Rebuttal to: The Amanda Knox Test
If you don't care about Amanda Knox's guilt, or whether you have received unreliable information on the subject from komponisto's post, stop reading now.
[Edit: Let me note that, generally, I agree that discussion of current events should be discouraged in this site. It is only because "The Amanda Knox Test" was a featured post on this site that I claim this rebuttal of that post to be on-topic for this site.]
I shall here make the following claim:
C1. komponisto's post on Amanda Knox was misleading.
I could, additionally, choose to make the following claims:
C2. Amanda Knox is guilty of murder.
C3. The prosecution succeeded in proving Amanda's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
C4. Amanda Knox received a fair trial
I believe claims C2 through C4 are also true; however, time constraints prevent me from laying out the cases and debating them with every single human being on the Internet, so I shall merely focus on C1. (That said, I would be willing to debate komponisto on C2, since I am curious whether I could get him to change his mind on the subject.)
To back up C1, I shall quote the following paragraph from komponisto's post, and show that this paragraph alone contains at least four misleading statements. My belief is that komponisto merely accepted propaganda from the Friends of Amanda (FoA) at face value, even though most of their claims are incorrect. Unlike komponisto and FoA, I shall cite reliable sources for my claims.
"After the murder, Kercher's bedroom was filled with evidence of Guédé's presence; his DNA was found not only on top of but actually inside her body. That's about as close to the crime as it gets. At the same time, no remotely similarly incriminating genetic material was found from anyone else -- in particular, there were no traces of the presence of either Amanda Knox or Raffaele Sollecito in the room (and no, the supposed Sollecito DNA on Meredith's bra clasp just plain does not count -- nor, while we're at it, do the 100 picograms [about one human cell's worth] of DNA from Meredith allegedly on the tip of a knife handled by Knox, found at Sollecito's apartment after the two were already suspects; these two things constituting so far as I know the entirety of the physical "evidence" against the couple)" -komponisto
Here are the four misleading statements I found:
1. "[H]is DNA was found not only on top of but actually inside her body... no remotely similarly incriminating genetic material was found from anyone else" -komponsito
Guede's dna was, indeed, found on the right side of her bra, on the left cuff of her jumper, and inside Meredith's body, as well as in other places around the house.
Raffaele's DNA was found in only two places in the house: a cigarette butt, and on Meredith's torn-off bra clasp. (Contrary to FoA propaganda, the clasp did not contain DNA from an additional "three unidentified people"). This should help you understand that DNA does not voluminously and constantly spew forth from humans in the way komponisto believes it does. (That said, there might have been more traces of their DNA had Raffaele and Amanda not cleaned the apartment the morning after the murder. Part of the reason Guede's DNA is more widespread is because Raffaele and Amanda focused on cleaning up evidence pointing to themselves, and did not have a reason to care about evidence pointing to Guede.)
Amanda's DNA was found on the handle of a certain knife in Raffaele's apartment, which Meredith had never visited. The knife blade had been recently cleaned with bleach (which destroys DNA), but hiding in a groove near the tip of the blade that the bleach failed to scrub was a sample of Meredith's DNA. The blade matched one of the two knives used to kill Meredith. When later questioned about it, Raffaele first claimed that Meredith had visited his apartment and cut herself on that particular blade. Unfortunately Raffaele was not able to back up this dubious claim that Meredith had ever visited Raffaele's apartment.
Amanda's DNA was also found, mixed with Meredith's DNA, in at least four blood spots across the apartment. One of the blood spots was in the third roommate's (Filomena's) bedroom, where the staged break-in took place. Even if, like komponisto, you bizarrely believe that DNA just gets everywhere, it's hard to explain why Amanda's DNA is mixed into that final spot of blood and why Filomena's DNA is nowhere to be seen in that blood spot, despite its being in her own bedroom. (Nor, tellingly, is Guede's DNA mixed in with those blood spots, despite the defense's insistence that he acted alone.)
2. "Supposed" Sollecito DNA? There is no meaningful controversy over whether Sollecito's DNA is on the bra clasp.
3. A bit of a nit: Meredith's DNA on the knife is more than one human cell's worth. The amount is not terribly relevant though to a Bayesian; there's no law of nature that states that, when any DNA sample gets sufficiently small, it suddenly starts to mutate to look exactly like Meredith Kercher's DNA.
