Recognizing a Biased Witness or a Biased Jury, Part 1

May 18, 2020

When assessing a claim, we often look at the testimonies of witnesses, including experts. But how can we tell if a witness is being biased toward one side or the other? Do we sometimes give too much weight to someone’s opinion just because they happen to have expertise in a certain area? And what about jurors—those whose responsibilities it is to come to a verdict? Can they be biased as well? Abdu will walk us through how to think about these issues. As we look at the claims and objections regarding spiritual claims, we have to be on the lookout not only for the biased witnesses, but also our own biases.

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Transcript



Please Note: The Defense Rests is produced to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Abdu Murray: All rise and welcome to another episode of The Defense Rests. This is a podcast where we take a look at the claims for, and the objections against the Christian faith from a legal perspective, using and employing the rules of evidence, trial procedure and the like, and how juries think, how judges decide the way they do, how lawyers present their cases, and finding out if the Christian faith, or any of the competing faiths, or even non-faiths, would fare under that level of scrutiny. I'm your host, Abdu Murray. And I'm so glad you joined us for this episode.

It occurs to me by the way, that it would be wonderful for you all to send in your objections or questions about objections to the Christian faith or any other faith for that matter. And the claims in favor of those particular faiths. You can send those in by interacting with me on social media. I have accounts on various social channels. You can follow me on Twitter, that's @AbduMurray, @ A-B-D-U M-U-R-R-A-Y. You can follow me on Instagram, which is @abdumurray12, you have to include the “one, two,” @abdumurray12 for Instagram. And then on Facebook, my public figure page at Abdu Murray. There's no numbers after that one, just at Abdu Murray, and you'll find my public figure page.

And when you do post something and you want me to address an issue, an objection or whatever it might be, include the hashtag #TheDefenseRests. We'll look at those and see what we can do about trying to respond to those from a legal perspective. And maybe your objection, maybe your question, maybe your issue, whatever it might be, will make its way into a future episode of The Defense Rests. So again, follow me on the various social channels and hashtag your comment or your question with #TheDefenseRests. And we'll see what we can do about getting your objection, or your issue, or whatever it might be, on a podcast in the future.

Well, what I want to address today in this episode is witnesses. Now, I don't mean how do we assess whether a witness is accurate or whatever. What I want to talk about is, “how do we assess the credibility or assess the bias of a potential witness who comes before us and how much weight we should be giving to their testimony?” Because most cases, the case for faith, whether it's Christianity or any other faith or non-faith for that matter, depends not on just one witness, but oftentimes a multiplicity of witnesses who are giving opinions, whether it's experience. So like a lay witness who doesn't have a particular expertise in a particular field, but has experienced something or witnessed a miracle or whatever it might be.

We have to weigh that against the counter perspectives of other witnesses. But they're also expert witnesses and we consult these all the time. In the fields of theology or in the field of discovering that Christianity is true or something else is true, we look at experts all the time. Whether it's people who have really studied their materials and don't have a whole lot of letters after their name, but they really know their stuff. Or they're people who have many, many degrees, sometimes multiple doctorates or whatever it might be in a particular field, whether it's science and engineering or it's the humanities or philosophy or history, whatever it might be. We employ the testimony, I should say, of experts all the time.

And there are experts and counter-experts. So we have to be able to find a way amongst many other methods to sift through and see who we find to be credible and who do we find to be, perhaps have gone beyond, what they should have gone beyond in terms of their opinions. And I want to address that today. How do we take a look at witnesses, lay witnesses, or expert witnesses to determine bias, and whether someone has gone too far beyond their expertise. Now you and I, in fact everyone, but you and I as audience members, and as me as the host of the show, we are the trier of fact. Now I am an attorney and I'm presenting a case, obviously in favor of the Christian faith, but I do want to try to be as unbiased as possible, but I'm convinced that the Christian faith is true after doubting it for so long, but you are the jury.

As you know, this is how we couch the entire podcast based on the fact that you, the listener, are the jury. You come up with your own conclusions based on the evidence presented and in what, with just my voice you hear, but you'll hear other voices. And you will certainly hear them during this particular episode. But you are, what's called in the legal field, the “trier of fact.” The trier of fact determines what are the facts and what conclusions ultimately should be reached. When you look at those facts, put them together, and say “what happened, or what does this all mean?” You are the trier of fact.

