If you set out to study these issues in depth, you enter a labyrinth of garbled information, without much guidance and without a lot of hope of accomplishing much. That ought to change. Eyewitnesses and other sources relevant to the events in question are gradually dying off. Attempts to clarify these matters ought to be made sooner rather than later. I want this thread to take some steps in that direction. I don't claim to have even come close to resolving all of the difficulties. But I think I can clarify some points, with a lot still unsettled.
I intend to keep updating this thread as more information comes to light. If you think anything should be added or changed, you can leave a comment here or send me an email. (My email address can be found in my Blogger profile.) Note that comments submitted to this thread more than a few days after the thread originated will automatically go into moderation. We have the blog set up that way in order to avoid having posts appear in old threads without our knowing of it. We'll keep monitoring the moderation folder, so any of your posts that go into moderation shouldn't be there long.
This will be a lengthy post. It has to be lengthy in order to address such a complicated subject in the depth I intend.
I can name some of the sources for my information below, but there are other sources I can't name for various reasons. Though not naming a source diminishes the significance of a claim, I think some of the information involved is valuable enough to warrant reporting it without being able to name the source. I know who the sources are and judge them credible enough for their claims to be taken seriously.
Many people could cover these topics better than I can. Other people are more knowledgeable of the background issues, are in a better position to get more information, and so forth. If other people could correct or expand on what I've said here, I hope they'll do so.
The Gist Of The Claim
There seems to be widespread agreement, among the accounts circulating, that this dating test on the Shroud took place in the early 1980s (my sense is that the large majority say 1982) in California, involving one thread from the Shroud near the area of the 1988 carbon dating, producing two dates differing by several centuries for each end of the thread, one date being close to the time of Jesus and one several centuries later. For example:
"[John] Heller took me back to the train station that evening [in 1984], and as we sat waiting for my train back to New York City, he told me in strictest confidence about a secret C-14 run that had already been made on a thread from the Shroud. He said it had been done by the Livermore Laboratory in California, and the thread was cut into two segments. One end dated ca. 200 A.D., and the other ca. 1000 A.D. He also said that starch had been identified on the thread. He did not know what margin of error there was on the dates, and thought it would be quite wide, as the test was only intended to give a rough idea of what an eventual C-14 date would look like. As it turned out, it gave conflicting indications. (This test in California was later confirmed to me by [Alan] Adler, who said that he was in fact the one who had arranged it, despite C-14 dating being specifically forbidden in STURP's agreement with the Turin Archdiocese.)" (William Meacham, The Rape Of The Turin Shroud [Lulu, 2005], 58)
To give the reader some idea of how the accounts differ, it will sometimes be claimed that the second end of the thread dated to about 1200 A.D. rather than 1000 A.D. One account will associate the test with the University of California, whereas another will associate it with Caltech. And so on. There are some significant similarities among the accounts, but accompanied by some significant differences.
We need to be careful in judging whether a difference is a contradiction and, if it is one, how significant that contradiction is. For example, the people and facilities involved in the testing could be affiliated with more than one university. As William Meacham mentioned in an email to me, it's "Not unusual for someone to send a sample to a colleague at another university or facility to analyze, if the person with the sample doesn't have the equipment for the desired test." There's also the issue of how much the people who did the testing told the people who submitted the sample, as well as when they provided the information. Given the unofficial nature of the test, there would have been a lot of potential for ambiguities, changes in plans, and the gradual learning of details over time, for example. There may have been some back-and-forth over the years among the parties involved, with misconceptions persisting in one person's mind while they were corrected in another person's thinking. Or perhaps one person had a significantly better memory than another. If Heller and Adler were both involved in arranging the test, and one assumed that the test went ahead as planned, whereas the other gradually learned some details over time about how the test was handled differently than expected, then that sort of scenario could have resulted in the disseminating of inconsistent accounts.
For an illustration of how ambiguous the differences in the accounts can be, see Thomas Case's 1994 interview with Heller and Adler (The Shroud Of Turin And The C-14 Dating Fiasco [Cincinnati, Ohio: White Horse Press, 1998], 32-3, 74-5). Two times, Case asks questions based on the assumption that the two ends of the thread dated to 200 A.D. and 1000 A.D. Neither Heller nor Adler corrects him. From the interview itself, you'd think both Heller and Adler agreed with the dating cited by Case. But on page 33, Case tells us that Adler said the later end of the thread dated to 1200 A.D. He doesn't cite any source. Did Adler correct Case after the interview ended? Did Case see Adler commenting on the issue in some other context? Did the 1000 A.D. figure originate as a rough approximation, a good rounded figure to cite? Perhaps the 1000 year gap between 200 A.D. and 1200 A.D. led to an inaccurate memory of a 1000 A.D. date. Maybe Adler knew that 1200 A.D. was more accurate, and he would sometimes correct the 1000 A.D. figure, whereas other times he'd let it pass without comment. Or perhaps 1000 A.D. was correct, but the 200 A.D. date for the other end led to a garbled memory of 1200 A.D., since 200 added to 1000 is 1200. Whatever the case, it's easy to think of ways in which these numbers could get garbled over time. Garbling would be more difficult to explain if the numbers had been, say, 200 A.D. on one end and 1100 and 1400 A.D. on the other end. The fact that the garbled numbers we have seem so easily explainable is significant.
The differences among these accounts weaken the accounts' credibility. But just as we don't want to underestimate the differences, we also don't want to overestimate them.
How Much Agreement Should We Expect?
