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The Scientific Method Versus Scientific Evidence In the Courtroom

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the pi-is-exactly-three dept.

The Courts 140

An anonymous reader writes "A few months back, the National Research Council and the Federal Judicial Center published the Third Edition of the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, the primary guide for federal judges in the United States trying to evaluate scientific evidence. One chapter in particular, 'How Science Works,' written by David Goodstein (Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at CalTech), has raised the issue of how judges should see science in the courtroom: should they look at science to see if it matches our idealized view of the scientific method, or should they consider the realities of science, where people advocate for their own theories far more than they question them?"

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Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (5, Informative)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773575)

realities of science, where people advocate for their own theories far more than they question them

If you're in a courtroom, you should ALWAYS assume than anyone presenting evidence has an agenda (because they almost always do). No defense or prosecution attorney is going to put a scientist (or any other witness) on the stand who is going to do anything but advocate for their version of the case. Any judge who isn't completely new or blind already knows that well.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773611)

I would think a blind judge would know it better than a deaf judge.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773993)

Blind judges can cause problems though:

We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, sat down. Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog. And then at 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, 'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and the judge wasn't going to look at the 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (2)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774255)

Blind judges can cause problems though:

We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, sat down. Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog. And then at 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, 'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and the judge wasn't going to look at the 27 8x10 colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.

Sir, you clearly belong on the Group W bench...

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774425)

...and those holding 7-digit /. ID's go "What?" [smirk]

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775453)

That's hardly fair. I know enough to surrender my shoelaces so that I won't hang myself for littering. It's a Thanksgiving classic as much as 'A Wish for Wings that Work' is a Christmas classic.

Your post makes me so mad I wanna kill... I wanna kill... I want to see dead burnt bodies with blood and gore and veins in my teeth - I wanna kill!

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774839)

Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?

Jury selection.. (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775237)

Always try for the lowest common denominator!
"They" (Jury consultants/prosecutors) don't like..
People with post graduate educations
Lawyers
Professionals
Law enforcement officials

"They" (prosecutors) do like..
Welfare moms
The elderly
Blue collar white males

Why? Because "They" are always looking to find the most malleable people who will find the way that the prosecutor leads them!

Re:Jury selection.. (3, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775737)

If you think geezers are malleable, I got some news for you, son. It's the young who are malleable, the old are set in our ways. Hell, my dad won't even use a cell phone or a computer. "I did without those things for eighty years and I don't need 'em now."

And prosecutors don't like welfare moms. Prosecutors don't want ANYBODY poor in the jury, especially if it's a drug case (and most criminal cases are drug cases).

Blue collar males? I see you've never seen the inside of a working class bar. Nearly every one smokes pot and hates the government.

Re:Jury selection.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776879)

"They" (Jury consultants/prosecutors) don't like..

Prosecutors and defendants alike try to get as many uninformed idiots as possible. My co-worker was dismissed from a jury because he had a PhD in Chemistry and the defense's argument hinged on convincing jurors that this "science mumbo-jumbo" the police used to detect alcohol in a glass was not credible.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777003)

C'mon, this is Slashdot. At least post the corrected version [hactrn.net] :

We walked in, sat down. Ann came in with the RP06 disk pack with the 27000 pages with the comments and the -READ-.-THIS- files and a two liter coffee mug, sat down. Esther Felix comes in says "All rise", we stood up, Ann stood up with the 27000 page RP06 pack, and Dave Clark comes in with an IBM PC. He sits down, we sit down, Ann looks at the IBM PC. Then at the 27000 page RP06 pack, then at the IBM PC, then at the 27000 page RP06 pack, and began to cry, because Ann had come to the realization that it was a typical case of 36 % 8 == 4 and that there was no way to display those last four bits, and that Dave wasn't gonna look at the 27000 pages of core dumps and photo files on the RP06 pack with the comments and -READ-.-THIS- files explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (3, Insightful)

willpb (1168125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774219)

FTFA

Scientists, even those in the “hard” sciences that are based primarily on empirical observations and mathematical analysis, have their own dogmas, prejudices, incentives, and conventions.

When it comes to science in the courtroom.

Objectivity is out. Testability is out. Keeping an open mind is out. Skepticism is right out. The appeal to authority is not a logical fallacy but fundamental to science.

All you need is an expert in the field who shares your opinion and has a plausible theory that can sway jurors or create a reasonable doubt.

This is also why people with expertise in a field pertaining to the case are frequently excluded from a jury pool. For example they don't usually want an accountant who already knows what embezzlement is to be on the jury etc. Lawyers don't want an intelligent jury, they want one that will believe their expert witnesses.

Everyone has an agenda, yes, but... (1)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774657)

...when you have a scientist discussing something for which there is overwhelming consensus in one of the hard sciences, agendas and prejudices may be present, but to a far lesser degree than one might find with, say, a handwriting expert who declares "Yep. That's so-and-so's handwriting."

I Simply Don't Agree with You (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773735)

If you're in a courtroom, you should ALWAYS assume than anyone presenting evidence has an agenda (because they almost always do).

I don't really agree with this. It's the lawyer's jobs to try to find a scientist somewhere who will vouch for their client or could provide evidence for the client. Now, ideally the scientist is from some other place that never heard of this case or knows anything about the case other than what he/she is an expert on. The science has been done long before hand, is sound, has been peer reviewed, etc, etc. The problem that I garnered from this article is when an "expert" is presented yet they are not peer reviewed, their science is not sound, nobody in their community takes them seriously, their degree is a hundred years old or questionable, etc, etc. Or they know a lot about the case and they have stepped forward to voluntarily promote their agenda to back their science by building credibility via high media courtroom cases.

