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Saturday, 2 October 2010

The flaw in "The flaws of hair analysis : Longleat Leopard"

Hayley Stevens of BARSoc has posted her thoughts on the analysis of the Longleat Leopard hair done by CFZ member Dr Lars Thomas of Copenhagen University. She has also sought a second opinion by another biologist.

This can be read at http://barsoc.org/2010/10/01/the-flaws-of-hair-analysis-longleat-leopard/

I applaud Hayley in seeking a second opinion, and I find her conclusions interesting, but there are some major flaws in her thinking.

She is only working with the material at hand to make her judgements, that is, the photographs taken of the hair on a monitor. She has shown these images to a "biologist" friend, who claim the hair appears to be from a dog. He then posted images of the hair on an un-named blog where a majority of other members also thought it was dog. The "biologist" wishes to remain anonymous as is his or her right.

Can Hayley not see the problems with this scenario. She often makes comments with regards to people being objective and without an agenda. And of course people have mentioned that Lars Thomas is a member of the CFZ and might have an alterior motive. (although why he would wish to tarnish his academic reputation on his evaluation of a hair found by a non CFZ member is beyond me). Now she wishes us to believe that an unknown person, who she claims is a biologist disagrees with Lars Thomas' findings.

Whilst Lars Thomas made his conclusions based on viewing the hair itself, Ms Stevens is now relying on this unknown person and persons on an unknown forum making conclusions from a photograph that she herself claims cannot be used as evidence, because of the wrong resolution, the wrong light, the wrong camera, the wrong sandwich etc.

Talk about compounding the issue.

How are we to know that Hayley does not have an agenda.

Who is her biologist friend?

Is he/she a real biologist?

What are his/her qualifications?

Is he/she an expert on microscopic hair analysis.

Is he/she an objective expert, or a member of a sceptic organisation.

Why do they wish to remain anonymous?

I'm sorry Hayley but you are making the same errors that you yourself have claimed of others.

The only thing that can really be concluded here is that more evidence is needed. Although if I have to trust an expert, I'd rather trust an expert with known academic credentials who views the evidence in person, rather than an anonymous "biologist" of unknown academic standing and his "mates" (also of unknown academic standing) an online forum making conclusions based on a poor quality photograph of a monitor showing the evidence.


  1. quis custodiet ipsos custodies2 October 2010 at 20:48

    I have to agree whole heartedly with your opinion here Highland Tiger until we have the details of the mystery biologist and a more rigorous examination of the hair samples I would be tempted to put my faith in the findings of Lars Thomas. We shouldn’t forget that a skeptic organization might have a motive in finding dog hairs, just look at the trouble the suspected Leopard hairs have caused

  2. I am quite amazed by this Hayley Stevens character. For one who is so very fond of claiming that if she wasn't there, she can't be 100% sure, she seems awfully sure of what I did when I analyzed the hairs, how I did it, and what I should og shouldn't have done. Strangely enough, she never bothered to contact me in case she wanted details of any kind - something I would have been happy to provide. I do have some 25 years of experience when it comes to analyzing hairs, and other little bits and pieces of animals. The microscope I used was equipped with all kinds of lighting facilities, so I of course looked at the Longleat hair, as well as all the other hairs I anaylyzed during and after the Weird Weekend in all kinds of lightning I could think of. I did not, as Hayley Stevens also want to give the impression of, analyze it in the middle of a lecture hall. I had my own room for that, and all though several people came by during the weekend, I did spend quite a lot of time there working on my own. Oh yes - and I would dearly like to know how my lunch in any possible way could influence the identification of the hairs?

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