It's common for the reporting of an actual event to become garbled over time. Often, a historical core of information will be surrounded by a lot of misinformation and contradictions (e.g., early reports of the death of Osama bin Laden). Sometimes, disputes over what actually happened will go on for years, generations, or even centuries. In this case, there are some factors involved that help explain how poorly the story has been preserved. For example, it was an unofficial test, done privately, apparently with only a small number of people involved, with ambiguous and confusing results, results that conflict with later testing, pertaining to a highly controversial issue. It's understandable that accounts of what happened would be somewhat garbled. But not to this extent. We're not talking about an event that had no eyewitnesses or an event that happened hundreds or thousands of years ago. There probably are some eyewitnesses and/or other individuals who could come forward with significant information on these matters. Will they?
Who Conducted The Test
In an email to me, William Meacham said, "Heller told me the test was done by the Livermore lab, but he didn't mention any person's name. He did say however that there was nothing written down and it would be denied by the people who did the test." I've come across three names of scientists allegedly involved in carrying out the test, and I want to address each.
For the background to the claim that George Rossman was involved, see here. I've seen the Rossman allegation repeated in a few books (Frederick Zugibe, The Crucifixion Of Jesus [New York, New York: M. Evans and Company, 2005], approximate Kindle location 5093; Robert Wilcox, The Truth About The Shroud Of Turin [Washington, DC: Regnery, 2010], approximate Kindle location 1744; Mark Oxley, The Challenge Of The Shroud [England: AuthorHouse, 2010], approximate Kindle location 4274). I doubt that the claims about Rossman are true. Here are some of the reasons why:
- I made a couple of attempts to get a copy of the tape in which Adler allegedly identifies Rossman. I also tried to get somebody who has the tape to play it for me over the phone. All of those efforts were unsuccessful. However, I did discuss the tape with two people who had heard it. Both told me that the last name of the scientist identified by Adler sounded like "Wasserman". One of them listened to the tape again and told me that Adler refers to the scientist as "Jerry" more than once. It seems, then, that Adler identified the individual as Jerry Wasserman. As we'll see below, there's somebody who comes much closer to meeting Adler's description than Rossman does, so there's no need to speculate that Rossman was being called Jerry, that Adler mispronounced Rossman's last name, etc.
- Though the other two names I'll discuss below were circulating in the 1990s and earlier, I haven't found any evidence that anybody was naming Rossman prior to 2002. The people I've talked to, including some from STURP, either didn't hear anybody named as the scientist who conducted the 1982 test or heard of somebody other than Rossman.
- What Sue Benford reported about her alleged telephone conversation with Rossman is unlikely to have occurred in a couple of ways. For one thing, it's unlikely that Rossman would confess to a stranger over the telephone.
- Secondly, it's unlikely that he'd say that he didn't want to discuss the matter any further just after confessing. While people sometimes do things that had seemed unlikely, and the scenario Benford described might have occurred, we're being asked to accept a sequence of events that's improbable upfront.
- Benford made some misleading claims about the 1988 tape of Adler, and she claimed to have had an unlikely telephone conversation with Rossman. Has Rossman similarly been misleading or made unlikely claims in a relevant context? Not that I'm aware of. I see no way to deny that Rossman has more credibility.
For these and other reasons, I think it's very likely that what Benford reported about Rossman is incorrect, and I think it's likely that Rossman wasn't involved in the 1982 test.
After I published my comments above in the original edition of this article, I discussed the subject with Joe Marino, Benford's husband, in a thread here. And William Meacham wrote to me, "I knew her [Benford], and don't think it possible that she lied or even didn't recall the conversation correctly. Maybe Rossman was being facetious, or deliberately misleading, who knows?"
I'm not aware of any relevant scientist named Jerry Wasserman during the timeframe in question.
In a presentation on May 11, 1995, Thomas D'Muhala, former president of STURP, referred to a scientist who conducted a pre-1988 dating test on the Shroud as "Jerry Wasserberg". It should be noted that the web site I just linked contains a transcript written by somebody who videotaped D'Muhala's presentation. The transcript wasn't written by D'Muhala. So, the spelling of the scientist's name can't be attributed to D'Muhala.
See here for a scientist name Gerald Wasserburg who was at Caltech during the relevant timeframe and who seems similar to the individual Alan Adler described in his 1988 comments. Though the people I talked to who heard the 1988 tape thought Adler referred to the scientist's name as Jerry Wasserman, that name is close to Gerald Wasserburg. There's a good chance that poor audio quality has led to Adler being misunderstood or that he misspoke. Wasserman is much closer to Wasserburg than it is to Rossman. When people forget part of somebody's name, I suspect they're more likely to forget a less memorable part of the name. "Wasser" in "Wasserburg" stands out more than "man" in "Rossman". If Adler misremembered the scientist's name, he's more likely to have misremembered Wasserburg as Wasserman than to have misremembered Rossman as Wasserman.
In the acknowledgments section of a book John Heller wrote on the Shroud, he mentioned colleagues who were "generously obliging in providing input" (Report On The Shroud Of Turin [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984], viii). One of the individuals he listed was "G. Wasserberg, California Institute of Technology". (The "Wasserberg" misspelling of the name seems to be common, sometimes even appearing at Caltech's web site, for example.) Since the original edition of the book was published in 1983, Heller's comments demonstrate that he was in contact with Wasserburg right around the time of the 1982 test. And he was in contact with Wasserburg on matters pertaining to the Shroud.
Notice, also, that D'Muhala says he got Wasserburg's name from Heller. So, we have two sources reportedly involved in acquiring and delivering the sample for the 1982 test, Adler and Heller, indicating that Wasserburg was involved in conducting the test.
