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Response to Jackson

Response to Jackson

[The following is a series of posts to the Yahoo ShroudScience forum in December 2005 in response to John Jackson's claim that his views were misrepresented in my book.]

It is very sad to see that, after 3 years to contemplate the travesty of the "restoration", this is what John Jackson has to say. It is one thing to make a hasty decision in the heat of the moment, with the attention of the world's media and the Turin "authorities" and VIPs focused on the podium. It is quite another to stand by the kind of hopelessly confused logic and incorrect statements found in his 2002 speech and his recent message. He has done some brilliant work on the Shroud in the past, but this latest offering is so full of nonsense, so completely inaccurate in so many details, that it is sad to see him put his name to it. I will comment on these errors in a later post.

It is simply ludicrous to claim that I have quoted him out of context -- this is another favorite of the politicians. I merely cut out of his speech a vague and meaningless bit (even more meaningless after translation into Italian), plus some waffling on about his 8-fold theory that he thinks challenges the C-14 dating (a totally laughable notion).

The true context of his speech is spelled out in my book in detail, in the days leading up to the unveiling of the vandalized Shroud. When the news first broke, John cried bloody murder, and was in contact with several of us about a strategy. But when the crunch came, he got up on the witness stand and said: "Oh, it was reasonable, it was self-defense, justifiable homicide. But too bad somebody died."

Attached below is the email I sent to John two weeks after the unveiling in Turin -- this is also published in my book. It should be quite clear what the REAL context was.

[email to Jackson October 2002]

Dear John,

I am dismayed that you did not respond to my last email. Does this mean that you are going to wimp out and keep silent about the desecration of the Shroud? Before going to Turin, we spoke about a strategy to respond in a professional and scientific manner, taking the high road of focusing on the facts and building sound arguments, avoiding accusations, personalities and emotive diversions. What happened to that?

... others are saying that you want to keep silent in the hope that your proposals for testing will receive eventual approval from Turin. If this is true I am extremely disappointed, as I have always had respect for what you and STURP did in 1978, and that will not change. But the way you go down in Shroud history is going to be determined to a not insignificant degree by the way you react to this desecration. Future generations will look back with absolute and unmitigated horror at what was done in the summer of 2002, and at the toadying, sycophantic reactions of those who tried to curry favor with the Turin inner circle. I don't think that is the way you want to be seen.

I thought you would remain silent in Turin, and that would have been vastly preferable. As it happened you offered praise and justification, which they continue to make use of. You have been repeatedly quoted in print by Ghiberti and others in Italy since Sept. 21 as supporting the "restoration" right alongside the truly opportunistic [names and expletives deleted!]. I reviewed the tape of your remarks at the press conference and found them even worse than I remembered. Much of what you said is utter rubbish which you should be ashamed of. No scientist worth his salt would approve of the irretrievable destruction of data just to satisfy his curiosity about a feature. Yet this is what you said on Sept 21. No archaeologist or museum curator of any caliber would allow the destruction of part of a priceless artifact in order to see the underside or interior. Yet this is what you said.

Have you read the detailed descriptions by Paul Maloney and me of the types of data that have been destroyed? Have you seen the video clips that I put up on my HKU website? There, in three seconds, you see the full barbarity of the operation, as one of the seamstresses scrapes away the deposit around a poker hole. When I think of all the thought, word, and deed over the last 30 years that have gone into the conservation of the Shroud and its data intact, esp. on the need to limit the invasive and destructive type testing to the absolute minimum, and so forth - all to be negated in such a stupid and unscientific operation. It makes me sick, as it should you.

This 'restoration' is the defining event in the existence of the Shroud for perhaps the next 470 years, just like the fire at Chambery has been for the last 470. Someone from STURP needs to condemn, in the strongest terms, the unnecessary and unjustified alteration to the relic and loss of data. All there is so far for the record, as I wrote to Larry and Ray, is John Jackson saying how happy he is that we now have photos and scans of the backside of the cloth, and that the foldmarks he is so interested in are still there (not for lack of trying to get rid of them) ... And you actually praise the quality of the conservation work!!!!

If this is how you want to go down for posterity on the 'restoration,' so be it. I will proceed to publish these remarks and treat them with the contempt they deserve, right alongside Ian Wilson's. But I have a feeling that you do not want it to go this way, that you want to set the record straight by publishing your considered reaction to the 'restoration.' I know that Jan Cardamone, Larry Schwalbe, Bryan Walsh, Dan Scavone and others have submitted or are preparing comments for Barrie's website. I hope you will do so as well.



In John Jackson's comments on the passage in my book reporting on his speech at the unveiling of the "restored Shroud" in Sept. 2002, he claims his statements were taken out of context and misrepresented. This is untrue. From the passage cited in my book, it is perfectly clear that he did note the loss of the fold mark containing the charred material. But what is more important is what followed; he said that this was "the price that had to be paid" to have "the complete visualization" of the back side of the Shroud. This is a critical point, and it is an error of staggering proportions.

His starting point was also wrong, as seeing the underside was not the reason why the backing cloth was removed by the "restorers." It is odd that John justifies it now, since he told me that in 1978 STURP was given permission by the then owner, the former king, to remove the backing cloth if necessary for the study. At that time, he and STURP wisely decided that the impact on the cloth and its heritage would not be justified.