The point is that when scientists come into a courtroom as expert witnesses (or really any expert witness), the only agenda on their mind should be to relate to the court what they have discovered in their research. Not how much more funding they'll get when this hits the papers. Not how much the defense is paying them to say that in their professional opinion the client is insane.

This is about the validity of science presented in trials, not whether or not the defense or prosecution as an agenda. I don't think that's ever been under question or they're a terrible defense/prosecution and the client should move for a mistrial. Psychological testimony has gotten so far out of hand that some states have taken extreme measures [io9.com] .

Re:I Simply Don't Agree with You (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774107)

The point is that when scientists come into a courtroom as expert witnesses (or really any expert witness), the only agenda on their mind should be to relate to the court what they have discovered in their research. Not how much more funding they'll get when this hits the papers. Not how much the defense is paying them to say that in their professional opinion the client is insane.

While a nice idea, it doesn't seem to happen that way in practice. There are lists of professional experts whose slant on the subjects known prior to their being hired (and remember, they're hired). In many jurisdictions and in many fields, it doesn't take a whole lot of research, experience or much else to be an 'expert'. Since it works for both sides, you tend to get dueling experts and the jury is expected to make an informed decision based on the intricacies of their testimony and not on their showmanship, friendliness or appearance. Righto.

The scientific method and the legal method don't really mesh well most times. 'Science' very rarely produces black and white results. Shades of grey are tough to get across to lay people.

It's all in the presentation (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774605)

The scientific method and the legal method don't really mesh well most times. 'Science' very rarely produces black and white results. Shades of grey are tough to get across to lay people.

But on TV, they just push a few buttons and the security camera footage clearly shows the criminal doing the deed. And there's always irrefutable forensic evidence too, like special kinds of mold that are only found in a 3 block radius of the criminal, car tire marks that can be individually matched to a specific make and model of car, and all done with detectives that love their country and spend all their time bringing murderers, rapists, and child abductors to justice, all while tossing off one-liners that make them sound smart, educated, and likeable.

And the really guilty ones ask for a lawyer. You just know when someone asks for a lawyer or invokes their fifth amendment rights they're guilty as fuck, and they'll just sit there smiling like that alone gets them a get out of jail free card. Hero Detective will just lump on ten times more evidence against them before the next commercial break, maybe bending or breaking a few rules or contacting Mystery Person X from Government Agency Y to really dig into said dirtbag.

When you consider how most people are shown how science operates within the criminal justice system, and how little there is to contradict that, why is the result at all surprising? It's not that science is hard to explain to lay people, it's that their expectations have been manipulated by fictional events and popular entertainment; And even on things like the news we see things like "Space shuttle was travelling at 17 times the speed of light before it exploded". And in cases where science runs up against a popular misconception like fluorinated water, vaccinations, homeopathic remedies, etc., the media gives "equal" time to opponents of science. Look at how many media people start by asking the scientist invited to their show "Do you believe in evolution?"

When the nature of the average person's exposure to science is muddied up like this, it's no surprise people fall back to the one thing they do trust: Their own personal biases and emotions regarding the person to form their opinion regarding their credibility.

And gee, who's going to win; the guy in a suit and tie, balding, and still looks like he's in the marines, wearing some wire-rimmed glasses and with 20 years "on the force", or the 27 year old with a clip-on, who talks with an unsure voice and uses words you don't understand, and crumbles under cross-examination by a lawyer who's every question ends with "Are you sure?" and "and remember, you're under oath."

Re:I Simply Don't Agree with You (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774855)

I agree with eldavojohn; a good judge should never assume anything. He/She needs to hear the expert testimony on its own merits. Its the job of the prosecution and defense to refute whatever an opposing expert has to offer, not the judge.

Re:I Simply Don't Agree with You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777169)

Which is awesome, unless you're talking about a jury trial. The judge can instruct the jury as much as he wants, but a jury is still composed of untrained laypeople.

Depends on the field, and depends on the subject (2)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775111)

Ask a physicist about what was there before the Big Bang, and you're almost certain to get a personal slant in his or her answer. Ask a medical researcher about the Germ Theory of Disease, and you can pretty much take what he or she says to the bank. The difference between the two is a little thing called a "scientific consensus". If the consensus is strong (say, 90% from the relevant field), then the likelihood of personal bias/agenda/conspiracy/whatever is driving the answer is vanishingly small (although still a nonzero number).

The paid experts people are mentioning in this thread are often expressing opinions that have little to do with scientific consensus (e.g. handwriting experts expressing an opinion on a particular piece of handwriting).

Re:Depends on the field, and depends on the subjec (2)

Troed (102527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777143)

Ask a physicist about what was there before the Big Bang, and you're almost certain to get a personal slant in his or her answer. Ask a medical researcher about the Germ Theory of Disease, and you can pretty much take what he or she says to the bank. The difference between the two is a little thing called a "scientific consensus". If the consensus is strong (say, 90% from the relevant field), then the likelihood of personal bias/agenda/conspiracy/whatever is driving the answer is vanishingly small (although still a nonzero number).

The psycholist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman makes mincemeat of that statement in his latest book, "Thinking, fast and slow". He calls it availability cascades, where the consensus view becomes the norm without having to be anywhere close to fact, and the scientists who do try to practice the scientific method get the silent treatment (or worse, become labelled deniers etc).

In short, "consensus" has nothing to do with science. It has a lot to do with psychology.

Re:I Simply Don't Agree with You (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775341)

It's the lawyer's jobs to try to find a scientist somewhere who will vouch for their client or could provide evidence for the client.

I personally believe that it should not be the lawyer's but the court's jobs to find experts to testify in any case, be it civil or criminal. That's how it works over here in germany, and it meshes very well with the loser pays system, since the experts' as well as the lawyers' costs simply depend on the amount of the damages to be decided, or the type of case.

