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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Galileo: The Patron Saint of the Hack Expert Witness

What is good science? How can we identify it? The trial lawyer and his acolytes will never tire of telling stories about how high priests of science have been proved badly wrong by "cranks" and "mavericks" in times past. Galileo, the patron saint of all heretics, figures often in such stories. Let's not ostracize the "mini Galileo," pleads a plaintiff's lawyer; the legal system must be "capable of advancing." Honor the expert at the edges of the bell curve," advises attorney Alan Levin, "as was Galileo and as are other people at t he frontiers of medicine and science."

     No doubt about it: the views of the establishment are sometimes wrong, in science and medicine as in the law. Galileo gained fame by challenging one orthodoxy but eventually became part of another; he refused to believe that the moon caused tides, or that planets moved in ellipses…

     But science has changed profoundly since the days of Galileo…This is most particularly true of medical science.

Peter W. Huber, Galileo's Revenge, 1991 

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