Now in jury trials, the jury is the trier of fact. In bench trials, where the judge decides the judge is the trier of fact. But the person who ultimately reaches the verdict, whether it's a civil case where you're found liable or not liable, or a criminal case where you're found guilty or not guilty, the person who decides that ultimate issue is the trier of fact. And in this case, you and I, or you specifically, as the audience members, you are the triers of fact. You make the decision on the ultimate issue in this case, which is, is there a God? What is he like? And what does it all mean?

Now, as I said before, you are confronted and we are all confronted with various expertise and testimonies of people who want to tell you how to think, or at least persuade you in one way or the other. And that is perfectly legitimate. That happens all the time. The question is, how are you, as a trier of fact, to sift through all this and determine who you think is actually credible? Have they gone too far? Have they gone beyond their expertise? Have they dazzled us with the number of letters after their names, and then given us the ultimate conclusion and taking that decision away from you as the trier of fact and said, you should decide like I decide because I'm impressive. I have a lot of letters after my name.

Sometimes that's legitimate, but sometimes it's not. And what I want to do in this particular episode is ask the question, “How do we determine whether or not we should give that level of weight to a witness, a lay witness, or an expert witness at all?” And for that purpose, I want to call to the stand Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is a very popular personality, a self-proclaimed agnostic. He is very skeptical that a good and benevolent God actually exists, but he's a very popular TV and radio personality. He's appeared on shows like The Big Bang Theory and other shows. He's a charismatic guy. He's a funny guy, but he's also an actual expert in the field of astrophysics. He is an astrophysicist and the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City.

He has authored many, many books and spoken on various topics, especially related to science. His education is quite impressive as well. From Harvard University is where he got his bachelor's degree and the University of Austin at Texas for post graduate degrees. And of course, Columbia University, where he got his PhD and he has done some postdoctoral work as well at Princeton University. So Dr. Tyson is an actual bonafide expert in the field of astrophysics and maybe the scientific method and these kinds of things. But I want to play a clip by calling him to the stand. I want to play a clip of a response he gave to another show's host when the show's host asked him, “Do you believe in God?” Here is Dr. Tyson's answer.

Speaker 2: Do you believe in God, the creator?

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: Me? So, yeah. So the more I look at the universe, just the less convinced I am, that there is something benevolent going on. So if your concept of a creator is someone who's all-powerful and all-good, that's not an uncommon pairing and powers that you might describe to a creator, all-powerful and all-good. And I look at disasters that afflict earth and life on earth, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, disease, pestilence, congenital birth defects. You look at this list of ways that life is made miserable on earth by natural causes. And I just ask, "How do you deal with that?" So philosophers rose up and said, "If there is a God, God is either not all-powerful or not all good."

I have no problems if as we probe the origins of things, we bump up into the Bearded Man. If that shows up, we're good to go. Okay? Not a problem. There's just no evidence of it. And this is why religions are called “faiths” collectively, because you believe something in the absence of evidence. That's what it is. That's why it's called “faith.” Otherwise, we would call all religions evidence, but we don't for exactly that reason. So given what everyone describes to be the properties that would be expressed by an all-powerful being in the gods that they worshiped. I look for that in the universe and I don't find it. So I remain unconvinced, but if you've got some good evidence, bring it, bring it, bring it. Okay. And so I don't lead with that information because what I believe should be irrelevant to anyone. It's not about me. It's about the real world.

Abdu Murray: Now you've heard this testimony and it is something we need to grapple with. We can't just dismiss it out of hand, nor should we. We wouldn't be respecting Dr. Tyson, nor would we be respecting the perspective that he comes to from this because he is entitled, whether he's a scientist or not, to opine about things that are even beyond his expertise, but there is something objectionable about this particular testimony. If this were offered to you and to me in a scientific perspective, in other words, saying, “As a scientist, I am very skeptical of God's existence,” he might say, “Because as I look out in the universe and it's trying to kill us, and it's so hostile to life, I can't see evidence of beneficence.” Why is this objectionable?

Well, I'll give you a couple of principles and we'll go into the specifics of why, because I want to justify that claim. I don't want to just say, “Objection!” and then, therefore discount him in some way. I want to point out why it's objectionable. A couple of principles. First is this, is that Dr. Tyson couches his answer in scientific terms. In other words, he cloaks his answer in a scientific veil when he begins it by saying, “As I look out into the universe, as I observe the universe.” Now why that's important is because Dr. Tyson is an astrophysicist. He's known for being an astrophysicist who examines the universe and comes to hopefully, scientifically founded conclusions about that universe.

