February 24, 2024

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Science It Works

The Art of Forensics – Are You Certain?

Based on a contemporary article in the August 2009 edition of Popular Mechanics, forensic science may not be as reliable as we would like to believe. “The Truth About Forensics” goes into great length about the very shaky ground on which the science of ballistics, finger printing, fiber analysis, and more, now stands.

Millions of people watch television shows like CSI and NCIS, knowing full well we are watching TV shows. Unfortunately, too many individuals are then taking this information quite literally and bringing what they believe to be fact into the jury room with them. The perception of “reasonable doubt” can and does go out the window swiftly because we are conditioned to believe that forensics is the god of rightness – evidence beyond the shadow of a doubt that “this fingerprint proves that individual did this.”

Basically, there is no scientific data to recommend or refute that fingerprints do not change over time. No study has ever been conducted. We are educated that each fingerprint is unique, yet no methodical data exists to back up the claim. The same applies to ballistics; the bullet may have been fired by a particular gun model, but is it truly that gun?

To complicate matters, “forensic science was not developed by scientists.” Guided in part by a feeling of common sense, forensics is the creation of the police themselves. Here’s just a little portion of this incredibly enlightening article:

“…In England asked six veteran fingerprint examiners to study prints taken from actual criminal cases. The experts were not told that they had previously examined the same prints… Only two of the six experts reached the same conclusions on second examination as they had on the first.”

Frightening to the extreme. The article has numerous cases of the truly innocent individual sitting in jail for years while the real criminal continues to go about “business as usual.” However, there is one criteria of forensics that is not in question. The method that is most reliable includes “techniques that grew out of organic chemistry and microbiology” and have a strong scientific foundation. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), yes that double-helix structure that makes up all individuals, goes beyond human interpretation to true science.

Forsenics, while a long-time mainstay of entertainment for so many, is still in its infancy. For more information, it is highly advised that you get a copy of this magazine’s August 2009 publication and read up. You never know… The info it reveals may come in very handy.