When experts disagree


By Stephen J. Watkins

What happens in a court case when experts disagree? It occurs all the time and the answer is straightforward: the experts must act reasonably, trying to reach as much of a shared understanding as they can, and giving honest, balanced evidence. Then the judge of fact, be that the judge or a jury, must decide which view to accept.

But suppose that the question at issue is not the application of a shared body of knowledge to a difficult situation, but rather scientific truth itself? Should a jury decide scientific truth? Science does not advance because scientists are right. It advances because every true scientist has at the core of her soul a passionate belief that she might be wrong. The legal profession does not share this belief. It deals in certainties and in finality. Faced with scientific dissent, it believes the dissenters are, at best, misguided. Otherwise, why would they deny what everybody in their discipline knows to be true?

page: 169 – 175
Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 35, Issue 5
SKU: 350510

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