I read a couple of troubling articles today about some forensic techniques that were used by the FBI that were used as evidence in criminal cases and were sold by the FBI as reliable techniques, but as it turns out were not the case. Those articles can be found here, and here.
In a horrible fit of madness I looked at some of the comments, and of course there are plenty of conspiracy people there, but what was more interesting is how many people thought that this was confirmation that scientific consensus doesn’t mean anything, or how science is unreliable, and many of these people were clearly conservatives who are climate change deniers. It annoys me to see science and logic so misunderstood, so I thought I just write down a few thoughts.
First of all it’s important to remember that one case of science being misused is not evidence that all science can’t be trusted.
Second, this is not a case of science being misused. The science was correct the entire time, it’s the FBI that lied about the science. Whether it was the forensics people themselves who misrepresented the science or lead investigator in charge of the case is unclear, but it was actually objective scientific investigation that showed the corruption of the FBI. There were actually peer-reviewed publications that demonstrated the lack of reliability of these techniques, just as there are 1000’s and 1000’s of peer-reviewed journal articles that establish the truth of human-induced climate change and this is much different than someone having the truth in a journal article, but then lying about it in terms of how that knowledge is applied.
Third, you could call what the FBI is doing bad science, but you can also see how easily that bad science was uncovered by the recent investigation. However when it comes to climate change, even their own scientists agree about the evidence for human-induced climate change. The party just refuses to listen.
More careful investigation of this exposure of the FBI’s techniques is not an indictment of science, but rather something that reveals it’s value at uncovering bias.