TEST SHROUDED IN MYSTERY PASADENA, CA - In 1983 the Vatican inherited the Shroud, when its

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

TEST SHROUDED IN MYSTERY PASADENA, CA -- In 1983 the Vatican inherited the Shroud, when its owner, the exiled King Umberto of Italy, died. For a time the Vatican continued to prohibit radiocarbon dating of the cloth. But late in 1986 came the headlines, "Pope Allows Tests on Shroud of Turin." The story arose out of a communique issued by the Archbishop of Turin on October 4th. It said several laboratories around the world would be involved in the tests. The communique also said the Pope gave his approval for the tests. The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal believes that the seven laboratories involved are: USA: University of Rochester University of Arizona Brookhaven National Laboratory, of Upton, NY FRANCE: CNRS-CEA UK: The Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University UK Atomic Energy Authority's Harwell Laboratory SWITZERLAND: ETH, Zurich The Harwell Bulletin of October 31, 1986 gave some details of the tests. However, Professor Harry Grove, from the University of Rochester has stated "Permission to proceed has not yet been given by the Vatican." CSICOP has written several letters to the Vatican and the Archbishop of Turin, but none have been answered. The communique also states that "results of these tests will be made known by Easter 1988." The choice of date most likely indicates a religious orienta- tion to the testing. Scientists do no time the release of test re- sults to commemorate religious holidays. There is world interest in the testing of the Shroud. It is therefore important that the testing procedure be objective, accur- ate, and beyond reproach. It is in the interest of all parties that there should be no dispute after the release of the test results in the methodology of the tests. CSICOP is concerned with the scientific procedures to be used. Only skimpy details are available in a letter from Dr. Hedges, Direc- tor of the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford. CSICOP believes collection of specimens from the shroud should be done by disinterested parties in front of independent and neutral observers to positively ensure the authenticity of the samples. A chain of evidence must be maintained, double-blind procedures scrup- ulously followed. A chain of evidence involves a verifiable secure history of the movement of samples from the time of taking it from the Shroud to the testing. The chain must be secure so that no doubt can be thrown as to the final result. CSICOP urges that the collection of shroud samples and suitable control specimens, the keying of same, and the custody of the key to the identities of the specimens be performed by disinterested per- sons, specifically, that church authorities, or such groups as Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) and Association of Scholars and Scientists International for the Shroud of Turin (ASSIST) or, on the other hand, any skeptical groups, be kept from direct involvement. We recommend that groups such as STURP, ASSIST and CSICOP should have representatives present to observe the collection and transmittal of samples. It is important that a complete protocol be made public well in advance of any such collection of samples, and publicly scrutinized to ensure objectivity before implementation. If this is not done there will always be doubts about the tightness of the chain of evidence and the methodology and protocol of the test- ing. Given the controversy about past activities and doubts about the methodology and objectivity of some past researchers, it is es- sential that the dating tests be handled in a scrupulously objective manner. Test must only be conducted fairly and competently.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank