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Digital Forensics

Interesting article in Tuesday’s NYTimes on digital forensics — especially as it applies to scientists who doctor their images and data. It would be interesting to see how much (or how little) “evolutionary evidence” can withstand the scrutiny of digital forensics. Need it be added that digital forensics consists in drawing design inferences.

A Conversation With Hany Farid
Proving That Seeing Shouldn’t Always Be Believing

By CLAUDIA DREIFUS
Published: October 2, 2007

HANOVER, N.H. — As Hany Farid sat in his office here at Dartmouth College on a recent morning, he fiddled with his laptop and cracked disconcerting little jokes.

“Don’t ever send me a photograph of yourself,” said Dr. Farid, head of the Image Science Laboratory at Dartmouth. “I’ll do the most terrible things to it.”

Dr. Farid, a 41-year-old engineer, is a founder of a subdiscipline within computer science: digital forensics. Most days, he spends his time transforming ordinary images into ones with drastic new meanings. Click, goes his mouse. Courtney Love has joined Grandpa at the family barbecue. Click. Click. Elvis Presley is on Dartmouth’s board of trustees.

The purpose of all this manipulation is to discover how computerized forgeries are made. Intelligence agencies, news organizations and scientific journals employ Dr. Farid’s consulting services when they need to authenticate the validity of images. Dr. Farid sells a software package, “Q,” to clients so they, too, can become digital detectives.

An edited version of two hours’ worth of conversation follows.

Q. Let’s start with some definitions. What exactly is digital forensics?

A. It’s a new field. It didn’t exist five years ago. We look at digital media — images, audio and video — and we try to ascertain whether or not they’ve been manipulated. We use mathematical and computational techniques to detect alterations in them.

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24 Responses to Digital Forensics

  1. It’s amazing how design can be seen in everything! Truly a beautiful example.

    Haha! Evolutionary evidence is already weak, and in landmark books such as “Icons of Evolution”, what exists is blown out the water via exacting scientific method.

    While evidence for design is everywhere…

  2. Isn’t it the case though, that this software/process works because we know a lot about the “designer” (i.e. a human) and the methods used (computer software)?

    Biological ID is silent on the nature of the designer and the methods employed by the designer, is it not? How is digital forensics comparable to biological ID?

  3. I would demur, yes Biological ID is silent about the designer. But the point of ID is that it points to a designer. From there we look to the Bible for information on the nature of the designer and the methods employed by the designer.

    Interestingly, what else does ID actually tell us besides inferring a higher power?

  4. Dave557

    What is the “exacting scientific method” that points to the Bible?

  5. LarryCranston, your argument very effectively demolish the rationale for the SETI.

    You also need to mention why you would think that there is not such a thing as a generalized designer where humans are just one specific type of designer.

    In that sense your comment that Biological ID is silent about the designer is wrong, ID just prefer to discuss the most general class of designer to fit the evidence that is widely accepted.

    What would you call it if forensic methods manage to conclusively point to animal causes?

  6. On the subject of SETI I was thinking of the fact that they should be able, in principle, to detect non-sentient life forms like plants in some not yet known way. In principle there is a possibility that some unique radio wave would be detected bearing the signature of being created or influenced by some non-sentient life form.

    For instance an hypothetical plant rich planet will have a unique spectral image, we just have to create sensitive enough instruments, maybe on the moon, to be able to detect such unique signatures.

    An hypothetical find like this would just proof that any non-sentient contraption created by intelligence does bare a unique signature of design. That is why a design inference regarding human, animal or plant DNA falls in the same category. The specified complexity shows resemblance pointing to common design. Taking into account that there is no known natural origin of specified complexity. Materialists might dogmatically insist on its existence but empirical evidence does not support their hypothesis.

  7. Isn’t it the case though, that this software/process works because we know a lot about the “designer” (i.e. a human) and the methods used (computer software)?

    Biological ID is silent on the nature of the designer and the methods employed by the designer, is it not? How is digital forensics comparable to biological ID?

    If we observe in nature, the methods employed by a human designer, should we infer an intelligent designer, or no designer, since we know humans didn’t design themselves?

    Human designers use many of the methods that we find in nature: The use of machinery to mass produce parts of other machines; Reuse of systems in one design that have been shown successful in other designs; Software; Redundant systems; Self-destruct mechanisms to prevent defective organisms from surviving–much like NASA uses on rockets…

    Do we not understand the concept of “design” well enough to infer that these are designed things?

  8. I bet the Gal. Finch and his handy dandy mutation paste would love this article.

  9. In the Darwinian worldview, design inferences are valid, as long as the designers are naturalistic. Any designing mind that transcends nature is excluded a priori due to philosophical postulates.

  10. 10

    mullerpr:

    Could you then comment on the following from the “Arguments Not to Use” page from this website?

    “Intelligent design does not speak to the nature of designers anymore than Darwin’s theory speaks to the origin of matter.”

  11. Well, there go my fishing aspirations…

  12. From #10
    “Intelligent design does not speak to the nature of designers anymore than Darwin’s theory speaks to the origin of matter.”

    Well my arguments align perfectly with this statement. To help you I can state it differently. Design happened, in the most general sense it has a cause, that cause can be called a designer in the most general sense.

    It is more important for your argument of #2 to answer the following question:
    What would you call it if forensic methods manage to conclusively point to animal causes? If we can only know human design how about animal design?