John now says: "The complete visualization required the removal of the backing cloth." This is not entirely true, as the back side had already been scanned and a complete image of it produced, even though it could have been done much better and more professionally, if Cardinal Poletto had not ignored all the other international scientific proposals and authorized instead a secret project by Turinese insiders. In a sense it is true that the COMPLETE recording of the backside requires the removal of the backing cloth, in the same way that the complete study of the image would require bombarding it with radiation or lasers, and other destructive analyses. These things are not done because they might impact the cloth, either by destroying information on the cloth or altering its appearance. For exactly the same reasons, the backing cloth and patches should never have been removed.

John then says that, since the removal of the backing cloth and patches exposed the charred regions under the patches: "This material [the char] would then logically have to be removed so as not to contaminate the rest of the Shroud." One might ask where John studied logic, as this makes no sense. First, the charred material was only contaminating the Shroud in a very minor way as particulate matter, NOT in the fiction officially adopted by Turin that the char was causing oxidation which might threaten the image. Secondly, the particulate carbon was spreading and "contaminating" the rest of the cloth due to the rolling and unrolling on many occasions in the past. The relic is no longer stored on a spool, so this process of contamination is no longer occurring. Thirdly, this contamination had been going on for centuries, had done no harm to the cloth and only detracted slightly from the image. Finally, a properly recorded vacuuming was all that needed to be done to correct the problem.

But without a doubt the worst error that John makes is to say: "But we do have the radiographs that show this [the foldmark going into a charred area], so the loss is not that significant." No competent archaeologist or museum curator would EVER make such a statement, nor would any literary scholar or art historian. The loss of the original is IRREPLACEABLE, and any documentation such as a photograph or drawing or copy is of a totally inferior order. Records are not complete, may be inaccurate, and can be manipulated, or forged. There is no substitute for being able to go back to the original, either to verify something or to examine for some aspect that might not be present in the records.

To illustrate this point in a very basic way, consider some examples from John's own notes of his speech in Turin. He claims that what he posted via Ben was "the complete text [which] comes from my handwritten record that I used to state my comments at the press conference."

This is one of the sentences John says he said: "Hence, the price to be paid for a complete visualization of the backside of the Shroud is the removal of the char."

This is what he actually said: "Hence the price to be paid in order to see the backside of the Shroud completely translates ultimately into the removal of this charred material."

And again,

This is what John says he said: "Despite this unfortunate loss of scientific opportunity and data, I am very pleased to see, finally, photographs of the backside."

What he actually said is: "But we do have the radiographs that show this, so the loss is not that significant."

I know what he actually said because I have a videotape of the entire press conference. Obviously there was some ad libbing and departing from prepared remarks. Of course his exact words are not important. But the original and verifiable information resident on the Shroud is tremendously important, and the fact that it was destroyed by an ill-conceived, poorly researched, secretive operation is a total, absolute disgrace. There is no possible justification for it.

Finally, one can only shake one's head in disbelief at his statements about the present Turin "authorities" -- that Cardinal Poletto "is open to respectful and polite input from those who are qualified" and that "he is willing to act on good technical advice in matters of the Shroud." This is sheer fantasy; all evidence indicates that the cardinal has listened only to his inner circle, and to this day continues NOT to welcome solid professional advice. The most recent example is the Cardinal's failure to reply to or even to acknowledge a letter from 28 members of this forum urging him to approve a new C-14 dating.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Let me try to say this as clearly, simply and "politely" as possible: what John Jackson said at the Turin press conference of 2002 was marred by very serious errors. It was also a totally unexpected "about-face" (most polite word I can find) that was extremely disappointing and infuriating to those of us who had been corresponding with him in the days leading up to the event. And, contrary to what he claims, his speech WAS accurately reported in my book. In fact, in what has to be a monumental irony for someone proclaiming himself to have been misquoted, misrepresented etc., what he claimed to have said in the speech is NOT what he actually said. See my post just prior to this one.

In my book I discuss at length the question of C-14 dating and the various scenarios that have been suggested to account for it, and the seemingly interminable and fruitless debate that has gone on since 1988. John would apparently wish it to go on for a few more years. The proposal from Ray and me (and supported by 28 members of this forum) urged Cardinal Poletto to have C-14 measurements done on the carbon dust already removed from the Shroud as a way of moving forward in Shroud research and at the same time putting the horrors of the "restoration" behind us...

Oddly enough, I am sympathetic to the general direction of research that John is pursuing, and felt Ray's rejection of it unduly harsh. In the book I discuss my correspondence with one of the 1988 C-14 daters, Willy Woelfli of the Zurich lab, on the possibility of a thermally-induced enrichment of the C-14, and showed, I believe, that he was also unduly dismissive of this possibility. What continues to amaze me is John's lack of interest in obtaining new data. If a new C-14 date disagrees with the 1988 one -- great!!! The whole issue of the Shroud's dating would be sliced wide open and we enter a new phase of investigation. If it turns out to be the same as the 1988 one, we will have eliminated two of the most prominent scenarios to have been proposed (bio-plastic coating, and re-weaving) and also would enter a new, more difficult phase of research focused on the effects of the 1532 fire. Either way, there is progress, as against endless speculation.

As for Cardinal Poletto, ... I begged, pleaded and cajoled, but to no avail, and in the process burned whatever bridge I had established in conversations with him at Villa Gualino. Actually I feel rather sorry for him as he seemed a likeable chap (at first!) and ready to do great things for the Shroud. But he chose to close out the rest of the world and listen only to some rather incompetent and opportunistic people close to him. This "Prince" [of the Church] has already carved his place in the history of the Shroud as the man who authorized the horrendous 21st century desecration.

William Meacham