Most of us have at least glanced at the work of Dick Wolf, the originator of Law and Order. Many are fans to an almost fanatical respect. Something about the process of solving crimes excites the public. For this reason, very few episodes contain direct eye witnesses. Where is the fun in that? By the time the trial is over, viewers have their bets placed and eyes glued to the screen. In company, the result of the trial can lead to fierce debate over the verdict.
This guilty pleasure is not confined to a single demographic. Christians, atheists, Buddhists, and anyone else who enjoys crime drama and can handle the sexual and violent content can enjoy Law and Order equally. However, for a moment focus in on a special demographic, Creationists. Interestingly enough, many who cannot handle the gore of television are still in favor of the death penalty, depending on their interpretation of a 2000 year old paperback. Others are against the death penalty, but for life imprisonment. Many believe in the infallibility of the Bible.
The trials of O.J. Simpson and anyone else who could afford Johnny Cochran have shown the cracks and weaknesses within the judicial system. However, there is still the concept of a fair trial even with mostly circumstantial evidence.
Law and Order focuses on the two major aspects of the law: finding the culprit and prosecuting him or her. If one fails, so does the other. The methodology of the forensic scientist, however, is vaguely familiar. With given evidence, they form a hypothesis. As evidence piles up, the credibility of one hypothesis builds over another. There are many potential falsifications of the hypothesis, such as finding a new set of fingerprints. However, predictions tend to be dubious in police work.
The judicial system establishes that a criminal theory can be shown true beyond a reasonable doubt without anyone witnessing the event. The credibility of a well-established theory is powerful enough to warrant the death sentence.
Yet, there is a gear shift that occurs whenever detectives are compared to scientists. The very same people who agreed or disagreed with the prosecutor’s hypothesis will say that no amount of evidence will convince them that evolution occurred. Ironically, a common attack is to ask if the Evolutionist was present to witness the beginning of life.
To further the irony, the methodology of the detective is inferior to that of a biologist. Although a detective can establish a solid base of evidence, testing the hypothesis is much more difficult. Usually, the limited amount of evidence also weakens the position of any criminal hypothesis.
The comparison between Evolutionary Theory and most notable cases is ridiculous. The circumstantial evidence of Scott Peterson’s verdict allowed for the death penalty, but the Tiktaalik, a part fish and part tetrapod fossil, or the Archaeopteryx, a dinosaur with feathers and wings, means nothing. Every person who says O.J. did it relies on the very same genetic evidence that is used for common descent. Paternity testing, which decides many civil cases, is even more directly linked to evidence for common descent. No problem is found with estimating the time of death due to body features, but synchronized dating of multiple radiometric particles is “unreliable.” Claiming scientific theories have failed in the past is the same as arguing no judicial decision can be correct if previous decisions have failed.
The final twist to Creationists who support the death penalty is the rate of mistakes. Genetic evidence, again a basis of modern evolutionary theory, has saved the lives of many criminals condemned on circumstantial evidence, a concept non-existent in the scientific method.
How does a Creationist reconcile this view with a literal Bible interpretation? The two are not separable. To believe evidence is powerful enough to sentence life imprisonment or even death and then say evidence proves nothing in science is a blatant contradiction. If one is unreliable, it is the work of detectives. Though forensic results are slowly becoming more accurate, just like scientific theories, the predictive powers and generalizations possible through scientific theories create higher credibility then a smoking gun or bloody glove.
The ultimate answer is that he can’t. Even if the Creationist assumes the Bible is true on faith, he is contradicting himself if he refuses scientific evidence while accepting criminal evidence. When faced with this situation, any Creationist who cannot reconcile this position yet maintains both faith in “God” and the justice system admits to willful ignorance. One way out of this logical paradox is for Creationists to no longer judge anyone suspected of a crime. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that, just as we have no need to discover the origin of man through science, there is no need to catch the murderers, thieves, and any other criminal divinely fortunate enough to kill all present witnesses.