An exploration of epistemological uncertainty in forensic science

Martin Evison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Voltaire wrote that ‘Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd’. Our Courts have long had the good sense to realize this and require the jury to find fact only beyond reasonable doubt. As science is an engine designed to eliminate uncertainty, the Courts turn in their deliberations to scientists. This presentation will examine the contemporary paradox of forensic science, which is that exciting developments—particularly in the field of DNA profiling—have been accompanied by a realization that many of the assumptions upon which many forensic sciences are founded are uncertain. Few forensic science sub-disciplines can approach the ‘gold standard’ of DNA. Some sub-disciplines may not even be science at all. The respective roles of the Universities and the profession in promoting academic research and education in forensic science will be considered. Despite their media image, forensic science and forensic medicine are academia’s ‘forgotten sciences’ upon which anyone’s fate may suddenly depend. A free society is founded upon the liberty of the individual. The presentation will contend, in conclusion, that the perpetual crises in policy and in administration in forensic science are signs of complacency unfitting of democratic societies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication19th International Association of Forensic Science World Meeting 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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