Re:I Simply Don't Agree with You (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778799)

Really, it's more a matter of being shopped for than being a liar for hire. If 99 out of 100 experts would agree that the evidence supports the defendant, the prosecution will bring in the other one and vice versa.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774069)

If you're in a courtroom, you should ALWAYS assume than anyone presenting evidence has an agenda (because they almost always do).

It's not so much the lawyers presenting the 'evidence' you have to worry about; it's the unqualified 'expert witnesses' who are allowed to testify, even though the only thing they're experts in is getting certified as an expert witness. [pbs.org]

Calling our modern judiciary the "justice" system is the biggest, least funny joke in American history.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774555)

Yeah, I came to that conclusion a long time ago (only due to reading about different cases, not experience). It is not a court of justice, it is more a court of law.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775351)

Calling our modern judiciary the "justice" system is the biggest, least funny joke in American history.

That's why it's called the criminal justice system. It is indeed.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776415)

Calling our modern judiciary the "justice" system is the biggest, least funny joke in American history.

That's why it's called the criminal justice system. It is indeed.

+1 Zing!

fembots sue in court? (1, Offtopic)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774085)

from the ftfa:

Defense lawyers think judges too easily allow in “junk science” from plaintiffs, citing the silicon breast implant litigation, which resulted in over $3 billion in settlements

darn those silicon breast implants - causing complications with the fembot machine gun boobies!

Re:fembots sue in court? (1)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778463)

who flagged this as off topic? It's a humorous statement based on a specific quote in the article.

i'll concede that maybe it wasn't the best joke, but there's no -1 unfunny. It's this kind of abuse of the moderation system that will sink slashdot.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774389)

If you're in a courtroom, you should ALWAYS assume than anyone presenting evidence has an agenda (because they almost always do).

Heretic! Surely you aren't suggesting that the practice of having anyone giving testimony swear, on "The Bible", that they are telling the truth is just..., what? Theater? Don't you know that "The Bible" automatically compels anyone touching to only ever utter true answers to the questions from bench or bar?

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774481)

The law is all about sophism and it is based entirely on sophism. Scientific evidence, if it is introduced at all, it is merely as a tool for sophism. In that regard its just like slashdot.

Re:Everyone in a courtroom has an agenda (3, Insightful)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775113)

"The same idiots who think tobacco is a deadly poison think cannabis is a miracle cure-all."
Nicotine IS a poison and is used as a pesticide (among other things)!
THC, is used for medical purposes (among other things)!

Idiots?

There was a recent Frontline episode on this (5, Informative)

reubenavery (1047008) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773609)

Good watch: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/real-csi/

One thing they didn't cover, however, was the horror behind "expert" psychologists/psychiatrists and the damage they inflict.

Re:There was a recent Frontline episode on this (5, Insightful)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773679)

Good watch: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/real-csi/ [pbs.org] One thing they didn't cover, however, was the horror behind "expert" psychologists/psychiatrists and the damage they inflict.

Saw this too and it should be a req'd link in the summary. They shed a lot of light on how most of forensic evidence does not hold to the scientific method and that many so called expert court witnesses are anything but, even with the fancy sounding diploma mill accreditation.

Re:There was a recent Frontline episode on this (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774611)

They shed a lot of light on how most of forensic evidence does not hold to the scientific method and that many so called expert court witnesses are anything but, even with the fancy sounding diploma mill accreditation.

You need to keep in mind, as should judges and juries, that psychology/psychiatry are two of the least scientific of the "hard" sciences. (Social "sciences" are even less.) For god's sake, they still hook people's heads up to electric current to force them into siezures in the name of curing them, without a clue why it works. They dope people up to keep them from being too distracted from anything, and the drugs that don't outright turn your brain off have side effects that are completely opposite the intended goal. Who hasn't seen the ads for anti-depressants that have the wonderful side effect of making people suicidal? "Why yes, my depression is gone, but I keep thinking about slitting my wrists ..."

Without any real science behind them, you can buy any opinion you want, and if you let one of them interview someone with the goal of getting the desired answer, they will. McMartin pre-school, anyone?

Re:There was a recent Frontline episode on this (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774951)

Norman Doidge's The brain that changes itself [normandoidge.com] makes a pretty strong argument that there's some good neurological bases for certain psychological theories and techniques. The major problem in transferring that to a courtroom though is that diagnosis and treatment are dependent on observations that are more subjective than objective, and an un-cooperative patient (which an accused is likely to be) makes it even more unreliable.

Re:There was a recent Frontline episode on this (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776739)

You need to keep in mind, as should judges and juries, that psychology/psychiatry are two of the least scientific of the "hard" sciences.

They are both more evidence-based than economics. Of all the disciplines taught as "sciences", Economics is the softest. Even sociologists don't think economists are scientists. It's like "political science" except with freshman-level math. At least they call it math.

science is about method, not about theories (3, Insightful)

emilper (826945) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773649)

science is about method, not about theories

Re:science is about method, not about theories (1)

reubenavery (1047008) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773677)

In a courtroom, "science" is only about what the judge believes is science. Same for whatever he or she things about a "scientific method".

Re:science is about method, not about theories (2)

Rostin (691447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773761)

What do you think the methods are based on?

Re:science is about method, not about theories (2)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774257)

Considering that we wouldn't want to create science in a courtroom setting (given the restrictions on rules of evidence and other limitations), it is interesting to note the similarities and the differences.

