Is Lesswrong More Wrong? (Updated)

I am a frequent poster on the website known as “lesswrong.”  It purports to be a site for discussing human rationality.  There are a lot of interesting posts there, particularly by a man named Eliezer Yudkowsky.

After a recent discussion regarding the possible guilt or innocence of Amanda Knox, I have come to the belief that such a site actually makes some people less rational.   How might this be?  Well for one thing, learning about techniques of rationality might make it easier for you to construct rationalizations for your irrational beliefs.   For another, a frequent poster to the site might start to take a lot of pride in his self-perceived rationality, so it might be more difficult psychologically difficult to confront evidence that his thinking is irrational.

Does this actually happen?  It seems to me that the answer is “yes.”  I could give a lot of examples, but here is one I found striking.  The following is from a regular poster known as “komponisto” who has been arguing quite a bit for the innocence of Amanda Knox:

More generally, you are of the opinion that circumstantial and psychological evidence of the sort produced in this case is powerful enough to overcome not only the incredibly low prior probability of guilt for Knox and Sollecito, but also the total lack of any (significant, non-discredited) physical evidence tying them to the crime, the failure of Guede to implicate them until he knew they were suspects, and the fact that Kercher had both a full stomach and an empty duodenum at death, and thus almost certainly died before 9:30 pm, while Sollecito’s computer was in use at his apartment.

Needless to say, I think this is sheer madness. In my view, you are vastly, hugely overconfident in your model of human behavior. However, in the unlikely event that you can actually produce a compelling argument for why I should (for example) regard the presence of glass on top of clothes as 30-decibel evidence in favor of the hypothesis that Knox and Sollecito staged the burglary over the hypothesis that there was an authentic burglary committed by known burglar Rudy Guede, I am all ears.

Really, however, I’m long past the point where I’m ready to write you off as an incorrigible clacker.

It would appear that komponisto believes that a very important piece of evidence in in this matter is the state of the murder victim’s digestive system combined with the use of Sollecito’s computer.   He thinks that my assessment of Knox’s probable guilt is “sheer madness.”  He has pretty much concluded that I am the type of person who resists obviously correct conclusions.

Here was my response:

Where are you getting this from?

According to my research

(1) Sollecito’s computer stopped being used at 9:10pm

(2) Sollecito’s own expert witness — Professor Introna — testified that based on the stomach and duodenum contents, the time of death was between 9:30 pm and 10:30pm.

(3) Professor Bacci, the prosecution’s expert, testified (based on the same digestive issues) that the time of death was between 9:00 to 9:30 pm and 11:00pm to midnight.

Do you disagree with any of this? Because it looks to me like you are suffering from a massive case of confirmation bias. To be sure, I got items (2) and (3) from the sentencing report. But I have a really hard time believing that the report would flat out lie about peoples’ testimony.

Komponisto did not reply at all to my questions.  Now, I’m reasonably confident that what I said in the post is true, i.e. that according to the evidence Sollecito’s computer was last used at 9:10; that Sollecito’s witness testified that the murder happened before 10:30; and so on.  But perhaps more importantly, there is a reasonable basis to believe these things and yet komponisto was apparently not interested in such evidence at all.  Instead, his preference would appear to be to accept pro-Knox statements with little or no scrutiny.  In short, as alluded to in my post, he appears to be suffering from a massive case of confirmation bias.

How could it be that a prominent poster on a message board devoted to rationality could behave so irrationally?  I’m just speculating, but I would guess that lesswrong has made him more wrong.   By arrogantly announcing, in effect, that the Amanda Knox case is a “test” of rationality; by devoting many posts and use of the “tools of rationality” in arguing for her innocence; by investing himself so thoroughly on this issue, komponisto has, in effect mind-killed himself.

P.S.  Of course I am open to arguments or evidence on the duodenum / computer use issue.  I don’t like to eat humble pie, but I am happy to consider evidence on this point in good faith.

________________________________________________________

Update:  What’s also interesting is how people responding to this argument have a strong tendency to completely miss the point.  For example, lesswrong poster TimS said the following:

Your marshaling of facts about the time of death vs. Sollecito’s computer usage is excellent, in that it provides a real basis for discussion. But is it your true rejection? You pointed out it was a side issue, and even if the prosecution expert was entirely correct, it would only show the evidence was consistent with guilt and would not be [ETA: very strong] evidence of guilt.

