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Trust in science: How the replication crisis got started

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And why it matters:

The most basic level of trust in science is trust that the reported experiment actually happened. Joe Hilgard described his efforts to report scientific misconduct at the level of fabricated trials, and found that the journals mostly weren’t interested. Moreover, the fraudulent researchers would simply change their tactics once he pointed out their fraud. For example, after Hilgard pointed out that a trial with over 3,000 subjects was unlikely to have occurred, the researcher in question now sets his sample sizes at a believable couple hundred.

Another level of trust is the idea that a citation to a source accurately reports the information there. In my experience, it is the norm, rather than the exception, for cited claims in popular science books and review papers to misstate the claims of their sources. The popular science book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, for example, was eviscerated for its misleading citations by Alexey Guzey in a review, but this did not result in any institutional action toward Walker or public acknowledgement of the flaws in the book. Walker was defended as promoting an important message, even if he got a few things wrong in shady ways. (One reviewer, aware of the Guzey criticisms, said that Walker can be forgiven for his errors, because his exuberance comes from the right place.)

The term “pious fraud” is usually used to refer to religious people who knowingly promote hoaxes while believing in the underlying religious message of the hoax; it was a term commonly used in the skeptical movement of the 1990s to refer to people like stigmatics, faith healers, and the creator of the Shroud of Turin. Similar to pious frauds, researchers who believe in the truth of the message of “sleep is good for you” or “social behavior is automatic” or the like may produce or promote silly findings they know to be false or meaningless, because these findings support an important message.

Sarah Perry, “How trust undermines science” at Works in Progress (September 14, 2021)

And more. Actually, there is probably better evidence for the Shroud of Turin than for many claims made in science journals today — if only because the claims must weather much more skepticism.

7 Replies to “Trust in science: How the replication crisis got started

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Ends vs means is a complex balance, with no automatic rule.

    If the end is good, I’m not bothered by trivial or false arguments along the way. False arguments or exaggerated claims aren’t hurting anyone.

    But a good end DOESN’T justify massive harm and murder. The current “pandemic” is permanently ruining ALL PEOPLE ON EARTH, and killing millions unnecessarily, to SUPPOSEDLY save the lives of a small number of people who were already dying and couldn’t be saved anyway. That’s a poor balance of means and ends.

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Actually, there is probably better evidence for the Shroud of Turin than for many claims made in science journals today — if only because the claims must weather much more skepticism.

    True. But because it has a religious aspect, the Shroud is considered a fraud. As they said:

    and the creator of the Shroud of Turin

    Supposedly, there is a completely unknown, unidentified “creator” of the Shroud who innovated an artistic technique (3D imaging) not used for centuries and which could only be seen in a photographic negative – without using paint – and he or she did all this by completely hiding his identity even from family, friends, artistic rivals and people who wanted to debunk the Shroud during his lifetime. No clue of who this “creator” is – nothing. The person didn’t collaborate with anyone – no partners, artistic sponsors. The Church knew nothing of this artist. Nobody leaked out the secret. No notebooks or artistic lab materials found to explain the process. No practice images found – only the one perfect Shroud. Nobody has receipts for the sale of the Palestinian linen used. The person didn’t want any money or credit for this artistic “creation” that is kept and honored as one of the greatest treasures of human civilization even in the 21st century?
    It’s sad to see people who claim to respect science, simply incapable of analyzing an artifact correctly, for reasons of bias and prejudice.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    Not only that but the creator of the Shroud provided us with the basis of a Theory of Everything – apparently. The two halves of the image were also alleged to have been separated by an “event horizon” according to one scientific expert which suggests there could have been a black hole in the vicinity when it was created. It’s not clear how the Shroud – or the Earth come to that – would have survived the immense gravitational forces involved

  4. 4
    jerry says:

    The most authoritative site for the Shroud of Turin is

    Nobody has a clue as to how the Shroud happened.

    I just realize that the OP has this same link.

  5. 5
    Silver Asiatic says:


    Not only that but the creator of the Shroud provided us with the basis of a Theory of Everything – apparently.

