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When Bogus Science Rules The Roost




In order to qualify with the norms of science certain basic principles must be followed. The conclusions must be based on firm scientific principles where the conclusions drawn are consilient with the observed facts.

I am at present dealing with a report where the most important facts are not referred to and the conclusion is drawn out of the air as it were. The key sentence in the report is “The possibility that the fire was deliberately set from the building exterior through two or more window panes should be considered”. Let it be said that this is as tentative a suggestion that I have ever encountered in a report. Any attorney worth his salt would take one look at this statement and realise that it could never survive even mediocre cross examination.

The rest of the report denotes an unfamiliarity with the basics of scientific reporting. For example a reference is given without a page number. Key observations are omitted entirely and the report depends on a fire debris report performed by an American laboratory which finds that gasoline was present in the sample taken at the scene. An elementary examination of the data on which this report is given shows that the sample contained large amounts of Toluene which is one of the most volatile components of petrol. Toluene is not found in petrol residue as it evaporates early in the fire process and is gone when samples are taken. Thus its presence in the sample demonstrates contamination somewhere along the chain of evidence. The interpretation of the results in my view is incorrect and leads to false conclusions. In addition the sample was sent for analysis without including a control or a blank sample. This alone invalidates the analysis and renders it unfit for purpose. It also demonstrates a scientific ineptitude which defies belief.

There are limited possibilities going forward. Firstly the insurance company and their lawyers being scientifically untrained may simply have been mislead. I have rendered a full motivated report to them to explain the situation. Assuming that the company does not trust my report, it is the matter of a few phone calls to have a competent academic chemist review my conclusions and advise them further.

The insured in this matter has been waiting for about 18 months to be paid and there is no end in sight yet. Particularly as this now involves a squabble between the insurance company and the company taking on the risk for damage caused by politically motivated riotous activity. It is common cause that the insured has no part in this fire which destroyed their business.

I am anxious to continue my efforts to assist the insurers in this matter and I will keep you up to date with the outcome.

Watch this space...

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