And in case anyone things my point was buried or hidden, here’s what I had said:

I was a bit surprised to see such a convincing-sounding argument which I had not heard before, so I decided to look into it. What I found is this:

  1. According to various sources, Sollecito’s computer use ended at 9:10 not 9:30.
  2. According to the sentencing report, Sollecito’s expert testified (based on the state of Kercher’s digestive system) that the time of death was between 9:30 and 10:30.
  3. According to the sentencing report, the prosecution expert testified (based on the state of Kercher’s digestive system) that the time of death was as late as midnight.

It seems unlikely to me that the sentencing report would flat out lie about the expert testimony. It also seems unlikely that Sollecito’s expert would testify that the time of death could have been as late as 10:30 if there was solid evidence that the time of death was almost certainly before 9:30pm.

My conclusion is that komponisto is likely the victim of serious confirmation bias.

(emphasis added).

Similarly, in response to this blog post, commenter “Katie” stated the following:

You should have linked to the discussion on the site – I had to google it to find it. Having read the whole thing – I’m afraid you are the one being irrational.Looking at other evidence, it becomes more and more obvious that she’s innocent, since none of the evidence lines up with the prosecution theory.

Of course, the point of this post is not that Knox is guilty or innocent; the point is that komponisto (and by extension, possibly others) are seriously biased.  So why the confusion?  I would speculate that there is another bias at work, what Eliezer might call a blue/green bias.  This post is perceived as an attack on komponisto and therefore an attack on the pro-Knox camp.  It is perceived as a soldier in the anti-Knox army and therefore must be met on the battlefield regardless of its rightness or wrongness.

Indeed, one can ask where all of these pro-Knox posters came from who have been posting on this blog.  I certainly do not advertise or promote this blog anywhere.  I’ve linked to it only from a couple obscure message boards.  My guess is that posters like “Katie” are knights-errant in the Amanda Knox controversy.  i.e. they regularly do Google searches to find blog posts, news articles and the like in order to do battle on Knox’s behalf.

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6 Responses to “Is Lesswrong More Wrong? (Updated)”

  1. Katie Says:

    You should have linked to the discussion on the site – I had to google it to find it. Having read the whole thing – I’m afraid you are the one being irrational.

    [fortaleza84: Well let’s focus on the central issue to this blog post: Do you dispute that komponisto is suffering from confirmation bias?]

    Looking at other evidence, it becomes more and more obvious that she’s innocent, since none of the evidence lines up with the prosecution theory. In the exchange on that site, you seem to be the one suffering from confirmation bias, as you rationalize away everything, make ad-hominem attacks on your interlocutors, and seem totally unwilling to consider evidence that does not support your theory.

    [fortaleza84: Please give me examples of each of these things. A rationalization; an ad hominem attack; and evidence which I am “totally unwilling to consider.]

    Introna (as reported in the Massei-Cristiani report) puts the time of death between 21:00 and 21:30 (9:00 to 9:30, if you prefer.)

    [fortaleza84: That seems to be incorrect. Here is a quote from page 132 of the English translation on truejustice.org:

    He asserted that “knowing that Meredith’s meal started at 18:30 pm, knowing that there were about 500 cc of stomach contents, and knowing from the autopsy that there was no pathology of the stomach…which could slow down digestion, and above all”, as reported by Dr. Lalli, knowing that the duodenum was still empty “because the stomach had not even begun to empty itself” (page 19 of the transcripts), the time of death must lie between 21:30 pm (three hours after 18:30)
    and 22:30 pm (four hours after 18:30)

    Do you see it says 22:30 not 21:30?]

    This is entirely incompatible with the prosecution’s theory for time of death, and, if true, completely exonerates Amanda. Is she innocent? Based on the limited reading I’ve done, it seems obvious, and the people on LessWrong have done more reading than I have.

    [fortaleza84: It seems to me that you have made two mistakes: First, misstating Dr. Introna’s testimony; and second (perhaps more importantly) accepting his testimony as gospel. Even if his testimony was that the time of death was before 9:30, the rational thing to do would be to discount the testimony based on the fact that he was an expert hired by Sollecito. In short, it seems to me that you are the one behaving irrationally; refusing to consider evidence; etc.]

    I have no desire to engage further on the details of the stomach contents debate; just thought you might appreciate an outside view on the argument. If that website teaches anything, it’s that we usually can’t recognize that we are being biased.

    [fortaleza84: That would seem to apply more to you than to me in this situation. I have just provided you with a direct quote which seems to show you are wrong. If I made a mistake, I’d like to hear about it. Why do you (apparently) have no similar interest?]

    That said, LessWrong seems rather mean with the voting thing. I bet you’d get lots of thumbs up back if you just admitted you were wrong.

