Gary Edmond and David Mercer, "The politics of jury competence", with commentaries by David Bernstein and Ian Freckelton and a reply by the authors, in Brian Martin (ed.), Technology and Public Participation (Wollongong, Australia: Science and Technology Studies, University of Wollongong, 1999).

The politics of jury competence[*]
Gary Edmond and David Mercer[*]


There has been considerable recent debate concerning the ability of juries to deal with complex scientific issues. Critics of the jury have called for reform to counter the supposedly socially and economically harmful effects rendered by scientifically incompetent juries. As one might expect, proposed solutions for these "problems" have included calls for stricter rules for the admissibility of the scientific evidence, tighter screening of the ethics of lawyers and scientists, improved scientific literacy for judges and jurors and restriction in opportunities for jury and lay evaluation of science altogether. In our discussion we outline the importance of escaping evaluations of the relationship between democracy, the jury and science which are preoccupied with measuring jury comprehension against an unproblematised yardstick of "the correct scientific understanding." Drawing from recent literature on the public understanding of science, we sketch an alternative view of jury comprehension of science which significantly reframes the issues for both proponents and opponents of the jury. We conclude that assessment of the competence of the jury to evaluate science is a contested political domain.

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  • Table of Contents

  • Commentary by:
  • David Bernstein
  • Ian Freckelton
  • Response by authors

  • Footnotes
  • 1. Introduction

    How appropriate is it for lay juries to evaluate scientific and technical evidence? Most discussions of this question have assumed that science provides a direct access to truth--a positivist approach.[1] They have been preoccupied with determining how to guarantee the clear transmission of scientific knowledge from its scientific source to the public and the clear reception (without distortion) of that knowledge by the public. Within this framework the assessment of the appropriate role for the jury has predominantly been set against the question of whether or not the jury can be considered scientifically competent. Supporters of the jury have emphasised that juries display an adequate level of scientific literacy to facilitate their important role in assessing matters of science and technology. Other commentators contend that the jury's role in these matters should be limited because of its technical incompetence. There has been a failure, across both sides of this debate, to consider what jury comprehension of science means in more sociologically or philosophically informed terms.

    In the following discussion we provide an overview of the arguments made by both proponents and opponents of the jury. We outline a constructivist approach to the public understanding of science, which considers the social negotiations involving both experts and the public that determine what should count as valid scientific and technical knowledge. This approach reveals inadequacies in the viewpoints held by both proponents and opponents of the jury. In our conclusion we reflect on the importance of recognising the politically loaded nature of assessments of the scientific competence of the jury.

    Before embarking upon an examination of debates over jury competence, a brief overview of the history, rationale, structure and function of the jury serves as a prelude to our analysis.

    2. The history and objectives of the jury

    a. History of the jury

    As early as the reign of the Tudors, the jury had begun to instil itself in popular mythology as a champion of public liberty against excessive or oppressive governmental demands.[2] Seminal English cases such as Bushel and the Seven Bishops Case gave the jury an overtly political character and helped to entrench the jury as a form of lay participation in the interpretation and operationalisation of the state's laws.[3]

    Yet, the jury's ability to incorporate public considerations of morality and justice into the legal system--free from requirements to act rationally and in accordance with the law--has led to apprehension concerning its inconsistency and lack of accountability.[4] The continued operation of the lay jury has not prevented an active judiciary from developing doctrines which have provided a means of circumventing public participation. Changes in the admission standards for evidence combined with judicial activism have functioned as important means of restricting the influence of the jury.

    b. Rationale for the jury

    Public recognition of the political importance of the jury owes much to a number of early obstinate jurors and juries withstanding attempts at judicial/political impeachment.[5] The dominant rationale for the continued operation of the "modern" jury is as a check to political and judicial tyranny. The jury is believed to provide a lay constraint on government and the interpretation and application of laws determining matters affecting the lives, liberties and reputations of other citizens.[6] The participation of the public provides a means of continual rejuvenation of the jury, enabling the institution to retain vibrancy and relevance.[7]

    c. Structure and function of the jury

    Juries are generally composed of twelve (and sometimes as few as four) members, selected randomly to listen to evidence of varying kinds in an attempt to determine matters which often dramatically impact upon the lives of the parties involved. The jury is selected from a panel where lawyers, depending upon jurisdiction, have varying opportunities to shape its composition. Jurors are invariably strangers to each other and (usually) to the parties, and are expected to have no interest in the proceedings. During the trial the jury is selectively exposed to arguments constructed by lawyers (and often others) incorporating evidence and witnesses deemed admissible by the judge. Without training, and guided in issues of law by the presiding judge, jurors are expected to decide issues of fact and apply them to legal standards. The jury's eventual verdict is determined in camera and justifications for the decision are not required nor provided. In most jurisdictions the verdict must be unanimous. Failure to reach a decision (hung jury) can lead to the swearing in of a new jury and a completely new trial. After the trial, the jury is disbanded and will never again function in that formal fact-finding capacity. Appeals from jury verdicts are traditionally only granted when interference or "obvious errors" have been deemed to have taken place.

    3. Current debates about the jury and science

    a. Jury proponents

    Those who defend the jury's role in cases involving scientific and technical evidence can be roughly divided into four main categories.

    i. Moral/political defence of the jury

    For those defending the jury on moral/political grounds, juries are not obliged to employ rigid and legalistic interpretations of the law.[8] Nor are they compelled to accept the evidence of witnesses, even expert opinion evidence from eminent sources. The jury is not obliged to accept any of the competing expert claims and may legitimately reach a decision on other grounds.[9] Kalven and Zeisel, authors of the seminal text The American Jury, suggested that juries were capable of disregarding evidence and law to achieve a "just" solution, especially if they believed one party had acted improperly. For example, where police improperly or illegally obtained evidence, jurors might acquit regardless of the strength of the case or "technical guilt" as a form of relief from, and discipline for, improper conduct.[10]

    Another important public function of the jury in the moral/political framework (as well as a number of pro-jury perspectives, such as in the following subsections ii and iii) is the effective requirement that the testimony and evidence in trials must be comprehensible to the lay public. That is, the institution of the jury places a burden on the parties to present evidence in a clear and simple manner, at the risk of alienating the jury and displacing the legal system from the public domain.[11] Research suggests that jurors do not simply accept the testimony of those witnesses rated high on expertise.[12]

    ii. The jury as scientifically competent.

    In these approaches it is commonly asserted that: "the jury often appears to do surprisingly well in the face of complexity"[13] and "juries are one of our society's most reliable decision-making institutions."[14] Such assertions are normally supported by research suggesting that the high level of convergence between jury and judicial decisions on "appropriate" disposition of the same case (about 75-80%)[15] does not vary for cases selected as complex.[16] Such high levels of agreement have inspired some researchers to ask whether juries might actually out-perform judges.[17]

    It is also worth noting that, in this approach, the areas of disagreement between judges and juries are normally not interpreted as jury misunderstanding but the result of other factors.[18] Juries are seen to be able to act as a social "lightning rod" because of the relief they provide for judges by assuming adjudicative roles.[19] Significantly, juries remain most popular amongst the judiciary. This suggests that at times the jury has the flexibility to arrive at a decision a judge may desire but be unable to deliver--constrained by legal conventions.[20] Apparent jury incomprehension and misunderstanding are also occasionally explained as a product of legal procedures and language rather than the complexity of scientific and technical evidence. [21]

    Most jury supporters accept that there are areas of jury administration and court procedure which could be modified to enhance jury performance.[22] Such reforms include allowing jurors to take notes during trials, providing copies of transcripts and giving juries access to expert reports or court-appointed experts, pre-trial instructions, simpler instructions and allowing juries to keep a copy of the charges and instructions.[23]