For example, so-called "experts" are often allowed to offer their opinions into testimony (so-called rule 702) w/o submitting their analysis for rebuttal (only the evidence), and to answer hypothetical questions. Only recently there has been a move to add a requirement that expert witness theories or techniques are peer-reviewed and have known or potential rate-of-error or if the theories or techniques are even testible or falsifiable or even generally accepted by the scientific community. However, these are not currently requirements of expert witness testimony. Of course the opposing side can hire their own expert witnesses, but basically that's a he-said, she-said situation that a jury is supposed to untangle.

In real science, it's supposed to be better than this situation (scientific methods are supposed to be judged by a jury of peers that have the intellectual and financial means to confirm or refute evidence, rather than through surrogate "expert" testimony which has profession and scientific bias), but in the current pseudo-science climate, sadly, it looks alot like the current courtroom situation. So if your argument is that it's no different than the current state of scientific dissertation, well, I guess I can't argue with you.

Re:science is about method, not about theories (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773783)

(At least) two different meanings of "science" are at work here. There's science as in "what scientists do," which is indeed a collection of methods and processes; and there's science as in "the body of relevant scientific knowledge," which is what juries need to know to decide on cases. Both are valid meanings, and it's important not to confuse the two.

Re:science is about method, not about theories (2)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774699)

Total nonsense. As noted by the late mathematician Aleksandr Danilovich Aleksandrov, you simply can't have science without "theory". First you have an idea and then you go about performing "experiments" (sensu latu) to test these ideas. Science is merely a logical approach for gathering evidence to rule out illogical and inappropriate ideas for which there is no empirical support in favor of those which seem to best "explain the data [observations]". Science is the process whereby ideas progress from being hypotheses to becoming theories, no more, no less. Theories in science are merely ideas that have withstood much testing and consequently are accepted as in all probability as being true (ie a reflection of reality). Ideas that are unable to progress to the level of theory are either discarded or ignored as useless until demonstrated through experiment to be otherwise.

Sophism, on the other hand, such as your assertion, have no such restriction. All you have to do is get people to believe them, no proof or fact is necessary. Our legal system, our economy, the bulk of human culture, and our politics are based on sophism rather than science, even though science is the predominant driver of technological change. This is the reason humanity will soon become extinct.

I'm Wondering (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773753)

I find the statement "... or should they consider the realities of science, where people advocate for their own theories far more than they question them?" kind of leading and biased in its own right. To be sure researchers will advocate their theories, but that does not mean they don't question them. Someone has a chip on their shoulder.

Re:I'm Wondering (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774061)

You usually won't see them questioning them though, since they aren't going to publish something they've already worked out is garbage. Heck a lot of advocacy is questioning in the first place - "we did experiment Y and the results were as predicted by theory X" - doing the expirement is fundamentally questioning the theory.

And of course a lot of advocacy for "their own theory" is in fact questoning of some other theory. And that's also how science works - one person doesn't need to do all the work.

Re:I'm Wondering (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774845)

Nonsense.

Scientists push their theories by providing evidence that is incompatible with alternative theories (those of their intellectual "competitors"). If one has an idea that one feels is correct, it hardly makes much sense in a scientific context to gather such evidence if it doesn't meet this basic requirement. Don't confuse the advocacy for particular beliefs by scientists as the intrinsically essential ingredient of science. Yes, it is essential in the context of creating a compelling argument within a society based on sophism and inter-individual human competition. However, that aspect is from a scientific perspective worthless as science. Most scientist recognize that attempting to simply advocate appealing to sophism is counterproductive in a scientific context. It would be comparable to a mathematician asserting to have completing a proof, without actually having done so in an irrefutable manner. The same distinction separates computer science from programming. You can do the latter without actually doing the former, but one can not do the former without applying the scientific method.

Re:I'm Wondering (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775863)

I think your using advocacy differently than me.

Since that's basically what I said.

By choosing what to research a scientist is advocating for something. If I'm a scientist and I choose to research String Theory then I'm advocating for it. Of course in doing exactly that I'll actually be doing things that could disprove it (well OK String Theory mightn't be the best example*).

* I kid, I don't know enough about the field to know just how much those claiming it is unfalsiable are exagerating.

Re:I'm Wondering (2)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778773)

If you choose a topic that hardly constitutes either advocacy or science unless and until one actually does something with regard to the topic. It is the nature of the doing that is important. If the argument is sophistic, ie merely convincing without the use of the scientific method, then you might call it advocacy or whatever, depending upon one's perspective. However, it would not be science. Until one posits testable ideas and then proceeds to test them, at least in principle, it doesn't constitute science or actually enter into the realm of science. Sure a lot of what goes on in many scientific papers is of this type of argumentation, since this is generally how humans operate. However, under no circumstances does it actually rise to the level of a science. My sense, from what I have been able to read about string theory, is that much of it has been criticized for being a theory or family of theories with limited evidence to support it. One could, and I would fall in that category, regard mathematical ideas that extend, generalize, or refine string theory without tests are in fact science, but without empirical support probably do not constitute earth shaking science, although they might a later time, if it can be shown that certain results can not be obtained or explained without reference to them.

Re:I'm Wondering (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774313)

I find the statement "... or should they consider the realities of science, where people advocate for their own theories far more than they question them?" kind of leading and biased in its own right. To be sure researchers will advocate their theories, but that does not mean they don't question them. Someone has a chip on their shoulder.

Well, when you're talking about someone giving scientific evidence in court, you need to consider if they're testifying in favor of something which isn't just "researchers advocating their theories", or a self-serving but controversial point of view.

If an expert witness is saying something which isn't widely accepted by the scientific community (say, Bigfoot), versus something which is widely accepted (say, Gravity) then you need to look at it differently. What does this guy have to gain by this? Is he truly objective? Is he actually qualified?

