Friday, July 16, 2010

Why scientific evidence is less valid in law

Richard Dawkins and other atheist science fetishists are much bothered by the fact that scientific evidence is considered less reliable, and therefore less uniformly admissable in court, than eyewitness evidence and documentary evidence. This is not because they are deeply concerned about the various legal systems of the Western democracies, (although I daresay I can testify better than most what an absurd miscarriage of justice they represent), but rather because the elevation of testimonial and documentary evidence above scientific evidence strikes a mortal blow to their primary argument against the existence of God, gods, and the supernatural.

While the more ignorant atheists stupidly attempt to argue that there is no evidence for God, atheists who are sufficiently familiar with the dictionary to avoid being so easily dismissed tend to set their sights on elevating scientific evidence over other forms of evidence in the interest of laying a foundation for their science-based arguments. However, demonstrating their near-universal incapacity for logic, these atheists turn instinctively to science in a misguided attempt to prove the superiority of scientific evidence to all other forms of evidence and thereby manage to guarantee their own failure by missing the point about the nature of evidence, the way it is acquired, and most importantly, its ultimate purpose.

For there are at least three reasons scientific evidence is not only considered less reliable by the courts than eyewitness testimony, but it is CORRECTLY considered less reliable than eyewitness testimony.

1. The dynamic nature of science. For some reason, scientists believe the public has a short memory and think it's perfectly fine to sweep all their past mistakes and erroneous assertions under the table and pretend that their conclusions are typically static and reliable. And from the scientific point of view, it probably is, since it is in the interest of the scientific community to reach consensus and keep everyone more or less on the same page. The present scientific system is set up to encourage consensus and discourage any challenging of the present status quo; as we have seen in the ever-shifting sands of the AGW/CC discourse, the facts change much more often than the consensus diagnosis and concomitant policy prescription. However, in a court setting, there is no consensus and the interests of the two sides are diametrically opposed. It is not possible to sweep any of the many past mistakes and erroneous assertions under the table and the existence of any past alterations of the relevant theory will used to weaken, if not entirely discredit, the validity of the present science. So, science is not credible in an inherently oppositional setting due to its dynamic nature. Given that nature, science is usually in the position of an eyewitness who is forced to admit that he testified not-X prior to testifying X. And given the history of science, it is a very simple matter for any skilled lawyer to demonstrate that there is much more than a shadow of a doubt, there is in fact a reasonable mathematical probability, that science will once again testify not-X in the near future.

2. Science is not scientific evidence. Whereas the science that underlies the evidence presented may be relatively reliable, this does not make the evidence itself reliable. Even if we assume that scientists are pure and holy - and we have no shortage of evidence demonstrating otherwise - the production of scientific evidence relevant to a court case requires a number of actions by scientists and non-scientists that permit considerable room for error. In a country where the police routinely plant drugs during arrests and are often proven to be liars whenever there is a film record available to contradict their written reports, it would be deeply illogical to imagine that scientific evidence is not tainted by the unreliability of the human element involved no matter how reliable the underlying science is believed to be. The testimony of an impartial witness with a faulty memory is logically far more trustworthy than scientifically impeccable evidence presented by a collection of government employees who possess strong financial and personal incentives to produce a guilty criminal party.

3. Science is not, as actual scientists keep trying to remind the science fetishists, in the business of providing proof. Therefore, attempting to utilize science as a means of proving something beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt is a misuse of science and amounts to little more than attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole.



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