In an email to me, D'Muhala used the "Wasserburg" spelling rather than "Wasserberg". He also told me that he never knew or communicated with Wasserburg, but that the person on the Caltech page I linked him to (the same as the one above) is consistent with the individual Adler and Heller had described to him.
Both Adler, in the 1988 tape, and D'Muhala, in his 1995 presentation, refer to the scientist in question as "Jerry". There are many online sources that refer to Gerald Wasserburg as Jerry, so it's a name he's commonly been known by. See, for example, here, here, and here.
Here's a web page that associates Wasserburg with the University of California and the Livermore Laboratory (under the Info section). It's unclear to me just what significance the associations have, though.
About two years after I published the original edition of this article, Wasserburg died. The memorial page at Caltech's site, just linked, underscores how closely Wasserburg aligns with the descriptions various sources have provided of the person who conducted the 1982 test on the Shroud. Benford and Marino reported that Adler referred to the scientist who conducted the test as "a leading expert in the niche area of 'moon rocks.'" They also said that on matters of dating, he's the "world's expert in it and there's no arguing with him". In his 1995 presentation, D'Muhala referred to the scientist who ran the 1982 test as "the head of the Lunar Lab in California, where they were doing analysis on moon rocks. [He] had come up with a linear accelerator mass-spectrometer technique for dating". The memorial page for Wasserburg at Caltech's site, linked above, is largely about Wasserburg's leading role in studying moon rocks and developing dating technology in that field.
Wasserburg's profile fits the descriptions provided by sources like Adler and D'Muhala far better than Rossman's profile does. Not only is Rossman a much worse match for the relevant descriptions, but I don't know of anybody who even comes close to aligning with the descriptions as much as Wasserburg does.
Wasserburg seems to be the best candidate for the scientist who carried out, or led a group in carrying out, the 1982 test. There are some problems with identifying Wasserburg as the individual, though:
- He denied it. I asked Wasserburg whether he ever did any work on the Shroud. He denied that he did any. I then asked him if it was possible that Heller or Adler had given him a piece of the Shroud to test without his having known that it was a piece of the Shroud. He said that no, it's not possible. And he wanted me to include the following statement from him if I were to report what he said in his email exchange with me:
"What is very strange is that there were/are very good objective scientists who worked on the shroud and deserve credit for staying with the problem in the face of all the attacks by groups that either wanted another outcome or simply wanted to believe. The evidence is clear. It is not old. There are real miracles but this is not one. G. J. Wasserburg"
- Wasserman is a different name than Wasserburg. That's true, but the evidence suggests that Adler meant to refer to Wasserburg, as I've explained above.
- Dating moon rocks and other such material isn't the same as dating something like a thread from the Shroud. My understanding is that significantly different knowledge and equipment are involved. I'll have more to say about this issue later in this article. I'll summarize the matter here by saying that this is a substantial problem for the view that Wasserburg conducted the 1982 test, but the problem doesn't seem to be significant enough to demonstrate that the test didn't occur or that Wasserburg wasn't involved in some way. Besides, even if the sources in question were wrong about Wasserburg's testing capabilities, that's a different issue than whether Wasserburg was the individual they had in mind.
- Even if Heller, Adler, and D'Muhala claimed that Wasserburg was involved in the test, it doesn't follow that he was actually involved. Given the inconsistencies in what Heller, Adler, and D'Muhala claimed about the 1982 test, there are problems with their credibility. That's true. But Wasserburg's involvement doesn't seem to have been one of the points they were inconsistent about. And inconsistencies don't require that every party involved is mistaken. If two people contradict each other, it doesn't follow that both are wrong. It could be that one is right. Still, the inconsistencies among Heller, Adler, and D'Muhala do raise some doubts, and I want to address that subject.
First, though, I want to expand on what happened during my email exchange with Wasserburg. I'm the only person I know of other than Heller and Adler who's discussed the 1982 test with Wasserburg, and I did so just two years before his death. (There could easily be others who discussed the subject with him, but I'm not aware of any. I've discussed the 1982 test with a lot of people who are highly knowledgeable of the Shroud, and the vast majority seemed to have never even heard of Wasserburg. D'Muhala is the only exception who comes to mind, and he told me that he'd never interacted with Wasserburg, even though he knew about him.) Since Wasserburg is dead now, and the information I have about my interactions with him is useful to future researchers, I want to leave a record of what happened.
When I first contacted him, I provided him with D'Muhala's comments in his 1995 presentation. In addition to asking him whether he'd ever done dating work on the Shroud, I asked him if he'd known Heller. I had quoted D'Muhala's comment about how Wasserburg was "a close friend" of Heller. (Unfortunately, it wasn't until later in the year that I read Heller's book, referred to earlier, in which he mentions Wasserburg by name in the acknowledgements section. So, I didn't ask Wasserburg about Heller's comments in that book.) I also asked him if Heller and Adler could have given him a Shroud thread to test without having told him that the thread came from the Shroud. So, Heller had come up three times in our discussion, including in the form of my asking him if he'd known Heller. Yet, he ignored my question and never commented on his relationship with Heller. Denying that he had such a relationship or clarifying the nature of it would have been in his interest, if the accounts circulating about his relationship with Heller were significantly inaccurate. But he never addressed the subject in any of his four emails responding to me over a period of about two weeks.
In his first email to me, he made some comments about religion, science, and the evidence for the Shroud. He referred to people who want to believe in miracles regardless of the facts, how he attended a meeting with Pope John Paul II on the subject of Galileo, which he found far more interesting than discussions of the Shroud, etc.