    In addressing criticism of jury performance based on apparent inconsistency and unpredictability, some jury supporters have explained that those cases which eventually reach jury trial are generally the most closely balanced and therefore the most unlikely to reach settlement before trial.[24] The type of case rather than jury deficiency is used to assist in explaining difficulties in predicting or reconciling outcomes.[25] Others have noted that often the close balance of competing arguments for the variousp arties can make any verdict appear as reasonable or "rational."[26] The more restrictively judges apply admission criteria, the more coherent any judicially manipulated jury verdict might appear. Conversely, other commentators have celebrated the absence of jury verdict consistency as an indication of genuine political independence.[27]

    iii. Support for the jury conditional on enhanced judicial gatekeeping

    As mentioned earlier, the development of an independent jury as an ostensible tribunal of fact emerged in conjunction with a complex law of evidence to protect the jury from exposure to certain types of information deemed to be inappropriate.[28] Recently in the widely cited and extremely influential case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.,[29] a majority of the US Supreme Court appeared to express confidence in the institution of the jury, even in complex cases. Whilst this case has been described as the "highpoint of recent international expression of confidence in the intellect of juries," this approach may also provide a means of eroding the jury evaluation of disputed "knowledge claims."[30] The emphasis on strict examination of expert evidence and rigorous judicial screening outlined in Daubert allow the case to be interpreted as a covert attempt to restrict the types of evidence which can be presented to the jury, thereby undermining an opportunity for public input in the evaluation of controversial knowledges. Despite a (purportedly) broad confidence in juror capabilities, the tightening of admission standards--via judicial gatekeeping[31]--preventing evidence reaching the jury, provides a means of surreptitiously shifting the locus of decision-making away from juries whilst apparently maintaining public support for, and confidence in, that institution.[32]

    iv. Support for the jury conditional on improved scientific literacy

    The final category of support for the jury consists of those who argue for the importance of the jury but decry the current lack of scientific literacy in the general community, which limits the ability of the average jury to competently evaluate scientific and technical evidence.[33] In these frameworks the problem of the jury is part of a general community failure. The solution is to embark on improving the public understanding of science across society. Proponents of these views draw on traditions from both the left and right of the political spectrum.[34] Many of their arguments concerning the public understanding of science are shared with those who desire the role of the jury and current legal system limited in relation to the adjudication of scientific and technical matters. The overt focus on scientific literacy and the public understanding of science, characterised by this position, will be discussed in more depth at a later point.

    b. Critics of the jury

    For as long as the modern jury has been operating, there has been intense debate over the ability of ordinary citizens to understand legal and evidentiary issues involved in trials.[35] For a long time there have been broad critiques of jury capacity:

    Proclaiming that we have a government of laws, we have, in jury cases, created a government of often ignorant and prejudiced men.[36]

    The debate over juror competence has been exacerbated in recent years through an increase in the prevalence of technical and scientific evidence.[37] Whilst criticism of jury capacity has been a central feature in the arsenal of jury critics, it appears to be most powerful when targeting juror assessments of complex and/or conflicting technical and scientific evidence.[38]

    Part of the motivation for challenging juror competence and seeking to exclude juries from trials which are deemed as unsuitable is located in a belief that the majority of the public is scientifically illiterate. This belief, underpinning much of the critical jury literature, has been reinforced through extensive surveys of formal scientific literacy conducted in both the US and UK.[39] In their assault on the jury in complex cases, jury critics often emphasise this alleged public scientific illiteracy.[40] Jurors are portrayed as inept.

