A retired science bod’s response to David Rolfe and his 7 point Valencia must-do list for scientists who ‘wish to claim scientific credentials’…

Please note: this is not my major “Shroudie” site. See also this one, more scientific, less argumentative…

Foreword: this post replaces a brief one I posted yesterday, written in haste as a first reaction to David Rolfe’s control freakery, his attempt to make prescriptions to  scientists on what they should be doing.  It having received no comments I  decided this morning to delete it, not so much for what it said as what it did not say, substituting this  one instead. But that deleted post has now appeared this morning as the subject of yet another of Dan Porter’s  hugely patronising putdowns of yours truly on The Other Site, which I do not intend to dignify with an answer. But tell me this Dan: what original contributions have you made to Shroud research – not counting the provision of an otherwise useful news-aggregating site? Oh, and here’s a simple experiment  reported yesterday on my other site. 

Just a taster

You and your STURP associates could and should have done it  years, ago, but did not, choosing instead to bang on about the Shroud’s ‘unique’  image properties.  Why not Dan? Answer me that… Could it be that you  and the world of Shroudology – the kind that assembled recently in Valencia – are only interested in one thing – the kind of  “science” that lends further mystery, so will studiously ignore that which de-mystifies? There is NOTHING mysterious about the Shroud image – its strange luminous quality can be reproduced in a few minutes with charcoal, a camera and ImageJ software for light/dark inversion and 3D enhancement. It even works to a degree on a Mickey Mouse cartoon…

Before and after 3D enhancement in ImageJ software

End of foreword

Here’s a picture from the latest in the long-running  series of Shroud Congresses. It shows the organizers, behind whom,  projected on the wall, is  7 point check list of what they must do if they wish to persist with the view, based on C-14 dating, that the Shroud is medieval.

Valencia Shroud Congress, April 2012, showing that prescribed “must do” list for scientists, inserted, apparently, at the behest of documentary maker David Rolfe, as part of his Shroud Enigma Challenge.

Here’s the same list, after removing the parts this retired science bod does not consider need immediate attention, if at all…

Edited version, to remove irrelevant or biased criteria that in many cases are based on preconceptions, in particular that the C-dating was out by about 1200 years due to ‘invisible reweaving’ etc

For those who reject the C-dating for having failed to deliver the answer they wanted, here’s a 1-point must-do checklist:

1. Urge the Vatican to get the C-dating repeated, using a pre-agreed  sampling and analytical protocol that is made public beforehand, and, most importantly of all, is ADHERED TO.

In the meantime, for those of us who remain vigilant to the use and abuse of science, who consider it time well spent to put a spotlight on pseudo-science, here’s my own “might do” checklist, assuming I had the time and resources, and (improbably) access to Shroud samples. But I am not a control freak, not like some I could mention: the list is purely advisory, is not being imposed on anyone, and is not being promoted as a test of “scientific credentials”.  I judge a person’s scientific credentials by their qualifications and their published work, not by whether they see eye to eye on what needs to be done next. For the record, i am a biochemistry PhD, one time Head of Nutrition and Food Safety at a major UK food research association, with some 40 odd years of research and teaching experience.

And David Rolfe? Renowned documentary maker, certainly, but what are his scientific credentials?  More to the point, why is he so keen to impose his priorities for research on others? Or is this less to do with research,  where it is he who lacks obvious credentials, except what he hears at second hand, and more to do with his fixation with Richard Dawkins and the latter’s supposed atheism. I have previously pointed on The Other Site, criticizing   Rolfe’s conflation of the latter with scientific scepticism  when he first mooted his Enigma Challenge. (One can be religious, while considering the Shroud to be of medieval origin; one can consider the Shroud once wrapped a 1st century victim of crucifixion, without being religious). It is not the way to ‘win friends and influence people’, I grant you, but that was hardly a reason for him to instantly place a block of comments I tried to place on his site.  (He still has not explained how he comes to have high-definition images of the Shroud that he uses as a banner, a resource that should be, or rather should have been available to researchers years ago,in the absence of which we have been assailed with fanciful notions about coins in eyes etc etc, much of it  based it would seem on pre-digital  silver-salt photography).

Shroud “might do” checklist (still under construction):

1         Are there serious grounds for thinking that the image is not a scorch, e.g. lack of fluorescence under uv light, superficiality (more correctly double-superficiality if there really is a faint obverse side image)? Do the spectral changes that accompany bleaching by powerful reductants, e.g. diimide,  match those obtained by bleaching ancient or modern scorch marks?

