No, dear Yannick, Adler and Heller did not PROVE it was real blood on the Shroud of Turin – even if some real blood is now present.

Scanning electron micrograph of whole human blood

Reminder: blood is more than a physiological fluid. Biologists regards blood as a TISSUE. Tissues are complex entities, at any level – chemical, biochemical, physiological, immunological… Ageing and chemical/microbiological degradation adds another order of complexity – and uncertainty, not helped by having a few scrapings  for analysis.

Yup, Yannick on The Other Site, that thoughtful but perhaps somewhat over-loquacious French-Canadian gentleman-scholar claims, as do so many others there, that  Adler  and Heller proved it was real human blood.

See “Yes, blood on the Shroud really could be really old”

 Comment: July 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm

“The blood on the Shroud has been proven to be real human blood by Adler and Heller from STURP and this conclusion was independently confirmed by Baima Bollone in Italy almost at the same time (beginning of the 80s). The fact that blood on the Shroud is real human blood is maybe the strongest scientific FACT concerning the Shroud of Turin, proving that there really was a tortured and crucified man enveloped in that burial cloth for less than 72 hours (a man who bears all the stigmatas of the Passion of the Christ, as reported by the Gospels). This is the main goal of my upcoming paper to emphasize this FACT. By the way, my paper is done and in a very near future, it should be published on an American website dedicated to the Shroud. Stay tune for more information about that. I hope Colin will take time to read this upcoming paper of mine. I don’t think he’ll change his mind, but at least, this paper will force him to reflect upon one or two thing, which is a very good thing.”

Nope, dear Yannick.  Adler and Heller (hereafter referred to as A&H, fell well short of proving anything, at least conclusively. They produced a pastiche of findings that simply showed there may have been some real blood present, in varying states of chemical degradation, without excluding the presence of a permanently-red pigment that was NOT blood.  Real blood is not permanently red, or even purplish red, or red-brown.

(Stop press – added August 2012: might the “blood” have been painted on, using the gut contents of medicinal leeches fed human blood, i.e. semi-digested blood?  See my later post)

(Stop stop press: see also my posting on that mysterious hydroxyproline that Raymond Rogers detected in Shroud bloodstains, and assumed to be a normal constituent of blood. It is not, but IS a normal constituent of connective tissue, and leeches have a lot of internal collagen, the major constituent of connective tissue .)

Indeed, if you look at some key statements from their report, such as is available online, like being unable to see blood cells, unable to find potassium, unable to see a typical porphyrin spectrum – needing them (or Adler alone?) to posit a novel complex with bilirubin – you are left wondering exactly what they did find. That’s especially when they say there is no  whole blood on the Shroud – just an exudate from retracted blood clots.

Now start from first principles, and ask yourself what you would need to do to characterize a mystery red liquid as blood, assuming you had unlimited quantities at your disposal.

First you would do the microscopy, with or without fixing and staining, to show the presence of red and white blood cells. You would look for platelets. If the blood was fresh you would observe it clot to produce fibrin. So far none of these tests would be possible with ancient degraded blood (Adler had to resort to heroic measures simply to get the stuff into solution, i.e. using hydrazine).

You would then want to show the presence of albumins and globins. For albumins, you would not content yourself with a spot test with bromocresol green, which simply detects the ability to bind a synthetic, non-physiological dye in a particular pH range and so is merely testing for anion-binding capability (which is what albumin does – it binds and transports a range of physiological anions like fatty acids, bilirubin etc). You would look at the behaviour of the suspected albumin(s) on  electrophoresis, gel filtration etc. Having isolated what you think is albumin you would then do an amino acid analysis; you might, if thorough, do some amino acid sequencing as well, if only to confirm that the protein has the right N terminal amino acids etc. You would then have to tackle the haemoglobin, to confirm it was of the right type. That would involve isolating the haem, splitting off the iron, and checking that it was protoporphyrin IX with the correct type and arrangement of side chains (vinyl, propionic acid, methyl). Again, if thorough, you would treat your putative protoporphyrin IX with reagent to esterify the two acidic functions, making the molecule easier to vaporise, and then run a mass spectrograph to confirm the correct molecular ion, and the correct pyrrolic fragments.