    [fortaleza84: Of course, but why should I? I am right. Or if I am wrong, why not quote the part of the report I missed?]

  2. gwern Says:

    Amusing you criticize her for ad hominem attacks, given that this entire post is an ad hominem.

    [fortaleza84: Say what? Where did I criticize her for ad hominem attacks? What I criticized her for was missing the point of my argument, apparently due to a tribal mentality. On the other hand, I responded directly to her arguments for example by providing a quote which directly contradicted her claims.]

  3. Katie Says:

    [fortaleza84: Do you dispute that komponisto is suffering from confirmation bias?]

    Most people suffer from confirmation bias. I doubt komponisto is an exception. But the evidence actually is pretty one-sided on this.

    [fortaleza84: Not if you look carefully at all the evidence. See my earlier blog post.]

    [fortaleza84: Please give me examples of each of these things. A rationalization; an ad hominem attack; and evidence which I am “totally unwilling to consider.]

    Okay, for an ad hominem attack: “My guess is that posters like “Katie” are knights-errant in the Amanda Knox controversy. i.e. they regularly do Google searches to find blog posts, news articles and the like in order to do battle on Knox’s behalf.” or the entire crusade to argue that komponisto suffers confirmation bias, or your insistence on LessWrong that the people who disagree with you are “ignorant of the case against Knox” instead of being aware of it and still disagreeing with you.

    [fortaleza84: Ok, I understand now. To me, an ad hominem attack means criticizing somebody as a substitute for addressing their main argument. To you, any comment about somebody’s motivations is an ad homenim attack. Yes, I engage in katie-ad homenim attacks all the time. So what?]

    (For what it’s worth, I did find this post by reading things on the Knox case, which I am familiar with, but I have never commented on the issue before and only did so because you were mistaken about Introna. I do not consider myself a “knight-errant” in the controversy, although I found the description amusing.)

    [fortaleza84: For what it may be worth, I am skeptical of your claim. I never linked to this blog post anywhere and you showed up very quickly after I put this post up.]

    For rationalization, most of your argument on your last post seems to be a case study of this. You wanted to conclude they were guilty, so you dwell on their sex lives and give examples of other murders in order to defend a proposition that you seem to have arrived at for the wrong reasons.

    [fortaleza84: I made it extremely clear in that post that I did not consider this information to be solid evidence of guilt. But if “rationalization” includes speculation which is explicitly labeled as such, then yes I have engaged in “rationalization” by your definition. So what?]

    And you seem to be discounting the stomach evidence to zero, which makes no sense, and the DNA evidence as well, which makes even less sense.

    [fortaleza84: As for the stomach evidence, it’s not particularly strong evidence either way. It would be strong evidence if komponisto’s misrepresentation of the evidence were correct, of course. But perhaps more importantly, I did consider it. I went so far as to look up what was actually said by the experts in the case. How do you think I found the cite and quote? By looking at the actual summary of the experts’ testimony. I similarly considered the DNA evidence.]

    [fortaleza84: It seems to me that you have made two mistakes: First, misstating Dr. Introna’s testimony; and second (perhaps more importantly) accepting his testimony as gospel. Even if his testimony was that the time of death was before 9:30, the rational thing to do would be to discount the testimony based on the fact that he was an expert hired by Sollecito. In short, it seems to me that you are the one behaving irrationally; refusing to consider evidence; etc.]

    Look at page 180 of Massei-Cristiani, which quotes Introna as saying the time of death is 21:00 to 21:30. I don’t know why page 130 is different, and without a transcript of Introna’s testimony I’m not sure which is right. Even 22:30, though, would be incompatible with the Massei timeline, which depends on post-23:00.

    [fortaleza84: I couldn’t find what you claim to be citing. I did find a statement that according to him, the attack started between 9:00 and 9:30. That’s not the same thing as time of death. More importantly, why do you accept one expert’s testimony over that of another?]

    You can weigh that evidence as you will; I tend to think questions about the credibility of the expert are less relevant when you can actually look at studies of gastric lag time, which is virtually never more than 150 minutes. (Since Meredith’s last meal was between 18:00 and 19:00, this would put the time of death between 20:00 and 21:30.)

    [fortaleza84: Would you happen to have some cites, quotes, and links for these studies?]

    When independent studies on lag time totally unrelated to the case confirm Introna’s numbers, that seems to me more important than what Introna said.

    [fortaleza84: I am happy to consider your evidence in good faith. Please cite, link, and quote it.]