    Darwin thought bears turned into whales by …

    swimming for hours with widely open mouth, thus catching, like a whale, insects in the water. Even in so extreme a case as this, if the supply of insects were constant, and if better adapted competitors did not already exist in the country, I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale…

    As you point out, a single absurdity offered by an unqualified crackpot should be enough to eliminate evolutionary theory entirely.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    As to this comment from Sarah Perry’s article:

    The term “pious fraud” is usually used to refer to religious people who knowingly promote hoaxes while believing in the underlying religious message of the hoax; it was a term commonly used in the skeptical movement of the 1990s to refer to people like stigmatics, faith healers, and the creator of the Shroud of Turin.

    I did not see any references listed in Sarah Perry’s article so I guess that she is just relying on her memory to claim that the Shroud is a ‘hoax’.

    My guess is that Sarah Perry does not know that the carbon dating of the Shroud in 1988, (that had dated the Shroud to the Medieval period, and that had supposedly proven that the Shroud was a medieval hoax), has now been overturned.

    In 2000 Joseph G. Marino and M. Sue Benford put forth the hypothesis that the corner of the Shroud that was tested via carbon dating was a part of the Shroud that had been subject to expert medieval reweaving in the 1500’s.

    Their hypothesis had much historical, and photographic, evidence behind it. Their historical, and photographic, evidence was then subsequently scientifically confirmed by chemical analysis in 2004 by none other than Raymond Rogers, the lead chemist on the STURP team.

    Shroud of Turin – Carbon 14 Test Proven False – Joseph G. Marino and M. Sue Benford – video (with Raymond Rogers, lead chemist from the STURP project)

    Studies on the radiocarbon sample from the shroud of turin – Raymond N. Rogers – 2004
    In 1988, radiocarbon laboratories at Arizona, Cambridge, and Zurich determined the age of a sample from the Shroud of Turin. They reported that the date of the cloth’s production lay between A.D. 1260 and 1390 with 95% confidence. This came as a surprise in view of the technology used to produce the cloth, its chemical composition, and the lack of vanillin in its lignin. The results prompted questions about the validity of the sample.
    Preliminary estimates of the kinetics constants for the loss of vanillin from lignin indicate a much older age for the cloth than the radiocarbon analyses. The radiocarbon sampling area is uniquely coated with a yellow–brown plant gum containing dye lakes. Pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry results from the sample area coupled with microscopic and microchemical observations prove that the radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin. The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the shroud.,,,
    The fact that vanillin can not be detected in the lignin on shroud fibers, Dead Sea scrolls linen, and other very old linens indicates that the shroud is quite old. A determination of the kinetics of vanillin loss suggests that the shroud is between 1300- and 3000-years old. Even allowing for errors in the measurements and assumptions about storage conditions, the cloth is unlikely to be as young as 840 years.
    per: Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425 pages 189-194, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of California)

    Rogers passed away shortly after publishing that paper, but his work was ultimately verified by scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory:

    “Rogers also asked John Brown, a materials forensic expert from Georgia Tech to confirm his finding using different methods. Brown did so. He also concluded that the shroud had been mended with newer material. Since then, a team of nine scientists at Los Alamos has also confirmed Rogers work, also with different methods and procedures. Much of this new information has been recently published in Chemistry Today.”

    This following is the finding from the researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory which confirmed Rogers’ findings:

    “Analytical Results on Thread Samples Taken from the Raes Sampling Area (Corner) of the Shroud Cloth” (Aug 2008)
    Excerpt: The age-dating process 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…….
    LANL’s work confirms the research published in Thermochimica Acta (Jan. 2005) by the late Raymond Rogers, a chemist who had studied actual C-14 samples and concluded the sample was not part of the original cloth possibly due to the area having been repaired.
    – Robert Villarreal – Los Alamos National Laboratory

    And here is a video from Robert Villarreal, friend of the late Raymond Rodgers. Villarreal is one of the scientists from the Los Alamos laboratory:

    Shroud Carbon Dating Overturned By Scientific Peer Review – video

    Thus, the fact that a false age was shown by the 1988 carbon testing, and as far as the scientific evidence is concerned, has now been overturned.

