The hype on lie detectors, from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General (page 2 of 151–it’s a PDF):
“Because physiological reactions can vary when subjects are telling the truth and when they are being deceptive, by comparing a subject’s reactions to different questions a polygraph examiner can detect reactions that may indicate deceptive responses to specific questions. The results of polygraph examinations are generally not admissible in court. [ALERT! ALERT!] However, various components of the Department use polygraph examinations, primarily for criminal, foreign counterintelligence and counteretrrorism investigations, administrative investigations (internal affairs and misconduct), and pre-employment and personnel security screening.”
The facts, from University of Maryland physicist Bob Park Sept. 22 (“Opinions are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the University, but they should be”): “The polygraph can’t tell a lie from the sex act. . . . [The Inspector General’s report states that] the polygraph is used slightly less as an investigative tool (recall it failed to expose the Green River killer). But it is used increasingly to screen employees (recall it missed CIA super-mole Aldrich Ames, and has never uncovered a single spy). Meanwhile, brain research became the hottest frontier after physicists developed fMRI brain scanning, revealing what really goes on in our heads. The report never mentions all the unrefuted science showing the polygraph is worse than useless. Nor does it mention fMRI research advances.” (In fairness, the report was just taking stock, not recommending anything. But in all seriousness, why?)
The even more embarassing facts, again from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General (page 14 of 151):
“The FBI’s program [which conducts most DoJ polygraph tests] was not certified as complying with federal standard [in 2003, 2004, and 2005] . . . because of repeated instances of noncompliance . . . [including] instances of improperly constructed questions, opinions on results . . . that were not supported by standard test scoring techniques, and the routine destruction of the score sheets that examiners and supervisors prepared when examining polygraph test results. Although not all issues were finally resolved,” the program was certified in January 2006.
There’s just something so amusingly quaint about fussing over the right protocols for pseudoscience. I wonder how the DoJ astrologers are measuring up to their professional standards.