  4. Katie Says:

    Here (http://www.wagner-bremen.de/Seite32.pdf), here (http://jnm.snmjournals.org/content/37/10/1639.full.pdf), and here (http://jnm.snmjournals.org/content/32/7/1349.full.pdf) are a couple ungated studies on lag time. There are some more good ones but unfortunately they are behind a paywall.

    [fortaleza84: Would you mind quoting the parts of the studies you link to which say in effect that “gastric lag time” is virtually never more than 150 minutes? I looked and could not find it. Frankly, I have a hard time believing that Sollecito’s expert committed serious malpractice, which is basically what you are saying, assuming that his testimony has been summarized accurately]

    Reading your earlier blog post is… fairly frightening, actually. If this is sufficient evidence to convict someone in whatever country you live in, I hope I don’t live there.

    [fortaleza84: Actually I said nothing about whether Knox should have been convicted. Situations can arise where a person is probably guilty but there is still enough doubt that they should be acquitted. Please respond to the points I actually make, as opposed to the points you imagine or wish I had made.]

    The first half of your post is ridiculous scaremongering, and zero real evidence, but you acknowledge this.

    [fortaleza84: I acknowledge that it is speculative, not that it is ridiculous. Please do not mischaracterize my posts.]

    You then list four pieces of evidence, each of which are extremely minor. I imagine if you quizzed me about my activities today you would find exactly as many inconsistencies in my story.

    [fortaleza84: It’s not just inconsistencies, it’s the lack of coherence even today. Let me ask you this: Assuming it’s true that Knox and Sollecito called the police even though the police were already there; and assuming that they did not mention during this call that the police were already there, do you agree that this would be decent evidence of guilt?]

    More importantly, any speculation about inconsistencies in their story are overwhelmingly outweighed by 1) the abundant evidence that Guede killed Kercher, 2) the total lack of any physical evidence that Knox/Sollecito were present, and 3) the physical evidence that the way the murder actual took place was totally incompatible with the prosecution theory.

    [fortaleza84: were present where? What evidence would you expect to find if Knox and Sollecito had urged Guede on from a few feet away and fled when he started stabbing Kercher? Also, are we debating whether the prosecution’s theory is correct or whether Knox and Sollecito were involved in the murder? Because those are not the same things.]

    [fortaleza84: To you, any comment about somebody’s motivations is an ad homenim attack.]

    Not at all. If this is your interpretation of what I said, i think neither of us will benefit from continuing this conversation.

    [fortaleza84: In that case, please tell me how you define “ad homenim attack.” Also, if a poster asserts that another poster seems totally unwilling to consider evidence which does not support his theory, would that qualify as an ad homenim attack?]

    [fortaleza84: Yes, I engage in katie-ad homenim attacks all the time. So what?]

    Well, 1) it makes it nearly impossible to respond to you,

    [fortaleza84: Why? My previous post was directly about Amanda Knox and did not say anything about komponisto. Why didn’t you simply respond to that post?]

    2) the primary focus of this post is calling komponisto irrational and biased,

    [fortaleza84: Assuming that’s true, so what? Why not just respond to my previous post and ignore this one?]

    while responding to his points is only one line (ditto for your response to me, where three paragraphs are devoted to speculating about my mission as a knight-errant for Knox and only a few lines to the dispute about time of death) and 3) it just makes you look like a jerk, dude.

    [fortaleza84: So any post which argues that another person is biased makes the poster look like a jerk? If not, then what is special about my post?]

    [fortaleza84: For what it may be worth, I am skeptical of your claim. I never linked to this blog post anywhere and you showed up very quickly after I put this post up.]

    …. I’m not sure how to answer this. I have never commented on Knox before; I have followed the case since reading about it in the New York Times a year or two ago; I was bored over Thanksgiving Break while at my parents’ house and decided to google the case and see if the people who had been convinced Knox and Solelcito were guilty had changed their minds when the court did.

    [fortaleza84: It’s possible, but it seems odd to me that in 37 minutes you were able to find my post; read it; do a search to find the discussion on Lesswrong (which consists of dozens if not hundreds of posts); read them carefully enough to reach a conclusion; and compose a post with a specific cite to the Massei report.]

    You know, maybe your problem is that you are generally way too suspicious of people and way too unwilling to accept coincidences.

    [fortaleza84: On the other hand, maybe you are you way too trusting of people]

    Most things aren’t conspiracies. Really.

    [fortaleza84: And most far-fetched tales are BS. Really.]

    [fortaleza84: I made it extremely clear in that post that I did not consider this information to be solid evidence of guilt. But if “rationalization” includes speculation which is explicitly labeled as such, then yes I have engaged in “rationalization” by your definition. So what?]

