Science, legitimacy, and “folk epistemology” in medicine and law: Parallels between legal reforms to the admissibility of expert evidence and evidence-based medicine
Social Epistemology 22 (4):405 – 423 (2008)
This paper explores some of the important parallels between recent reforms to legal rules for the admissibility of scientific and expert evidence, exemplified by the US Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in 1993, and similar calls for reforms to medical practice, that emerged around the same time as part of the Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) movement. Similarities between the “movements” can be observed in that both emerged from a historical context where the quality of medicine and legal approaches to science were being subjected to growing criticism, and in the ways that proponents of both movements have used appeals to “folk epistemologies” of science to help legitimate their reform aspirations. The term folk epistemology is used to describe the weaving together of formal and informal images of scientific method with normative and pragmatic concerns such as eradicating “junk science”, and promoting medical best practice. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the unfocused breadth of these aspirations the implications of these “reforms” for medical and legal practice have not been straightforward, although they do represent an important new set of rhetorical resources to critique and or legitimate expertise in medical and legal domains. Discussion closes, by noting the growth of calls for these movements to reciprocate in areas where law and medicine intersect, such as medical negligence litigation
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