I think the crux here is that the court should learn to recognize that something isn't scientifically true just because one side or the other can produce an 'expert scientician' who says so. And if you have a scientist advocating for a position which the rest of the scientific community strongly disagrees with, the 'expert' in question may really be little more than a paid shill. (That's not to say they're automatically a paid shill, but you do need to ask yourself if they might be, and if they have anything to gain from this.)

If you have an expert witness claiming that masturbation really does cause blindness, then maybe you need to look at the motives of your expert witness. They might be merely serving their own agenda (or paycheck).

Kind of like those "think tanks" which will produce papers to support the views of their sponsors so people can't quite figure out what it 'true' and what isn't. It's not good science, but it sure can muddy the waters if you can produce two sets of experts saying entirely opposite things. But, hey, you have your expert and we have ours, and after all, science is just opinion, right?

If the courts can't evaluate one expert versus another (or even the validity of a single expert), they stand a good chance of being hoodwinked.

Obvious answer (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773795)

should they look at science to see if it matches our idealized view of the scientific method, or should they consider the realities of science

How about both? Look to see if the real process aligns closely with ideals, then base decisions on that. Did the lab follow best practices to prevent contamination? Were the statistics compiled by someone who knew what the samples were? Do all of the numbers include error calculations?

The discerning judge who considers scientific evidence will end up with a subjective opinion of whether the result meets the need for accuracy. It's the judge's job to apply such subjective opinions fairly, and here that means allowing only evidence that meets their realistic ideal.

Re:Obvious answer (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774683)

follow best practices

I hate that term "best practices", especially when used to describe doing something correctly as it is subjective. what i consider Best may not be what you consider Best. I'd rather know that they followed "effective practices" to do the job, while the action they took might have been inefficient, there might be newer ways to do it, but as long as it is still "effective" it should be acceptable.

Sorry it's something that irks me.. as in my field everyone wants to know and follow the "best practices", when in reality what they need is to establish and use "effective practices" and then work on improving from there. And so too often the market allows the term to be interchangeable when in reality they are different things, one subjective the other measurable.

*gets off box - eats another bite of lunch*

Re:Obvious answer (1)

TemporalBeing (803363) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776301)

follow best practices

I hate that term "best practices", especially when used to describe doing something correctly as it is subjective. what i consider Best may not be what you consider Best. I'd rather know that they followed "effective practices" to do the job, while the action they took might have been inefficient, there might be newer ways to do it, but as long as it is still "effective" it should be acceptable.

"Best Practices" is not something that is 100% subjective. It is set by your peers doing similar things. If you are doing something that doesn't fall in th scope of what is provided, then you may have to write a new "Best Practice" as you forge your way through.

Likewise, if you find a better process, you can document it and why you are deviating from it, and still be within "Best Practices" as it will then help to define a new "Best Practice" - its how they change.

I do agree though that "Best Practices" is often over-used, and many times ill-fitting; but that's usually because they are being incorrectly applied - e.g. when a manager tries to take "Best Practices" from one project and apply them to a completely unrelated project where they don't really apply without adjusting them for the differences in the projects.

Re:Obvious answer (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776731)

and in the case of the comment i was replying to, "Did the lab follow best practices to prevent contamination?", "Best Practice" does not fit but rather "effective practices" does. I agree there is a place for Best Practices but it isn't in processes/functions/methods/practices that can be measured black and white, there you use proven for the application process/function/methods/practices.

One-sided (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773803)

The focus on science seems ridiculously one-sided. We should also allow for some room for alternatives in the court room. Science may be at odds with some religious beliefs and it would be unreasonable to just ignore those beliefs. This becomes a problem, for example, when God scatters around skeletons to test people's faith. A scientist would fail God's test instantly, claiming someone killed the victims.

Unless you're in Tennessee... (3, Funny)

earls (1367951) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773843)

Science in the courtroom?! Not on my watch. Someone fetch a Pastor to discern what God's will was in this case.

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (4, Funny)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773885)

The proper way to do it is that each party places a knight on a horse, and they go at each other full tilt. God will ensure that the best man wins.

That the way real men do it!

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (3, Funny)

husker_man (473297) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773913)

Thogg not understand - Thogg knows that if he bashes club into skull of enemy Thogg is right.

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773931)

No, we should do things following the method of a traditional witch trial: Throw the suspect in the lake. If they don't sink to the bottom and drown, they're a witch and should be burned at the stake without delay.

Alternately, you might also weigh the suspect against a duck ...

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774833)

or weigh them against really small rocks

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (3, Interesting)

treeves (963993) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775987)

Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774267)

Are you still angry that teachers are allowed to teach that there is CONTROVERSY surrounding a popular theory?

Then you either:

  • Believe there is no controversy (which would be stupid, because it's a controversial topic)
  • Believe that teachers, by law, must refrain from teaching the truth of a matter

If you think the latter is an acceptable answer, China has a wonderful tourguide opening at Tianmen Square.

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775921)

Or, you simply understand that controversy implies two (or more) equally reasonable sides to an issue. One side stating, "The sky is blue." while the other side states, "La, la, la, la, I can't HEAR you!!!!!" at the top of its lungs isn't controversy. (Except in the media.)

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776059)

Believe there is no controversy (which would be stupid, because it's a controversial topic)

Actually, if it were controversial, then by now someone would have been able to .. oh, I don't know .. state the controversy. So far, nobody has. Everybody's experiments and evidence have only confirmed it, and no one has mentioned an alternative theory. All it would have taken to cast doubt on it, would be one result or one observation.

If there were controversy, Tennessee wouldn't have needed a law to allow some hypothetical teacher let the cat out of the bag. That teacher would have been instantly famous, having destroyed something that has stood longer than even Einstein's work, and having knocked over something even more solid than what Einstein knocked over when he corrected Newton. Scientists would be gushing with enthusiasm for the first person to find anything controversial about evolution.

