The Role of Science in Law

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The allure of science has always captivated members of the legal profession. Its siren's song offers a tune of perfection and the promise of endowing law with the respect and deference from society that lawyers crave. Both the bench and the bar continually look to science to rescue them from the discomfort of difficult legal decisions, and are frequently disappointed with the results.

While most authors frame problems at the intersection of law and science in terms of how rapidly scientific information changes and how frequently the legal system distorts science, this book argues that problems at the intersection of law and science flow not from the changing nature of science, but from the changing nature of law. With this in mind, the book uses examples from doctrines related to abortion, gene patenting, copyright, environmental regulation, antitrust law, the insanity defense, and other doctrines to explore the nature of law and to suggest approaches for making science work more effectively within the domain of law.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A tour de force that explores the rigors of science through the lens of law. An uncompromising look at the promise-and perils-of relying on science in legal decision making. A must-read for those interested in how technology and science affects law and vice versa... Feldman does a masterful job of explaining and evaluating the role of science in a variety of different moments throughout history-from the civil rights movement to abortion to modern patent law."
— Sonia K. Katyal,
Fordham Law School

"The Role of Science in Law explains and critiques the role of science in the development and application of law, in a manner that is accurate, insightful, and accessible. Professor Feldman identifies a variety of pitfalls that can arise when science is applied woodenly to the solution of complex legal questions, including examples from diverse areas of law and technology, and offers concrete policy recommendations to address these concerns. This book should be of interests not only to academics and policy makers, but anyone interested in exploring the fascinating interplay between law and science."
—Christopher Holman,
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law

"Robin Feldman's book, The Role of Science in Law does many things extremely well. For one, it offers a sober and sensible analysis of the law's use of science and, in particular, the limits of the latter for the edification of the former. What it does best, however, is provide an entertaining introduction to the great challenges posed at the intersection of law and science, ranging in subject widely from copyright protection to equal protection. And her ultimate prescription is eminently reasonable: lawyers must first get the law right and then, and only then, employ good science to achieve just legal ends."
- David Faigman,
University of California, Hastings College of the Law

"Robin Feldman's very wise and sensible book deals with a huge problem. The legal system constantly calls upon on natural and social sciences to answer big questions like: Does abortion end a human life? Is an invention claiming patent protection 'nonobvious'? Does segregation stigmatize racial minorities? Feldman shows how the law reaches out to grab concepts and distinctions from science in the desperate hope that its authority will bring certainty and closure to painful policy choices. In the process the law badly mangles and mistranslates scientific concepts and evidence. Feldman's book is a treasure-house of practical suggestions for raising the value of science for law by clarifying-and lowering- our expectations of what science can do for law."
- Robert W. Gordon,
Yale Law School

"Each chapter of this fascinating book is accessible to legal and scientific scholars, cultural historians, and philosophers of history and science, as well as to attorneys and lay readers. It should be read by all legal and scientific professionals, scholarly or practicing, whose work entails the intermarriage of law and science."
—Lynne F. Maxwell, Law Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195368581
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/9/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Feldman is Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law and specializes in the area of law and bioscience. She is the Director of Hastings' Law and Bioscience Project (L.A.B.) which has been designed to provide a forum of exchange for bioscience companies, law/venture capital firms, and academia in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her courses include Survey of Intellectual Property; IP Issues in Biotechnology; and Property.

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