(ed: see second comment below which addresses this question of reversibility of scorching by diimide, and whether it would be expected to cause a change in visible appearance, as claimed by Rogers in 2004)

2         Are the image characteristics consistent with those of a contact scorch as compared, say, with an at-a-distance radiation scorch, e.g. confinement of image to crowns of fibres, all-or-nothing  half-tone effects, 360 degree annular coloration of individual fibrils, obverse-side imaging  etc.

3     Is it true, as some persist in saying, that one cannot produce a scorch without it scorching the obverse side as well?   That claim needs to be rigorously tested  (and probably dismissed) e.g. by suitable control of temperature, time, moisture content, nature of underlay, contact pressure, nature of weave pattern etc?

4         Are there reagents or spectral techniques that can distinguish between the chemical  bonding in a Maillard reaction product (sugar-amine reaction) and caramel-like pyrolysis products of linen fibres with no exogenous source of nitrogen that could then be applied to the Shroud, were re-testing to be permitted?  Is there evidence for additional nitrogen in the imaged areas that would be required by Rogers’ putrefaction amine hypothesis?

5         Do some model studies with ageing blood, with additions of bilirubin, to see if Adler’s hypothesis is more than just a hunch. The added bilirubin will not only need to produce a bright red colour, preventing the stain from going brown or black, but confer total chemical stability to light, oxygen, moisture etc etc INDEFINITELY…

Expect further additions from time to time…

Like this one (6 May):  how exactly was the crucial observation made that there is no image under the (purported) bloodstains? Did that involve simply peeling of the blood and finding non-imaged linen underneath? If so, how can one be certain that the blood was not acting like Rogers’ adhesive tape, and stripping off the image? Had that occurred, I doubt if the stripped image would have been visible if attached to the underside of a blood flake, due to its thinness and/or masking of colour

And this one:  Adler said that he found iron in all those bright-red “blood stains”. But his hypothesis for why the blood would still be so red after centuries, with trauma-induced bilirubin playing a key role, is scarcely credible to anyone who knows anything about bilirubin.  However there is a blood-red substance that is well known to anyone who has done a course on inorganic analytical chemistry – iron thiocyanate.   Did Adler think of testing for thiocyanate?  Who’s to say that an overzealous curator has not “cosmetically-enhanced” those supposed bloodstains in one of the lengthy periods when the Shroud is not open for viewing by applying some iron thiocyanate and allowing it to dry and bind onto the fibres.

See YouTube video clip: Make Fake Blood

Afterthought – prompted by David Rolfe’s rationale for pursuing his “consensus mission” at Valencia, despite being persuaded to drop the targeting of  any particular individual whom he felt should be challenged with the Shroud as a kind of intellectual battering ram.  He’s now using his allegedly ‘scientific ‘criteria as if they were cobbled-together pieces of improvised armour plate  – hastily designed to protect against assault from the sceptics.  Yup, he’s switched from being  the Billy the Kid  of Shroudolgy to Ned Kelly,  bashing out any old bit of metal that looks like it might deflect bullets…

Further reading (for David Rolfe and others who think that science has to reproduce the Shroud in every detail to prove it is medieval – and in so doing  to attempt to shift the burden of proof in spite of the C-dating). Read up on the Piltdown Hoax, which was quickly recognized as such because of details and flaws that ‘simply did not add up’. Nobody felt the need to reproduce it…

Addendum: I am presently on the Other Site, debating that so-called Pray Codex. I’ll do a post at some stage, but there for now is a close up of part of the tomb scene with two alleged patterns of l-shaped “poker holes”, one with 4 circles on the white, and the other with 5 circles on the section with red crosses:

I can see the pattern of 4 holes on the white portion of the Pray Codex in this close-up that is supposed to represent the “poker holes” on the Shroud. But I’ve just been told there is a 5-point pattern of L-shaped holes on the portion below with the red crosses. Leaving aside the fact that the latter can hardly represent Shroud, can you see an L-shaped pattern with those 5 holes? i can’t. the only pattern I see is reminiscent of the Plough Constellation – a rectangle with a tail. Sorry Ron, but you are simply losing your grip on reality in your desire to see evidence of the Shroud in the Pray Codex…


About Colin Berry

Retired science bod, previous research interests: phototherapy of neonatal jaundice, membrane influences on microsomal UDP-glucuronyltransferase, defective bilirubin and xenobiotic conjugation and hepatic excretion, dietary fibre and resistant starch.
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9 Responses to A retired science bod’s response to David Rolfe and his 7 point Valencia must-do list for scientists who ‘wish to claim scientific credentials’…

  1. colinsberry says:

    Here are more ‘non-consensus’ ideas that might aid future research. Apologies for any repetition – I just record them as they come, and will edit out later.