    Well, that blog you linked to probably has its own definition of rationalization (it seems to have its own definition of everything else). But the one I’m familiar with is “deciding what you believe, and then searching for evidence to support that point.” as opposed to reasoning, which is looking at all the evidence in depth before drawing conclusions.

    [fortaleza84: And how does speculating about a scenario and clearly labeling as speculation fall into one category or another? The answer is that it does not.]

    It sure seems like you decided that you believed Knox was guilty, and that you are applying your critical thinking skills only to the other side and not to your own side.

    [fortaleza84: Possibly it seems that way because you have decided that Knox is innocent and you are guilty of the exact sin of which you accuse me.]

    That’s rationalization. If I made an argument as sloppy and ill-supported and inconsequential as the one you made in your last post, you would be all over it. Why not hold yourself to the same standards?

    [fortaleza84: What exactly is “sloppy” about my argument? Better yet, exactly what did I assert which was “ill-supported”?]

    [fortaleza84: As for the stomach evidence, it’s not particularly strong evidence either way. It would be strong evidence if komponisto’s misrepresentation of the evidence were correct, of course. But perhaps more importantly, I did consider it. I went so far as to look up what was actually said by the experts in the case. How do you think I found the cite and quote? By looking at the actual summary of the experts’ testimony. I similarly considered the DNA evidence.]

    Looking at the evidence is not the same as considering it. I do not think you legitimately debated how much to weigh the evidence, independent of your desire to prove that she was guilty, and decided it was zero.

    [fortaleza84: That’s nonsense. I pulled up the English translation of the Massei report; found the summaries of the expert testimonies about time of death; and realized that komponisto’s argument appeared to be completely wrong. You are the one who is completely ignoring the (apparent) testimony of both experts, most likely because you do not like what it says.]

    And if you weighed the DNA evidence and decided THAT was worth zero, you are frankly insane.

    [fortaleza84: I don’t think it’s worth zero, but it does not exonerate Knox or Sollecito either.]

    How is it even possible to think Knox and Sollecito are guilty without any DNA evidence?

    [fortaleza84: I think that they did not have intimate enough contact with Kercher to leave DNA traces on her. ]

    Do you think they are cyborgs? Do you think they had some magic person-specific DNA cleanup technology? Or did you decide they were guilty before you realized how obvious the DNA evidence was, and only AFTERWARD come up with your arranged-for-Kercher-to-be-raped story, which you acknowledge has no support whatsoever?

    [fortaleza84: Again, please do not mischaracterize my statements. There is plenty of support for my scenario. But simply describing the scenario is not evidence in and of itself.]

    [fortaleza84: I couldn’t find what you claim to be citing. I did find a statement that according to him, the attack started between 9:00 and 9:30. That’s not the same thing as time of death. More importantly, why do you accept one expert’s testimony over that of another?]

    Hmm… that could explain the discrepancy between page 130 and 180. I will concede that 22:30 is a possible time of death given the testimony by all of the experts quoted, though I urge you to look at the studies and decide for yourself rather than rely on biased experts. You miss my point, though, which was that even 22:30 is totally incompatible with the prosecution theory.

    [fortaleza84: As noted above, the question of whether the prosecution’s theory is correct is different from the question of whether Knox is guilty. Anyway, the prosecution’s expert gave later times as possible times of death. Are you willing to consider evidence which disagrees with your beliefs? If so, why do you ignore the testimony of the prosecution’s expert?]

  5. Katie Says:

    Page 3 of the first link characterizes a lag time of more than 150 minutes as “extremely delayed”, for just one example.

    [fortaleza84: “extremely delayed” does not mean the same thing as “extremely rare.” Not only that, but there is nothing I could find indicating that the measurements were taken for a representative sample of meals. In short, your link does not support your claim.]

    If this was really never mentioned in the trial, that would count as malpractice in my book, but it seems more likely that page 180 of Massei Cristiani is right, page 130 is a mistranscription, and the defense did argue this point. Would you agree that if lag time of more than 150 minutes is extremely delayed, then Kercher almost certainly died before 21:30?

    [fortaleza84: It doesn’t seem likely to me. It seems more likely to me that you just don’t like what you read in the report so you are relying a study which doesn’t say what you wish it says. Anyway, I am not sure what “gastric lag” means, but (1) assuming it means the length of time between when you start eating and when food enters your duodenum; and (2) it’s extremely rare for gastric lag time to exceed 150 minutes, then I agree Kercher very likely died before 9:30.

    By the way, do you agree that Kercher was last seen alive at around 8:55 pm before she returned home that night, i.e. 145 minutes after she allegedly started eating?]