In a later email, he told me that he wanted me to include a statement from him if I were to discuss our email exchange with other people. I've quoted the statement above. It's about religion, science, and the evidence for the Shroud, similar to his comments in his first response to me. It's extremely unusual for anybody to say that a statement like that should be provided if he's going to be cited in a discussion. The statement doesn't have much relevance to what I'd said in my emails to him. Both times he brought these issues up, he did it on his own initiative. That may reflect the mindset he had as he approached matters related to the Shroud. He seemed to look at the Shroud through the lens of the relationship between religion and science and how he thought some religious people were abusing science.
Because one of the comments he made was unclear to me, I asked him for clarification. He wrote back with a clarification in all-caps. Since he wasn't providing much information, he kept making such unreasonable and irrelevant comments, and he seemed to be angry, I ended the discussion at that point.
What Wasserburg didn't say in his exchange with me is striking. When Caltech and Rossman were responding in 2002 to the charge that Rossman had done dating work on the Shroud, they didn't just deny that Rossman worked on the Shroud. They also denied that any members of his research group did so, explained that Rossman has never been involved in any age-dating studies, stated that he has no expertise in the area, referred to how the division Rossman works in has never had the relevant equipment, and denied that Rossman had the discussion he was said to have had with Benford and Marino. That's a forceful response, what you'd expect from people who thought the allegations about them were false and thought they had a lot of evidence to offer against those allegations. The contrast with how Wasserburg conducted himself is stark. He offered no evidence against the details of D'Muhala's claims about the 1982 test (though he could have convincingly disputed some of them, as we'll see below), ignored my question about his relationship with Heller, and changed the subject to what he thought of the Shroud and the relationship between religion and science more broadly.
But the Rossman and Wasserburg contexts are substantially different. Wasserburg was just writing some brief emails in response to an insignificant person he didn't know. He may have been in a hurry at the time. He was 87 years old, so health may have been a factor.
On the other hand, though Wasserburg only wrote a few brief emails to me, he could easily have used just a sentence or two to provide some arguments against D'Muhala's claims. And Wasserburg was willing to take the time and effort to provide me with a statement on his view of religion, science, and the evidence for the Shroud. Why couldn't he have taken the time and effort to make some comments about the details of D'Muhala's claims, which was the topic I had asked him about? Health doesn't seem to have been much of a factor. As one obituary notes:
"Although he retired in 2001, he continued producing important papers with international teams from his lakeside house in Florence. Indeed, a paper on which he was the senior author was about to be published at the time of his death."
I think his behavior in his email exchange with me is somewhat suspicious, though there's a lot of ambiguity involved. His behavior in that exchange adds some weight, but not much, to the conclusion that he was involved in the 1982 test.
After Wasserburg's death, I contacted some of his colleagues at Caltech, who had known him and worked with him, and they told me they didn't know anything about any work Wasserburg had done on the Shroud.
I've noticed some problems with what Heller and D'Muhala have said about the 1982 test, such as D'Muhala's reference to the ends of the thread dating to the first and eighth centuries. Every other source I've seen disagrees with that dating. But my focus here is going to be on Adler. It seems that the most significant inconsistencies have come from him.
After listening to the 1988 tape of Adler, Sue Benford and Joe Marino wrote:
"Rossman found that the non-contaminated end of the thread dated to 200 AD while the starched end dated to 1200 AD. Although Rossman did not publish these data, Adler had confidence in his capabilities to accurately measure the age of the sample. Adler stated that Rossman is the 'world’s expert in it and there’s no arguing with him . . .if he says these are the dates he got . . .'" (12)
But in his 1994 interview with Thomas Case, Adler said:
"You should know that the test was not performed under rigorous conditions; the dates were not corrected by the dendrochronological curve; we do not even know which end - the starched end or the other end - gave the earlier date; the experimenter was not experienced in C14 testing. The results of that 1982 test should be thrown out." (The Shroud Of Turin And The C-14 Dating Fiasco [Cincinnati, Ohio: White Horse Press, 1998], 75)
Apparently, Adler said in 1988 that the starched end of the thread dated to 1200 A.D., whereas in 1994 he said that it's unknown which end was the starched one. In 1988, he expressed high confidence in the dating scientist's abilities. In 1994, he expressed a more pessimistic view.
Both of those inconsistencies can be explained without denying that the Shroud underwent a dating test in 1982. Maybe Adler adjusted his conclusions as he gained more information, from one or more of the scientists involved in the 1982 test or from some other source. In his 1995 presentation referred to above, D'Muhala comments that the scientist overseeing the 1982 test "was not an expert in radiocarbon dating". As far as I know, D'Muhala was speaking independently of Case's 1994 interview with Heller and Adler. My understanding is that the interview wasn't published until the first edition of Case's book in 1996. And the differences between what D'Muhala said and what Heller and Adler said also suggest independence. But D'Muhala and Adler (in 1994) agree in saying that the scientist in question was somewhat inexperienced with the dating method under consideration. So, it seems to me that Adler's later view, corroborated by D'Muhala, should be taken more seriously than Adler's 1988 comments on the subject.
The impression I have at this point is that Heller was more at the forefront of the 1982 test, making arrangements for it as early as 1979, and his comments on the subject over the years were more consistent than Adler's. There may be reason to trust Adler over Heller in some contexts, but I think Heller generally has more credibility on these matters.
Adler's inconsistencies weaken his credibility on these issues. And the inconsistencies in general, not just Adler's, weaken the overall case for the 1982 test. But do the inconsistencies reflect dishonesty, honest mistakes, or some of each? Is there a core to these accounts that should be accepted, in spite of the inconsistencies?