    1 Why are the fingers so long and bony? Can that really be a real hand that was imaged? Why is there not more focus on that aspect – other than wacky ideas about x-ray effects, and otherwise (one hopes) sane investigators swallowing radio-isotopes to see if they can image themselves with modern hospital technology? (Yes, really, I can supply a reference if requested)

    2 Why is one of the feet scarcely imaged, and why is the underside of the other one highly imaged in the dorsal view– assuming it is not entirely stained with “blood”? See my ideas elsewhere re the Mark 1 Shroud showing a victim of slow-roasting, not crucifixion.

    3 Why is there no potassium (or for all we know the other key physiological minerals either) in the blood – and why does “serum exudation from blood clot retraction” as proposed by Adler explain its absence?

    4 Could a real person have received so many scourge marks, and still be capable of lifting a cross onto shoulder, or even part of a cross, never mind carrying it? 40 lashes said to be enough to kill a person – through shock, fluid loss, etc

    5 If the nail really was through the wrist, and if the Shroud really was such an influence on Western art, then why is a wrist location not seen in paintings and statues, and why are “stigmata” invariably on the palms of the hands? If the “blood” on the hair was really on the face of the victim, and only coincides with the hair image as a consequence of geometry, then who is to say that the wrist wound was not really an inch or two more distal?

    6 How can the “hair” be imaged from a real person, whether by vapour or by radiation?

    7 Why are the sides and top of the head not imaged? Can “collimation” of mysterious cadaver-derived radiation least of all vapour (except by ferocious chimney-like convection) ever be part of any scientific explanation?

  2. colinsberry says:

    From the Other Site:


    “Raymond Rogers November 8, 2004, wrote:
    Al Adler reduced and decolorized the image layer on fibers with diimide. The color was removed completely. The fiber that was left was colorless and the surface was smooth. The smooth surface implies that no conjugated-double-bond structures in the cellulose were reduced.”

    My initial response:

    One can sometimes deduce that a chemical change has taken place from a change in appearance – rusting and a host of other every day examples. But one cannot reliably do the opposite. For example, aluminium also oxidises (to Al2O3), with a comparable formula to rust Fe2O3, but there is no visible change. Why not? Because unlike the flaky voluminous Fe2O3 layer, the Al2O3 layer is so thin (protecting from further oxidation) that one cannot see it. The Al metal remains shiny and reflective.
    So how can Rogers have been so certain that chemical reduction of a highly superficial layer of chemically-modified linen fibres would result in a loss of “smoothness” etc.? He was not entitled to deduce that. He was not entitled to deduce anything about the presence or absence of double bonds in a substance purely by absence of a visible change.
    In fact there are well-known chemical methods for determining the extent of unsaturation (presence of double bonds) e.g. the iodine number, but I’m not sure off the top of my head if they work on conjugated double bond systems – the kind that confer colour to organic chromophores. There are alternative methods, at least in principle. One is to treat with radio-labelled diimide, N2H2, assuming it can be purchased, e.g. with a proportion of ordinary hydrogen (H-1) atoms replaced with radioactive tritium (H-3),i.e.1 proton, 2 neutrons, and see whether or tritium attaches to the Shroud linen and/or model scorched regions.

    Quick Google search: here’s a link to a paper that describes specific tritium labelling of unsaturated bonds using a tritiated diimide reagent – the latter obtained by exchange labelling.


    I see no reason why a similar technique could not be applied to the Shroud – again, in principle. The methodology could be developed using scorched linen, the detection limits established, then applied to the Shroud if/when another sample becomes available. It would have to be a part that did not have putative blood stains – or where there was no possibly of it being later dismissed as an “invisible rewoven substitute”…

  3. colinsberry says:

    Here is a comment that David Rolfe, celebrated documentary maker, has just placed on his own Enigma site*. I have italicised his RESPONSE in four places. As I say – a documentary maker – and one who simply hasn’t a clue about science operates and how it makes progress – rarely if ever in straight, pre-agreed lines that follow the prescriptions of consensus-seeking (imposing?) conference-attending (hijacking?) documentary makers.

    RESPONSE (to a previous comment)

    “The list needs work” would imply that we should open up the Shroud and just check things out again. Well, having listened to Bruno Barberis’ paper in Valencia that is unlikely to be an option for a very long time. The fact is that the work has been done. If you have a particular pet theory and it is excluded by the list then, I’m sorry, unless you also have some new overriding evidence to the contrary, you will have to accept that those who are in a position to know have ruled it out. Wanting something to be true does not make it so.