    [fortaleza84: Actually I said nothing about whether Knox should have been convicted. Situations can arise where a person is probably guilty but there is still enough doubt that they should be acquitted. Please respond to the points I actually make, as opposed to the points you imagine or wish I had made.]

    I’m sorry, I mistook “Amanda Knox is guilty” as “Amanda Knox should have been found guilty.” You’re right, they’re different. So you simultaneously assert “Amanda Knox is guilty” and “Amanda Knox should have been found ‘not guilty’?”

    [fortaleza84: Not exactly. I do not have an opinion at the moment on whether the evidence was strong enough to conclude that Knox is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or whatever the standard is in Italy.

    Here’s what I said on the lesswrong site; perhaps you missed it:

    And indeed, I don’t know if there was enough evidence to inculpate Knox beyond a reasonable doubt. My point in these discussions is that I’m pretty confident she was involved in the murder]

    If so, I apologize for misrepresenting your position.

    [fortaleza84: I acknowledge that it is speculative, not that it is ridiculous. Please do not mischaracterize my posts.]

    Sorry. What I intended to say was “The first half of your post offers literally zero evidence. I hope you realize that “I think what probably happened is similar to the murder of Janet Chandler in Michigan back in the 70s.” is not an argument.

    [fortaleza84: Here’s what I said: “Of course, none of the above is proof or even evidence that Knox was involved, it’s pure speculation . . . .” So I think I made it pretty clear.]

    In the language of that LessWrong website, it’s clever priming; in a court of law where I’m from, you would get in a lot of trouble for telling a jury something like that.

    [fortaleza84: I don’t know where you are from, but in the United States a prosecutor would be allowed to present a scenario but probably would not be allowed to mention the Chandler murder. Anyway, if you believe that my speculation does not advance the argument, why not just ignore it and focus on my core argument?]

    A good way to start your article, if you were trying to be rational, would have been “The probability of a white teenage girl with no previous criminal record from an upper-middle-class U.S. family committing murder is 0.0001.”

    [fortaleza84: Do you have any source for that probability? Or did you just invent it? If you just invented it, how is it more rational than just laying out a plausible scenario?]

    If you’re trying to think of ways the Knox case could possibly be like the Chandler case, you are already solving the wrong problem.

    You did not characterize your own argument as ridiculous. I think this fact would have been obvious to anyone reading my post, but in case it wasn’t, I will issue a clarification: “Fortaleza84 did not characterize his own argument as ridiculous. I did, and I will stand by that characterization.”

    [fortaleza84: It’s not just inconsistencies, it’s the lack of coherence even today. Let me ask you this: Assuming it’s true that Knox and Sollecito called the police even though the police were already there; and assuming that they did not mention during this call that the police were already there, do you agree that this would be decent evidence of guilt?]

    No. Decent evidence of guilt, in a murder with so much physical evidence, means physical evidence. Or a confession, or testimony by another person implicating that person, or strong evidence that Knox/Sollecito knew Guede well.

    If Knox/Sollecito knew that the police were there, and knew (which seems unlikely given their lack of knowledge of the Italian legal system) that these were the right police (many areas distinguish between traffic cop and detective police), then they might still have called.

    [fortaleza84: Possibly, but if they did, then they would very likely mention that there were men in uniforms already there, no?

    Also, do you agree that when the police first arrived, Knox and Sollecito took them on a tour of the cottage?]

    If I was in a strange country and my house was broken into, and people claiming to be police were there, and I called my parents asking for help, and they suggested I call the police just to be safe, I assure you I would do it.

    Maybe that’s the reason I consider your scenario so unlikely; I am a college student, and everything Knox/Sollecito are described as doing is exactly what I would have done in their place.

    Also, I think you would declare it suspicious that they didn’t call the police, if they hadn’t.

    [fortaleza84: were present where? What evidence would you expect to find if Knox and Sollecito had urged Guede on from a few feet away and fled when he started stabbing Kercher?]\

    No one, whether they think Knox/Sollecito are guilty or not, has even proposed this, other than you. It doesn’t explain anything better than the hypothesis Guede acted alone, it contradicts the stomach evidence, and there’s simply zero evidence for it. Why don’t I believe in the Illuminati? Because I don’t need to: the world makes sense without them.

    [fortaleza84: Well you seem to be arguing that if Knox and Sollecito had been involved in the murder, then surely they would have left physical evidence on or about Kercher’s person. That’s just not true, and it doesn’t make any difference who has or has not proposed this scenario. The scenario I propose is like the Illuminati only if you assume that Knox and Sollecito are innocent, which is exactly the issue we are discussing.]