    Much of the largely anecdotal criticism attacking the competence of the lay jury is based on apparent inconsistencies in trial outcomes. So-called (mass) toxic tort cases (such as litigation surrounding Bendectin[41] and breast implants) in the US have attracted a great deal of interest as critics portray juries as incomprehensibly and irrationally oscillating in their preferences between plaintiff and defendant evidence in ostensibly identical cases. Such variations are represented as compelling evidence against the ability of lay juries to "competently" evaluate complex and competing knowledge claims.[42]

    In the context of wide publicity over an apparent "litigation explosion" and "insurance crisis" surrounding tort law in the US from the mid 1980s, critics blamed jury inconsistency as one of the factors implicitly responsible for encouraging speculative litigation and an influx of dubious or "junk science" evidence in the court.[43] Ultimately the effect of broadly publicised inconsistent trial outcomes was portrayed to be undermining public confidence in the legal system.[44]

    The representation of the jury as incompetent and irrationally sympathetic toward plaintiffs has led to criticisms that litigation costs and tremendous damage awards severely impact upon the productive capacity of US industry--reducing the availability of putatively safe pharmaceuticals, medical devices and interventions.[45] Not surprisingly, jury critics have a tendency to be politically conservative and supporters of (and supported by) industry and large corporations.[46]

    The entrenched symbolic role of the jury, especially in criminal trials, has meant that those favouring its abolition or substantial reformation have pragmatically supported making admission of expert testimony more demanding. The justification is that more rigorous judicial gatekeeping would protect the jury from much of the "junk science" which purportedly hinders its ability to render rational verdicts. By enforcing more restrictive criteria, judges could ensure that only mainstream, "authentic" science appears in court, thus tremendously simplifying the role of a credulous and incapable jury:

    However, most critics believe that merely tightening admissibility rules will not resolve the problems.[48]

    Whilst jury critics often advocate reform to standards for admitting evidence, they usually propose alternatives to the currently available jury trial. Various alternatives have been suggested including blue-ribbon juries (composed of high school, college and university graduates), blue-blue-ribbon juries (composed of individuals with "relevant" or general scientific training),[49] increasing use of court-appointed experts and special masters,[50] expert panels, science courts[51] and more stringent professional regulation--to prevent certain unacceptable or non-scientific knowledges from ever reaching courts. Whilst some of the suggestions, such as masters and technical advisers, might assist the jury, on the whole they are predicated upon the unsupported belief that reaching a certain threshold of technical or scientific literacy will improve repeatability (the same verdict for allegedly the same evidence).[52]

     In addition, jury critics often favourably contrast the capabilities and attributes of allegedly rational and competent judicial verdicts to the random, unpredictable and idiosyncratic outcomes of jury trials. This commitment is often supported through the celebration of judicial attributes such as familiarity with the law, tertiary education, experience and impartiality.

    4. Reconceptualising jury "understanding" of science

    Since the 1980s there has been renewed interest and research undertaken on public understanding of science.[53] Two main opposing perspectives can be identified. First, there has been an approach which could be described as positivist--preoccupied with the public's correct understanding and use of scientific and technical knowledges. The other approach could be described as constructivist--preoccupied with the social negotiations, involving both experts and the public, that determine what should count as valid scientific and technical knowledge.

    Positivist approaches have been nurtured by concerns among scientific organisations and industry lobby groups that there has been a decline in their social authority in relation to the planning of new technologies and the promotion of scientific and technical education because of failure in the public understanding of science.[54] Science policy researcher Brian Wynne argues that this dominant concern with the legitimation of science has encouraged those maintaining positivist approaches to deploy simplistic images of science and equally simplistic models for the public understanding of science. Such approaches tend to treat the scientific source as correct without question, whereas all non-scientific sources are open to scrutiny. Ideally, in this picture, the ultimate meaning of a scientific message remains intact no matter what forms and contexts it passes through, until it is received by the unquestioning lay person who soaks up the information. In a sense, the quality of the communication channel can be measured according to the lack of distortion introduced along the way, according to the competence of the receiver to accurately decode the message. Problems surrounding the receiver's competence and the clarity of the message are open to examination. In contrast, there is no consideration of the authority of the source, or the content of the message. Problems in the construction of scientific meaning are transformed into problems of communication and comprehension. It is assumed that any active construction of the content of the scientific message, other than at the source, constitutes bias, distortion or misunderstanding. The correct interpretation of any message is seen to be that made by authoritative scientists and scientific institutions.