Even if Tennessee enshrined evolution as a religion, and punished its toppler for heresy, the prizes (e.g. Nobel) for toppling it would pay enough millions of dollars that the teacher would actually be able to defend themselves in court long enough until SCOTUS threw Tennessee's case out.

But seriously, what are the chances of that ever happening? Relativity is more likely to some day have controversy than evolution is.

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777675)

Actually, if it were controversial, then by now someone would have been able to .. oh, I don't know .. state the controversy.

Evolution cannot take millions of years because extinction only takes 10.

Now... Don't let things like ANY AND ALL ACTUAL, AVAILABLE OBSERVATION ON THE SUBJECT get in the way of your perfect, uncontrovertable theory. After all, what good is MEASURED, REAL WORLD OBSERVATION compared to say, million-year time tables, extrapolations based on extremely-limited fossil records, and untestable hypotheses?

No, jerkass. The consensus is not real. You're a brainwashed groupthinker that would have been much better off if someone told YOU that there are gaping holes in the current "accepted" model for animal creation. Unfortunately, only Tennessee, apparently, is allowed to let kids in on the big secret.

Scientists don't know everything. Science isn't knowledge. It's the pursuit of knowledge. The minute you mix those two, you reduce yourself to a gibbering idiot worshipping a false god.

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778843)

"Science isn't knowledge. It's the pursuit of knowledge. "

No, science is a way of knowing that some ideas are extraordinarily improbable and others virtually certain. Science is the realm of the applied mathematician, not the pure mathematician, who has the freedom and perhaps the joy of living in a totally unreal universe.

Re:Unless you're in Tennessee... (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778817)

The concept of "beyond a reasonable doubt" and the concepts of statistically unlikely at the 0.05 level are not entirely mutually exclusive. The difference is what one does with respect to the what "evidence" is used to reach an outcome and how one uses that outcome that distinguishes legal argumentation from scientific argumentation, unless of course you are in Tennessee and then the reasonable or the highly probable are largely irrelevant and then one's religious views becomes the predominant deciding factor.

It all depends on world-view (2)

grantspassalan (2531078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773865)

The word “science” used to mean knowledge of every kind obtained by any means. It has become narrowed in modern times to mean knowledge required by a procedure known as the “scientific method”. All people, including scientists have a worldview. No one is really objective nor has the ability to be so, because all people filter their input of knowledge and the output thereof through their worldview. Someone who considers the universe a cosmic probability experiment will interpret scientific knowledge a certain way. Someone who believes that the universe came into being by the action of a supreme mind, God, will interpret scientific results differently.

Re:It all depends on world-view (1)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778029)

Someone who considers the universe a cosmic probability experiment will interpret scientific knowledge a certain way. Someone who believes that the universe came into being by the action of a supreme mind, God, will interpret scientific results differently.

If either of those two scientists interpret experimental results any differently than a robot programmed to perform experiments and use statistics to determine if the results are unlikely while accepting the null hypothesis, then the two are not really scientists in any meaning of the word. Saying "spacetime is curved by mass/energy BECAUSE the universe is a cosmic probability experiment" is just as silly as saying that spacetime curves because the flying spaghetti monster wants it to. Try a different strawman.

Hidden Markov Model (5, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773917)

Its a Hidden Markov Model problem. There is some underlying theory with a probability of being correct based on research. But the people presenting evidence in court do so through an additional set of weighting factors that govern their testimony based upon the underlying theoretical model. The testimony is what the judge and jury are able to observe. From it, they need to deduce the underlying model and probabilities.

Good luck expecting 12 people to understand this who have to have football (US) plays explained to them by TV announcers.

Re:Hidden Markov Model (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774031)

Good luck expecting 12 people to understand this who have to have football (US) plays explained to them by TV announcers.

American football is insanely complicated. I can't even figure out how to play video game football, let alone the real thing.

Re:Hidden Markov Model (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774463)

Good luck expecting 12 people to understand this who have to have football (US) plays explained to them by TV announcers.

American football is insanely complicated. I can't even figure out how to play video game football, let alone the real thing.

You know what's worse? Cricket.

I swear, the person who named stuff in this game must have been aphasic. There are so many levels of irony in a game that calls a small part of itself an "over" when it can actually take days to finish a match.

Re:Hidden Markov Model (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774737)

sorry but

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_rules_football [wikipedia.org]

It's the kitchen sink of game rules..

Re:Hidden Markov Model (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775997)

That's *nothing*! Try this!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvin_ball#Calvinball

Re:Hidden Markov Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774205)

What does the markov property have with this? I don't see any marginally independent state transitions in the described situation. Maybe some fact checking could be useful before trying to pretend to outshine the average Joe with semantically thin buzzworddropping.

Re:Hidden Markov Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774259)

Incorrect. It is a hierarchical modeling problem, but the model is NOT a hidden markov model. An HMM might be useful to model changes in science over time (i.e. to determine whether "science currently guarantees this to be true" is enough to say "without a reasonable doubt"), but that is not what's under discussion here.

Re:Hidden Markov Model (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775435)

but that is not what's under discussion here.

It is, sort of. My point was about the state of theories (or any particular theory) plus the property of the actual science supporting said theories being 'hidden' from the judicial process. Only incomplete or inaccurate representations are available to them as observations of the current state of the technology. And those observations are not precise, due both to the necessary simplification of the state space into layman's terms, or bias on the part of the observers.

