Science…not Science

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.



Won’t get fooled again.

I really don’t have enough time to be blogging right now, but though this was too good not to share.  This e-mail is what several faculty (if not all) received this morning.  I probably don’t have to tell you it is a scam e-mail, but this is one of the more hilarious ones I’ve seen:

Good Day, 

 We have been watching every single transaction you made since last year until this 2013 and you have to know that we are also working to make sure your funds which are suppose to be delivered to you, and also bear in mind that what ever you emailing us will be forward to the court. Also we are hereby to notify by the federal bureau of investigation Cotonou department of the insult you imposed on them by failing to comply by their requirements. Your full residential address has been forwarded to us for your immediate arrest to face your charge but I deemed it fit to give you one more chance to save yourself from this mess. 

 We have been told that you have failed to dance by the rule of the FBI which will warrant 2 years jail sentence. Now I john Robert Pikus the special agent in charge of the FBI Albany department I am giving you 24 working hours to effect the payment of the $98 usd. To the FBI in republic of Benin (fbi security) with the information written below: 

 Receiver: DONALD  EMEKA

Country: Benin Republic 

City: Cotonou 

Test:……  Very? 

Answer:…….. urgent

Amount:………… $98.dollars 

Mtcn number……… 

 You have to try as much as you can and make this payment so that your funds will be delivered immediately to your destination. You have to stop every transaction you are communicating with other organization to avoid delay on the processing of your funds. Note that you? if you fail to stick with my advice or any delay will lead to us coming directly to your home address at any time, so try and dance by the rule and get back to me with good understanding ASAP. 

Special Agent in Charge; 

 Mr. Robert Pikus 

Director F.B.I 

E-mail= (


This e-mail has it all.  Bad english, an e-mail address that makes no sense given the name of the person who sent the e-mail (Not even Robert Pikus, but john Robert Pikus), logical errors like the fact that this agent is in charge of the Albany FBI department, but is notifying us via an FBI department in Cotonou, Benin.  I don’t think the FBI has any foreign departments given that they are the Federal Bureau of investigations, and they of course aren’t called department offices but bureau offices when talking about the FBI.  There is some good old fashioned confusion here as well.  Like why are we sending this money to Donald Emeka, what does “Test:…. Very?” actually mean, why $98 dollars, why is “Note that you?” a question, and do I have even enough information here to make such a payment?

Whenever I read this things I wonder who is falling for them still?  Look I understand that initially it was going to fool people, especially older people with very little experience with technology, but for this one to have any chance of fooling anyone it would seem you had to live under a rock for the last 20 years, and you’d pretty much also have to have a severely reduced mental capacity to fall for this.  Which makes people like this really the scum of the Earth to take advantage of those people.  I know there is a lot of poverty in Africa and perhaps the west can be blamed for a lot of that, but people who are in a condition to fall for this scam probably don’t have much money to begin with and really probably aren’t the cause of your problems.

Finally, e-mails like this also make me ask the question, why are you so bad at scamming other people?  I mean this is terrible work.  Terrible.  I mean technically I should be thankful because not very many people will fall for it, but it just seems like if you are the type of person who feels morally justified in scamming other people out of their money you have to come up with something better.  I mean as a criminal you expect other people to feel disappointed in your morality, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have pride in your work.  Because now I am also just disappointed in your intelligence.  I mean everybody will still think you’re horrible, but couldn’t you at least make people say “This person is horrible…but boy that was one hell of a good scam.  I would have fallen for it myself if the scam hadn’t been exposed”.  I mean this is what you should be aiming for as a con man.  Are there no e-mail con classes going on in Africa right now.  Are there no older rich mentors who, having made their money during the Nigerian Prince days, could be helping some of these youngsters out?  I mean it can’t be easy making sure this e-mail doesn’t go directly to junk mail and into my inbox, and I just feel like the same effort should go into the content of the e-mail itself.

You’ve brought shame to your profession and possibly the FBI Donald Emeka!