There are those among the population who have a blind devotion to the idea of “science.” Now, I’m not one to suggest that the scientific method isn’t useful in learning new things. It most certainly is. The problem is when something is labeled as “science” and is then taken as infallible and unquestioned.
We call that blind belief.
When blind belief is in place, then people no longer seek to learn more and go deeper to find new discoveries and better information. And, unfortunately, this blind belief has become commonplace in police forensics technology which has caused innocent people to be locked up for crimes that they didn’t commit. (hat tip to here for the lead)
Could you be next?
John Stossel and Maxim Lott write,
TV shows like CSI, Law & Order, and NCIS depict incredible technology for identifying criminals.
In one NCIS scene, a 3D hologram identifies a person’s teeth, precisely matching the killer’s bite to a bite mark on a victim. “A little 3D magic for clarity and I give you—the killer’s incisors!” NCIS character “Abby” announces proudly.
John Stossel loves crazy Abby, but notes that in the real world, court-approved experts reach similar conclusions—without good science to back them up.
Alfred Swinton was convicted of murder after “bite mark expert” Dr. Gus Karazulas said Swinton’s teeth matched a bite on a victim.
Karazulas told the TV show Cold Case Files: “We look at the evidence and we make sure that if we are going to make a decision it’s gonna be a truthful decision.”
But a decade later, DNA testing showed it was not Swinton’s DNA on the bite mark. He was released after 18 years in prison.
To his credit, Karazulas now admits he was wrong. “Bite mark evidence is junk science,” he tells us by email. He testified to that in court and resigned as a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
The verdict was wrong because bite mark analysis has never been scientifically proven, says Chris Fabricant of the Innocence Project, which represented Swinton.
Fabricant tells Stossel that bite mark analysis “is similar to you and I looking at a cloud, and then I say, ‘John, doesn’t that cloud look like a rabbit to you?’ And you look at it and say, ‘yeah, Chris, I think that does look like a rabbit.'”
But, maybe you’re thinking that it’s just bite marks that are flawed, that other “forensic science” is solid and reliable. Sadly, you would be mistaken. According to Stossel and Lott, similar flawed methodologies are at play with fingerprint analysis, carpet fiber evidence, gun tracing, and hair matching.
So, if these are known problems, why are people thrown in jail based on this “evidence?” Again, from Stossel and Lott:
Stossel asks Fabricant: “Why do judges admit this stuff? Why don’t defense attorneys get it thrown out?” Fabricant answers: “We all went to law school because we don’t know science, we don’t know math. And if somebody comes in in a white lab coat…that’s good enough for government work.”
The scary thing is, with the average American unintentionally breaking at least three laws every day, it’s not hard for law enforcement to find some reason to lock you up, and, once you are arrested, then they use this junk science to “prove” that you are guilty of more crimes that you never committed.
It’s scary, and it’s just the side effect of our society’s blind belief that everything labeled “science” is true.