So he started off his testimony by saying scientificky things, sciency things, which suggests that everything that follows from there will be based on a conclusion he reached as a scientist, but you'll notice something quickly. He didn't address anything scientific. He says, he looks out in the universe and sees that it is hostile for life. Now that could be a scientific claim or an opinion based on the science he sees or the facts he observes. But then he takes that and then extrapolates it into theology and philosophy. Two fields he is most definitely not an expert in.

He is entitled to his opinions on those. And we should listen to his opinions on those, but they are not entitled to any greater weight than your or my opinions on things. Because if neither you nor I is an expert in theology and philosophy, then we should take his views for what they are. The opinions of another person who is no more an expert in those fields than you or I. Just because he's a scientist, it doesn't mean that he can opine as an expert beyond his field. He can opine on those things as you and I would, but he can't opine on those things as an expert that is simply beyond his expertise.

Plus, he's doing this. You'll notice this, he, as a witness, whether a lay witness in this particular area, because he's not an expert or as an expert, he's trying to tell you what to decide. Now, there are some rules about this that are based in the Federal Rules of Evidence and every state that I'm aware of, or at least most states have a rule very similar to it that says that an expert can tell the trier of fact, you as the jury, their opinion on the ultimate issue, but they can't tell you how to decide it. They can't say you should decide this way. Here's my opinion, they might say, but you shouldn't decide. They can't tell you how you ought to decide a particular matter. And in this case, the question, the ultimate issue is, “is there a God out there?” Is belief in God warranted?

Now, why is that important? It's important because jurors often are dazzled by the pedigree of a particular witness. And that is human nature. All of us do this is to think of someone as an expert in one field. And therefore, because they're very, very smart, they must therefore also be an expert in all fields when the reality is, most experts are very narrow in their fields of expertise. Someone described to me getting a PhD as going a mile deep and an inch wide, as opposed to going an inch deep and a mile wide, you'd have a very narrow field you're actually studying.

Now you can gain expertise in other ways, of course, and I don't doubt that. I've had plenty of expert witnesses that I've employed or that I've interviewed, or that I have deposed in the course of my trial work to know that experts can have a wide range of knowledge, but in this particular instance, Dr. deGrasse Tyson is going beyond science and into a completely different realm. And he's entitled to, but the question is, does he tell you the ultimate issue? Does he use that expertise as a way to suggest you should decide to be an agnostic just like he is as well?

Now, this is interesting because deGrasse Tyson has stated on the record that he's not really interested in trying to convert people either to atheism or anything else. He just doesn't care, according to his views. Yet, I will tell you this. He is asked over and over again in multiple interviews on that I've ever heard him in or on TV shows or whatever it is. He does give his opinion that it's unlikely that there's a god, given the lack of beneficence with the lack of goodwill out there in the universe, as it were. So while he claims he doesn't care, he seems to talk about it an awful lot. And nothing's wrong with that. Nothing's wrong with that at all. It's just, we have to weigh these things in the balance.

Now, how do we decide these things? Well, the federal rules help us to decide whether a witness has gone beyond their expertise and also whether or not they're trying to take away from you, the jury, the decision you have to make on the ultimate issue. So Federal Rule of Evidence 704 specifically addresses this, and it says this, that an opinion that's offered by a lay witness or an expert is not objectionable, just because it embraces an ultimate issue. In other words, it's not objectionable just because the opinion of the expert is the defendant murdered the person or the company is liable for damages because the tie rod end broke or whatever it might be. It doesn't necessarily become objectionable on that basis alone.

In other words, an expert can tell you what they think happened and whether or not the person or company, whoever did the thing they're being accused of, but there is always an exception. And the federal rule does allow for an exception here. And it says that an expert witness cannot state an opinion about whether a defendant did or did not have a specific mental state that constitutes an element of the charge or of a defense. Those are left for the trier of fact alone.

In other words, an expert witness cannot say that there's a certain number of elements that the jury has to reach. Did you find A, B, C, or D? And if you find all four of those, then that means that the defendant did the thing he’s guilty of it. The expert can testify by saying that yes, I think that the defendant had the mental state that would qualify for condition B, which is mental state needed for first degree murder, like premeditation or malice of forethought or whatever it might be, or there were negligent or grossly negligent. That's testifying to their mental state.

Now that is for the jury to decide not for the experts to tell you. They can tell you they did the thing, but they can't tell you why they did the thing in other words. And of course that matters because it does extrapolate outside to, it says that the expert or the lay witness can only testify usually on a narrow specific thing. We have plenty of case law on this too. There's case law from California, from Michigan, from federal jurisdictions, that it is generally not appropriate for a lay or an expert witness to tell the finder of fact, again, that's the trier of fact, which is the jury, what conclusion they ought to reach or to testify to opinions that are based on issues reserved exclusively for the jury, such as the credibility of other witnesses.