I could go on, adding further refinements, like the correct spectrum of physiological ions (potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, zinc  etc, none of it rocket science) but why bother?  A&H did not have at their disposal amounts of material to do definitive testing of this sort. With the tiny amounts available, in highly denatured form that pose problems of solubility etc, they had to content themselves with a variety of spot tests – and when they ran into a brick wall, as they did with that atypical porphyrin spectrum, they, or maybe just Adler, abandoned chemistry – porphyrin chemistry being Adler’s speciality – and proceeded to become amateur physiologists, dreaming up novel complexes, with complex clotting and post-clotting scenarios.

Please don’t tell this (retired) biochemist that A&H proved the Shroud has real blood. They proved nothing of the sort. All they showed was that the red material had some of the properties of blood – but somewhat atypical blood. Whether the latter was the result of ageing and degradation – or to other factors one can only guess at – I could not say.

What I see, through my own eyes with Shroud Scope, does not look like blood – modern or ancient. Why should blood congregate mainly on the ribs of the weave, indistinguishable in that respect from body image, with scarcely anything except faint pinkish coloration down in the furrows? I suppose it could be carefully painted-on or stencilled-on blood, using just enough to create pretty patterns, thinking of those curious chain motifs on the forearm and the small of the back. (Look closely at the Lirey pilgrim’s badge for another interpretation, 1355 vintage or thereabouts).

I always prefer the evidence of my own eyes to second-hand accounts. That’s especially the case when the latter are larded with long and involved explanations for why the pesky material behaved atypically. And call me old-fashioned if you like, but I do not trust scientists who invent what I have previously dubbed “cruci-fictional physiology”, like proposing that the trauma of crucifixion generates not just one but two extreme effects – a build up in the bloodstream of an exotic oxidised species of haemoglobin (“para-hemic methemoglobin”) AND acute jaundice to provide not just one but two  magic ingredients   so that together they can form an immortal red-coloured substance that, wait for it, can satisfactorily account for that atypical porphyrin spectrum. This is an instance of what I have previously dubbed “Mickey Mouse science” and is indeed what first caught my attention last December and diverted this retired science bod (“sciencebod” on my  ‘science buzz’ site)    into  that exotic backwater called Shroudology. I have been strongly reproached by the patron of The Other Site for employing that term, against scientists living and dead.

Well, I have news for Dan Porter and his associates: I am totally unrepentant. If it looks like Mickey Mouse science, then I will declare it to be Mickey Mouse science, without fear or favour. I don’t like seeing science turned into pseudo science merely to serve an agenda, least of all one that to this day actively promotes and peddles the Shroud as science-defying mystery. As far as I am concerned the Shroud is simply a faint sepia-coloured image on linen, the latter medieval, according to  radiocarbon dating that I have no reason to question or doubt. That shroud, or-  as we are supposed to say –  “Shroud” ($hroud?)  looks as if  it has various painted-on additions  (scourge marks, wounds etc) intended to make that image seem to be that of a bloodied crucified man – a particular  crucified man needless to say. The rest is detail. Or, in my case, scientific detail. The rest of the Shroudie road show can proceed on its way unhindered by anything I have to say regarding the SCIENCE, as distinct from pseudo-science.



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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3 Responses to No, dear Yannick, Adler and Heller did not PROVE it was real blood on the Shroud of Turin – even if some real blood is now present.

  1. Ian o"neal says:

    Firstly what’s your name and background

  2. colinsberry says:

    Is that how you routinely introduce yourself on other people’s blogs Ian? Ever heard of good manners? For your information, every one of my postings has a small panel at the bottom that reads “about colinsberry” (which answers one of your questions). You can also learn more about this blogger simply by taking the trouble to read this or some of his other 113 postings on this site or the attached comments.

    Why not simply stick to the topic under discussion, and avoid asking personal questions at least until you have established your own credentials. That’s how newcomers to a site generally operate.

  3. Gatito says:

    I always hate when they turn to pseudo science just to make tv shows and stuff like that… they always start some stupid shit like this. Also, I find it irritating that they try to mix science and religion… they are immiscible, like water and fat… that’s why they use pseudo-science as an emulsificator lol.
    In order to make claims like those, they need evidence for every aspect of it, not mixing stuff from here and there just to make it look good… oh well.
    Well ’twas a good. Best wishes.

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