Knowledge Questions: What is the impact that knowledge has on the knower? What are our limitations in acquiring knowledge? What are the limitations in our abilities to reason? What is the role of skepticism in acquiring knowledge?
As I read this article, it reminded me of a passage from the novel, The Three Body Problem. Linked here is the passage that pass about pseudoscience and magicians.
Below is an article about related issues.
The episode shows how human fallibility can lead scientists astray, even when they appear to be conducting valid experiments. And why not look to magicians for insights into the blind spot in our perceptions? Many of them are experts on ways people can be fooled. As Benvensite showed the world, an advanced degree in something like immunology does not make one immune to self-delusion.
As the famous Richard Feynman quote about science goes: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Knowledge Questions: What separates science from pseudoscience? What are the characteristics of “good” science? To what extent can we expect scientific knowledge to be “certain”?
From his basement in upstate New York, Herbert MacDonell launched modern bloodstain-pattern analysis, persuading judge after judge of its reliability. Then he trained hundreds of others. But what if they’re getting it wrong?
Although the reliability of blood-spatter analysis was never proven or quantified, its steady admission by courts rarely wavered, even as the technique, along with other forensic sciences, began facing increasing scrutiny.
In 2009, a watershed report commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences cast doubt on the whole discipline, finding that “the uncertainties associated with bloodstain pattern analysis are enormous,” and that experts’ opinions were generally “more subjective than scientific.”
Still, judges continued allowing spatter experts to testify.
A second article from Propublica
The FBI Says Its Photo Analysis Is Scientific Evidence. Scientists Disagree.
ProPublica asked leading statisticians and forensic science experts to review methods image examiners have detailed in court transcripts, published articles and presentations. The experts identified numerous instances of examiners overstating the techniques’ scientific precision and said some of their assertions defy logic.
From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there’s really no better place to go. Because anti-science isn’t just a religious, conservative phenomenon—and the way in which it crosses cultural lines can tell us a lot about why places like the Creation Museum inspire so much rage, while places like Whole Foods don’t.
This is an interesting example of the debate over what science is and who gets to define it. The validity and value of the forensic sciences has been greatly debated over time and despite people’s confidence in these sciences (mostly because of tv shows), research has proven that these sciences are unreliable. What happens when questioning the value of science undermines the institutions built upon that science? In this case, law enforcement seems to have exclusive domain over determining the value and validity of these sciences and these sciences are made to serve their purposes.
“Every independent critique of our forensic science system comes back to the same basic conclusion about both the root of the problem and how to fix it: Forensic science rests under the exclusive control of police and prosecutors, and its legitimacy and integrity have suffered as a result.”
“The professional association for the nation’s district attorneys criticized the report for its insufficient attention to “the ancient debate over precisely what constitutes ‘science’ ” while asserting that the final arbiter of good science should be lawyers and courtrooms, not scientists and laboratories.”
And another article from the Times about the same issue. Once again, gets to the question about what science is.
“A groundbreaking 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences finally drew the curtain back to reveal that the wizardry of forensics was more art than science. The report assessed forensic science’s methods and developed recommendations to increase validity and reliability among many of its disciplines.”