Susan Haack


There haven't always been scientific witnesses: in fact, there haven't always been witnesses. In early medieval times, courts relied on tests by oath, ordeal, and sometimes by combat. Here, Haack provides a brief historical background to the use of scientific experts in law and then proceeds to discuss in greater detail the values underlying scientific inquiry, the uncertainty in the quest of knowledge and understanding, and the methods by which consensus is reached, even if that consensus is always tentative. She then contrasts scientific inquiry with the law's quest for "truth" in the courtroom and, particularly, the normative and temporal considerations that drive legal decision making. She also emphasizes the selection process by which adversarial lawyers selectively choose experts who will offer evidence congruent with their clients' positions, often producing evidence that is "marginal" to mainstream scientific thinking.

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