Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rush to Judgement

A lot of the talk surrounding the recent presidential campaign was about judgement. Did Obama's connection with Bill Ayers show bad judgment? Was McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running made poor judgment?

Actually, everything is about judgement. We use judgement constantly, all day every day. Everything we do voluntarily, from getting out of bed to making business decisions, involves judgement. In fact, the new field of behavioral economics has much to say about how our conscious and unconscious brains collaborate in this decision-making process. The long and short is that our judgement is not always rational, and there are a host of biological and environmental factors that contribute to how we choose.

So, given that our judgement is so subjective and fragile, doesn't it make sense to use objective data and criteria when possible? Heck, even baseball now uses instant replay to augment the umpire's decision-making.

So shouldn't DNA evidence, where available, be a right of accused and convicted people in criminal cases.

2 comments:

Ruth McNally Barshaw said...

DNA as evidence has worried me ever since I heard about chimeras.
A chimera could be found guilty when innocent (mother accused of welfare fraud since her children couldn't possibly be hers, because of DNA evidence, but later it's found she IS their birth mother and is a chimera, which explains the DNA difference) and a chimera could be found innocent when actually guilty. DNA isn't foolproof.
Is there a way around this?

Peter Davis said...

Yes, I think it was Einstein who said: Every day, man is making bigger and better fool-proof things, and every day, nature is making bigger and better fools. So far, I think nature is winning.

So it's important to know when DNA evidence is reliable, and when it's not. But that's how science has always worked. We advance our knowledge a little bit, and that raises new questions and doubts.

Thanks,
-pd