Scientific Consensus and Expert Testimony in Courts: Lessons from the Bendectin Litigation

Foundations of Science 21 (1):15-33 (2016)
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A consensus in a scientific community is often used as a resource for making informed public-policy decisions and deciding between rival expert testimonies in legal trials. This paper contains a social-epistemic analysis of the high-profile Bendectin drug controversy, which was decided in the courtroom inter alia by deference to a scientific consensus about the safety of Bendectin. Drawing on my previously developed account of knowledge-based consensus, I argue that the consensus in this case was not knowledge based, hence courts’ deference to it was not epistemically justified. I draw sceptical lessons from this analysis regarding the value of scientific consensus as a desirable and reliable means of resolving scientific controversies in public life

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Boaz Miller
Zefat Academic College

Citations of this work

The Social Epistemology of Consensus and Dissent.Boaz Miller - 2019 - In David Henderson, Peter Graham, Miranda Fricker & Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding Pedersen (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. New York: Routledge. pp. 228-237.
Catching the WAVE: The Weight-Adjusting Account of Values and Evidence.Boaz Miller - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 47:69-80.

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References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Otto Neurath.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
Knowledge in a social world.Alvin I. Goldman - 1999 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Epistemic Luck.Duncan Pritchard - 2005 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
The Fate of Knowledge.Helen E. Longino - 2001 - Princeton University Press.

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