Richard Corfield – Chemistry in the face of belief

Richard Corfield wrote an article, Chemistry in the face of belief, Dec 2013, discussing the 1988 C-14 dating and the shroud.

The Shroud is one of the most important relics in the Christian church and almost from the moment that Willard Libby invented the radiocarbon dating technique in the 1940s, the Shroud has been an obvious and high profile candidate for measurement. The problem in those days was that carbon-14 is present in such low abundance that for many years very large sample sizes (handkerchief size or larger) would have been required for a measurement to be made. And removing – and destroying – such a large sample would never have been permitted.

The subsequent development of AMS radiocarbon dating meant that smaller samples (of about 50mg weight) could be measured. An added benefit was that the technique became more sensitive, with its potential time range almost doubling from 50,000 to 100,000 years. A sample that could not, by definition, be more than two thousand years old should be easy to date. … 18.article

One area of the Shroud, selected because it was obvious that it was not a later repair but the original fabric, was sampled by two Italian textile experts in the presence of Tite and Anastasio Ballestrero – a cardinal and the archbishop of Turin.

Highly doubtful the sample area was selected because they knew it was not a repair. If what he means is because it was not a repair done by the Poor Clare nuns, that is true. But what is claimed by Joe Marino is that area was done by someone else, not the nuns. So they would not have known about it.

After the samples were taken, they – and the two control samples that had been selected from other, unrelated, ancient fabrics – were taken into an adjoining room where they were sealed into metal ampoules labelled only A, B and C.

And they could never explain why they had to go into another room to put the samples into the vials.

Never in the history of radiocarbon dating were samples treated with such care.

Actually, completely the opposite. I’ve pointed out 12 protocol violations that happened with the testing:

As art historian Thomas de Wesselow states, “The carbon dating of the shroud will probably go down in history as one of the greatest fiascos in the history of science.”

After the measurements were made, the media lid became hermetic and the silence deafening. And then in February 1989, the results were published in Nature after painstaking statistical work by Tite.

That’s incorrect. BBC was there while they were doing the testing and also broke the results prior to the 1989 Nature official report.

1988 May. Although everything related to the results was to be confidential, no less than a BBC TV crew filmed the testing at the Zurich lab. The program was broadcast well before the announcement of the dates on October 13th.

The BBC film team was present in Wolfli’s laboratory when he broke the seals of his three containers and laid out the cloth pieces before him, and anyone could see which one belonged to the Turin Shroud. … UD_PT3.pdf

The last being suggestions that the scientists in charge had swapped samples in between sampling and measurement.

I do not believe samples were switched. But it is understandable why some would suspect this when the samples were placed into the vials in another room and it was not filmed.

In fact no such chicanery was possible since the characteristic herringbone weave of the Shroud clearly identified it to all the scientists in the three labs as soon as the ampoules were opened.

Yes, and this is evidence it was not a blind test.

The problem with that argument is that no radiocarbon sample’s provenance is ever known.

This is an interesting admission. If this is true, then why do skeptics argue the shroud’s lack of a known provenance shows it is not authentic?

Corfield mentions a few proposed hypotheses for what could’ve affected the C-14 dating:

Of the credible hypotheses, one centred on the possibility that the radiocarbon age of the Shroud had been altered by the fact that it was exposed to high temperatures during a fire in 1532.

Another plausible hypothesis involves the possibility that textile fibres can gain a coat of biofilm over the years.

He does not even mention the invisible reweave hypothesis.

Ramsey is responsive to reasoned criticisms of the dating of the Shroud, which is why he is open to the idea of resampling. ‘I don’t think it’s very healthy for people to go around in circles wishing various things to be true. I think that damages science. So, I would quite like to see [the date] either corroborated or not; that’s a very useful thing to know 25 years after the original dating.’

It goes both ways, even the C-14 scientists should not go around in circles wishing for things to be true.