Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meow, You Are Getting Sleepy

It's just the other day I was talking about mountebanks and charlatans and how we (by which I mean the police and the prosecutors and the judges and the jurors and even the defense counsel) rely on these so-called "experts" to tell us things they don't know or can't know or just make up.

Sometimes it turns out that these "experts" simply don't have the credentials they claim.
  • Talibah Akili testified as an expert citing her multiple postgraduate college degrees and her certification as a social worker, forensic counselor and substance abuse counselor. Lies. Not stretchers, out and out lies.
  • Raymond Cole gave three decades of what turns out to be meaningless testimony on the effects of alcohol on driving. His resume said that he had a degree from the University of California Berkeley in “Premedical Studies.” I'm not sure what premedical studies might be as a degree field. But it isn't political science which was his actual discipline.
  • Dr. Faidherbe Ceus falsely claimed to be board certified in psychiatry.*
I could go on, but I won't.

Lawyers too rarely check. It's not that most seeming experts are lying on their CVs. They're not. But you don't want your client convicted because you didn't look into it. And the government doesn't really want dozens of cases blowing up on it because they were too lazy to make a credential-checking phone call. After all, there's pretty much always someone you can find who'll say what you want and actually has the claimed credentials.

How do I know that? About four years ago I paid something like $5.95 plus shipping and handling for a certificate that says I'm a certified "anti-terrorism expert." (Admittedly, it doesn't say who certified me, but that just gives me room to improvise.) And then there's this news (via Ken at Popehat).
George was registered with the British Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming (BBNLP), the United Fellowship of Hypnotherapists (UFH) and the Professional Hypnotherapy Practitioner Association (PHPA).
OK, they probably have lots of registered members. Few, however, are likely calico, of the species felix domesticus. Or, of course, maybe a whole lot are. And, after all,
A PHPA spokesman said the organisation makes great effort to ensure every applicant is a fully-qualified hypnotherapist.
I feel better already.

Of course, the good news is that I'm in the good old US of A, on the other side of the pond, where something like this couldn't happen. Except that an American clinical psychologist wasn't so sure.
Dr Steve Eichel suspected industry bodies in the US were not running checks on their members.

He said: "I felt I'd test my hypothesis and I did that by getting my cat certified by a number of the most prominent lay hypnosis organisations in the United States. It was a frighteningly simple process."


Then again, look at all those people who believed Bernie Madoff was doing a brilliant job investing their fortunes.

*These and other tales of dishonest and fruadulent forensic experts can be found here.

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