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4 Reasons A Lot of Forensic Science is Total Crap; comment

28. May 2012

CrimeDime tells you four reasons why forensic science is rubbish.[…]lot-of-forensic-science-is-total-crap/

I agree however that this isn’t because of the science behind it. Science is great.

[…] but forensic scientists, eager to validate their own work and hold offenders accountable, routinely overstate the significance of their findings.

That reminds me of the case where the German police was looking for a female murder, based on DNA evidence. Cases appeared all over Germany. Well it turned out, far far later, that the “cotton sticks” used for taking samples to analyze them were contaminated by a female that packed them at production level. The police trusted the vendor and did not test them, therefor they looked in the wrong direction.

It’s the same with profiling, when your profile is wrong and you trust it too much your investigation might fail or takes significantly longer.

The sexy aspects of forensic science encourage adoption without critical analysis. I’ll tell you a secret. Criminal justice professionals like CSI too. All of these television shows have glamorized forensic science to a degree that you start to think that all you have to do is run a fingerprint through AFIS and you’ll be younger, thinner, and with a more symmetrical face. I mean, forensic science is just that sexy, right? And because it’s so cool, has such great cachet, not many people are terribly interested in asking the critical questions. Has this been tested and replicated? Is anyone else using this technique? What kind of probability threshold are you using? How might this technique lead to false results? Whoa, wait, Horatio just put on his sunglasses… nevermind about all that. Can we time the length of his dramatic pause? I want to practice.

Much of that applies to what I said above.

I watched CSI (I forgot which one first), but stopped it all together as it got too much (CSI, CSI Miami, CSI NY, CSI $city). Horatio annoyed me with his sunglasses. [That’s why this is in private as well.] I found forensics to be overdrawn. The series worked with animations, camera tricks and such stuff.

[…] in the courtroom, who has time to get into which credentials are believable? Not to mention, even if the lawyers wanted to go down that path, they don’t really have the expertise to figure out whose credentials are bogus and who has bona fides.

And that reminds me of an astrophysics who was skeptic about computer generated models of the universe. I forgot his name but he said something like that “You can simulate a pink elephant, but that doesn’t mean there are pink elephants!” You can mostly recreate something and tell a story even if it’s not the truth.

From → General, Private

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