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Saturday, September 22, 2007

DNA evidence in murder trials, but not in origins?

DNA contains, therefore, the ultimate forensic record of evolution.
This presents an interesting irony. Juries and judges are relying on DNA evidence to determine the liberty or incarceration, and life or death, of thousands of individuals. And it appears that citizens in the United States are 100 percent supportive of this development. Yet, in the court of public opinion, some 50 percent or more of the U.S. population still doubt or outright deny the reality of biological evolution. We are clearly more comfortable with DNA's applications than with its implications. Sean B. Carroll, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. New York: Norton, 2006. (p. 14)

I have begun reading the book indicated. Carroll's thesis seems to be as indicated by the quotation.

He is, clearly, on to something, but it isn't quite that simple. In the most famous murder case involving DNA evidence (that of O. J. Simpson) there was little question about the evidence, but the interpretation of the evidence was questioned, so much that the jury acquitted Simpson. In other words, his DNA was there. The question was "how did it get there?" (I claim no expertise as to what really happened -- I just want to make a point.)

Even if the evidence that humans share a great deal of our DNA with other primates, or some of it with, say, soybeans, is pretty compelling (and it seems to be) it is possible to suppose other explanations than a common descent. How plausible these explanations are is the question, of course.

Thanks for reading.

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