    Update: have just returned to the site in question, to discover that the 5 comments have all gone. In their place is this message: “Add comments on the list or ideas for refinement here:” (but there is nowhere to leave comments that I can see, and in any case I have been barred from leaving comments, ever since I enquired of David as to how he comes to have an HD image of the Shroud, which he uses as a blog banner, and we science bods do not). Is everybody now getting on your tits, David? Is that why you are now deleting comments wholesale? Or are you still determined to demonstrate your control freak tendencies – demonstrated by your effective hijack of the Valencia congress?

  4. colinsberry says:

    Here’s a comment from The Other Site which I reproduce in full, but will only address the section highlighted in bold:

    Yannick Clément
    May 7, 2012 at 10:48 am | #1
    Reply | Quote

    Rogers was defending his own hypothesis. Fanti do the same right now. Would be nice if there would be a real independent confirmation of one or the other. I have to say that, from my own perspective (just a personal opinion), I think Rogers has made up some very strong arguments in favor of his hypothesis that the image reside on a thin layer of impurity that is not an integrant part of the linen fiber. Here’s just 2 of them : 1- The ghosts of coloration stuck in the sticky tapes leaving a clean and UNDAMAGED linen fiber behind. 2- There’s a direct correlation between the intensity of the coloration and the intensity of the different bands we see on the Shroud, meaning that when there’s a darker band, the intensity of the coloration tend to be stronger. This is in total agreement with the hypothesis of Rogers that there’s more impurity that have been left on the darker bands of linen after the bleeching, washing and drying of the cloth. And when there was less impurities that have been left, the consequence was a lighter band of linen and a lighter intensity in the coloration.

    I think those 2 arguments make that the hypothesis of Rogers is particularly tough to reject right now (in the present state of our knowledge about the Shroud)…

    Yes, but it’s Rogers himself who asserted so strongly that the image is only some 200nm thick – that’s just 1/5000th of a millimetre. So why should he expect to see any difference if that layer is stripped away, regardless of what lies beneath? In fact, that 200nm layer is in all probability just the primary cell wall (PCW) of flax fibres, which, when stripped away, leaves the much thicker triple-layered secondary cell wall (SCW) with a similar chemical composition in terms of cellulose and hemicellulose, but with the crucial differences that the polysaccharide polymers are in highly ordered, indeed, crystalline arrays. So one would not expect to see visible damage, given the combination of superficial thinness and fragility (PCW) and underlying thickness and strength (SCW) . Here I am merely confronting Rogers with his own science – or rather the logical consequences thereof. Shame that RaymondR is no longer around to be reading this. I seem to be the only chemist (well, biochemist) to be re-examining the his and other STURP findings and conclusions, and I have to say there are holes in much of the reasoning – this being a case in point.

  5. colinsberry says:

    A “reader” sent this to The Other Site:

    The most recent public evidence against the diffusion hypothesis was contained in Prof. Giulio Fanti’s most recent paper in JIST. Based on Prof. Fanti’s scoring system of X’s and ?’s he concluded, “the hypotheses based on radiation are the best (with only seven ‘X’), followed, respectively, by ‘gas diffusion’ (with eight ‘X’ and one ‘?’), ‘contact’ (with ten ‘X’ and two ‘?’), and ‘artist’ (with 12 ‘X’ and five ‘?’).” Shortly, thereafter, scientists at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development, ENEA, argued that the image on the shroud, in their opinion, could only have been created by “some form of electromagnetic energy” such as UV light. This added to the list of possible hypotheses. We must wonder if there will be other hypotheses just as there have been many in the past.

    Does anyone have the complete score sheet? I for one am not shelling out good money simply to read Giulio Fanti’s (or anyone else’s) no doubt highly subjective rating of different image-forming mechanisms. His placing “contact” – my own preferred mechanism – behind gas diffusion or radiation suggest to me that all the alleged “defects” of contact scorching (e.g. that is is bound to scorch the obverse side too -without a shred of experimental evidence that I am aware of) that his league table will not be worth the paper it is written on, far less a publisher’s access fee of $25 or whatever. In any case, was it not Fanti who claimed to have seen an obverse side image too – after much computerised imaging to separate “noise” from signal, so one can make a scorch image as superficial or deep as one wishes, as long as the medullas of the fibres remain unscorched. But the secondary cell walls of linen fibres (“medullas”)are highly ordered and chemically resistant. Water can be boiled in a paper bag etc etc.

    It’s somewhat fatuous if you ask me that a set of criteria that are being used to protect and perpetuate the supposed “mystery” of the Shroud are behind a paywall… In any case, there’s too much of this kind of impressionistic so-called science” coming out of Italy right now. Is there not an Italian equivalent of the Royal Society to put a stop to this kind of nonsense – or at any rate to knock a few heads together?

