Monday, October 20, 2014

Subject: The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method

Anthrax Truthers and conspiracy theorists appear to be incapable of understanding the scientific method.  It seems they generally start with a conclusion, and then they just look for facts which support that conclusion, while ignoring anything and everything that does not support their conclusion.  Thus, the idea of finding evidence that says you are on the wrong track is virtually incomprehensible to them.  To them, anyone who admits to having been on a wrong track is considered to be incompetent and forever distrusted.

However, understanding that your first impressions are not always right is key to the Scientific Method that is used by most investigators in most fields, including FBI agents and scientists.

For example, it was initially assumed by many people that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001, because (1) the anthrax letter attacks came so soon after the horrific attacks of 9/11, (2) the letters contained threats and language that appeared to be from Islamic extremists, and (3) it had been feared for years - since the first attack upon the World Trade Center in 1993 - that Islamic terrorists might someday strike America with "the poor man's atomic bomb," i.e., a biological or chemical weapon.

So, it can be argued that the Amerithrax investigation began with an hypothesis that al Qaeda was behind the attacks.

Then the FBI began to investigate (i.e., do research) to determine whether the hypothesis was true or not.

In other words, the first question asked was: Did al Qaeda operatives really send the anthrax letters?

The investigation couldn't find any additional evidence to support the hypothesis.  Instead, it found evidence which seemed to show that the al Qaeda hypothesis was invalid.  One of the first facts uncovered was that the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was an American strain used primarily in American labs for vaccine research.  Plus, no trace of anthrax could be found anywhere the 9/11 hijackers had been, so it didn't appear that 9/11 and the anthrax attacks were connected.  The initial assumption (or hypothesis) appeared to be false.

So, a new question was asked: Who sent the anthrax letters?

The subsequent investigation by the FBI uncovered an abundance of facts and evidence showing that Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins was the anthrax killer.

But, there were still some unanswered questions.  Examples:
Exactly how did Dr. Ivins make the anthrax spores used in the letters?
Where did the silicon in the spores come from?
How did Dr. Ivins disguise his handwriting?
There are many ways that Dr. Ivins could have made the attack spores, and the results would be the same for all the methods. Dr. Ivins is dead and cannot explain what he did. Thus, there's no way to be absolutely certain which method he used.  There are also different ways that the silicon could have gotten into the spores, and we are unlikely to ever know exactly which method Dr. Ivins used. (Six  percent of the spores Dr. Ivins created for flask RMR-1030 contained a "silicon signature" that exactly matched the attack spores, but Dr. Ivins himself may not have known how it happened.)  At best, the investigators can only determine the "most likely" way that he did it. 

The same holds true for the method Ivins used to disguise his handwriting.  The writing on the anthrax documents does NOT match Dr. Ivins' normal handwriting.  But he was known to disguise his handwriting when sending letters and presents to his female co-workers.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice are not going to attempt to determine which methods Dr. Ivins most likely used to accomplish those tasks, since it is not necessary in order to prove their case.  They just need to prove that Dr. Ivins has the means.  Plus, arguing about what is "most likely" only generates counter arguments that the crime might have been done in some totally unlikely way.  

Facts and evidence indicate that Dr. Ivins most likely disguised his handwriting in a relatively unique way:  He manipulated a child into doing the writing for him.  Click HERE for a video explaining 12 facts which support this hypothesis.  Click HERE to read a detailed written explanation of the hypothesis.

The hypothesis that a child wrote the anthrax documents has remained unchallenged for over ten years.  Discovering that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer helped confirm the hypothesis, since he seems to have had access to first graders who could have done the writing.  Plus, Dr. Ivins' psychological makeup indicates he could very likely have done things that way.

Anthrax Truthers, of course, do not believe this handwriting hypothesis, but they cannot challenge it by providing facts and evidence which show it is incorrect.  Mostly all they seem to be able to do is argue that a typical killer would not have done things that way.  That is a different question and means nothing to the Amerithrax case.  Dr. Ivins was not a typical killer, and the methods he "most likely" used seem to fit his personality and situation perfectly.

Sometimes Anthrax Truthers also try to argue about whether the child was a boy or girl, and whether it's easier to manipulate a typical boy or typical girl.  Those are also different questions, so the hypothesis does not answer or address those questions.  There don't seem to be sufficient writing samples to make such an evaluation, and there's no reason to believe the child was "typical."

Of course, one could ask the question: Who was the child who wrote the anthrax letters?

But, any answer from me would be only an hypothesis.  And such an hypothesis would have to name some child who could be forever harmed by being identified as "the child who wrote the anthrax letters."  So, I'm not willing to even discuss such an hypothesis.

In summary:

The facts and evidence form an hypothesis that Dr. Ivins most likely used anthrax spores in the attack letters that were created as part of his job for test purposes, instead of destroying the spores after the tests were done.

The facts and evidence form an hypothesis that anthrax spores can most likely be created with silicon in their spore coats if they are grown at room temperatures instead of at incubator temperatures. 

The facts and evidence form an hypothesis that says Dr. Ivins most likely used a first grader to write the anthrax documents.

Everyone reading this blog is urged to challenge these hypotheses with contrary facts and evidence showing that some other explanation was more likely, if they can do so.

The objective of using the Scientific Method is to find out what most likely happened, and if there are better facts and better evidence which shows different explanations are most likely, I would be most interested in being advised of them.