There's one particular case that says that a doctor cannot pass judgment on the alleged victim's credibility, but using that in the guise of a medical opinion, because it's the jury's function to decide credibility. In other words, in this particular case, the idea would be that a doctor can impugn the credibility of another witness or the victim, but couching it in terms of something that sounds medical like, “oh, it's my medical opinion that such and such happened,” or “the victim isn't really sick or isn't really hurt in this particular way.” And they use that in a very slick manner to say, “I don't think this witness is telling the truth or the witness is incredible, or non-credible.” You see what's going on there, is that the judge and the courts are saying, you can tell us what you think happened. And you can tell us if you think the person was really a victim of X, Y, or Z crime, but you can't tell us if the witness is lying and then try to do that and sneak it in through a scientificky sounding kind of statement.

Now someone might say, “Wait a minute, hold on a second.” Don't we want the expert to testify about whether what he or she thinks actually happened or what the conclusion will be? Well again, yes and no. Sometimes a witness might have a particular kind of knowledge where they can tell us if something actually happened the way the prosecutor or the defense attorney or the plaintiff's attorney, or the defense attorney actually claims. But many times the witnesses are just telling us what they know about a small portion of the whole story, a small sliver of what's going on. That's usually the purview of expert witnesses. And when they testify beyond that, we get suspicious. This goes for expert testimony, maybe even, especially for expert testimony. See, in those cases, we should be cautious about whether we want an expert who can testify about something specific to tell us what our general conclusions should be.

We are each entitled, as I said before, to an opinion, based on the totality of the evidence to make up our minds. But oftentimes, an expert is not looking at the totality of the evidence as an expert. They're looking at a very narrow sliver of the evidence as an expert. They don't usually give opinions about the ultimate conclusions because their view is by definition narrow. Think of a forensic expert, for example, let's say they're trying to determine cause of death, someone died. And the question is whether they died by smoke inhalation or death by strangling before the fire or some other cause before the fire. So the body was found in a burnt apartment and the body is charred. And we can't tell just by looking at the person, did they die from smoke inhalation or from their burns, or did they die in some other manner as well? Because the body is so mutilated that we can't actually tell how the person necessarily died at first glance.

Well, it is perfectly within a purview of an expert forensics person, perhaps the medical examiner or someone else to say that we know that person did not die during the fire, but died before because their lungs and their trachea shows no evidence of smoke inhalation. We don't see it in their nasal passages. We don't see it in their lungs. We don't see it in their trachea. In other words, the person clearly wasn't breathing during the fire. Now that is perfectly logical. That is perfectly allowable and unobjectionable for an expert to say, this person did not die from the fire.

Now, maybe they have additional reasons to believe that the person died by strangulation. Maybe their hyoid bone is crushed, or they died in some other manner by poisoning or whatever it might be. That's perfectly fine. But if the expert has no additional facts like putting the defendant at the scene or these kinds of things and the expert would be going beyond their purview and opining on the ultimate issue of the case by saying, and I know the defendant is the one who strangled the person or poisoned them or whatever. That goes beyond the foundation laid for the expert testimony. And it is the decision on an ultimate conclusion saying that the defendant is responsible for the death or whatever it might be.

So that goes beyond that the expert's purview. So you can see the problem, right? The jury would be unduly influenced about the ultimate conclusion after the expert's name and their degree of specialization and the impressive number of letters behind their name and all the institutes they've worked for and all this, after all that's given to the jury, there's a temptation to just take their word for it because my goodness, that's a smart person or someone so specialized would surely know what they're talking about. And we would come to a conclusion outside the scope of that person's expertise, or even knowledge, personal knowledge based solely on their impressiveness. Now it's a case-by-case determination of course. It's not automatically inadmissible, but we should scrutinize it.

So let's address Dr. Tyson’s statement with that in mind. He's a scientist, he's a real scientist. He is a bonafide expert in astrophysics, but he begins his remarks with, "As I observed the universe," and then he continues on. So he's couching his answer in terms of science. It gives the impression to the jury, you, that what is going to follow after he makes that opening statement is an observation about whether there are scientific reasons or explanations to believe or disbelieve in God, but that's not what he actually gives.

