Pillars of Continental justice II: “Osmotic” reasoning

In their 2011 report acquitting Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of murder, judges Hellmann and Zanetti examined, one by one, every important piece of evidence presented by the prosecution and found each and every such piece meaningless and worthless.

Overturning that well-reasoned acquittal, Italy’s supreme court ordered that items of evidence be examined for reliability not on a standalone basis but in the context of the whole case.

The obvious problem with this dictum is that the context of the whole case can only emerge from individual pieces of evidence. If each of these pieces is inherently unreliable, the totality of them cannot be relied upon, either.

Italy’s supreme court is insisting that judges practice circular reasoning, something that schoolchildren are warned against as a matter of routine. The court is telling lower courts: Don’t question if a test is valid or a witness is credible – just put them all together, see what picture emerges, and if they fit into that picture, you’re good – you can convict!

I believe it’s exactly how conspiracy theorists operate. This, that and that look suspicious; they could be innocuous, each of them, but taken together, they cannot be a mere coincidence: more like a conspiracy! And if your throw in more suspicious facts, there is no room for doubt anymore: 9/11 was an inside job!

By the way, the Honorary President of Italy’s Supreme Court, Ferdinando Imposimato, is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

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