Flaming torches and pitchforks

January 10, 2009

by Roger Koppl

Forensic scientist Brian Gestring laments “The Dawn of the ‘Forensic Science Provocateur’” in the latest CAC News.  That’s the newsletter of the California Association of Criminalists.  He objects to the “peripheral waves of lawyers and business professors that have . . . found a new calling, that of Forensic Science Provocateur.”  But wait, there’s more!  “Like a flock of peasants with flaming torches and pitchforks, their rhetoric abounds and obscures substace.”  

Gestring is having his rhetorical fun, but he is also engaging the so-called provocateurs.  I think many other forensic scientists, however, genuinely believe that only practicing forensic scientists have standing to “criticize” forensic science, where “criticize” tends to mean saying something they disagree with or don’t like.  When do we have a right to criticize experts?  Do we defer to the experts to identify the limits of their expertise?  But how can we second experts if we lack their expertise?  Hayek pointed out that the division of labor induces a division of knowledge.  Mises spoke of the “intellectual division of labor.”  Progress in the division of labor increases the importance of expertise in society.  How do we address the power issues thereby created? Sandra Peart and David Levy have been addressing that issue.  Who else?

Full disclosure: Gestring criticizes me explicitly in his paper.  Coincidently, the same issue has an interview of me in a piece entitled “Administer This!”  

2 Responses to “Flaming torches and pitchforks”

  1. Naskra Says:

    Interesting that Gestring’s principal argument against triplicate testing is that it could produce conflicting results.

  2. koppl Says:

    Good point Naskra. That kind of stumps me. Surely that’s an argument *for* redundancy. It lets you know how robust the analysis is. I don’t have the intuition for his POV.


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