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Is forensics really a science?

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Slate writer thinks not:

How could forensic evidence, widely seen as factual and unbiased, nearly send an innocent person to his death? The answer is profoundly disturbing—and suggests that for every Earl Washington freed, untold more are sent to their deaths. Far from an infallible science, forensics is a decades-long experiment in which undertrained lab workers jettison the scientific method in favor of speedy results that fit prosecutors’ hunches. No one knows exactly how many people have been wrongly imprisoned—or executed—due to flawed forensics. But the number, most experts agree, is horrifyingly high. The most respected scientific organization in the country has revealed how deeply, fundamentally unscientific forensics is. A complete overhaul of our evidence analysis is desperately needed. Without it, the number of falsely convicted will only keep growing.

This is becoming a disturbing pattern.

So these problems don’t plague only “social science”which (along with gossip) we can pay attention to or not. Here is another disturbing story that maybe didn’t get the attention it deserved. If people can lose their lives or liberty over these “science” claims, maybe more of us should take what is going wrong more seriously.

A materialist project is failing again, but then the question is, how many will die as a result?

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5 Replies to “Is forensics really a science?

  1. 1
    Acartia_bogart says:

    This really isn’t a problem with science, it is a problem with regulators not requiring that proper science be used. I work in the laboratory field (not forensics) and it is well known that an analytical result includes two parts; the result and its uncertainty. The problem is that prosecuting lawyers do not want to see anything mentioned about uncertainty because it just plays into the hands of the defence. But uncertainty exists in all measurements.

    This being said, there is one thing that is well known to be even worse than forensic testing and that is eye-witness testimony. Just as many, if not more, innocent people have been sent to their deaths do to eye-witness accounts.

    There are two simple acts that will go a long way to resolving this issue:

    1) require accreditation of all forensic laboratories to an international testing standard.

    2) get rid of the death penalty like all other civilized countries have done.

  2. 2
    steveh says:

    Evolution news and views: Intelligent Design in Action: Forensic Science -Forensic science is often presented here and at other ID friendly sites as a prime example of Intelligent Design Detection in action. Another is SETI. I hope you won’t be targeting that as a colossal waste of time and money next…

  3. 3
    Mark Frank says:

    I don’t understand why forensic science (whether done well or badly) is a “materialist project”. It is often held up as an example of ID in action! What would non-materialist forensic science look like?

  4. 4
    Joe says:

    1- Forensic science is NOT a “materialist project”

    2- It is failing because the forensic people are not following science. My bet that is because many of the people taking FS did so because they watched it on TV and thought it looked easy.

  5. 5
    Barb says:

    If the number of wrongly convicted or executed people horrifies you (as it does most sane individuals), blame the flawed legal system, not the forensic techs.

    If you want a fairly funny account of what it’s like being a real-life CSI, read Dana Kollman’s Never Let a Dead Man Suck Your Hand. Also read Aftermath Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home, by a man who started a forensic cleaning business.

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