Brendan Whiting’s book was a bombshell that exposed a comedy of errors, particularly involving the callous disregard of established sampling protocol. The detailed procedures recommended by consultants for selecting and obtaining applicable representative cloth test specimens for c-14 testing was disregarded, rendering invalid dating results. Computer programmers often quote an old axiom, "Garbage in equals garbage out". Hence, even the extra precaution of utilizing the services of three independent testing labs became futile.
Who could forget the famous October 13, 1988 conference, when the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) committee of Chemists, Researchers, Shroud Scholars and Scientists assured the world (with 95% confidence levels, and between 1000 and 1500 with 99% confidence levels) that the Shroud cloth dated between 1260 and 1390 AD. Immediately afterwards, headlines throughout the worlds touted the Shroud as a 14th Century forgery. How could 3 independent labs be wrong?
The Vatican allowed three research centers to perform independent radiocarbon dating in 1988 on a square inch sample taken from a corner of the shroud, which was subdivided into three parts, one for each laboratory. This task was undertaken by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Universities of Arizona and Oxford, hence producing results indicating that the analyzed portion of the shroud dated from the 13th to 14th centuries (1260–1390).
In 2000, Joseph Marino and Sue Benford uncovered a repair seam running diagonally through the sample area utilizing x-ray analysis. Both researchers concluded that the tested samples were contaminated by repair cloth.
These findings intrigued chemist Raymond Rogers, director of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) to conduct further examinations. Each of the three independent laboratories utilized half of their allocated test sample, which was destroyed in the c-14 dating process while preserving the unused portion for future reference. A study by Rogers and Anna Arnoldi of the University of Milan on the stored portions found that ultraviolet photography and spectral analysis of the area of the shroud chosen for the test samples significantly differed chemically from that of the main part of the cloth. They cited the presence of Madder-root dye and aluminum-oxide mordant (a dye-fixing agent) in the area of the 1988 test sample remnants. Both Rogers and Arnoldi concluded that the tested portion of the cloth was mended at some point in its history. Logically these repairs would have utilized materials fabricated near the time of repair, having a higher concentration of c-14 than the original main part of the cloth.
Rogers then performed Microchemical tests and found traces of vanillin in the sample area, absent in the rest of the cloth. Vanillin is produced by the thermal decomposition of lignin, a complex polymer and component of flax. Vanillin is consistently found in medieval materials but not in older cloths, as it diminishes with time. Rogers determined that the sample used from the shroud in the 1988 c-14 dating was not valid. Moreover, based upon the vanillin depletion, the shroud must be between 1,300 and 3,000 years old. "The fact that vanillin cannot be detected in the lignin on shroud fibers, Dead Sea scrolls linen, and other very old linens indicate that the shroud is quite old. A determination of the kinetics of vanillin loss suggest the shroud is between 1300- and 3000-years old."
A 2005 documentary contains a video message from Ray Rodgers recorded shortly before his death, he states that after declaring the cloth a fake he was now coming to the conclusion that there was a very good chance that this was the piece of cloth that was used to bury Jesus.
Whiting points out that the Shroud is not only an archeological artifact, but a precious religious relic. Hence, it should have been a foregone conclusion that it must have underwent 2,000 years of maintenance, repair and restoration. Care should have been given to assure that the samples were taken from a truly representative part of the original cloth. Instead, only one sample was taken from an outside corner, a part most likely to have been a repair area. The results may be one of the greatest scientific blunders in history.
Professor Alan D. Adler of the STURP Directive Committee objected to the blatant disregard of protocol, "Unfortunately, a detailed protocol for sampling the Shroud, assuring both precision and accuracy, recommended by a convened group of consultants was not followed. Only a single sample was taken in the lower corner of the main cloth of the frontal image below the so-called side strip from the selvage edge in an obviously water stained area (note: water stains have been known to knock off as much as a thousand years off ancient Egyptian mummy wrappings) just a few inches from a burn mark. The selvage edge was trimmed off before portions of the sample were divided among the participating laboratories. Whether such an obviously contaminated sample is truly representative of the rest of the cloth is clearly questionable and the accuracy of the reported date is certainly doubtful" (1).
The Shroud sample was personally cut by Giovanni Riggi, who stated: "I was authorized to cut approximately 1.24 square inches of cloth from the Shroud. This was then reduced to about 1.09 square inches because fibers of other origins had become mixed up with the original fabric (2).
Chemist Robert Villarreal headed a team of nine scientists at LANL (Alamos National Laboratory) who examined material from the carbon 14 sampling region. He stated: "The age-dating process in 1988 failed to recognize one of the first rules of analytical chemistry, that any sample taken for characterization of an area or population must necessarily be representative of the whole. The part must be representative of the whole. Our analyses of the three thread samples taken from the Raes and C-14 sampling corner showed that this was not the case" (3).
A 2000 paper by M. Sue Benford and Joe Marino prompted Raymond Rogers (STURP Director of Chemical Research) to revisit the viability of the sample utilized for the radio carbon dating (4). "Rogers, clearly demonstrated that the area of the cloth from which the samples were taken was chemically unlike the rest of the cloth in several ways. Thus he concluded that the samples were not representative of the cloth" (5). The Benford and Marino findings strongly indicated that the sample selected for the c-14 dating was taken from a fabric re-weave repair done in the 14th Century.
Author Brendan Whiting closely followed these intriguing developments, while most others in the scientific community considered these findings absurd futile attempts to rationalize a valid radio carbon dating result they religiously could not accept.