Quick Thoughts On Forensic Science

“Forensic Science” comprises too many independent disciplines with varying degrees of scientific “rigor” to be considered a science. That said, the disciplines within the field employ modern scientific methods and attempt to impose a scientific methodology when utilized. I buy into the principle of “falsifiability” raised in the materials discussing Karl Popper. This principle seems hard to apply to certain forensic fields such as blood splatter or questioned document analysis. In my mind, those fields appear suggestive and would prefer that they be viewed as investigative tools as opposed to a “science” with precise conclusions.

Unfortunately, when people think of “science” they think of immutable “laws” like gravity, Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion and Newton’s Laws of Motion. There is really is no debate for these principles but, in forensic science, even the most rigorous fields have a subjective component. For example, how many identification points are needed to make a match? I’m sure Brandon Mayfield would like to know. What objective criterion can we use to match a DNA sample involving a mixture of more than 3 people? I suggest that, with the technology available today, there are some “educated guesses” used to do so.

These criticisms aside, I am grateful for the scientific approach used within the forensic sciences. The field is making great strides in developing objective criterion for its methods and are seeking to improve the reliability of its analysts by requiring an independent verification process and the credentialing of its labs and analysts.


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