Why Forensic Science does not Support Intelligent Design

After years of hearing this claim, I’ve decided to just explain, for once and all, why ID doesn’t matter a hill of beans to forensic science.

We’ll ignore the fact that forensics is a science and ID isn’t.  We’ll ignore the fact that ‘principles of Intelligent Design’ don’t actually exist.  We’ll ignore the fact that ID has never produced a single testable hypothesis, much less actually tested it.

Nope, we’re just going to look at what IDers claim and how things actually work and we’ll see if ID forms a basis, even in the remotest sense, of modern forensics.

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.  (from Uncommon Descent)

Well, that takes care of that.  No mention of forensics (or anthropology for that matter).

OK, OK, the argument isn’t that forensics are an example of The Intelligent Designer, but an example that shows intelligent design (lower case).  In that, if we see something that is designed by an intelligent agent, then we can infer that other similar processes are also designed by an intelligent agent.

For example, if we see a dead body with a bullet in it, we know that the bullet was designed.  Similarly, if we see a body crushed by a falling rock, then we know the rock was designed.  wait…

OK, maybe this is better.  If we see a dead body with a bullet in it, we know that the bullet was fired by an intelligent agent.  Similarly, if we see a body crushed by a falling rock, then we know the rock was pushed onto the person by an intelligent agent… wait… ummm…

One more try.  If we see a dead body with a bullet in it, we know that the bullet was purposefully used to kill the person.  Similarly, if we see a body crushed by a falling rock, then we know the rock was purposefully used to kill… hmmm… this doesn’t appear to be working.

What is ‘forensics’?  The word comes from latin and it is used to describe the forum in which arguments about legal cases were presented.  Then, much like now, whomever argued the best, won.

The first actual example of modern forensic techniques come to us from China about 1248.  this is the first written account of using what would be described as science based techniques to solve crimes.  In one case described, various weapons were tested on an animal carcass to determine which weapon caused a laborers death.  Once the weapon was determined to be a sickle, everyone in the village brought their sickle to a field and let them sit out.  Flies were attracted to the sickle with blood residue on it.  Since a sickle is used only for certain vegetation and not meat products, the conclusion was drawn that the owner of the sickle with flies was the guilty party.

Sure, there are some issues with this process, but it was very clear, logical and shows advanced scientific thinking (comparison of wounds, discovery of blood residue).

Over the next 760 years or so, the science of forensics has grown by leaps and bounds.  It is not without a few false starts and problems (as are all sciences), but by and large it is a very accurate science.  Our modern legal system requires some very specific procedures and types of evidence to be considered valid.  If there is even a hint of impropriety or not following the correct process with any piece of forensic evidence, then any competent defense lawyer can get that evidence thrown out.

The real world isn’t like CSI or those other shows.  For example, the physical location and status of the bit evidence must be known for the entire investigation process.  When not being actually examined, by at least two people, the material must be in a locked location (evidence storage doesn’t count) with a limited number of keys and a procedure for checking out the evidence.  If there is even a second when the forensic scientists can’t say with 100% certainty where that evidence was or who had it, then it’s useless to our legal system.

I bring all this up, because Intelligent Design’s history in US courts is less than spectacular.

Anyway, back to forensics.  IDists will claim that when you eliminate random occurrences, the only thing left is intelligent design.  In this way, they claim that forensics does this.  They eliminate random events that might have contributed to the death or crime and then assume a person did it.  But that’s where ID stops.

And that’s the critical statement.  If you look at all the writings of ID proponents, from the leaders of the movement to the casual proponents that flock to various websites.  They all claim* that ID doesn’t talk about the designer, just the process (mechanism) of design.

That doesn’t do anyone a bit a good.  If forensics stopped with that, then no one would ever be committed of a crime.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Body, we’ve eliminated natural causes, so your husband was, indeed, murdered.  Have a nice weekend.  Bye now.”

Since ID can’t talk about the designer, then that’s the limit of what ID can do.  But it is not the limit of what science can do.

Science (forensic or otherwise) is based on repeatable results.  What happens here and now under these conditions will also happen in the future and happened in the past under the same conditions.

What state would forensic chemistry be in, if arsenic was only toxic on random days of the week?  What if sometimes, lead had too low a heat capacity to avoid being vaporized in by the explosion of gunpowder.

It’s not an assumption that chemistry and physics work the same way now as in the past and in the future.  It’s been tested for hundreds, in same cases thousands, of years.  A sickle always makes the same kind of wound when impacting the flesh of a vertebrate organism.  Botulism only lives in no oxygen conditions.  These aren’t assumptions, they have been tested, again and again and again.

And that’s how science (forensic or otherwise) works.  It’s also the antithesis of Intelligent Design, which says that at some point in time, some one did something that cannot be accounted for by non-supernatural methods.  ID must claim that some of the fundamental principles of science are wrong.  Not just evolution, but all science.  ID must call into question that everything always works the same way.