Got a better way to model this situation?

mod 3owN (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773949)

turd-suckingly Fact: *BSD is dying

Science and Common Sense (2)

realsilly (186931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774025)

Science without religious, political, or judicial influence is simply pure science in my opinion. Once science is used in any of those three areas it is often used to bias towards an expected outcome.

I agree science is crucial in all areas and the methods of it's use are what concern me. Science is use to help prove or debunk evidence in court rooms every day. But while it is extremely helpful in a court case, I also believe that science has killed such things as common sense, which in some instances has been know to ruin a case. Some examples where I think science destroyed a case: OJ Simpson trial, Casey Anthony trial, all the cases trying to chip away at Roe Vs. Wade, just to name a few.

While I believe good science was used in OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony cases, I believe that too much emphasis was put on scientific evidence, thus causing doubt where there should not have been any doubt.

In the matter of case chipping away at Roe Vs. Wade, the problem is how science is destroying the underlining message of Roe Vs. Wade, the science about a fetus is outweighing the basic human rights of the mother.

Just my initial thoughts.

Re:Science and Common Sense (0)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774357)

But while it is extremely helpful in a court case, I also believe that science has killed such things as common sense, which in some instances has been know to ruin a case. Some examples where I think science destroyed a case: OJ Simpson trial, Casey Anthony trial, all the cases trying to chip away at Roe Vs. Wade, just to name a few.

While I believe good science was used in OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony cases, I believe that too much emphasis was put on scientific evidence, thus causing doubt where there should not have been any doubt.

In the matter of case chipping away at Roe Vs. Wade, the problem is how science is destroying the underlining message of Roe Vs. Wade, the science about a fetus is outweighing the basic human rights of the mother.

Just my initial thoughts.

If it is a scientific theory, following the scientific method, then it's unpossible to be wrong. or is it? Following the logic of many on Slashdot, anyone debating science with anything short of a tested theory is a bible-thumping retard living in Tennessee having children with their sibling. They would have science out-weigh anything, be it religion, politics, judiciaries, or common sense. To those who thump a news story with no real understanding of the science involved science IS the new religion, right or wrong, applicable or not, it's science and therefore infallible.

Your choice mods, flamebait or troll?

Caltech - not CalTech (2)

drerwk (695572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774035)

Come on ed. How bout a case sensitive automated check?

Advocate for?! (0)

udoschuermann (158146) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774113)

A bit off topic, but the frequently seen misuse of "advocate" bugs me severely: "Advocate" means "to speak or write in favor of," so "Advocate for something" means "To speak or write in favor of for something" ... read that again, and weep! So, the relevant part in the summary should have read "people advocate their own theories" (strike "for").

You may now call me a grammar nazi and fling your rotted virtual vegetable and fruit. Thank you. /bows

Re:Advocate for?! (1)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775167)

how does this relate to "advocate against"?

Other than DNA Evidence (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774139)

Science is not allowed in the courtroom. Pseudo-science, such as fingerprint analysis and ballistic 'forensics,' sure, but real science won't make it past the courthouse steps in 99% of cases.

What is allowed, in lieu of actual scientific evidence, is the testimony of "experts" who got their expert certification from an open-book, online test for the low low price of $599.99.

Forensic science is anything but.

Statistical significance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774153)

You know that line about how the prosecutor is supposed to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond the "shadow of a doubt"?

Never going to go away when you're using scientific evidence. There are so many things that can go wrong that it's a miracle the stuff is still valid in court.

Should have as little science in the courtroom (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774227)

There is no way to assure anyone is objective. You might as well try to find a benevolent dictator. Peer review is a safeguard to some extent, but hardly worth much in anything that would be tried in the court.

However, we should ask why there is a need for much science in the courtroom. For example, prescription drugs. There should be a simple process by which drugs get approved for use. Trials, disclosure of side effects... Then all a court has to deal with is if the pharmaceutical company committed fraud or improperly followed the regulations. Regular evidence.

If they follow the regulations honestly, their drug gets approved, and it happens to have side effects... well... that should fall into the category of s**t happens. Perhaps change the regulations to catch more cases... but life always has some risk.

Some cases of science are unavoidable. If you have a car accident, and both sides bring experts to show the other person is at fault... well it becomes a matter of trust.

Either the government maintains its own engineers or accident investigators to act as an authority... or leave it to accredited experts... who hopefully have some kind of professionalism. But in these cases, its all just a matter of trust.

In any case, more often than not, there is a way to avoid the courts if we thought about it. The you wouldn't have this problem to begin with.

Different standards of proof (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774231)

Scientifically, something is proven if it's effectively demonstrated repeatedly, with no unexpected effects from independent variables. This is a hard bar to rise to, and takes decades to do.
Common law proof, is "demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt". That is to say, accounting for every practical possibility, is it certain that a certain person committed a certain crime.

These are critically different, and neither standard is very cross-applicable. Applying the common law standards to science would cause us not to examine unreasonable sounding possibilities, like the particle wave duality, for example. It relies far too much on our day to day expectations of how things work.

Applying scientific standards of proof to criminal law makes no sense, because there's simply no way to control for all relevant variables. They are different, and very much should be.

Re:Different standards of proof (2)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774437)

Scientifically, something is proven if it's effectively demonstrated repeatedly, with no unexpected effects from independent variables.

With the following caveat - the hypothesis to be proven must be falsifiable. Continually appealing to ad hoc special pleadings, in order to preserve the central conceit of a hypothesis, is the hallmark of pseudo-science.

The dismissal of Popper in the document is frankly, abhorrent.

"If it becomes widely accepted (and to some extent it has) that falsifiable predictions are the signature of real science, then pretenders to the throne of science will make falsifiable predictions too."

They cite "Larry Laudan, Beyond Positivism and Relativism 219 (1996)" - if someone has the list of hypotheses that Lauden claims are falsifiable but not scientific, I'd be interested to see them.