4. "[T]hese two things constituting so far as I know the entirety of the physical "evidence" against the couple..." -komponsito
Here is additional physical evidence (a non-exhaustive list):
* As mentioned, blood stains with Amanda and Meridith's DNA mixed together
* Forensic analysis of Meredith's body showed there were multiple simultaneous attackers
* Luminol analysis showed that certain bloody footprints matched Amanda and Raffaele. One of Amanda's bloody footprints was found inside the murder room, on a pillow hidden under Meredith's body.
* A staged break-in: analysis of the broken glass shards indicated the window was broken from the inside rather than the outside, and was broken after the bedroom was ransacked rather than before. (The significance of this is that Knox as a roommate had a strong reason to stage a break-in to deflect attention away from herself, while Guede as an outsider did not)
* Cell phone, Internet and laptop usage records all indicate that Amanda and Raffaele lied about their activities on the night of the murder.
* Meredith's clothes were washed the day after the murder. This implicates Amanda and Raffaele in the cleanup of the crime scene.
* The post-murder cleaning in the Kercher flat, and the bleaching in the Sollecito cottage, also count as Bayesian physical evidence. The morning after the murder, Amanda or Raffelle bought a bottle of bleach at 8:30 AM, and then returned to buy another bottle of bleach at 9:15 AM, as though the first bottle of bleach had been insufficient. (Also see the Telegraph.) According to truejustice.org, when the police arrived, Amanda and Raffaele were found with a mop and bucket; as confirmation, note that Raffaele admitted to shuttling around a mop and bucket the morning after the murder.
There is also voluminous evidence that would generally be classified as 'testimonial' rather than 'physical' (although, to a Bayesian, the difference is fairly academic), as well as certain logical problems with the defense's theories. Since my intent is merely to debunk komponisto's post rather than establish Amanda's guilt, I will not delve further into those areas; however, see here for a good "Introduction to Logic 101" explaining some of the difficulties with the defense claims.
Have you considered the possibility that Amanda Knox was present the night of the murder, lied about it, but is not a murderer? I assign a significant probability to this and it seems likely that this greatly confused the justice system.
I initially voted up to counter what seemed like an unfair response by others (I know, you don't care about karma).
Did you read the comments at The Amanda Knox Test? You linked to it. Much of what you present as if it were uncontroversial fact is effectively rebutted there.
This certainly should have been limited to a comment in the existing post.
That said, I agree that komponisto tipped his hand in telling us what he thought the relevant facts were; it was easy to predict that he believed Knox to be innocent.
Edit: apparently komponisto didn't post tho... (read more)
Of the people who answered komponisto's very interesting 4th question: "How much you think your opinion will turn out to coincide with mine," I think virtually all said 90% and a lot more than 10% of them thought Knox guilty, and thus thought komponisto thought Knox guilty. So it wasn't that easy.
So, Rolf, do you understand how this post failed? Hint: Others are not to blame.
Rolf raises a number of points that were already widely discussed (and widely dismissed) in the comments on komponisto's posts. He has not added any new information to the discussion that was not already contained in the voluminous commentary surrounding those two posts.
More importantly, he seems to have missed/ignored a fairly central point from komponisto's posts as relates to rationality (which is what we are generally here to discuss) which is that all of the physical and circumstantial evidence against Knox and Sollecito is irrelevant within a wide range of plausible weights assigned to it in light of the prior probabilities surrounding a case of this type. The reason this case is interesting as a test of rationality is that you can reach a likely-correct conclusion without examining any of the evidence discussed here in detail. You would need orders-of-magnitude more compelling evidence to outweigh the very small priors that should have been assigned to the joint guilt of Knox and Sollecito given the compelling evidence against Guede.
In the title, you named an opponent. You lost most of us right there, because debating against a person and searching for truth are incompatible mindsets. Since you tried to turn it into a status competition, we can't treat anything you say on the subject as trustworthy; you're too likely to deceive yourself and pass misconceptions on to us.
Seconded. If this post had merely failed to add a significant new angle to the debate, I would have simply ignored it. I down-voted it because it comes off as a sort of political attack against another member, and I would really rather not see that flavor of discourse here.
And then responding to everyone by saying "but I want to talk about C1 and you're not talking about C1" gave it the appearance of downright trolling. If I didn't have previous familiarity with you, that's what I'd have assumed, actually.
You might say, "But they didn't directly address C1!"
But no one cared, at that point, what you wanted them to address. You didn't have enough credit built up with them to steer the conversation - and objecting that it wasn't going where you wanted it to go just pissed them off further. If you'd engaged with them on their points, you could have built up credibility. As it is, the post was just dropped into the void.
This response doesn't really suggest that you're taking your own responsibilities seriously in this matter.
The specifics here are interesting, but there's a more general point. If your interaction with a community isn't productive, there is simply no point in bemoaning the failings of the community and then carrying on as before. No matter what failings the community might or might not have, the only actions you directly decide are your own, and the only options that make sense are to give up and leave, or to figure out what action you can take to bring about more productive interaction.
You might think that the focus should be on what we should do to improve the interaction. If that's so, your thoughts should still lead you to consider what you can do to bring about that change in us; if you think the problem is a systematic failure in us, there are few places where a genuine effort to persuade us of that would be more welcome.
Whatever you do, don't bang your head against the wall. Either give up on us, or think about what you can do to maximize the productiveness of your interaction with us.
Example problem: You stepped into a giant past discussion and didn't refer to it. If, for each point, you had either pointed to and refuted previous comments about those points, or else said, "And I read through the comments and found no reference to this point", you would have been picking up the conversation where it left off. As it is, the reaction is more like, "Oh, same points being rehashed again and ignoring the previous conversation we had about it." This reaction was sufficiently severe that no one bothered to talk about your points - so far as they were concerned, it had probably been already discussed and refuted in the past conversation, since you didn't bother to refer back to it.
My own impression was that you hadn't read the ~700 comments on the previous two posts.
It seems to me that komponisto's The Amanda Knox Test similarly made a case for "not guilty" without reference to the all of the arguments for "guilty", and had other substantial flaws. But it's at 29, compared to Rolf's -10.
As someone who has no interest in the case (I haven't made any comment related to the case, nor read any of the discussions), judging from just the posts, I think Rolf's main mistake is that he forgot that one needs to be much more careful when arguing against a majority belief.
Why is this a top-level post? Why doesn't a comment on the open thread or on the original post suffice? If you had wanted to say this back when the original post was fresh, would have you have used a top-level post?
This post is intellectually dishonest. You yourself state that you have no interest in establishing Amanda Knox's guilt, but instead intend to "debunk komponisto's post" - what is the purpose of that? - and then proceed to list a bunch of cherry-picked details about the case, half of which you have not even sourced!
Like Tru... (read more)
Thanks Matt. While my claim that there are not three unidentified individuals' DNA on the strap is tangential to C1, I will back it up anyway.
The Daily Mail is a tabloid, rather than a reliable source (in case the headline, 'The troubling doubts over Foxy Knoxy's role in Meredith Kercher's murder', didn't give it away) that clearly got the content for the summary article from Wikipedia. In contrast, the more reliable Sunday Times states instead that Meredith's, Rudy's, and R... (read more)
Well, fellow LWers, I must admit I'm somewhat taken aback here.
I came on the site today intending to reply to Rolf Nelson's comments, which I expected would lead to a detailed discussion of the evidence that maybe a handful of people here would be interested in following, safely confined to an existing post on the topic. Then, I saw...this.
I'm not yet quite sure how to react.
Despite Nelson's protestations that he doesn't care about karma (and, by implication, social status in this community), I see no rationale for this post other than a desire to raise th... (read more)
I think it depends how you understand the phrase "physical evidence" I think komponisto was using the phrase to mean physical evidence directly tying Knox et al. to the murder victim. Such as DNA, fingerprints, etc.
So I don't have a big problem with his characterization. As I mentioned in the thread on rudeness, the polite thing to do is to is to respond to the best reasonable interpretation of one's opponent's argument (while noting the imprecision).
(FWIW, I do believe that Knox et al. were probably involved in the murder but that's a separate issue.)
Note: this is a post version of the same document that I posted yesterday.
This isn't what this site is here for.
I note that your top level posting priviledges have already been (automatically) removed due to the karma hit from votes thus far and I expect this negative score to remain so for some time as this post is downvoted to oblivion. Please do not make posts like this here.
It seems on topic to me; Rolf is responding to a previous post that claimed that rationality shows us something about world events. Rolf is disputing the claim.
I haven't followed the Amanda Knox case at all, or even its discussion on LW, but I'm interested now in the outcome because it bears on how much we can trust priors over court rooms, and on how good the LW community's previous judgment was.
(Rolf, though, maybe you could spell out something of its rationality relevance in your opening few lines? I know this from private discussion with you, only.)
In that case, I highly recommend going through the posts and comments already devoted to this topic. The original survey post and the follow-up Amanda Knox test go into great detail about this case. Of particular interest should be the comments in the survey post, where members stated their estimates of the defendants' guilt.
If lots of people aren't interested in reading it, as reflected in karma scores, then you should find somewhere to post it where people do want to read it.