Skip to main content


In response to the claim that many judges are deficient in their understanding of scientific methodology, this Article identifies in recent cases (1) a pragmatic perspective on the part of federal appellate judges when they reverse trial judges who tend to idealize science (i.e., who do not appreciate the local and practical goals and limitations of science), and (ii) an educational model of judicial gatekeeping that results in reversal of trial judges who defer to the social authority of science (i.e., who mistake authority for reliability). Next, this Article observes that courts (in the cases it analyzes) are not interested in pragmatically constructing legal science, but rather attempt to ensure that science itself, conceived pragmatically (i.e., without idealizing science), is appropriated in law. This Article concludes that trial judges who fail to appreciate the social, institutional, and rhetorical aspects of science tend to reject reliable—albeit pragmatic—science, welcome unreliable—albeit authoritative— science, and thereby create a body of legal science that is out of sync with mainstream science.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
6 Sep 2022
2.73 MB



  • Subject
    • Legal History

    • Science and Technology Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 45

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Pagination
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022