Potential Motives To Lie
It would be implausible to maintain that the claims about the 1982 test were fabricated in response to the 1988 carbon dating. In his 1995 presentation, D'Muhala said that Heller was talking to him about arranging the 1982 test as early as the fall of 1979. Meacham reports a discussion about the test that he had with Heller in 1984. In an email to me, Meacham wrote:
"I did ask Al [Adler] about it [the 1982 test] in private during the Shroud conference I organized in March 1986 in Hong Kong and he confirmed in broad outline what Heller had told me, but said he had set it up. [Luigi] Gonella was present and was shocked by the revelation. But he was a great pal and admirer of Adler so he didn't pursue the matter further."
Other examples could be cited. Too many sources would have to be dismissed to maintain that the 1982 claim didn't arise until after the 1988 test.
Any argument that the individuals involved were lying in order to promote Christianity wouldn't be sufficient by itself. My understanding is that Adler wasn't a Christian.
Since the state of the evidence prior to the 1988 test was so favorable to the Shroud, what would be the motivation to go to so much trouble to make up and maintain an account of a 1982 test with such ambiguous and inconsistent results? It could be argued that the 1982 claim was made up in anticipation of possible future dating work that would go differently than desired. But why detract from the evidence that was so favorable to the Shroud at the time just to counter a potential future change in the state of the evidence? Since the claim is that just one thread was tested, the results could be dismissed as a reflection of contamination in that area of the Shroud. If people were fabricating a claim about a test, it would have made more sense to have claimed that multiple threads were tested from diverse portions of the cloth. And why not wait until after the 1988 carbon dating to provide details about the alleged earlier dating? That would have allowed them to tailor their claims about the 1982 test to the 1988 results. Instead, they provided details about the 1982 test years before the later test occurred.
The nature of some of the claims made about the 1982 test suggests that the test did happen. Why name the University of California as the facility and, more specifically, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory when a false claim about a test could so easily have been maintained without naming such a specific location? (If they had said that they didn't want to provide much information about the location, because of the unofficial and private nature of the test, that would have been highly believable under the circumstances.) Apparently, Heller and Adler told people they were unaware of information about the test that they could easily have lied about if they wanted to. Meacham tells us, in his comments cited earlier in this article, that Heller said he didn't know what the margin of error was on the test. In 2002, Ray Rogers commented, "I have not been able to find any information on the accuracy and precision for the dating method used [in the 1982 test]". So, it looks like Heller and Adler weren't making up claims about the margin of error of the 1982 test when the subject came up. Similarly, in Case's 1994 interview with Heller and Adler, Adler refers to how he doesn't know whether the starched end of the thread had the earlier or the later of the two dates (The Shroud Of Turin And The C-14 Dating Fiasco [Cincinnati, Ohio: White Horse Press, 1998], 75).
It seems to me that Adler's behavior at the Turin workshop in 1986 supports his credibility on this issue. (The Turin workshop was a meeting, attended largely by scholars in relevant fields, that had the objective of formulating plans for the upcoming carbon dating of the Shroud.) During the course of the meeting, Adler argued for taking samples from multiple places on the cloth and advised that the cloth's edges and water stain areas be avoided (Harry Gove, Relic, Icon Or Hoax? [Bristol and Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishing, 1996], 153; William Meacham, The Rape Of The Turin Shroud [Lulu, 2005], 74-5). Those recommendations would undermine the significance of the sample allegedly used in the 1982 test. Why would Adler lie about a test in 1982, yet try to persuade the Turin officials to conduct the later carbon dating in a way that would so much undermine the purpose of his lie?
The citation of Wasserburg as the scientist who carried out the test would have been counterproductive if individuals like Heller and Adler were lying. A lie would have been easier to maintain without naming somebody who actually hadn't been involved in carrying out the test. Since the alleged test was unofficial and initially intended for private use, nobody would have been expecting the scientist(s) who did the testing to be named. Naming Wasserburg was highly unnecessary and risky if he actually wasn't involved. And any suggestion that Wasserburg was cooperating with Heller and Adler (and whoever else) in a deception would create some problems for a lie hypothesis. The more people you have to include in the alleged deception, the less likely the hypothesis is. And why involve a third person so unnecessarily, since nobody would expect the individual(s) who carried out the test to be named? Furthermore, why would Wasserburg want to be associated with a test with such inconsistent and ambiguous results?
Any suggestion that Wasserburg lied to Heller and Adler by telling them that he had the thread tested when he actually hadn't is problematic. So is the notion that Wasserburg was joking. In his 1995 presentation, D'Muhala refers to Wasserburg as a "close friend" of Heller, and Heller thanks Wasserburg by name in the acknowledgments section of his 1983 book on the Shroud. People don't normally lie or joke on such a significant matter, especially to the detriment of a friend, and it would be risky to Wasserburg's reputation and career to do something like that. As we'll see below, it looks like Heller and Adler did go to the trouble of getting a thread from the Shroud for doing the test. Even scientists (and others) who doubt the Shroud's authenticity would consider the Shroud a valuable artifact in some contexts (as art, an impressive forgery, an item that's had a significant role in human history, etc.). To waste a piece of the Shroud in order to lie or joke about running a test on it would be frowned upon. And what purpose would the lie or joke serve that would make the risk worthwhile?
When Heller and Adler discussed the 1982 test in their 1994 interview with Case, Heller was in poor health. He died the next year. Case refers to how Heller was in a wheelchair at the time of the interview, and he remarks that Heller looked so bad that he (Case) considered cutting the interview short in anticipation of Heller's not being in good enough condition to complete it (The Shroud Of Turin And The C-14 Dating Fiasco [Cincinnati, Ohio: White Horse Press, 1998], 49). So, Heller was a Christian who was in poor health at the time and was soon going to die. That's an unlikely context for him to be perpetuating a lie about carbon dating the Shroud in 1982. When Case brought up the issue of the test during the interview, Heller was the one who initiated the response. Heller didn't just remain silent, say that he didn't want to discuss the subject, make some ambiguous reference to how people shouldn't be concerned about the 1982 test, or wait for Adler to take the lead. Rather, Heller initiated the response and directly and explicitly affirmed that the 1982 test did occur.
