Everyone Is Doing Forensics

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, May 14, 2015 0 comments

by Steve Risner

“Everyone is doing forensics.” —Patricia Cornwell
“To understand why something is happening, we have to engage in both forensics and guess work.” —Sendhil Mullainathan

Last week I began to write about what facts are, those silly things people tend to throw around willy-nilly without understanding them. More often than not, people want to shove an opinion (theirs or that of another) of the facts at you as though that opinion is the actual fact. Take a moment, if you haven’t already, and read last week’s post “Just the Facts Ma’am” to catch up, so this week’s will make more sense to you.

Many times it’s been said that origins, unlike many other studies, is not observational science but historical science. Evolutionists and atheists hate this distinction even though it’s fairly matter of fact. If we ask Rationalwiki what historical science is, we get this: “a term used to describe sciences in which data is provided primarily from past events and for which there is usually no direct experimental data, such as cosmology, astronomy, astrophysics, geology, paleontology, and archeology.”

Admittedly, Darwinian evolution is not on the list of disciplines referred to as “historical science” but one can easily see there is no way to exclude it. In the case of historical science, we must extrapolate, guess, and infer. We must take small bits of information and paint a picture of what may have happened in the past. Did you catch that? “...may have happened...”

There have been many conversations I have had (perhaps you have had them, too) where an atheist will claim, “Scientists use this process all the time to solve crimes. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called forensics.” This is supposed to be sort of “gotcha” statement indicating you’re a science denier and would have crimes go unsolved because you are willing to admit science is not perfect, especially when it comes to one time past events that no one was around for. In the case of forensics, there are a few things to note.

First, we should note that in forensics, we’re generally dealing with things that happened a very short time ago under conditions that we can base our analysis on. That means we know several key components that aid in tracing back what happened in an event. It's also important to note that eyewitness testimony is of the highest level of evidence and helps shape what the forensics specialist believes happened. However, the second thing to note is that forensics experts do not always agree. This is an important point to make clear. If two experts look at the same data and have two different opinions on what took place, I feel it would be foolish to say one expert is a scientist and the other is a religious zealot who is stupid and blinded by bias. It simply means that there is more than one way to validly explain the data available. That sounds an awful lot like the debate in question—creation vs. evolution. We have the data. We tell different stories based on the data. That’s it.

The third thing is that forensics is nothing like what we see on CSI, NCIS, or 24. These programs have actually harmed the legal process in our courts because people expect there to be a black and white answer to who did it. They’re expecting solid scientific data that conclusively points the finger at one person. But the real world is rarely anything like that. The world of forensics is a terrible example for the evolutionist to point to as an example of historical science if he or she is trying to show the strength in historical science.

Jennifer L. Mnookin wrote in the LA Times that “laboratories are woefully underfunded, and much of what passes for forensic ‘science’ does not meet even minimal scientific standards. Yet when forensic scientists testify in court, they often are embarrassingly overconfident about their findings.” This sounds so much like the “science” for biological evolution, abiogenesis, and the Big Bang. They are always over playing their findings—which are almost always an explanation and huge extrapolation of the facts. Their confidence in “could have” “might be” “may be connected” is interesting. She goes on, “Put simply, although many kinds of forensic testimony — involving handwriting identification, fingerprint evidence and ballistics, for example— are enormously persuasive to a typical jury, they do not meet the basic requirements of good science.” In fact, earlier this year, the FBI reported that 96% of the time, hair analysis alone was fundamentally flawed in its conclusions. Not such a great record for this “science,” huh? Because they have a few facts and fill in all the blanks—just like the origins debate.

It almost sounds like she’s saying forensics is tough to make a case for being science. What are the issues with it? Why is this the case? Bias, error-rates, and over-claiming are the biggest explanations given for this. “Forensic techniques are subject to human bias” reads a Washington Post headline. This is because the evidence is only a small piece of the puzzle. The conclusions drawn are based on the presuppositions of the investigator who, in terms of origins study, almost always has the basis of Darwinian evolution and billions of years as his starting point. In general, a forensics specialist will have a good idea of what they want to find prior to looking. This isn't science at all. This is often how labs that date rocks are. They are told the expected age of a sample and all points not found close to that age are thrown out.

It’s hard to believe this isn’t the case for other historical sciences as well—like cosmology, geology, and evolution. It is now abundantly clear that an expert’s opinion is not a reliable basis for drawing connections between evidence samples and an outcome. More than an opinion should be involved when drawing conclusions. But, as creationists have been saying for years, the study of origins isn’t really science. It’s religion or at the least philosophy.

Science deals with probabilities, not certainty. But in the case of origins, we’re talking about consensus. I believe “consensus science” is anti-science. Ask any evolutionist about why they believe in evolution rather than creation and it will very likely come up that “99% of scientists believe in Darwinian evolution” or some such thing. So the case for evolution is based on its popularity. From “The Green Ember”-- You can choose what to believe, but you can't change what is true. If 99% of scientists believe evolution is true (that is evolution from a single common ancestor), that hardly makes it true. In fact, of that 99% of scientists, a very small portion of them actually do something related to origins in their field of study. To quote A. E. Wilder-Smith, “The natural sciences know nothing of evolution.”

Due to the constraints of space, I will have to conclude this thought next week. Take heart! The battle is not over science but over philosophy and faith. It's never been a scientific debate, although Darwinian evolution fails the science test. Stay tuned.

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