What CSI Tells Us About Our Desire for Truth

CSII recently read a post by Jill Carattini of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. In the post she discusses the reason for the popularity of forensic criminal science dramas on television such as CSI, NCIS and Bones.

The shows center around the desire to find out what really happened to the victim and to bring the murderer to justice. The investigators are driven to solve the mystery through scientific investigation.

What is behind the popularity of these shows? Jill sees part of the answer to this in the need to find truth in the midst of the cacophony of opinions that are in the market of ideas. She writes:

In a world where truth is subjected to the murkiness of taste and opinion, the attraction to a self-evident, one-dimensional truth is understandable. All the lofty humility of the abstract pluralist cannot beautify the noise of a million clashing voices and truth claims; eventually, we grow weary of the end product and seek a less polluted scene. In the words of the illustrious detective Joe Friday, “All we want are the facts.”

This seems right to me. When I have watched these shows, I want the truth to win out and I want the bad guys caught. I assume that this is also true for other viewers and at least a partial explanation of the popularity of these shows. For one hour my world becomes increasingly ordered and the truth is determined and acted upon as the drama is played out.

But where does this desire for truth and justice come from? Apart from the Judeo Christian world view, we are taught that there is no absolute truth; each of us has to make up our own truth. If this anti-god philosophy is true, why then would we care if the truth about a particular murder is found out? What difference does it make? Why invest any energy and resources into solving it?

Could it be possible that in spite of the anti-god bias of much of our educational system, we still desire ultimate truth? We are told that the world is grey. Do we want black and white, right and wrong, good and bad?

I think we do. Perhaps the popularity of these dramas highlights the disconnect between our stated philosophy and the way we live. Even those who most vociferously denounce moral absolutes will call the police when they find they have been robbed. We can’t live as if truth doesn’t matter.

The problem in western society is in determining which truth is the one that we will follow. Science, as it is taught us in the public schools, tells us that the truth can be determined without the aid of God or the Bible. We are taught that the Big Bang started a chain of events and random mutations that resulted in humans living on a planet perfectly suited to their existence. If we are the products of random events apart from any supernatural aid or governance, then we are free to choose our own morality and it is up to humans to determine what is right or wrong.

On what basis then do we condemn Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson or Bernie Madoff? On what basis is my truth better than Herr Hitler’s if we are products of time plus chance? Herr Hitler did what he thought was right for himself and for his country. Yet, with the exception of those whose minds are clouded by hatred of the Jews, Adolf Hitler’s actions are universally condemned.

Perhaps the popularity of dramas like CSI is a clue that we desire absolute truth, and we can find comfort, for one hour at least, that someone is in control and truth will win out.

For those of us who are Christians, we follow the one who claimed to be The Truth. If you are open to it, I suggest you examine his claims. The end result is way better than just catching the bad guy.