Professor Stephen Hawking about "M-theory" and the creation of the universe. Many of the world's leading religions became very defensive when challenged by his view that it was "not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going" - ("The Grand Design" - Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinov - Bantam Press 2010). See Telegraph 3rd September - "Religious leaders dismiss 'God not needed' comments". Hawking considers that the universe could have been created because there is a law of gravity which would cause the universe to create itself. This is a fascinating debate and the views of Hawking are, as ever, both elegant and superbly expressed.
It is interesting to consider how physical science and law differ. Science strives for strict explanation or proof. The law does not usually have that luxury. Based on the information available, a legal decision maker forms an opinion. That may be an opinion that person A is guilty of some offence or that B and C are bound by a contract or that D acted in a negligent manner causing damage to E etc. The "information available" (i.e. the evidence) may come from a multitude of sources though it is often from witnesses who observed some event. The judges have set down various standards of proof for criminal and civil matters. In criminal cases, guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, proof on a balance of probabilities will suffice. Those standards have been explained in a number of appellate decisions and, in the application of the standards, opinion may properly differ. The result is that law, unlike strict science, is more akin to a complex form of art which exists for the general good order of society in which it is necessary to be able to resolve disputes in a reasonable manner.
Whilst there is an important overlap between science and questions of proof in law - (e.g. as in the use of forensic evidence) - it seems that science has to pursue rigorous proof because its fundamental purpose is to seek to explain why things are. The law exists for more practical purposes and this requires that, from time to time, there will be errors and proper processes must be in place to rectify, as far as possible, those errors. However, the law cannot have the luxury of existing in pure theory but must exist with a degree of imperfection though this should never lead to complacency.
As ever, the reflections of readers are more than welcome ....