Foundations of Science 21 (1):15-33 (2016)

Boaz Miller
Zefat Academic College
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
Keywords Expert testimony  Consensus  Science and policy  Science and technology studies  Social epistemology
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10699-014-9373-z
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,214
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Epistemic Luck.Duncan Pritchard - 2005 - Oxford University Press UK.
Knowledge in a Social World.Alvin Ira Goldman - 1999 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
The Fate of Knowledge.Helen E. Longino - 2001 - Princeton University Press.

View all 47 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

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.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

English Law's Epistemology of Expert Testimony.Tony Ward - 2006 - Journal of Law and Society 33 (4):572-595.
Hierarchy of Scientific Consensus and the Flow of Dissensus Over Time.Kyung-Man Kim - 1996 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 26 (1):3-25.
Consensus in Science.Miriam Solomon - 2001 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 2001:193-204.
The Epistemic Significance of Consensus.Aviezer Tucker - 2003 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 46 (4):501 – 521.
The Epistemic Significance of Address.Benjamin McMyler - 2013 - Synthese 190 (6):1059-1078.


Added to PP index

Total views
61 ( #187,260 of 2,507,558 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #277,263 of 2,507,558 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes