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Am J Public Health. 2005;95 Suppl 1:S49-58.

Law's knowledge: science for justice in legal settings.

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  • 1John F Kennedy School of Government, School of Public Health, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, 79 JFK Street, Room L354, Boston, MA, USA.


Legal developments following Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc indicate a growing need to reevaluate the decision's fundamental assumptions about law, science, and their interactions.I argue that in Daubert and two successor cases, the Supreme Court misconceived both the nature of scientific practice and its links to legal fact-finding. The decisions endorsed a separatist model of law and science, pre-supposing a sharper boundary between the institutions than exists or should exist. A better approach is to recognize that law and science are both knowledge-generating institutions, but that fact-making serves different functions in these two settings. The important question for the law is not how judges can best do justice to science, but rather how courts can better render justice under conditions of uncertainty and ignorance.

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