    {Also, are we debating whether the prosecution’s theory is correct or whether Knox and Sollecito were involved in the murder? Because those are not the same things.]

    Well, the prosecution presumably presented what they believed to be the strongest case for guilt. The fact that that case is obviously false is at least evidence against guilt, right?

    [fortaleza84: To me, the prosecution’s theory is not obviously false. In any event, the prosecutor built his scenario on DNA evidence which has recently been called into question. I do agree that doubts about the prosecutor’s case translate into doubts about guilt. However what matters most is the actual underlying evidence.]

    Did you a) originally believe the prosecution case, and then, when you realized it was indefensible, find another method of justifying your belief that she was guilty? or b) originally believe the prosecution story, then, when you realize it was indefensible, admit you had no idea, look at the evidence, and, only after a lot of consideration, decide that it didn’t require you to change your mind?

    [fortaleza84: To the best of my recollection, I never had a strong opinion about the prosecution’s case. My feeling has always been that Knox and Sollecito are hiding something based on their stories which changed a good deal and did not add up.]

    Don’t try to convince me; ask yourself.

    [fortaleza84: In that case, please tell me how you define “ad homenim attack.” Also, if a poster asserts that another poster seems totally unwilling to consider evidence which does not support his theory, would that qualify as an ad homenim attack?]

    No, that’s legitimate. Speculating that he/she is a “knight-errant for Amanda” is ad homenim, though. I hope you can see the difference.

    If not, saying “Poster A seems unwilling to consider Evidence B,” is not ad hominem. Saying “Poster A is trolling the internet arguing for Amanda.” is ad homenim. Get it?

    [fortaleza84: Not really, please give me your definition for an ad homenim attack. I have my own rules of debate and one rule is that people must answer reasonable questions so that I can understand their position. ]

    [fortaleza84: Why? My previous post was directly about Amanda Knox and did not say anything about komponisto. Why didn’t you simply respond to that post?]

    Didn’t see it, sorry. Anyway, while I’ve been sucked into a discussion about the evidence, that wasn’t my intent. I read the exchanges on that blog and thought you might appreciate an honest outsider’s perspective: you come off as far more biased than komponisto.

    [fortaleza84: I doubt it, but even if that were true, your tu quoque would not change the conclusion of my post. In any event, it’s hard for me to believe that you actually studied the exchanges on lesswrong with any degree of care. According to WordPress, your post was submitted 27 minutes after my blog post went up. There were dozens if not hundreds of posts on lesswrong between me and others on Amanda Knox.]

    [fortaleza84: So any post which argues that another person is biased makes the poster look like a jerk? If not, then what is special about my post?]

    You spend more lines speculating about how komponisto is irrational and arrogant than about refuting him.

    [fortaleza84: The whole point of my post was that he was behaving irrationally. Besides which, I included the necessary refutation.

    But let’s make sure I understand your position: Any post which uses more lines arguing that somebody is biased than the same post uses to refute the person’s actual position equals “acting like a jerk” — is that your position?]

    You spend way more time in your post speculating about the origins of Knox-supporters than about refuting them (in the comments, you are a little better). You single out people for criticism when there’s no obvious benefit to the specificity (this would have been an excellent post if you’d stayed away from the komponisto/Amanda Knox stuff and just asked whether reading about rationality a lot can make people irrational, which it certainly can.)

    I’m not going to engage further on the “knight-errant” point, which I hope you will take as disgust rather than a concession. I suppose you can search for my username/email/writing style on other Knox forums, if you really care enough.

    [fortaleza84: I take it as pretty much a concession. Do you dispute that you submitted your response very quickly after my post went up? i.e. in 27 minutes?]

    [fortaleza84: And how does speculating about a scenario and clearly labeling as speculation fall into one category or another? The answer is that it does not.]

    The reason I labeled that rationalization is because it reads as if you clearly decided Knox was guilty before you stretched the evidence to find a contrived scenario that made this possible. Don’t deny this; you are quoted on the Less Wrong blog a year ago as saying she was guilty, and that was long before you began arguing this set-Kercher-up theory. You decided she was guilty and then came up with an explanation; that’s rationalization.

    [fortaleza84: Sure, if rationalization includes speculating about a plausible scenario to explain the evidence, then yes I am absolutely engaging in rationalization. Just like you engaged in rationalization above when you speculated about why Knox and Sollecito might have called the police even though the police were already there. There’s nothing inherently wrong with “rationalization” as you seem to define the term.