Otherwise, the designer can’t do anything.  For example, the ID notions of the creation of life are extremely variable.  Some claim that the designer created everything as is and only allows minor variations.  Some claim that the designer created everything as it was at the beginning of life on the Earth, then walked away.  Some claim that the designer meddles with DNA to create new species (or genuses or families) every now and again.  Some claim that every single thing born is expressly built by the designer.

Now, let’s apply that to forensics.  A body is found.  Death by natural causes is eliminated, so the death must be that of an intelligent agent.  Some will claim that the death is the direct cause of someone physically killing the person.  Some will claim that the person who builds guns is responsible.  Some will claim that the person who make chemicals in a refinery is responsible.  Some will claim that another person was designed to kill the dead person.  Some will claim all kinds of things.

And, as with the Designer, none of them will have any actual evidence.

Meanwhile, the forensic scientists will determine that the cause of death was a 9mm jacketed hollow point, fired from less than 5 feet away and from behind the person.  The gun was probably a pistol based on the penetration into the body of the fragments.  A cartridge found a few feet away from the body yields a finger-print.  Which is matched in a database of fingerprints.  The person whose fingerprint is on the cartridge recently purchased a Beretta92F using their Visa card from a local gun dealer.  The person also purchased bullets that match the cartridge from another store using a check.  It is discovered that the dead person owes a significant amount of money to the person who bought the gun.  The person’s fingerprints are discovered at the victim’s apartment which has been ransacked and valuable goods have been stolen and traded in at a local pawn shop.

This is a chain of evidence that can be followed.  Notice that the science case has the following:

Motive – the science case presents a reason for the events to have unfolded as they did.  While this is not absolutely required, finding the reason something happened is often a clue as to how it happened.  ID specifically rejects any attempts to find the motive.

Mechanism – the science case presents how the event occurred.  Whether by gunfire, changes in DNA, or gravitational accretion, science provides a mechanism.  Further, the mechanism is tested in a variety of ways to see if it makes sense, if it actually works, and if it can be repeated.  ID has not produced a mechanism for anything to occur in any way.

Evidence – the science case presents the evidence, how, why ,when, who, where.  Last night, in the library, with the candlestick, Mr. Plum killed Mr. Body.  ID specifically avoids questions about who, why, when, and where.  They claim only to be interested in how, but have not actually done anything to discuss this claim.

We can go even further than that.

Science (forensics and others) can combine evidence from many disparate events and fields into a coherent picture.  In the case I described above, there is physical forensics, accounting forensics, digital forensics, forensic engineering, forensic psychology, criminalistics, etc).  In the case of evolution there is evidence from paleontology, biogeography, geology, genetics, biochemistry, etc. etc. etc.

When presented as single pieces of information, the information may not point to anything useful.  For example, there are millions of Beretta 92Fs produced.  Just because someone purchased one does not make them the killer of the person above.  Likewise, just because you are owed money does not make you a killer.  However, putting all these pieces together results in a pretty specific picture.**

ID cannot do any of that.  There are not many disparate pieces of evidence.  In fact, there is not one single piece of positive evidence that any ID proponent has ever presented that was determined to be correct.

Last, but not least, the scientific evidence can be falsified.  All of the above could be perfectly true.  However, the person of interest was also seen by several people at a hotel in another town on the night of the murder.  He had paid for the hotel with his credit card and the signature on the hotel document matches his handwriting.

Regardless of other evidence, the person of interest couldn’t have killed the guy.

ID cannot make these kinds of statements, about the murder or about ID itself.  What would falsify intelligent design?  Supporting evolution won’t do it.  That’s a logical fallacy.  Only a prediction made by ID and subsequently shown to be wrong would do it.   First, ID makes no predictions.  Second, the claims made by ID proponents are shown to be wrong.  Since they aren’t predictions, they don’t really count as falsification, just ID proponents being wrong.

So you see, by comparing ID to a modern science, even one that ID proponents claim is based on ID, we can see that ID actually has nothing to do with the science of forensics.  The exact same thing applies to anthropology (another science that is claimed to be supportive of ID).

By expressly denying the who, how, when, and why, ID proponents expressly deny themselves any actual use for ID principles (if there were any).

* Of course, in OTHER areas of communication, the designer is expressly listed as the Judeo-Christian God.  But they say that only under duress in a court of law.  The writings, as has been previously shown on my blog, of the leaders of ID and the Wedge Document both show that ID is a Christian system whose express purpose is to replace science with theology.

** Note that I need to remind everyone that science does not provide ‘proof’ of anything.  That’s for math.  Anyone who says, ‘this proves my theory’ is not a scientist.  All anything can do is add supporting evidence.

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2 Responses to Why Forensic Science does not Support Intelligent Design

  1. Stuart Robbins says:

    “Of course, in OTHER areas of communication, the designer is expressly listed as the Judeo-Christian God. But they say that only under duress in a court of law.”

    They’ll also sometimes let loose when they think that they are in a vastly friendly audience and there won’t be any evilutionists listening.

  2. The exact method of forensic engineering investigation can be hard to dissect components and items without the need for destroying any data which may be contained within. Any individual to file, collect, as well as safeguard facts from the scene on the disputed occurrence is the forensic engineer.

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