    The various approaches to the role of the jury outlined in section 3 of this chapter predominantly rely on the positivist literacy deficit (PLD) model of the public understanding of science outlined above. Critics of the jury draw attention to the contradictory results of jury deliberations concerning supposedly identical scientific evidence as support for the lack of scientific literacy among juries. Even those not critical of the jury implicitly assume the existence of a straightforward notion of scientific literacy against which jury performance may be measured. For example, jury proponents can be divided between those who argue that the jury's scientific literacy is sufficient to satisfy its role--usually compared to the "rational" temper of judges--or, because of overriding political reasons, the jury should be defended in spite of its literacy deficit. The discussion to be developed below provides an indication as to why the PLD model is inadequate.

    Juxtaposed to the simplistic PLD model, alternative constructivist approaches have emerged. Constructivist approaches have been inspired by the sociology of scientific knowledge, insights from anthropology, and various currents in sociological thought.[55]

    A number of key themes have emerged from these studies. In the following discussion we outline these themes, drawing attention to the ways they encourage a reconsideration of dominant views of jury competence.

    a. Differences in scientific "sources" of information, reconstruction and politics of simplification

    In many instances, particularly in controversial areas such as those generally arriving in legal forums, one simple closed or coherent scientific message will not be available for reconstitution into a form of public knowledge. Differing interpretations of the state of a particular science at a public level may merely reflect pre-existing disagreements. PLD models can easily gloss over such differences by assuming there is one simple correct scientific interpretation that can be transmitted to the public. Such models can also play a political role by allowing expert protagonists to claim that opposing views represent populist distortions rather than views ultimately drawn from competing experts. In the context of discussions of jury competence, the jury can take on the role of a scapegoat for a side losing in litigation. Jury competence is an easier target than expertise.

    PLD models gloss over the fact that the existence of scientific viewpoints in legal contexts can shape the actual source of scientific information. For instance, there has been a growth in numerous law-science knowledge-making cultures which tailor their knowledge and areas of research interest according to the demands of legal institutions. The very constitution of certain types of scientific knowledge such as forensic pathology[57] can be shown to be shaped by the demands of legal/quasi-legal institutions.[58] Recognising the role of such law-science hybrids adds a further complexity to PLD models of the jury because, in a sense, jury comprehension constitutes part of the context against which such knowledges are constructed.

    The existence of hybrids also raises the importance of considering the construction of science occurring at a number of points across society and not just in expert settings.[59] In these studies special attention has been dedicated to the need to acknowledge that the process of stabilising scientific knowledge claims involves the movement of such claims beyond narrow expert contexts. This process involves the active reworking of the meaning of scientific knowledge claims so that they are tractable in various social and technological contexts. Scientists from differing specialties may have slightly different interpretations of the meanings of apparently identical scientific concepts depending on the context at hand. This work implies that it is unrealistic to look for any single source for the meaning of scientific knowledge claims as this ignores the active processes of construction which take place at numerous locations including non-expert settings. The law-science hybrids, where non-expert demands shape knowledge claims, are indicative of processes which are a normal part of science. In the context of the jury this work is important in highlighting the dynamic processes occurring as scientific knowledges are reconstructed into tractable terms for presentation to the jury--processes which are more complex than some kind of distortion of the original scientific message.

    The reconstruction of scientific knowledge along a continuum of sites can also be seen to have a number of important political dimensions. According to Stephen Hilgartner, the image of popularised/debased science (scientific knowledge produced at a distance from its purer site of construction) has been used to satisfy political aims in scientific controversy in two main ways. First, the image of a debased currency of scientific knowledge can be used by scientists in contrast to the correct pure science undistorted by the path of popularisation, simplification or pressures of policy. Second, scientists can demand the right to pronounce on whether or not a simplification or popularisation is appropriate. As Hilgartner puts it:

    The politics of simplification are extremely important for understanding the question of jury comprehension of science. The necessary process of simplification involves the importation of broader metaphors and narrative strategies. The use of these strategies provides a vehicle for later recriminations about processes of legal distortion and jury misunderstanding.