  6. colinsberry says:

    Oops. I must retract the above comment about the Fanti paper being behind a paywall. Someone on the Other Site has given a link to where it can be found – on David Rolfe’s Enigma site. Assuming it has not just appeared there, as a response to my complaint above, then I take back anything I may have said in one of my increasingly frequently grumpy old man moods.

    There are other scientific controversies that occupy my attention, currently Stonehenge, and how those bluestones got there from the Preseli hills, but I must now set aside some time to look at the Fanti work which- at a quick glance- has a lot on imprinting from bas relief . Splendid.

  7. colinsberry says:

    I have read the Fanti paper. The author’s preconceptions are apparent from the very first paragraph, with his references to “body”, “spear” and “wound”. He has no evidence that the Shroud ever enveloped a real body, or that there was a real “wound” yet alludes to a spear with no evidence, except for a Biblical account of the Crucifixion. These preconceptions colour the entire paper, rendering it worthless as an exercise in objective science.

    I have wasted 30 minutes of my life on the Fanti paper, and have nothing more to say.

  8. colinsberry says:

    And here is Yannick Clément on The Other Site who sums up beautifully the dead hand of of the cliquish group of Shroud so-called scientists that assembled in Valencia, with non-scientist David Rolfe attempting to impose his agenda, all the better to write his next TV documentary script. I heartily endorse most of Yannick’s heartfelt sentiments:

    May 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm | #3
    Reply | Quote

    The Shroud clique strikes again !!!

    This comment from M. Rolfe prove what I already knew for a long time now : There really is a clique in the Shroud world who have one major agenda : Make believe that the Shroud can offer a real physical proof of the resurrection of Jesus. Bad Chritian propaganda ? YOU BET ! This is just completely disgusting !

    And what is even more disgusting is this : Most members of the clique just don’t want to hear about a possible natural explanation !!! This kind of acting is completely anti-scientific ! There’s no other words to describe it. In fact, it is against any proper scientific method that was always defend by Rogers… You don’t have the right in science to take just what can comfort your belief and put aside everything that don’t fit ! Those people are just full of bias and they just denied everything that goes against their philosophy. And I really believe that acting like that is as bad and anti-scientific as the acting of the sceptics they fight !

    I’m disgusted by them and I know Rogers would have been too ! Why ? Because he was a REAL scientist and not just some wannabes and pseudo-scientists ! And I’m sorry for the clique but science (I’m talking about real objective science here and not some full of bias pseudo-science coming mainly from the Shroud Science Group) his very far from being able to declare that every possible natural explanation have been fully tested yet in laboratory and discarded !

    If it’s true that all the so-called “scientists” present in Valencia think that they understand completely and perfectly the physical nature of the body image, then I’m sorry but they are not worthy of being considered as real scientist ! The REALITY is that nobody presently have enough proof to say that one of those 2 hypotheses is correct regarding the chromophore of the image : 1- The coloration affect the primary cell wall of the linen fiber itself or 2- The coloration affect a thin layer of impurities on top of the linen fiber.

    If someone say that one of those 2 hypotheses have been proven, he is a liar. Sorry but there’s no other word to describe it.

    The REALITY is this : the point #1 from the list of M. Rolfe, no matter what he think or what the clique think, is that there is 2 different hypotheses right now to explain the physical nature of the body image and there’s not enough proof to say which one is the right one.

    WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN WRITEN IN POINT#1 OF M. ROLFE LIST IS SIMPLY THIS : The coloration that form the body image come from a dehydration-oxydation process at the surface of the linen cloth that make the affected areas of the cloth look somewhat “older” than the non-affected areas (because there is more oxydation there). And those affected areas of the cloth are not at all fluorescent under UV light, unlike the non-affected areas of the cloth (i.e. the non image area, the scorches and burned areas, the waterstains areas, etc.). Also, it is important to note that some parts of the coloration were left on the sticky tapes from the samples collected by the STURP team and it left an UNDAMMAGED and CLEAN linen fiber behind.


    One last thing : whether or not the hypothesis of Rogers for the image formation is correct, that don’t change anything about the REALITY that the point #1 on the list of M. Rolfe is INCORRECT, scientifically speaking, simply because it has not been PROVEN yet without any doubts. Period.

    I’m not even a scientist and I’m sure I could have come out with a more accurate, more complete and more honest list of facts than the one from Valencia. I ASK EVERYBODY THE QUESTION : IS IT NORMAL ???

  9. colinsberry says:

    It’s as if a vegan were to do his own “Which”- type survey to compare nut cutlets in comparison with the competition – lamb, pork and beef… One knows in advance which will come out on top…

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