    [fortaleza84: What exactly is “sloppy” about my argument? Better yet, exactly what did I assert which was “ill-supported”?]

    Sloppy in the sense of relying on appeals to unrelated things like the Chandler case, ignoring data, and not even mentioning the evidence that opposed your points.
    As for what you asserted that was ill-supported – “I think what probably happened is similar to the murder of Janet Chandler in Michigan back in the 70s.” (in fairness, labeled as speculation. but you don’t get to get away with making unsupported arguments just because you label them speculation).

    [fortaleza84: In that case, you are wrong. If you made a “sloppy, ill-supported argument” i.e. engaged in speculation, clearly labeled as such and then proceeded to lay out your main argument, then I would focus on the main argument. That’s the principle of charity.]

    “I would guess that the intention of Knox and Sollecito was for Kercher to be raped at knife-point. I would guess that the intention of Knox and Sollecito was for Kercher to be raped at knife-point.”

    “I would strongly guess that Kercher displayed her resentment by insinuating to Knox that Knox was a slut (which it seems she was.) Girls do this to each other all the time. I would guess that Kercher herself was a narcissistic bitch (did you know that she starred in a music video just a few months before she was murdered?)”

    All with ZERO evidence! Seriously! If this is acceptable argumentation, how’s this:

    “I would guess Kercher killed herself. Girls kill themselves far more often than they’re murdered. And Kercher must have been depressed. Did you know that she starred in a music video a few months before she was murdered? Must have had seriously low self-esteem. And she didn’t like Amanda, so she probably set her up by making it look like a murder. Probably set up Guede too. Or maybe he was just burglarizing the house and happened to get there at exactly the same time as she was killing herself and agreed to help her frame Knox in exchange for raping the dead body. Course this is all just speculation, and I would discount it, except for all the evidence. Like the fact that Kercher was depressed. And that she disliked Knox. And Guede’s suspicious behavior.”

    There is exactly as much support for my scenario as for yours.

    [fortaleza84: That’s nonsense. I pulled up the English translation of the Massei report; found the summaries of the expert testimonies about time of death; and realized that komponisto’s argument appeared to be completely wrong. You are the one who is completely ignoring the (apparent) testimony of both experts, most likely because you do not like what it says.]

    I’ll concede that I’d rather look at the studies than at the translated reports of the expert testimony, since experts have their own biases and there are some problems with the translations. I thought we agreed on that?

    [fortaleza84: No, I don’t agree on that. Anyway, the claim you have laid on the table was essentially that I am unwilling to consider evidence. That’s simply not true. I have considered the evidence and drawn reasonable conclusions. As far as expert bias goes, my assumption is that Sollecito’s expert will be spinning things as much as possible in favor of his own client. So if even he says that the time of death was after 9:30, it’s reasonable to conclude that komponisto is flat out wrong.]

    I am not ignoring that evidence; I’m the one who brought it up. But I think it’s legitimate to look at the studies as well. As stands, I think Introna is being too conservative, when I compare his report to the studies, and he should have taken a stronger position. I can’t find a number from the prosecution case, but when I find one I’ll consider it.

    [fortaleza84: I don’t think it’s worth zero, but it does not exonerate Knox or Sollecito either.]

    It completely exonerates them of direct involvement, agreed? Is there any evidence at ALL for your indirect involvement theory?

    [fortaleza84: I don’t know what you mean by “direct involvement” Does pushing, grabbing, or holding count as “direct involvement”? And if so, does pushing, grabbing, or holding a person necessarily leave DNA traces on a person? I’ve never gotten a definitive answer to this question.]

    [fortaleza84: Again, please do not mischaracterize my statements. There is plenty of support for my scenario. But simply describing the scenario is not evidence in and of itself.]

    I would love to see any evidence at all for your scenario.

    [fortaleza84: Will first, do you seriously dispute any of the factual assertions I made in my last post?]

    [Are you willing to consider evidence which disagrees with your beliefs? If so, why do you ignore the testimony of the prosecution’s expert?]

    I can’t find the testimony you are referring to. Page number?

    [fortaleza84: Here: (p119)

    However, given the inherent status of the last meal which Meredith’s English girlfriends spoke about, it was possible to place the time of death between 3 to 4 hours later: therefore, this
    [time] could fall between 21:00 / 21:30 pm and 23:00 to 24:00 (pages 7 and 8 of the
    transcripts), a timeframe that appeared to be consistent with indications that other
    thanatological criteria could provide.]

    P.S. Please don’t forget to give me your definition of “ad homenim.
    ]

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