Sunday, 7 October 2007

Science versus Pseudo-Science and the search for Madeleine

I haven't previously posted at all about the horrific disappearance of this little girl.

Like all the other commentators, reporters and bloggers I have no idea what happened and I really hope she turns up, but at the same time I must admit that hope is fading.

Unlike most commentators, reporters and bloggers I am therefore, not going to comment on who did what, when, and who is or isn't looking guilty - because I don't know.

I have also kept quiet through the last few months when the inevitable hordes of Psychics have descended like vultures in the hunt for Maddy.

I have not mentioned wasted police time, unecessary mental anguish for all concerned or the personal financial gain being wrung out of a terrible set of circumstances.

Not a peep have you had from me about psychics' track record of preying upon the families of such victims.

Never a word about their previous results ( despite that fact that I do overuse the phrase Nil Points in normal life and that this would have been exactly accurate and totally appropriate in this regard ).

No, you have had no mention from me of the documented false claims of previous success such people use to boost their own standing, get themselves "in" on the case, and which they ultimate hope will boost their personal earnings potential.

I have remained silent through all of this.

Today came the final straw with this short piece in the Observer.

Almost every claim made/implied for Krugel's techniques and success in this piece, appear to be false or at the very least are vigorously disputed. And yet we get no whiff of this in the story.

It is disappointing that we are not told more about this chap and his "invention" in the story, which just gives the impression that there is no doubt about any of his claims, when in the reality based community he is pretty well understood to be a fake.

Perhaps the reporters have just taken his claims on face value?

Mr Krugel is a good subject for a "classic set of Pseudo- science red flags" and how to spot them, and how using scientific sounding jargon bamboozles non-science reporters.

It would appear that either the reporters or the police have simply taken this chaps claims at face value, despite the many red flags apparent from simply listening to his claims. Aren't reporters supposed to research such things?

A few of the red flags;
  • He refuses to say how his "box" works despite the fact it outperforms every other DNA analysis lab in the world by a huge margin - despite his lack of any qualifications in this area of science
  • He refuses to let anyone else look at his equipment - despite that fact that this could be saving many many lives
  • He is a security employee of the university quoted - he is not an academic
  • He claims to have discovered the bodies of murder victims in South Africa - but they have not been found - he gets round this obvious contradiction by saying that they ran out of the money needed to fund the digging for the bodies - this despite the fact that he also claims to locate bodies "within a few meters" so how much digging would be required
- - -

Quote for the day;
The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
- George Bernard Shaw, author (1856-1950)


  1. Psi

    I don't know if you've seen this blog:

    She has some interesting posts on Danie Krugel. She's from South Africa, where DK is from. A blog to consider for your blogroll perhaps? She has quite a lot to say about various forms of woo... and she says it well.

  2. Thanks Malcolm,

    I subscribe to moonflake - that reminds me that the blogroll on this page is way out of date.

    I have just spotted that Bad Science covered this exactly same Observer story today.

    Great minds think alike - I will insist upon this explanation for the coincidence ;-)