While somebody could come up with a scenario that would get around one or more of these difficulties for a lie hypothesis, it seems more likely that the claim of a 1982 test is true. I'm not aware of any member of STURP who's denied that the 1982 test occurred. Mark Antonacci writes, "Several STURP scientists have also confirmed these datings [from the 1982 test] to me and other researchers after this information was first published." (The Resurrection Of The Shroud [New York, New York: M. Evans and Company, 2000], n. 30 on 304) The gist of the 1982 account seems to have been taken seriously by the people who worked most closely with Heller and Adler on the Shroud. There's a higher quantity and quality of reasons to believe that the test occurred than that it didn't.
I'm in a poor position to judge some of the scientific issues associated with the 1982 test. It would be helpful if other people would step in here and offer whatever they can.
A 2005 presentation by Alan and Mary Whanger claims that the thread tested in 1982 was about 8cm long. They also say that a thread of that size was missing from the corner where the carbon dating was done in 1988. See page 5 and the images on page 15 in the paper just linked.
An August 21, 2002 article in the Ottawa Citizen (found here), based in part on an interview with Ray Rogers, claimed:
"In 1982, says Mr. Rogers, one of the threads from his samples was carbon dated - unbenownst to himself and against the wishes of Roman Catholic officials who had authorized the chemical analysis."
The only universities I've seen named in association with the 1982 test are the University of California and Caltech. I've also seen vague references to something like "a university in California". Did any of those facilities have an ability to carry out the alleged 1982 test?
Harry Gove claimed that no facility in California had the ability to carbon date a thread from the Shroud in 1982 (Relic, Icon Or Hoax? [Bristol and Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishing, 1996], 285, 299).
Tom Crabtree and Jay Davis of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory told me that they doubt Livermore did the 1982 Shroud test. Davis told me that the first carbon dating there occurred in 1989. However, a woman who visited Livermore's Discovery Center in 2011, Janice Howell, told me that a docent there said that Livermore had done dating work on the Shroud. For more about Livermore and the Shroud, see the comments section following this post.
I sent an email to Richard Muller of the University of California at Berkeley on the issue of whether any facility affiliated with that university had the equipment to do the test in question in 1982. He didn't respond.
In their 2002 response to Benford and Marino, Caltech denied that their Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences has ever had the equipment Adler described in the 1988 tape.
I wrote to some scientists who specialize in carbon dating, and they doubted that Wasserburg could have done carbon dating with the equipment he had at Caltech in 1982. One said that he couldn't have done it, without qualification, and the other said that it's "extremely unlikely" that he did it. And it seems that Heller was aware, early on, that Wasserburg had to go to another facility to get the dating done. Earlier in this article, I cited Meacham's account of Heller telling him as early as 1984 that the 1982 test was done at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, not at Caltech. So, I think we can conclude with a high degree of probability that if the 1982 test occurred, it happened somewhere other than Caltech.
According to Benford and Marino (see pages 11-2 here), Adler identified the technology used to do the 1982 test as Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. I emailed Alan Marshall, one of the inventors of that technology. I asked about the use of the technology in California universities in 1982 and what he thought of using the technology to date something like a thread from the Shroud. He responded:
According to my records, 12 FT-ICR mass spectrometers had been installed worldwide by the end of 1981 (2 homebuilt, 7 Nicolet, 2 Bruker, and 1 IonSpec) and 17 by the end of 1982 (3 homebuilt, 10 Nicolet, 3 Bruker, 1 IonSpec). I don’t recall exactly when such instruments were installed in California, but the first was IonSpec at U. Calif. Irvine (McIver, 1981). Bruker didn’t deliver any instruments in the U.S.A. until 1990. There were eventually IonSpec instruments at U. Calif. Riverside (Hemminger), U. Calif. Santa Barbara (Bowers), Stanford (Brauman) and Caltech (Beauchamp) (all before 1987) and U. Calif. Davis (1990), and a Finnigan/Thermo instrument at U. Calif. Berkeley in the 1990’s.
In any case, I can’t really think of how FT-ICR MS could have been used to date the Shroud. Most such measurements are based on radiocarbon dating with an accelerator (non-FT) mass spectrometer, which operates on completely difference principles than FT-ICR MS.. Amino acid racemization could also be used. If mass spec was used, my guess is accelerator dating, which would probably be Berkeley.
It seems highly unlikely that the 1982 test occurred in California. And I doubt that the technology that was used was Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry.
But what if Wasserburg used some sort of dating technique and/or variation of dating equipment that was never or rarely used in such a way before? D'Muhala's 1995 presentation refers to how "Jerry Wasserberg had come up with a linear accelerator mass-spectrometer technique for dating. He said he could use a milligram quantity to date it. The father of that technique was Harry Gove at the University of Rochester." In an email to me, D'Muhala commented that Heller and Adler had reported that they "sent Dr. Wasserburg a small thread sample for 14C dating using a (then) new and unqualified technique".
