Right now in forensic science generally, I am not too certain it can be said that most folks performing a discipline of forensic science even know their limitations. So, there is nothing to ignore.
Perhaps that is why I have started this blog.
This blog seeks only to expose the truth: every assay and every person preforming an analysis has limitations. This blog seeks to show that there is a lot of discretion preformed in forensic science with a lot of interpretation and in turn subjectiveness. This blog also seeks to expose that a lot of forensic science, which has been traditionally left unchallenged, is not necessarily validated. It is actually institutionalized repetition largely of anecdote by untrained and non-credentialed, non-technical lay persons. Frankly, the more I learn the more I am convinced that some disciplines are not unlike the witch analysis in Monty Python.
A lot of forensic science presented in the courtroom does not present its own limitations. It rather is presented as absolutes and the truth. It is dishonest and perhaps even unethical. I suppose that role of providing the truth of these limitations now falls to the defense bar, who should bear no burden, but now I suppose does.
I suppose that this blog is about the discussion of how we need to determine and explain in an understandable way to the trier of fact the truth. The simple truth that is so very profound is that there is an asymptotic relationship between what forensic science can do and the empirical truth. Once we accept this, everything else is about the method of describing this limiting behavior and how close we can become to the truth. In short, forensic science must not continue to be presented as free from error and free from limitations–as an absolute.
Famed scientist Carl Sagan once said:
The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.
We all need to re-double our efforts in showing others these limitations and in presenting this “forensic science” in an honest and forthright manner. There are limitations of every assay and every person preforming an analysis. There is a lot of discretion preformed by forensic scientists with a lot of interpretation and in turn subjectiveness.