Re:Different standards of proof (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774505)

Well, OK, that's fair. But I think anyone getting as far as identifying the independent and dependent variables is likely to have generated a falsifiable hypothesis along the way. There is essentially no way to expect a relationship between measurable factors without an implicit falsifiability being present.

Re:Different standards of proof (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774751)

There is essentially no way to expect a relationship between measurable factors without an implicit falsifiability being present.

Actually, any two variables monotonically increasing/decreasing will have a relationship - correlation does *not* necessarily give us falsifiability, although I agree, it is often assumed (such as say, CO2 emissions and global average temperature increase).

I'd be asking for *explicit* falsifiability before admitting testimony in court as "scientific".

Re:Different standards of proof (2)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774599)

I think I found Laudan's list:

"Thus flat Earthers, biblical creationists, proponents of laetrile or orgone boxes, Uri Geller devotees, Bermuda Triangulators, circle squarers, Lysenkoists, charioteers of the gods, perpetuum mobile builders, Big Foot searchers, Loch Nessians, faith healers, polywater dabblers, Rosicrucians, the-world-is-about-to-enders, primal screamers, water diviners, magicians, and astrologers all turn out to be scientific on Popper's criterion - just so long as they are prepared to indicate some observation, however improbable, which (if it came to pass) would cause them to change their minds."

What Laudan fails to understand here is that falsifications must imply the truth of the hypothesis by their lack. That is to say, I could say "Creationism is falsifiable if you see a monkey with three tails, five wings, eating custard in a French cafe on January 12, 1892", but it doesn't logically follow that the *lack* of such an observation would imply creationism is true.

This guide, following Laudan's poor straw man against Popper, is only going to open the floodgates to more pseudoscience in the courtrooms.

Re:Different standards of proof (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777097)

That is to say, I could say "Creationism is falsifiable if you see a monkey with three tails, five wings, eating custard in a French cafe on January 12, 1892",

Diverting from the normal car analogy there. A refreshing change, though somewhat difficult to categorize.

Re:Different standards of proof (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774597)

Common law proof, is "demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt".

It's worse than that. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the standard applied in criminal proceedings. In civil cases, including multi-million-dollar lawsuits, the standard is much lower. The jury's conclusion must be supported "by a preponderance of the evidence."

Let's just say it seems easy, under those circumstances, for 12 laymen to be misled by whichever expert produces a thicker and/or glossier report.

(I Am Not A Lawyer but I did have the standard of evidence explained to me by a judge when I was sitting on a jury; and thankfully there was no scientific evidence presented in my case.)

mod u`P (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774457)

charnel house. The arrithmetic, exactly what yoU've Reciprocating

Opposites (2)

neonv (803374) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774871)

For every expert opinion there is an equal and opposite expert opinion.

Re:Opposites (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777277)

No there isn't

Casey Anthony (2)

glorybe (946151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774899)

One of the absolute worst instances of nonsense, expert testimony came from the county coroner in the Casey Anthony case. The coroner ruled death by homicide. When questioned as to why she thought is had to be a homicide the coroner actually stated under oath that it was a homicide because the body was dumped. That is from a supposedly educated professional. No cause of death could be determined yet we have this from an expert. Could it ever just be that a child drowned as the parent was asleep and fearing social criticism and in the doom of despair tried to hide a body? People who lose a loved one can do very odd things at times.

Slashdot covered this seven months ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776001)

How quickly we forget: http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/09/29/0241219/science-manual-for-us-judges

The scientific method (1)

onebeaumond (1230624) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776195)

and advocacy debate (aka. legal justice system) really are polar opposites. An individual scientist is no more "qualified" or "reasonable" than any other scientist, assuming both have equal eloquence, social status, and professional prestige. The advocacy system itself is ancient, it dates back to the days when anyone who said they actually understood something must be considered either crazy or a god. Can cancer can be cured through the use of chiropractic spinal adjustments? Depends on who you ask, and how much mojo they bring to the table.

as a scientist, v impressed by goodstein (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776255)

the only thing he didn't emphasize enough is the ponzi like nature of employement, driven by the need for cheap grad student labor (although he did touch on this)

how physics works, not "How Science Works" (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776703)

The book chapter "How Science Works" by Goodstein is available here [caltech.edu] from the author's CalTech web page.

Goodstein is a physicist, and so am I. I read the chapter and found myself agreeing with it completely...

BUT

...the examples he uses are almost all examples from physics, and a lot of his analysis isn't really applicable to science in general.

The central issue he examines is the picture of science as an enterprise involving powerful theories that make predictions, which are then tested. This is a lot more applicable to physics than to other physical sciences, less applicable to the life scienes, and even less applicable to medicine or clinical psychology, which aren't really sciences at all.

IMO he correctly depicts physics as an enterprise where scientists behave adversarially (not impartially as depicted in high school science textooks), but the truth eventually becomes known, and the result is a theory that is absolutely known to be correct within its sphere of applicability. On p. 13 he discusses the myth that "Scientific theories are just that: theories. All scientific theories are eventually proved wrong and are replaced by other theories." IMO he's right that this is a myth -- in physics. For example, relativity didn't show that Newtonian mechanics was wrong, it showed that it was right only within a certain domain, where it had already been thoroughly tested.

But this is nothing like how things work in a field like clinical psychology.

Voir Dire Guarantees Dumb Juries (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777653)

Judges only evaluate the admissibility of evidence, not it's efficacy. It's up to the jury to decide if the evidence is valid, and the process of voir dire [wikipedia.org] ensures that prospective jurors with a clue about any scientific evidence to be presented in the trial will be rejected.
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