July 8, 2020

Expert Failurelawyers learning from scientists

It is indeed difficult to think of any other recent crisis that’s seen so many pronouncements made in the name of expert authority rendered so questionable so quickly.

So quips Ari Schulman in The New Republic last month. The article has stuck with me. The title–“The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution—is trash, as is the commissioned Photoshop art-o-graphic. But past the clickbait, in the words, lies a great deal to mull and ponder. For experts of all kinds, not just in lab coats.

The perverse result of passing a political judgment off as a neutral interpretation of expertise is that it actually undermines the legitimacy of the judgment and damages the credibility of the experts.

The law profession would do well to lean something from the struggle of scientific experts. There are lessons here about expertise and judgment. About showing our work and maintaining trust. About not speaking down to those we exist to serve. About reform of the profession, and resistance to wanton destruction.

[I]t’s crucial to recognize how the debunking style of the latter-day Galilean pose departs from the earlier modes of opposition to the scientific establishment. Where those were attempts—sometimes robust, sometimes cynical—to establish a set of countervailing scientific institutions, the Galilean mode is a free-floating anti-institutionalism. It is, to cite an old saw, the dilemma of the dog chasing a car: It wouldn’t know what to do it if it caught it.

A word of warning for those seeking to change, as well.

more posts about: Legal Profession COVID-19 Science Politics

Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome by e-mail.

back to topedit on GitHubrevision history