    On top of that, Giulio Fanti narrowed the age for the Shroud down much closer to the first century than Rodgers, via chemistry alone, was able to do,

    Giulio Fanti and the Turin Shroud – load bearing test, infared test, Shroud dated to time of Christ – 34:00 minute mark – video

    New experiments date the Shroud of Turin to the 1st century AD. They comprise three tests; two chemical and one mechanical. The chemical tests were done with Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Raman spectroscopy, examining the relationship between age and a spectral property of ancient flax textiles. The mechanical test measured several micro-mechanical characteristics of flax fibers, such as tensile strength. The results were compared to similar tests on samples of cloth from between 3250 BC and 2000 AD whose dates are accurately known.
    FTIR identifies chemical bonds in a molecule by producing an infrared absorption spectrum. The spectra produce a profile of the sample, a distinctive molecular fingerprint that can be used to identify its components.
    Raman Spectroscopy uses the light scattered off of a sample as opposed to the light absorbed by a sample. It is a very sensitive method of identifying specific chemicals.
    The tests on fibers from the Shroud of Turin produced the following dates: FTIR = 300 BC + 400 years; Raman spectroscopy = 200 BC + 500 years; and multi-parametric mechanical = 400 AD + 400 years. All the dates have a 95% certainty. The average of all three dates is 33 BC + 250 years (the collective uncertainty is less than the individual test uncertainties). The average date is compatible with the historic date of Jesus’ death on the cross in 30 AD, and is far older than the medieval dates obtained with the flawed Carbon-14 sample in 1988. The range of uncertainty for each test is high because the number of sample cloths used for comparison was low; 8 for FTIR, 11 for Raman, and 12 for the mechanical test. The scientists note that “future calibrations based on a greater number of samples and coupled with ad hoc cleaning procedures could significantly improve its accuracy, though it is not easy to find ancient samples adequate for the test.”
    They used tiny fibers extracted from the Shroud by micro-analyst Giovanni Riggi di Numana, who gave them to Fanti. Riggi passed away in 2008, but he had been involved in the intensive scientific examination of the Shroud of Turin by the STURP group in 1978, and on April 21, 1988 was the man who cut from the Shroud the thin 7 x 1 cm sliver of linen that was used for carbon dating.
    These tests were carried out in University of Padua laboratories by professors from various Italian universities, led by Giulio Fanti, Italian professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at the University of Padua’s engineering faculty. He co-authored reports of the findings in 1) a paper in the journal Vibrational Spectroscopy, July 2013, “Non-destructive dating of ancient flax textiles by means of vibrational spectroscopy” by Giulio Fanti, Pietro Baraldi, Roberto Basso, and Anna Tinti, Volume 67, pages 61-70; 2) a paper titled “A new cyclic-loads machine for the measurement of micro-mechanical properties of single flax fibers coming from the Turin Shroud” by Giulio Fanti and Pierandrea Malfi for the XXI AIMETA (Italian Association of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics) congress in 2013, and 3) the 2013 book “Il Mistero della Sindone” (The Mystery of the Shroud), written by Giulio Fanti and Saverio Gaeta in Italian.

    Thus, in so far as Sarah Perry was operating under the false assumption that the carbon dating had proven the Shroud to be the work of a Medieval forger, her claim that the Shroud is a hoax collapses in on itself.

    The Shroud, contrary to what Sarah Perry, (and Seversky) may prefer to believe about it, is simply not so easily dismissed.

    The Shroud, despite repeated attempts by Atheists trying to prove that it is a hoax, simply refuses to be ‘explained away’.

    The evidence for the Shroud’s authenticity keeps growing. (Timeline of facts) –
    What Is the Shroud of Turin? Facts & History Everyone Should Know – Myra Adams and Russ Breault – November 08, 2019

    Much more could be said about the authenticity of the Shroud, and the implications therein of Jesus defeating death, but suffice it for now to say that those who claim the Shroud is a hoax have got a lot of ‘explaining to do’

    Basically, we have a clothe with a photographic negative image on it that was made well before photography was even invented. Moreover, the photographic negative image has a 3-Dimensional holographic nature to its image that was somehow encoded within the photographic negative well before holography was even known about. Moreover, even with our present day technology, we still cannot replicated the image in all its detail.

    ?My question to atheists is this, if you truly believe some mad genius forger in the middle ages made this image, then please pray tell why did this mad genius save all his genius for this supposed forgery alone and not for, say, inventing photography itself since he surely would have required mastery of photography to pull off the forgery? Not to mention mastery of laser holography? Moreover, why did this hypothetical mad super-genius destroy all of his scientific instruments that he would have had to invent in order to make the image? Leonardo da Vinci would not have been worthy to tie the shoe laces of such a hypothetical mad super genius!

  7. 7
    Belfast says:


    There are not “two halves” of the image – there are two images.
    Front and back. Supine and prone.
    Get with it.

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