Science at the Bar: Law, Science, and Technology in America

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Overview

Issues spawned by the headlong pace of developments in science and technology fill the courts. How should we deal with frozen embryos and leaky implants, dangerous chemicals, DNA fingerprints, and genetically engineered animals? The realm of the law, to which beleaguered people look for answers, is sometimes at a loss—constrained by its own assumptions and practices, Sheila Jasanoff suggests. This book exposes American law's long-standing involvement in constructing, propagating, and perpetuating a variety of myths about science and technology.

Science at the Bar is the first book to examine in detail how two powerful American institutions—both seekers after truth—interact with each other. Looking at cases involving product liability, medical malpractice, toxic torts, genetic engineering, and life and death, Jasanoff argues that the courts do not simply depend on scientific findings for guidance—they actually influence the production of science and technology at many different levels. Research is conducted and interpreted to answer legal questions. Experts are selected to be credible on the witness stand. Products are redesigned to reduce the risk of lawsuits. At the same time the courts emerge here as democratizing agents in disputes over the control and deployment of new technologies, advancing and sustaining a public dialogue about the limits of expertise. Jasanoff shows how positivistic views of science and the law often prevent courts from realizing their full potential as centers for a progressive critique of science and technology.

With its lucid analysis of both scientific and legal modes of reasoning, and its recommendations for scholars and policymakers, this book will be an indispensable resource for anyone who hopes to understand the changing configurations of science, technology, and the law in our litigious society.

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Editorial Reviews

American Scientist

[Jasanoff] provides a provocative and informative survey of the multiplying areas of dispute in which science and technology have come to figure in the legal system. Her topics include product liability, medical malpractice, the regulation of toxics, biotechnology and patents, reproductive rights and dispositions for the dying...Science at the Bar is an important, ground-breaking book, a clearly written work that assists us in coming to grips with the troublesome issues raised by our society's experience in the complicated interplay of science and the law.
— Daniel J. Kevles

Bimonthly Review of Law Books

According to Jasanoff, the traditional notion of two independent bodies of thought, that "science seeks the truth" and that "law does justice" is an oversimplification…In support of her position, Jasanoff takes a look at judicial decision making on a wide variety of scientific and technological issues.
— Mary Rose Scozzafava

Law and Politics Book Review

This scholarly and informative book tells the story of how the world of science, where the search for truth predominates, interdigitates with the world of judicial decision making, where the search for justice predominates. As one of a few academic researchers well-grounded in the study of science and technology policy, law, and social science, Jasonoff has attempted the challenge of providing us with a coherent characterization of that interdigitation. Writing with her usual clarity, craftsmanlike and balanced perspective, she has surely succeeded.
— Ira H. Carmen

Nature

This is a perceptive and elegantly written book on how science and law interact both to produce knowledge and to resolve conflict.
— George J. Annas

New England Journal of Medicine

[A] broad-ranging and authoritative survey of the relation between law, science, and technology...Jasonoff, trained as a lawyer and subsequently the creator of Cornell's flagship department of science and technology studies, has devoted most of her professional life to studying science in the courtroom...For any serious student of science and law in America, this is an original and essential book.
— Kenneth Keniston

New Scientist

Sheila Jasanoff reveals the gulf between objective science and adversarial law in the United States—and suggests some bridge-building answers...[She] delves deeply into case law, and comes up with some absorbing and accessible analyses of the judicial treatment of issues such as genetic engineering, chemical toxicity, and fetal rights. Timely stuff.

Science
This book is a must-read for all [Science, Technology, and Society] scholars, and one that would prove useful in many advanced-level STS causes as well.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Richard C. Leone

Preface

The Intersections of Science and Law

Changing Knowledge, Changing Rules

The Law's Construction of Expertise

The Technical Discourse of Government

Law in the Republic of Science

Toxic Torts and the Politics of Causation

Legal Encounters with Genetic Engineering

Family Affairs

Definitions of Life and Death

Toward a More Reflective Alliance

Notes

Index

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