Criminal profiling and skepticism

When we usually think of skepticism, we think about questioning the claims of what we generally label woo-peddlers, such as homeopathic practitioners (I refuse to call them ‘doctors’), psychics, etc. What we don’t commonly question is what may happen when science is stretched to explain more than what is intended to, or when observations and personal interpretations are taken to be the be-all and end-all of something that involves human lives and reputations.

This article on the ‘science’ of criminal profiling traces the beginnings of this controversial field, and how it almost fell apart due to a combination of an overeager profiler and desperation to solve a case.

PS. Yes, I am a huge fan of the show ‘Criminal Minds,’ and considering how quickly the public tends to believe that science works the way it does in the real world as it does in Hollywood movie, it’s pretty awesome that some journalists are setting the record straight.

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  1. May 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm —

    Did you notice how much the early profiling resembles the cold reading techniques used by psychics?

  2. May 18, 2010 at 9:46 am —

    Yeah. That is why we have to avoid falling into the trap of believing that because something is accepted as ‘science’ during a certain time period, it shouldn’t have to stand up to the same level of scrutiny we put more usual forms of woo through.

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