After making some very general statements about the inhospitable conditions of the universe, he diverts immediately to philosophy or theology. He basically gives you the problem of evil. If God is all-good and God is all-powerful, we shouldn't see a universe that is so inhospitable to life where there's such a hostility. How he puts it is "I see no evidence, I remain unconvinced," he says "that there is an overall beneficence," with our sort of best interests in mind, given what he sees.

Now, what he sees might be legitimate. But what he comes to the conclusion about is the ultimate issue in the case. He opines on whether or not there is a God couching it in scientific terms, but really using philosophy. In some ways it's like the doctor whose testimony was excluded by the court because the doctor gave an opinion about the credibility of a victim with the seeming guise of a medical opinion, but really what the doctor was doing was masking his personal opinion about the credibility of a witness with medical sounding jargon. And that takes the issue of credibility away from the jury.

In this particular instance, I think that's what's going on here with Dr. Tyson. It sounds extremely impressive. And he comes at it with a scientific bent to start off with, but then diverts to philosophy. And if you don't notice the shift, you might be tempted to give his opinion more weight than it deserves. Now, I'm not saying it doesn't deserve any weight. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is it doesn't deserve any more weight than anybody else might give on that kind of a topic. Now, the reality is that given the strictures of a court of law and what evidence can be presented to a jury, that kind of testimony, it might not even make it to the jury. It might be deemed inadmissible because one, he goes beyond his expertise. So there's a foundation issue, but two, he actually tells the trier of fact, you and me, how to decide the ultimate issue in the case. He says he's agnostic, but he basically says you should be too.

Again, nothing illegitimate about that in terms of our pursuit of truth. But what I'm suggesting is that the rules of evidence suggest to us and guide us to say that we shouldn't give this any more weight than it is actually do. Because of this, you know, Dr. Tyson is a human being with an opinion about things outside of his field. Just like all of us, me included. When scientists make philosophical or theological pronouncements, they're going beyond their expertise. But they're entitled to make those philosophical and theological pronouncements. They just shouldn't be given any more weight than anybody else does.

I'm a lawyer, and I speak on science and faith all the time. I'm not a scientist. I don't pretend to be a scientist, but I can offer some observations. And when I do speak on matters of science, I try to stick to the ideas of what science can actually teach us, what faith can actually teach us, how they are complimentary. And then what I try to do is "leading scientists in particular fields to justify the conclusions that I have reached and then offer to the audience. These are the experts. These are people don't even agree with me. These are their opinions, scientific opinions, by the way, and the logical inferences they can draw from those scientific observations." And I suggest maybe we should think about whether or not there's a God in here. And I think the case is strong from science, that there is a God, but I'm not a scientist.

See what I've done is I've employed the expertise of scientists, some of the most well-known scientists in history who say things that suggest that maybe there is a designer to all of this, or at least they admit the possibility exists. I'm not using their testimony beyond what is appropriate. Now you might say, “But wait a minute Abdu, as a Christian apologist and someone who speaks on behalf of the Christian faith, aren't you trying to tell me what the ultimate conclusion is that I should reach as a trier of fact?” The answer is yes, absolutely. That's exactly what I'm trying to do because I was once a member of the jury too. I was skeptical of the Christian faith. I had a particular belief system that I embraced, but I wanted to put all of them to the test. And I amassed the opinions of experts and even the lay people and interpretations of the Bible and these kinds of things to come to my conclusions. But now that I have come to those conclusions, I'm an advocate in a particular way for a particular worldview, specifically the Christian worldview.

But you see, whenever you look at a case, whether it's the TV cases you guys watch or a real case when you walk into the court, you'll always see an attorney present the case to the jury and say, I want you to find the defendant guilty or not guilty or liable or not liable. And even tell in civil cases how much money they owe or whatever it might be. You see it is not beyond the purview of the attorney to say what you should decide, because they're trying to convince you one way or the other, but it is beyond the expert witnesses or the witnesses' purview to tell you how to decide, because that is your decision. You can determine whether the case I've presented or the counterclaims presented against what I've said or the defenses. You can decide if they've won the day or not. So it's not outside of my purview to do that as an attorney, but it is outside the expert witness's purview, or the witness's purview to tell you whether or not you should decide a certain way.

Now that leads me to discuss the idea of bias. So we've already determined that we ought not to give expert witnesses far more credibility than they should be given A, when they go beyond their expertise or B, just because they have a lot of letters after their name. Maybe they should be, but maybe they shouldn't be, we should weigh those things in the balance. But now one could infer that Dr. Tyson's immediate bait and switch, he goes from a generalized science-sounding statement that quickly turns into philosophy, that that bait and switch is evidence of a bias he might have. He's a committed naturalist, but he's also an agnostic and anything he sees that will point him in that direction is something he's willing to state.

