my critiques indirectly, refusing to mention my name or cite my papers. I pointed out that the Christ figure's body, limbs, and fingers were unnaturally elongated, even deformed (amazingly, I was apparently the first person to describe this!); I attributed the elongation to characteristic French High Gothic artistic style. STURP members eventually claimed that Jesus had Marfan's syndrome or suffered skeletal deformities (odd for God on Earth, but there you have it!). I was the one who claimed that Max Frei's pollen findings were a hoax, since his sticky tape samples had abundant pollen and cotton fibers from his gloves, and STURP's samples had neither; the nonsensical response from authenticity-believers was that Frei took his sticky tape samples with more force than did STURP, thus actually getting the pollen from inside the fibers. However, they've never explained the presence of the cotton fibers, which I believe got mixed in with Frei's secreted pollen grains when he covertly touched his pollen stash and then pressed his tape sample with his fingers before applying it to the Shroud. I pointed out that the pollen was at least half-derived from insect-pollinated plants and could not have been wind-blown onto the exposed Shroud in Palestine; the believers' response was that visitors to Jesus' funeral benevolently placed flowers on his Shroud and the pollen fell out! For every critique, the Shroud believers--endowed with immense emotional involvement in its authenticity--come up with some bizarre response or overreaching justification. This process would be sad if the stakes were high, but since it's just the Shroud of Turin, the process is hilarious.
Ray Rogers (left) and Walter McCrone (right) at their respective polarizing microscopes.
(Photo credits: Rogers from www.shroud.com, the Shroud of Turin Site by Barrie M. Schwortz; McCrone from www.mcri.org, the McCrone Research Institute Site.)
Now here's the latest. In the past I have pointed out that the STURP "scientists" never used a polarizing microscope to examine their Shroud fiber samples, for if they did, they would have been able to easily identify the iron oxide particles. I even used pictures in my talks of them in front of expensive and elaborate biological microscopes, which are not the polarizing microscopes used for mineralogical, petrographic, forensic, and chemical analysis that McCrone, I, and thousands of other scientists use. Therefore imagine my surprise a week ago when I visited Barrie Schwortz's Shroud of Turin website at http://www.shroud.com/ and saw a photo of the smiling visage of Ray Rogers in front of his polarizing "petrographic microscope"! Now, why does a chemist need a petrographic microscope? How long has he had it? Did he get it to use with the Shroud samples, or did he get it recently for the purpose of indirectly refuting me once again! Well, to me this is an example of overreaching yet again, for if Ray actually knew how to use his microscope--of which he appears to be quite proud, exactly mimicking the well-known photo of Walter McCrone!--he would be able to place one of his fiber samples from a Shroud image or blood area under it, add the immersion fluid of proper density, cross the polars, focus up to move the Becke line, and determine that the thousands of tiny orange and red particles he sees covering the fibers have a high index of refraction, revealing them to be iron oxide. That he has apparently neglected to do this reveals Ray Rogers to be either incompetent or mendacious, and thus not deserving of the esteemed designation of microscopist.
Coincidently, in his book McCrone refers to the STURP chemists' "incompetence in light microscopy" (p. 157). McCrone further relates (p. 124) that Rogers, along with John Jackson and Eric Jumper, visited McCrone in 1980 and conned him out of his Shroud sample slides. They deceived McCrone, complaining that he took the better half of the samples, that they needed them for testing, and telling him they would replace his slides with the others they had, but later refused to do so. STURP then had their lawyers write to McCrone and demand all STURP samples be returned (because McCrone still had a few left over slides, all eventually returned). STURP now has all their original Shroud sticky tape fiber samples somewhere, and either Paul Maloney or Alan Whanger has Max Frei's sticky tape slide samples somewhere. As far as I know, no non-STURP or skeptical non-pro-authenticity microscopist has been allowed to study either of these sets of samples since Walter McCrone many years ago. STURP has thus kept the lid on the evidence that conflicts with their pro-authenticity beliefs by disparaging or ignoring McCrone's analytical results, and making it difficult or impossible for others to examine the evidence themselves to reach their own conclusions. If McCrone did not have the reputation as the greatest microanalytical chemist and microscopist in the history of microscopy and a man of the highest integrity, we scientists would be in trouble.
As it is, educated, informed, and rational individuals don't believe the Shroud is authentic, tend to look on the controversy with either disgust or boredom (as I certainly do), and wish to get on with their lives. The Shroud of Turin is, after all, a notorious religious relic of the Catholic Church, and thus should be regarded with the same skepticism and contempt as other such relics (deciduous teeth, nail cuttings, and foreskins of Jesus and the bones of saints). If any competent person were to examine the Shroud sticky tape fiber samples--and there must be many thousands of such individuals in this country--it would be elementary to confirm that the fibers are covered by millions of tiny red ocher pigment particles. I challenge STURP to let me, or someone else equally competent, or best, several individuals who have the knowledge to identify red ocher/iron oxide/hematite particles, examine the STURP and Frei sticky tape sample fibers mounted on slides, perhaps at a public joint conference devoted to the microscopic investigation of the Shroud of Turin.
Copyright © 2005 by Steven D. Schafersman Email author: firstname.lastname@example.org Skeptical Shroud of Turin Website at http://freeinquiry.com/skeptic/shroud Last updated: 2005/03/14