Trial and error: The Supreme Court's philosophy of science

Susan Haack

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Apparently equating the question of whether expert testimony is reliable with the question of whether it is genuinely scientific, in Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc (1993) the US Supreme Court ran together Karl Popper's and Carl Hempel's incompatible philosophies of science. But there can be no criterion discriminating scientific, and hence reliable, testimony from the unscientific and unreliable; for not all, and not only, scientific evidence is reliable. In subsequent rulings (General Electric Co v Joiner, 1997; Kumho Tire Co v Carmichael, 1999) the Court has backed quietly away from Daubert's confused philosophy of science, but not from federal judges' responsibilities for screening expert testimony. Efforts to educate judges scientifically, and increased use of court-appointed experts are, at best, only partial solutions to the problems with scientific testimony.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S66-S73
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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