There is some overlap between the dating work Wasserburg was doing and what was being done in carbon dating by Gove and others. See, for example, this 1981 symposium on accelerator mass spectrometry that was attended by Wasserburg, Gove, and many others in related fields. But, from what I've read and have been told by scientists I've contacted, Wasserburg wasn't doing carbon dating, and his equipment was significantly different than that of Gove, et al. D'Muhala goes on, in his 1995 presentation, to acknowledge that Wasserburg "was not an expert in radiocarbon dating". So, it wouldn't make much sense to think of Wasserburg's dating techniques and equipment as belonging to the field of carbon dating. It's doubtful that Wasserburg was so resourceful in a field in which he had so little training and experience. It's also unlikely that he would do something like develop such a significant new technique for carbon dating without telling the scientific community of his day about it and without any historical record of it outside of his alleged work on the Shroud. It seems likely that D'Muhala misunderstood what Heller told him about Wasserburg. Heller described Wasserburg's accomplishments in contexts like mass spectrometry and the dating work he did on moon rocks, and D'Muhala mistakenly concluded that Heller was saying that the same equipment and techniques could be applied to the Shroud. (I wrote to D'Muhala, asking him what he thought about the plausibility of such a scenario, and he didn't respond.) It's also possible that Heller was mistaken about Wasserburg, and D'Muhala correctly understood what Heller inaccurately communicated to him. But I think it's more likely that D'Muhala misunderstood Heller, for reasons I'll explain later.
Even if the 1982 test didn't occur in California, it could have taken place elsewhere. There was an ability to carbon date very small samples as early as the 1970s. The books by Gove and Meacham cited earlier in this article discuss the technology involved and provide examples of facilities that were using it during the relevant timeframe. Was Wasserburg in much of a position to arrange for a test to be done at some such facility?
He was widely experienced, knowledgeable, and respected, and he had a lot of resources at his disposal. He "got a job running a mass spectrometer in Harold Urey's lab and in 1954 earned a Ph.D. with a thesis on a new technique of potassium-argon dating under the guidance of Harold Urey and Mark Inghram, at the University of Chicago". He "did important work on the dating of rocks", and "his advances in dating techniques contributed to the timeline for the evolution of the solar system that we know today". He was "an icon (better: a giant) in the meteoritics and planetary science community, a relentless figure in the Apollo Program and influential in the field of isotope geochemistry". See here for an obituary of a colleague of Wasserburg, "James R. Arnold, a University of California San Diego chemist who helped develop the radiocarbon dating technique that's widely used in archaeology and later analyzed some of the first moon rocks brought to Earth by the Apollo astronauts". Wasserburg is cited a few times in the article. See here for an article in which Wasserburg refers, in 2012, to how he had known Arnold "for over 60 years". Another memorial of Arnold refers to his role in "the development of radiocarbon and other radioisotopic dating methods". And Arnold is just one example of the contacts Wasserburg had in relevant contexts. Earlier, I cited a 1981 symposium on accelerator mass spectrometry that Wasserburg participated in, along with some experts in carbon dating. As Gove's book, cited above, illustrates, talk of carbon dating the Shroud was widespread in the carbon dating community by the time that symposium occurred. Wasserburg probably wouldn't have had much difficulty making arrangements for a dating of a Shroud thread.
That kind of scenario, in which Wasserburg arranged for a carbon dating to occur in a facility outside of California, would explain much of what's reported about the 1982 test. But it also would fit poorly with some of what's been reported and would fail to explain other details. Could we supplement the sort of scenario described in the paragraph above with other factors to offer a better explanation of what happened?
When Heller contacted D'Muhala in 1979 about the possibility of doing the test, the Shroud was receiving a lot of positive attention in the media and elsewhere, and the technology that would be used to date it was in its early stages. Under those circumstances, Wasserburg may have offered to get a Shroud sample tested without providing many details. He may have had some interest in seeing the Shroud dated, as so many people did at the time. He may have agreed to help as a favor to a friend (Heller). It may have been a combination of those factors and/or others. It's easy to see how Wasserburg could have gotten involved and have done so without initially providing many details about how he would go about getting the sample tested. And any plan at that point would have been susceptible to a lot of change.
I've given some examples, above, of connections Wasserburg had with the University of California. He may have used a contact he had there to arrange the test. He could have had any of a variety of reasons for taking that approach. If his contact had a good relationship with somebody in one of the relevant carbon dating facilities, that relationship would provide a reason for working through that intermediary. Wasserburg may have even worked with that individual in a similar manner in the past, in other contexts. Or Wasserburg's contact may have often traveled to the carbon dating facility in question, so that having him deliver the sample would be an efficient way of handling the situation. There's also the fact that arranging the test through an intermediary would keep Wasserburg a step removed from the process and, therefore, allow him more deniability. And so on. Whatever his reasons would be for doing so, it's easy to think of a scenario in which he would work through an intermediary in some manner, and a contact at the University of California seems to be the best candidate for that role. Wasserburg had multiple contacts there, and he had some sort of relationship with the Livermore Laboratory in particular. If he used a contact at Livermore to get the Shroud thread tested, that scenario would help explain why Heller referred to the test being done at Livermore in his 1984 discussion with Meacham (cited near the beginning of this article) and why the University of California has been associated with the test. The fact that Heller referred to the test occurring at Livermore demonstrates that he was aware that Wasserburg couldn't get it done at Caltech. If Wasserburg's language was vague enough ("I know somebody at Livermore who can do it", "I can get it done at Livermore", "Send it to Livermore", etc.), Heller may have been under the false impression that the test occurred at Livermore.
Some of Heller's other comments in his 1984 discussion with Meacham also bear mentioning here. Meacham tells us that Heller said he didn't know what the margin of error was for the test. In 2002, Ray Rogers commented, "I have not been able to find any information on the accuracy and precision for the dating method used [in the 1982 test]". So, it looks like Heller and Adler weren't making up claims about the margin of error of the 1982 test when the subject came up. Similarly, in Case's 1994 interview with Heller and Adler, Adler refers to how he doesn't know whether the starched end of the thread had the earlier or the later of the two dates (The Shroud Of Turin And The C-14 Dating Fiasco [Cincinnati, Ohio: White Horse Press, 1998], 75). Heller and Adler weren't just making up claims to answer any question that arose about the test. They would have known that the information they were ignorant of was significant, and people were showing interest in it (e.g., Meacham, Rogers, and Case).
Why didn't they get the information from Wasserburg, then? Furthermore, though there's a consistent core to their accounts of the 1982 test, why are there some inconsistencies as well, especially on Adler's part? (Heller's larger involvement in the early stages of planning the test and his closer relationship with Wasserburg probably offer a partial explanation for why his comments on the test were more reasonable and consistent than Adler's.) How do we explain Heller and Adler's ignorance and inconsistencies?
One factor is something I've already referred to. There could have been misconceptions, such as misunderstandings of what somebody had said. A vague comment, whether it was intended to be ambiguous or misleading or came across that way unintentionally, could have been inaccurately interpreted. That's commonplace.
A second factor is the likelihood that Wasserburg forgot some of the details over time, which created problems for Heller and Adler when they went to him for information on the test, and Heller and Adler would have forgotten some things as well. Surely the memories of all three of them would have faded over time to some extent, which happens with all of us. But faulty memories alone wouldn't explain all of the problems with Heller and Adler's comments over the years.
A third factor is the possibility that Heller and Adler didn't have enough interest in the details to preserve them better over time. Perhaps they had some interest in the gist of what happened, some sort of core of information, but not much interest in details like the ones they were ignorant of or inconsistent about. Again, surely that's true to some extent, but not enough to explain all of the problems under consideration here. As I've documented, people like Meacham, Case, and Rogers were showing interest in questions about the 1982 test that Heller and Adler didn't have answers to. Not only would Heller and Adler have had an interest in being able to answer such questions when other people brought the questions up, but they themselves also showed interest in the questions at times. So, why weren't they getting answers?
I think a fourth factor should be added to the equation. In Wasserburg's interaction with me in 2014, he didn't want to discuss his relationship with Heller, didn't think much of the Shroud, took the initiative twice to make negative comments about it and about religious people abusing science, wanted me to convey his views on those subjects to other people if I told them about my discussion with him, and ended our exchange on an angry note. In light of that behavior, it's easy to see a scenario in which Wasserburg closed the door to discussing the 1982 test any further with Heller and Adler, or largely closed it, because of his disgust with the situation. His agreement to get involved with the test may have been reluctant. Perhaps he intended it as a favor to Heller, all the while having a lot of skepticism about the Shroud, maybe even contempt for it. Once he learned the results of the test, which were so inconsistent and ambiguous, he became disgusted with the situation and let Heller and Adler know that he was washing his hands of it and wanted to move on. And I suspect that the disappointing results of the 1982 test would have motivated Heller and Adler to back off from Wasserburg on the matter, since his disgust with the situation was so understandable. Once criticisms of STURP accelerated over the years and the 1988 test results were announced, those developments would only have solidified Wasserburg's desire to distance himself from the 1982 test and the Shroud in general. As a result, Heller and Adler were left without much information, with some misconceptions, and without much ability to answer some of the questions that would come up over the years.
I've just outlined some potential reconstructions, among others that could be offered, of the events surrounding the alleged 1982 test. Even if one of the reconstructions I've brought up is largely correct, surely it's wrong on some points. Whatever view you take of the 1982 test, it's difficult to reconstruct some of the details of what happened. There is no easy solution. What we're looking for is the best explanation among the difficult options available.
And we need to remember that though some issues surrounding the 1982 test are difficult to judge, there is significant evidence that the test did occur and for some of the details about it. The points I made to that effect in the Potential Motives To Lie section above, for example, need to be kept in mind.
The Significance Of The Test
Earlier, I quoted Adler's comment that "The results of that 1982 test should be thrown out." (in Thomas Case, The Shroud Of Turin And The C-14 Dating Fiasco [Cincinnati, Ohio: White Horse Press, 1998], 75) And see Hugh Farey's negative assessment of the significance of the 1982 test, if it occurred, in the comments section of the thread here.
But was Adler saying that the 1982 test had no significance at all? I doubt it. Rather, I suspect he was addressing whether either of the dates attained from the thread should be accepted as the date of the Shroud. (The interviewer and Adler refer to "date" or "dates" a few times.) That seems to be how the interviewer, Thomas Case, interpreted Adler's comments on page 33 of the book cited above. After approvingly paraphrasing what Adler had said about the test, Case goes on to say that the test demonstrates that "contamination, known or unknown, can skew C14 dates radically".
Similarly, Ray Rogers commented in 2002:
"I have not been able to find any information on the accuracy and precision for the dating method used [in the 1982 test]…However, the dates determined are so different that I could believe a real difference between the ends of the threads." (source here)
William Meacham wrote to me:
"I think the only value that can be placed on the 1982 test is that it reportedly revealed inconsistencies in the samples. I discussed this in my book, as it was related to me by John Heller. This could be a contamination or isotope exchange issue….since nothing was ever published about the test it is of little use in the arena of public debate, and just remains a tantalizing possibility."
Here's my tentative conclusion, which I hold with a very loose grip. I think it's probable that the 1982 test occurred, but that the test only has a small amount of significance. It underscores the potential distorting effects of contamination and the irregular nature of the cloth around the area that was tested in 1988. Other evidence points in the same direction, so we aren't dependent on the 1982 test alone to reach these conclusions, but the 1982 test adds more weight to the case.