    It would do you better to admit that if design manifest in our reality we might be able to detect it based on the same inductive principles and laws of logic that successfully describe our reality. It does not matter if you know anything about the method used to bring design into our reality.

  13. From #10
    “Intelligent design does not speak to the nature of designers anymore than Darwin’s theory speaks to the origin of matter.”

    Well my arguments align perfectly with this statement. To help you I can state it differently. Design happened, in the most general sense it has a cause, that cause can be called a designer in the most general sense.

    It is more important for your argument of #2 to answer the following question:
    What would you call it if forensic methods manage to conclusively point to animal causes? If we can only know human design how about animal design?

    It would do you better to admit that if design manifest in our reality we might be able to detect it based on the same inductive principles and laws of logic that successfully describe our reality. It does not matter if you know anything about the method used to bring design into our reality.

  14. I’m new to ID and ‘agnostic’ so far. One area that interests me (perplexes me, actually) is the boundary / interface of the materialist / naturalistic position and the non-materialist / non-naturalistic.

    Mats said (9, above): -
    “In the Darwinian worldview, design inferences are valid, as long as the designers are naturalistic. Any designing mind that transcends nature is excluded a priori due to philosophical postulates.”

    The implication is that, obviously, in the ID community this philosophical restriction doesn’t apply.

    Does this mean that it might ALWAYS not apply ie. That a non-materialistic / non-naturalistic explanation of an event or phenomenon is always conceivable?

  15. Duncan:

    Does this mean that it might ALWAYS not apply ie. That a non-materialistic / non-naturalistic explanation of an event or phenomenon is always conceivable?

    No. I would suggest that the general ID position is that if a naturalistic/materialistic explanation comfortably fits the data, the non-naturalistic explanation is rejected. Ie, even in ID, there is a strong bias towards finding a simple naturalistic explanation.

  16. Mullerpr- why doesn’t it matter if you ‘don’t know the method’? Don’t you think we should look for the method? Surely that would lead us a little closer to the designer- i say lets not give up looking!

    Surely if ID is going to get anywhere we need to be looking for the ultimate cause. We can’t just keep saying there are signs but thats all there is.

  17. 17

    mullerpr:

    The obvious answer is that we can apply forensics to “animal causes” because we can see and observe animals.

    We can watch them, watch their actions, see what evidence they leave behind (let’s say paw prints). We can observe the mechanisms by which they leave behind evidence (teeth–>toothmarks).

    ID only makes vague reference to a designer because there is no way to know when design happened or by what mechanism it was carried out.

    You posit an amorphous and thoroughly generic concept of a designer based on your idea that you have a reliable mechanism for detecting design.

  18. Duncan,

    I have been engaged in an online debate some time ago on the subject of DNA and ID. The evolution proponents very effectively argued any natural phenomenon to be a form of information just to proof the fact that DNA is also a naturally occurring form of information (in the specified complex sense). An example of their argument was to say “Heat code/inform water to melt, freeze or vaporize.”

    I think your dilemma can be argued in very much the same way, but there is a very simple answer, at least in an information sense. This was the conclusion that I presented my oponents in the online debate: If every thing is information and we know (empirically) that the only cause of information (specified complexity) can be a consciousness or intelligence then it is best to define information (or design) as follows:
    “Any entity that has been caused by bounded intelligence inside our reality and unbounded intelligence causing our reality.”

    This definition concur with dFast’s position in regards to a preference/necessity to look for intelligence in our bounded state within the system. This however does not mean that the Intelligence that cause the system cannot act into our system with new information. It also allows for our metaphysical selves (our souls) to be a bounded substance forming part of the bounded system that can then be best described as a substance dualist reality.

    I hope this argument help, even though it needs some refinement.

  19. larrycranston,
    “We can watch them, watch their actions, see what evidence they leave behind (let’s say paw prints). We can observe the mechanisms by which they leave behind evidence (teeth–>toothmarks).”

    I agree with this approach but you have to see that here you are contradicting yourself. It would help if you just ask – which part of our study of artifacts caused by animals actually shows us what mechanism animals used to act intelligently as they did?

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it is their brains that did it, because you have no way to proof neural activity to be equal to some form of mind and intelligence. (Read the “Spiritual Mind” by Denyse and Mario.)

    You see your argument that you have to know the intelligence that cause the design before you can conclude design is impossible even for the obvious aspects like animals and the stuff the SETI are looking for.

  20. off topic:
    Yahoo.com has a story suggesting that the appendix does have an important use for the body.

  21. The appendix story isn’t being touted as an ID story by the mainstream media, but it should be. I’ll bet the authors are closet ID supporters. Can we get Mr. Scot to check that for us? (I don’t presume to boss anyone, but I just thought it might be a good idea?)

    And it’s published in a peer-reviewed journal. Take that, Mr. Dawkin!

  22. “The theory led Gary Huffnagle, a University of Michigan internal medicine and microbiology professor, to wonder about the value of another body part that is often yanked: ‘I’ll bet eventually we’ll find the same sort of thing with the tonsils.’”

    Hah! The tonsils will have a function, too. I’ll bet the Darwinists are just furious!

    On a side note, is there somewhere I can donate money for ID research? I’d like donate some money for appendix and tonsil research. Anyone know a good organization I can put my money into?

  23. Do you guys think they could ascertain whether or not the following image has been manipulated?
    http://i21.tinypic.com/1znqywz.jpg

    PS- That’s Dawkins and PZ in there if you couldn’t tell.

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