Now he's claiming he's objective on these things. And maybe he is, I don't know his state of mind. And I wouldn't pretend to know what's in the man's mind or in the man's heart, but maybe not. And we, as the jurors are certainly or I should say you, as the jurors, are certainly entitled to ask the question about whether or not he maybe has a slant or a bias in giving his opinion. And the fact that he was so willing so quickly to go beyond his expertise might suggest that there's a bias there, but I want to be fair. Okay. I want to make sure I'm fair to Dr. Tyson because he wasn't being asked this. In fact, the question wasn't do you, as a scientist, believe in God? I think that's implied because he is a well-known scientist and he begins his statement as science-sounding, but let's assume the best in his intentions and say that he was just giving his personal opinion on whether God exists outside of his expertise.

That certainly is possible. And if that's the case, then he's entitled to it all the more. He's entitled to it anyway, but you give it the way you think it's actually due. But we often ask witnesses, especially expert witnesses, for the basis for their testimony in terms of the foundation. But we also ask for motivations. One of the things that we do during trials or before trials even, is we ask expert witnesses how much they're getting paid for their testimony, because many witnesses are getting paid for their testimony in terms of expertise. And some of them are not. Someone just are the medical examiner, for example, for the county. They're not being paid except for the county, they're being paid to decide to see what happened, but no particular party is paying them more to side with them as it were.

Now, nothing's wrong with that expert witness being paid for his testimony. It happens all the time. But we often ask questions like, “how often have they testified for the plaintiff or the prosecution or the defense?” Because if they tend to testify only for one side or 95% of the time, they testify for the plaintiff or for the defense. Well, we're entitled to tell the jury that, that this person tends to believe that everyone's always injured by drugs or chemicals or whatever it is, or the defendant's always guilty of a crime in certain ways. In other words, we're allowed to tell the jury about potential bias and the track record of that particular expert or the opinions they come to is evidence of that bias. Why? Because bias is a part of life.

It doesn't mean you're being dishonest or that you're lying, but that circumstances are such that a person tends to look at the world in a certain way. And usually, they see people as doing X or Y or they see the universe in a particular way that maybe they don't give God the benefit of the doubt or even a possible benefit of the doubt. That they're committed naturalists, or they don't allow for any explanations outside of their particular field. We ought to and we're entitled to discover that by examining the motivations of each witness, especially experts. For example, here's some testimony right from Richard Lewontin, it's famous statement, by the way, and you may have heard it before, but it definitely shows the bias Richard Lewontin has against any ideas that there could be supernatural explanations for things as opposed to natural things.

This is what he said in a review of Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science a candle in the Dark. He did this in the New York Review of Books in January of 1997. And here's what he says. "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment," he says, "a commitment to materialism." In other words, that stuff we see is all there is. There's no such thing as immaterial stuff.

"It is not that the methods," he goes on to say, "and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our priori," or out of the gate essentially, or very first assumptions and of "adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.'

Now that's important because he's basically said non-material explanations of things are simply not admissible because he's going to prior commitment to the scientific materialism that he has ascribed to. Now I'm all in favor of science, but I'm also in favor of being open to the evidence. And so an important point when we ask an expert witness, whether it's during the deposition or a trial was “what evidence were you willing to consider?” What evidence did you use to come to your conclusions? And if the fact is that a particular expert was unwilling to listen to, or give credence to a certain kind of evidence, just because it's the kind of evidence he does not like suggests that the witness just might be biased in favor of a one conclusion, which means that you and I ought to look at that testimony with perhaps if not a jaded eye, at least a skeptical eye.

Well friends, time is running out. And what I want to do in the next episode of The Defense Rests is make particular application to matters of faith, the credibility to New Testament, for example, or even the Old Testament, when it talks about the creation of the world and make application of the principles on expert testimony about lay testimony, about giving the ultimate issue as an opinion in the case or the issues of credibility as well. So stay tuned for the next episode to do that.

But in the meantime, do follow me on my social media channels at Twitter, Abdu Murray, it's @AbduMurray. At Instagram it's abdumurray12. You have to include the one, two, and on Facebook, just Abdu Murray, my public figure page. And when you do make a comment or bring your own objection, or want me to address a specific objection, remember to include the hashtag #TheDefenseRests, we'll take a look at them and maybe you will find your issue in another episode. So until next time, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is Abdu Murray and the defense rests.

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