DNA Mythology

“The best model for the validation work is DNA, which was delivered full-blown to the forensic labs after years of validation in university laboratories.” Nature News of July 22, 2010, credits “Thomas Bohan, director of Portland, Maine-based consultants MTC Forensics and a past president of the AAFS [American Academy of Forensic Sciences]” with this capsule summary of the history of DNA evidence. But it is a capsule that no one should swallow — and that should stick in the craw of the Forensic Science Service, the FBI, and the commercial laboratories that spent years doing validation studies for DNA profiling. Dr. Bohan’s view is no more believable than the story of Athena bursting forth from Zeus’s forehead fully armed with weapons. Forensic DNA typing began in the laboratory of Sir Alec Jeffreys. What emerged was a normal infant that had a long way to go before attaining maturity. For the true story of the slow and bitterly contested process of validation of forensic DNA science, see Aronson (2007) or Kaye (2010).


Jay D. Aronson Genetic Witness: Science, Law, and Controversy in the Making of DNA Profiling (Rutgers Univ. Press 2007)

David H. Kaye, The Double Helix and the Law of Evidence (Harvard Univ. Press 2010)

Laura Spinney, Forensic Science Braces for Change, Nature News, July 22, 2010, doi:10.1038/news.2010.369