Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why does Gryphen keep pushing the two-Trigs "Ruffles" theory? Because he is more concerned about protecting his reputation than finding the truth

My greatest mistake as a scholar and researcher was buying into the two-Trigs theory that Jesse Griffin, also known as Gryphen at his blog site Immoral Minority, has been pushing for more than two years now. The original inspiration for that theory was this picture of Trig taken in early May of 2008:

At first glance, what we seem to see is a small, deformed ear, and to the side of it, a hole in the scalp that might be taken for a misaligned ear canal. Griffin showed this photo to some ear specialists, and they said that smallish, ruffled ear could not be the same as, say, this ear below, also of Trig, shot in the fall of 2008:

And Griffin, over and over, has referred to the judgment of those specialists he consulted as powerful proof that that there had to be two different babies presented as Trig (the original came to be known as "Ruffles") – after all, how can specialists be wrong?

Answer? Very easily. The mistake in interpreting that early photo came about because the lower part of the ear was obscured by some cloth. If you rotate the two above photos so the ears are oriented the same way, you can superimpose the second ear over the first, and then what you see is a stunning correspondence of the visible parts of the two ears:

The trapezoid shape in the middle is the real clincher; it's an extremely distinctive shape. In addition, we can now see that the supposedly misaligned ear canal in the first photo is in truth a batwing shape in the lower half of the ear – a shape that is repeated in the second photo. The first photo presents what artists call a trompe-l'oeil (French for a trick of the eye). But the eye deception vanishes when you change the orientation of the picture and note that part of the lower ear is covered by material.

There is, to be sure, some ear deformity in the first photo that is less noticeable in the second, but that is surely due to both the aging process (Trig was much younger in the first photo) and optical factors, such as different lighting, lens types, and angles in the two pictures. 

Why do I say Griffin is more interested in protecting his reputation than finding the truth? Because he absolutely refuses to show his readers the evidence that makes his theory practically untenable – meaning illustrations like the one immediately above that I showed here in a series of seven posts in October aimed at killing the two-Trigs theory. Moreover, I would bet a case of beer that Griffin has not shown the ear experts he consulted the above four-panel composite. If he did, they would almost certainly change their original judgment.

And that makes Griffin an intellectual coward. At one point, I tried to direct his readers to my research by placing in the comments to some of his articles the web addresses to my ear-related posts. In a personal email to me, he mocked me for doing that and let me know he would delete any such efforts on my part. 

So what do we make of that email of Griffin’s? What I conclude is very sad: Griffin will not publish evidence, or even link to evidence, that challenges his own ideas. I cannot overstate how antithetical such actions are to the spirit of the search for truth, which is the animating spirit among true scholars.

I'm a trained social scientist and historian; that’s what my PhD signifies. I have published numerous articles in scholarly peer-reviewed journals in history, psychology, mass communications, and law. "Peer-reviewed" means experts in those fields had read my manuscripts prior to publication to make sure I had taken into account all relevant research; if I failed to do so, my manuscripts would have been rejected. 

Griffin has become the opposite of a scholar searching for truth. He does not seek out all evidence relevant to a theory he has proposed. Any evidence that contradicts his publicly stated ideas gets axed. He has created a bubble of ignorance for himself and his readers. And, here is the tragedy: he has empowered Sarah Palin to paint all Trig Truthers as nut-cases because of his unwillingness to consider evidence or ideas that challenge his own.

I know from personal experience how Sarah Palin makes use of Griffin's theory. As I said, before I looked closely at the evidence, I bought into the two-Trig's idea. (In other words, I foolishly relied on Griffin’s research, which was shallow and unimaginative.) And I incorporated that theory into a version of a magazine-type article about the birth hoax that I sent to various publications last summer. I also sent a copy to Sarah Palin in August to give her a chance to respond to my charge that she faked Trig's birth.

Palin did not respond directly to that article. But in February, months after I had tried to kill the two-Trigs theory, Palin's attorney sent a six-page letter to my university, in an effort to get my employer to force me to stop writing about Palin. In that letter, he ignored the fact that I had very publicly rejected the two-Trigs theory, and instead emphasized that I had advanced it in the article I sent Palin. And thus he was able to make me look like a gullible idiot in that letter he wrote, twice referring to my views as "insane." 

Our university's attorney, who has had no reason to follow the Palin birth hoax, clearly bought some his arguments, in large part because of the implausibility of the two-Trigs stuff. And I had to suffer the slings and arrows of her withering skepticism about my research in a meeting she held with me and my two immediate superiors.

And that background helps explain why I practically went ballistic when Griffin revived the two-Trigs theory a week ago Saturday. He published this composite:

And he argued that the far right photo, taken last month, showed that the child known as "Ruffles" had finally returned, since the helix (or rim) of the ear has a wavy appearance  but that the child shown in the two middle photos must be a different child who is now unaccounted for.

And I just wanted to scream IT'S THE SAME CHILD! Unfortunately, in the most recent photo, Trig's hair covers part of the distinctive trapezoid shape in the middle of his ear – but the lower half of the ear shows the batwing shape, making clear it's the same child.

As I explained in my June 30 post, the ear differences in the four photos result mainly from the different angles, lighting conditions, and lenses used to shoot the photos. Different lenses in particular would have caused the degree of ear "ruffledness" to appear variable in the photos: telephoto lenses flatten features, and wide-angle lenses exaggerate them. 

Whether corrective surgery or ear splints may have been used to improve the ear's appearance – once a topic of much discussion – now seems irrelevant; all we really need to know is that the child presented as Trig has in fact been Trig.

In his last email to me, Griffin referred to himself as a "famous blogger." He has a large readership, so he is famous in a sense. But the fact that he thinks of himself in such terms perhaps reveals part of the problem: being "famous" in his own mind, with many acolytes effectively telling him in comments that he is practically infallible – but remember that he he nixes the dissenting voices  he may have convinced himself he is indeed infallible, and cannot bring himself to admit he made a mistake. 

And who else do we know who can’t admit a mistake?