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"Ninety-five Percent of Forensic Scientists Agree…"


Firedoglake, on the scandal involving forensic science and the FBI:

In a stunning revelation the FBI has admitted that it provided flawed forensic testimony on hundreds of cases in the two decades prior to the year 2000. The FBI forensic experts falsely stated forensic matches that favored prosecutors 95% of the time in the over 200 cases reviewed so far.

In 14 of the cases the FBI experts offered that flawed testimony in the defendants have either died in prison or been executed. Four previous defendants have been exonerated so far thanks to new reviews of FBI forensic testimony…

The misleading testimony of the forensic scientists was pervasive:

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far…

This scandal is of extraordinary importance, yet I suggest that its importance is generally misunderstood.

It is clearly a scandal involving the criminal justice system; the false testimony of these scientists has sent innocent men to prison and possibly to death. Yet it is only secondarily a scandal of the criminal justice system.

It is primarily a scandal of the scientific community. The testimony clearly reflected a consensus within the community of forensic scientists who testify for the FBI. The fundamental scandal is that the FBI took scientists at their word — that their scientific findings were consensus science, and therefore good science.

In the courtroom, scientists favored the prosecution (their employer) 95 percent of the time. This echoes government-funded global warming scientists’ claim that “97% of climate scientists agree that anthropogenic climate change is occurring.”

The parallel to the controversy about global warming and Darwinian biology is striking. Many climate scientists demand that we restructure the world economy and even world governance according to “consensus climate science,” and many evolutionary biologists insist that it is the scientific consensus that Darwinian mechanisms explain all biological adaptation and that this consensus precludes discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory in schools.

No doubt the forensic scientists insisted, as climate scientists and evolutionary biologists still insist, that their findings were facts, and that there is a scientific consensus to support their proclamations. No doubt defense experts were labeled deniers (or the forensic equivalent) for questioning the consensus science, just as skeptical climate scientists and biologists are labeled “deniers” for asking probing questions about climate science and evolutionary biology.

Consensus climate science and consensus evolutionary biology are no more credible than consensus forensic science. If anything, forensic scientists’ ethical standards are higher than those of climate scientists and evolutionary biologists, who don’t proclaim their theories in situations in which life and freedom are immediately at stake, who are unaccountable to the justice system, and who aren’t under oath when they make their proclamations about scientific unanimity.

This lesson is clear: consensus science isn’t science. Consensus science is groupthink, ideology-mongering, and censorship masquerading as science. Science is a continuous process of inquiry. We should reject “consensus science” in the courtroom, in the classroom, and in the public square.

Image by Federal Bureau of Investigation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.



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