Federal Philosophy of Science: A Deconstruction - And a Reconstruction
New York University Journal of Law and Liberty, Vol. 5, No. 2, p. 394, 2010
43 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2010 Last revised: 14 Nov 2010
Date Written: October 13, 2010
When they feel the need to distinguish genuine science from pretenders, or to understand what is distinctive about the scientific method, U.S. courts have sometimes called on Karl Popper's philosophy of science. Focusing on the cases involving the admissibility of expert testimony, this paper (i) presents Popper's philosophy of science in enough detail to show that it can't possibly provide a criterion of the reliability of scientific testimony; (ii) spells out how Justice Blackmun misconstructed Popper's ideas, and identifies some sources of this misunderstanding in the amicus briefs in Daubert and in the then-recent literature, as well as in Popper himself; (iii) looks at what federal courts have made of Justice Blackmun's allusions to Popper as Daubert has played out in subsequent rulings, revealing that courts, and legal scholars, have continued to misunderstand how radical Popper's ideas really are, and most importantly, how unsuitable for their purposes; and concludes with an argument that the justice system's concern with reliability is both legally essential and philosophically legitimate, and that - ironically enough - the misinterpretation many courts have given the first, quasi-Popperian Daubert factor is closer to the truth than the Popperian philosophy of science from which it ostensibly derives.
Keywords: Daubert, Admissibility of Scientific Testimony, Karl R. Popper, Falsifiability, Demarcation of Science, Reliability
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation