This unawareness was underscored for me when one day, in 2005, I received an email from Molly, a high school student in Alaska. Her chemistry teacher had handed out a sheet of paper with the title, “Carbon 14 Dating Successes.” It was a list and the topmost item read, “Shroud of Turin proven fake.” She had questioned the accuracy of the two words, proven fake.
“I asked my teacher about it,” she wrote, “but was ridiculed for not being scientific.” In front of the entire class her teacher said that she could believe anything she wants about her religion, but when it comes to science, the shroud is a fake. It was, he had said, a scientific fact.
For a class examination, she had to agree that the shroud was fake or be marked down. She objected. She brought to class an article from Wikipedia, the controversial online, community-edited encyclopedia banned by many teachers because of its sometimes questionable reliability. But, she also brought an article from the New York Times and another one from BBC News. They all said the same thing: There were substantive reasons to doubt the 1988 carbon dating results. She was looking for a copy of an article from a peer-reviewed scientific journal that had been mentioned in the news articles. Did I have a copy? I did, and I sent it to her.