“Time has come to speak of many things,” said the Walrus, “of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings.” The refrain seems to ring through my head as I try and figure the best way to introduce the similar standards of philosophy and the FBI. Surely nothing as far apart as cabbages and kings can be found apart from philosophy and the FBI. In truth, however, they are very similar, very similar indeed. Each strives to come to truth along a pathway of evidence. Each must rely upon Logic to connect the evidence, for evidence is often just a brief snapshot along a long chain of unobserved actions and reactions. Evidence becomes the dots of known facts. Logic is the line that we draw between the dots. With it we create reason from abyss, cohesion from a fractured tablet.
I say “we” because Investigative or Scientific Method applies to everybody, of course, and not just to philosophers and Feds. The purpose of accentuating philosophy and the Feds is to highlight that the overall criterion applies across an apparently unconnected spectrum.
Circumstantial evidence is powerful for those who know what it really is. It is not “colorable facts” like a suspect being in the same city where the murder took place. It is evidence that links the suspect to the circumstances of the crime in question. If I come across a murdered body in a room and find your bloody fingerprint nearby I have circumstantial evidence. I didn’t see you do it, so I can’t say you did it. But I have direct evidence that you were there, that you stuck your finger in the victim’s blood and then touched an item nearby. This evidence links you to the circumstances of the crime. Maybe you were an idiot who found the body, nudged it, discovered the blood, panicked and foolishly ran. On the other hand? Weave this together with eyewitnesses who saw you near the premises, uncover a motive, and essentially a jury will hang you. Short of a direct eyewitness or undisputed film, most everything else is circumstantial. This includes DNA. It’s like a fingerprint on a gun. It’s circumstantial. It proves you were there. A fingerprint proves you touched the gun. It doesn’t prove you pulled the trigger.
For very old cold cases it is probably impossible to find circumstantial evidence that will without a doubt link any suspect to the crimes. That does not, however, leave us without a body of facts by which we can assail the case. So long as we have a few dots, we can uncover more.
Logic connects all things, facts and actions. It is the inescapable mirror of all motives. Motives and actions are encrypted into clues and they are deciphered in the same way.
Logic is inescapable.
Yet Logic is sometimes a thin breakable strand. This is because Logic is merely a criterion: the conclusions we make must be supported by the reasons we give. Without deduction, without conclusions being itemized and supported by reasons provided, there is no logic. There is no way to even determine if a statement is logical. Statements become merely statements, dictums, arbitrary blurts. Events and evidence merely become Factoids, those ghastly bloated ticks that obscure context with the world of hype and hyperbole. What use is that in a world that seeks truth?
If something isn’t Science, it’s Philosophy. That’s about as dynamic as the pie of curiosity gets. Science connects facts to build greater houses of knowledge. Logic uncovers the facts to begin with, and then governs how the houses of knowledge are built.
Therefore you see that even with old cases we still have a chance to uncover the criminal. Facts are the footsteps that reveal to us the path and at the end of it the criminal.
Philosophy is not a “mindless” pursuit. In many way it is the science of thought. It is this because it deals in the space between known facts. The mind by Logic must fill in the gaps and find the next dot. It is the power behind discovery. It is the detective’s sword. Philosophy was and is a course in university that requires (in many instances) both in America and Britain that the student has done well in mathematics. Some British schools require some level of calculus in your 6th Form before being able to major at university in Philosophy. Amazingly, the same standard applies to FBI agents. It’s just a little stricter. Prospective agents must have an Associates Degree is Accounting first. There is a simple reason, and a very logical reason. Logic is deductive. Math itself is obviously inexorably deductive. Excellence at math reflects a quickly deductive mind. Mathematics will also continue to hone the mind to keep it deductive.
Police may sometimes huff and condemn FBI agents as nothing but “glorified bean counters,” but one can now understand the reason why the one major academic requirement the FBI has is an Associate’s Degree in Accounting. They are investigators. They are to root around and find all the evidence and then logically connect it and come to the revealing conclusion. Until J. Edgar Hoover, the Feds weren’t even allowed to carry guns. They were purely unarmed investigators.
In Philosophy, one is trained to look for words that indicate conclusions are coming based on what was just presented as premises. Words such as “therefore,” “thus,” “such,” “so,” “if so,” “if then,” are examples. The standards of both philosophy and investigation are obviously the same: Logic. Logic is the standard of all rational communication. Our conclusions must be supported by the reasons we give. The actions we take must be an outcropping of the evidence, motives, and known facts. Any investigator must be careful not to overlook any clue. To do so is the same as if a digit is overlooked in a math equation. The sum will be skewed.
The greatest difficulty facing any investigator (or any person seeking to come to the truth of a matter) is to train the mind to allow it to follow its normal processes without hindrance. An inquiring mind follows certain steps. The mind must not be trained to follow these steps. It naturally will. It must be trained to avoid straying from this path because of stereotypes, bias, and preconceived ideas. The mind naturally follows this sequence:
Observe, Classify, Infer, Interpret, Measure, Predict, Questions, Hypotheses, Experiment, Model Building.
These 10 steps are vital. They are not proof. They are mandatory steps toward proof. Only the most ignorant mind opposes any of these steps with the cliché of the TV detective yarn: “But what proof do you have?” When investigators infer, when they engage in questions (both in their own mind and of others), when they form hypotheses, they are proceeding to truth. They are on the path, facing each fork in the road with these steps. There is a reason why Einstein said that Science “is merely the refinement of everyday thinking.” He knew well of these 10 Process Skills. For those who hear of the much vaunted “Scientific Method” without knowing exactly what it is, it is these 10 Process Skills of Scientific Inquiry. They are not so elevated when one realizes they are the steps that each mind takes when tackling life’s most simple or complex problems.
We must keep this in mind in every crime scene and in every cold case we investigate, and in the general crime spree. We must look at the individual tiles of evidence and the greater mosaic that they together create.
No law is written against the victim but against the perpetrator. There is no law “Thou shalt not be killed” but rather “Thou shalt not kill.” The criminal is the hunter. When you hone your search by logic, the criminal becomes the hunted and you the hunter. It is then that you discover the mistakes he made. It is then that crime will wither.