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Truth vs. Fact

I often get asked about my role as a scientist in light of my primary employer. “Have you ever worked for the defense?” How does it feel working for law enforcement?” These are just a few of the questions that I’ve faced in trial.

As a scientist, I really don’t have a dog in the fight. My answer to that line of questioning usually goes like this, “Regardless of who’s signature is on my pay cheque, I work for the Trier of Fact – assisting the judge and jury in correctly interpreting these complex pieces of evidence. The results of my tests are grounded in science. They are reliable and repeatable. My tools and techniques are based on generally accepted, peer reviewed image science. The academic references for the algorithms used, for each of the steps performed, are noted in my report.”

That being said, I have assisted the court in uncovering fraudulent evidence presented as impeachment evidence in People v. Abdullah (BA353334). It could be said, in that case, that I was working in the defense of the accused. But again, I was there to assist the Trier of Fact in correctly interpreting the evidence. In that case, the correct interpretation was that it was a forgery. In Hor v. City of Seattle, I assisted the Trier of Fact in correctly answering the question about if/when a particular sound is heard in a recording (10-2-34403-9SEA) – seemingly in the defense of the City of Seattle – but more correctly in defense of the facts of the matter.

Trier of Fact n. the judge or jury responsible for deciding factual issues in a trial. If there is no jury the judge is the trier of fact as well as the trier of the law. In administrative hearings, an administrative law judge, a board, commission, or referee may be the trier of fact.

Taken a step further, there are certain trade groups that are geared towards law enforcement that will expel a member who is perceived or accused of having worked “for the defense.” The perception is that law enforcement are the “good guys” and the criminal defendants are the “bad guys.” Yet, to an image scientist, a 1 or a 0 is neither good nor bad. They’re just numbers. I’ve worked a few cases where the government’s “experts” got everything completely wrong, their work product was not repeatable nor grounded in science, and thus their conclusion was complete rubbish (scientifically speaking). In these cases, who’s the “good guy” and who’s the “bad guy?”

[As a side note, in the famous treason trial of Aaron Burr, he was defended by Edmund Randolph and Luther Martin, both delegates to the Constitutional Convention and among the most prominent men of the day. The Burr trial is one of the more famous examples of how politics and ego can enter into court proceedings.]

But back to the point, if you’re one of those scientists that think in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys,” are you not biased towards a presupposed outcome – good will overcome evil and the bad guys will be punished? Is this form of presuppositional bias a good thing or a bad thing for scientists who serve the court system? I am certainly not one of those types of scientists. I work the case and the facts are the facts, regardless of who is signing my paycheck.

In the end, A either equals A or it doesn’t.

It’s with this in mind that I received and began to read Ferguson, MO: What Really Happened: A Systematic Scientific Analysis by Bruce E. Krell, PhD.

Truth vs. Fact

If we are to rely upon the media and various special interest groups to inform the Trier of Fact in Ferguson, MO, as to the “truths” of the case, the shooting incident will look a certain way depending on which “truths” are presented. White vs. Black. Powerful vs. powerless. State vs. the people. Bully vs. bullied. Etc. But true experts are relied upon to present facts. In this case, Dr. Krell uses his many years of experience in reconstructing shooting incidents to examine the facts and come to a conclusion. His science is presented without distractions and superfluities. In a very methodical way, Dr. Krell takes the reader through the crime scene to examine what actually happened – what the evidence at the scene says happened.

It’s a thoroughly refreshing point of view – science (facts), as opposed to the many political angles that have been previously presented (truths). It may be uncomfortable to read, but facts are facts. Dr. Krell is working neither for the state or the people, neither for the prosecution or the defense. He’s working for the Trier of Fact, applying the science of shooting incident reconstruction to the evidence in the case.

Three cheers for Dr. Krell, though I doubt the biased media outlets will pick up on this book. Unfortunately, the facts of the matter don’t fit their narrative.

Education is already free, Bernie.

In a recent debate between rivals for the Democrat party’s nomination for the upcoming Presidential election, Sen. Bernie Sanders made several references as to why/how college education should be free in the US. Not to be outdone, our former Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, seemed to allude that not only should a college education be free to citizens, but to undocumented migrants as well.

Lost in the weeds of the discussion is the question – do folks want a free “education” or a free “undergraduate degree?” It may seem like a distinction without a difference, but the difference is, as Donald Trump might say, huuuugggge.

First and foremost, education is simply the act or process of being educated. Education is, and has always been, free. Yes, that’s right. It’s a simple process. You identify something that you want to know more about. You find out more about that something. You’re now educated on that something. Simple enough, yes.

As an example, I want to build a strong and durable fence around 3/4 of my property. I don’t want to spend a ton of money, I want to source materials locally, and I want to do it as a project that involves my children’s schooling. My oldest daughter and I set about to educate ourselves as to historical wall/fence building techniques in our rural area, then broadened the search to include techniques from cultures who’ve existed in areas with similar geography and climate. We ended up finding that the beginning of the China’s Great Wall in the Gobi had the right design features and materials to match what we wanted to do. We’ve got plenty of dirt and our local lake has a problem with cat tails / bull rush that need constant clearing (free materials). The info we found even suggested building methods that could easily be adapted to our modern situation. So it is, my daughter and I are now “educated” as to an appropriate building method to construct a wall around our property (I seriously doubt that the original builders of the wall in the Gobi were required to have a degree a degree in structural engineering and certification as a civil engineer).

In another example, I recently completed an on-line class on Human Vision and Perception (continuing education for my profession) at Duke University for free, part of the Coursera project’s offerings. With Coursera, you can take classes from some of the “best” colleges and universities in the world for free.

Pick your topic, and the internet can supply you with a ton of information so that you can educate yourself.

But folks really don’t want an “education.” They want a free “degree.” Amazingly enough, those opportunities exist as well. Check out the University of the People’s web site to find out how to earn a degree in Business Administration or Computer Science on-line for “free.” But even the UOP program isn’t entirely free, there’s still a sign-up fee and fees to take exams. But, it’s pretty cheap.

Ok. We’ve found a “free” degree for folks. That should be it, right? Not even close.

The first objection will be to the on-line format. Then, it will be to the status of their accreditation. Then, the complaints will be towards the ability to leverage the degree earned from UOP in gaining employment (after all, the lawyers on Suits all come from Harvard). All of which are BS. For many young people, the college experience as such is just a 6 year extension of their childhood and a delay of accepting full responsibility for their lives. How many go to college to “find themselves?” I did. Should tax payers have to fund this “fact finding mission?” No.

The way we should handle “education,” if the Libertarians were involved in the discussion, is to focus on the market. Moral capitalism seeks to fill a need. I see that folks need X to make their lives more livable, safe, fun, etc. I provide X at a reasonable price. I make money to support my efforts and folks have their lives enriched. The market reacts to what I’m doing, spurring further innovation. Education, and “finding yourself,” should be centered around finding those things that each of us can do to better our situation and the situation of those around us. We should be raising generation after generation of entrepreneurs, inventors, builders, artists, … We should not be paying for an “education” in General Studies so that the graduate can be a well rounded delivery driver for the local pizza franchise.

Thus, as no one is calling BS on the media or the Democrats, I will. Education is already free. A university degree can also be earned at little/no cost to the student.

So what do they really want?