Judging Science: Scientific Knowledge and the Federal Courts

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9780262561204: Judging Science: Scientific Knowledge and the Federal Courts
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Attempting to reconcile the law's need for workable rules of evidence with the views of scientific validity and reliability.

What is "scientific knowledge" and when is it reliable? These deceptively simple questions have been the source of endless controversy. In 1993, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling on the use of scientific evidence in federal courts. Federal judges may admit expert scientific evidence only if it merits the label "scientific knowledge." The testimony must be scientifically "reliable" and "valid." This book is organized around the criteria set out in the 1993 ruling. Following a general overview, the authors look at issues of fit--whether a plausible theory relates specific facts to the larger factual issues in contention; philosophical concepts such as the falsifiability of scientific claims; scientific error; reliability in science, particularly in fields such as epidemiology and toxicology; the meaning of "scientific validity"; peer review and the problem of boundary setting; and the risks of confusion and prejudice when presenting science to a jury. The book's conclusion attempts to reconcile the law's need for workable rules of evidence with the views of scientific validity and reliability that emerge from science and other disciplines.

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About the Author:

Kenneth R. Foster is Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

Review:

Anyone, scientist, jurist, or layman, will better judge the reliability of scientific results from reading the mosaic of quotations from experts, with annotations and expansions by the authors, that make up the core of this important book.

(Robert K. Adair, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Physics, Yale University)

This book will be very helpful for lawyers and judges, and for others who must evaluate scientific claims in the course of making policy decisions. It also would be a good resource book for courses in the philosophy of science, or in science and technology studies. Eminently readable an engaging, definitely original and well researched, it presents a view of science as the product of consensus and convergence that goes beyond anything in the current literature.

(Bert Black, Partner, Hughes & Luce, LLP)

One of the primary criticisms of the former Frye standard was that general acceptance was a crude, indirect gauge of scientific merit. In effect, the standard allowed judges and litigators to hide from science. Daubert now mandates that in assessing the admissibility of proffered scientific testimony, judges consider many of the same methods which scientists employ. In that light, this book will be highly useful to federal judges and litigators; they need to familiarize themselves with the very type of literature from which authors draw their experience. This book will make many of the leading scientific articles and texts far more accessible to federal judges and litigators.

(Edward J. Imwinkelried, Professor of Law, University of California, Davis)

This book will be a valuable resource for those who are interested in the intersection of science and the law. In this wide-ranging book, Foster and Huber have used the Supreme Court opinion in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals as a vehicle for a sophisticated discussion of what makes science good or bad and how the courts should assess whether an expert's testimony is admissible in court.

(Joseph Sanders, A.A. White Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center)

Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, scientific evidence has become one of the most speculative and subjective components in American litigation. Foster and Huber's impressive book documents these numerous transgressions against scientific norms with a wealth of case studies. Judging Science will establish the frames of reference for the current debate over promoting scientific objectivity in the courtroom.

(W. Kip Viscusi, Cogan Professor of Law and Economics, Director on The Program on Empirical Legal Studies, Harvard Law School)

Judging Science is informative and scholarly, yet engagingly written, free of the jargon that often mars legal and scientific writings. The authors have an effective grasp of the ways of science and its use in the courts of law, and do explain it all with clarity and depth.

(Francisco J. Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine)

This scholarly volume tackles what may be the toughest dilemma facing courts in the twenty-first century: How do judges and juries separate genuine, reliable scientific evidence from political and social commentary masquerading as science? The answer to this question affects almost every aspect of human existence, from the quality of our doctors and reliability of our drugs, to our ability to tell the guilty from the innocent. The book will serve as a beacon to judges and lawyers who must struggle to find their way in this wilderness.

(Alex Kozinski, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit)

Foster and Huber brilliantly illuminate the landscape of courtroom debates about the consequences and uncertainties of using science and technology in society. This tour de force is both a practical guide for citizens and journalists as well as a path-breaking clarification for judges and policy analysts.

(Rodney W. Nichols, President and Chief Executive Officer, New York Academy of Sciences)

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