Every year in America, thousands of crimes occur in which there are no witnesses and very little evidence. Sometimes, the perpetrator leaves behind a fingerprint impression – a latent print -somewhere at the crime scene. In the past, these prints possessed little value in identifying the offender; before a comparison could be conducted, the police would have to already have a known suspect.
Today, law enforcement officers have access to much better technology, in the form of AFIS – the Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Maintained by the FBI, it houses the data for millions of fingerprint impressions, allowing an unknown latent print to be compared to millions of known offenders. In a matter of minutes, the AFIS computer can spit out the top twenty possible matches to the unknown latent print. But this is only the beginning of the analysis, because with only one latent print at the scene, there is but one actual source for the print. A trained analyst must then spend the time examining in fine detail the patterns of each suspect – the whorls and arches and loops, the ridges and furrows – to determine whether an exact match can be made. The top twenty possible matches have much in common, but on further examination, differences will emerge in the ridge pattern and detail until the one actual source can be identified.
So, what does this have to do with the field of apologetics? Just this: living as we are in very pluralistic times, we often encounter people who believe that all religions are basically the same…
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