    Problems in identifying a simple epistemological source for images of science is not restricted to controversy involving specific knowledge claims. It has been observed that in some contexts there can be difficulties in identifying a simple consensus in defining the more general features of science. A good example is debate over the nature of the "scientific method." Surveys indicate that scientists rarely reflect on abstract definitions of scientific method in their day-to-day work. On those rare occasions when they do, that reflection is not undertaken in a particularly coherent way.[61]

    This debate has also been played out in legal settings such as in the cases involving creation science[62] or the recent US Supreme court Daubert[63] decision. In both contexts, courts attempted to define the nature of the scientific method. These attempts have been subjected to considerable criticism in legal and philosophical circles.[64] Challenges to the legitimacy of juries playing a role in scientific cases, because of difficulties anticipated in their ability to understand the scientific method, appear superficial when the difficulties in achieving an authoritative consensus on the nature of the scientific method are recognised.[65]

    b. Trust and identification.

    Another important factor to consider in relation to the public understanding of science has been the observation that members of the public do not evaluate knowledge claims in isolation from their experiences and perceptions. In this context Mike Michael has emphasised the need to distinguish between the knowledge and judgment of particular areas of science and more general perceptions of the idea of science.[66] It would appear that whilst members of the public have confidence in science, even as a synonym for truth via tacit notions of progress, method and norms,[67] in specific contexts they have been more reluctant to accept scientific claims emanating from supposedly authoritative scientific institutions and individuals.

    It might be expected, following from the above discussion, that juries evaluate the specific scientific knowledge claims of institutions and individuals, at least in part, according to their ability to identify with and "trust" them. The evaluation of institutions and their knowledge together opens up the opportunity to consider the social contexts in which various forms of knowledge are generated and put to use, rather than treating scientific knowledges as made up of artificially isolated events frozen in time and isolated from any kind of social context.[68] Jury consideration of science constitutes a process of social deconstruction and renegotiation of knowledge claims rather than a simplistic process of competence or incompetence. Writers such as Wynne and Irwin have emphasised this as an important factor in helping to explain public resistance to nuclear power, despite the construction of elaborate quasi-legal public rituals by the state and nuclear industry in an attempt to establish public "acceptance."

    An example where this process may have operated can be drawn from considering the well known paternity case involving the famous actor Charlie Chaplin. A jury found that Chaplin should be held responsible for fathering a child even though blood test evidence was presented which appeared to challenge this assessment. Critics of jury comprehension of science such as Huber celebrate this as an example of sentimental absurdity and jury incompetence. Jasanoff in Science at the Bar draws from Saks to suggest an alternative explanation--that the jury decision was a "socially rational" judgment reflecting social mores of the time. Chaplin was a wealthy man and treated the mother of the child as if she were his wife; paternal obligations, therefore, should still apply. In such a context, jury sensitivity to uncertainties in scientific claims might be expected.[69]

    c. Differentiated publics and the importance of tacit knowledge

    In constructivist (and some PLD) accounts of the public understanding of science there has been a call to acknowledge that the public is differentiated, or that there are "publics" in regard to science. Certain segments of the public are more interested or attentive to scientific and technical issues than others.[70] Factors influencing attentiveness include formal education, gender[71] and direct personal involvement in matters involving the negotiation of the meanings of scientific and technical knowledges. Such differentiated public interpretations of specific areas of science will also be strongly influenced by differentiated tacit knowledges of the specific context at hand and tacit knowledge of science more generally. Past experiences, expectations and immediate experience are welded together in an active process of translation and reconstitution. Depending on the context, various members of the public will exhibit more or less interest in specific scientific matters for a variety of reasons. They may also, by incorporating local tacit knowledges, develop understandings of science different to those of experts. A number of recent case studies have appeared exploring these processes at work in the construction of lay interpretations of medical knowledge such as menstruation, safe sex, cholesterol and Down's syndrome, amateur sciences such as astronomy and ornithology, and industrial and workplace hazards such as those due to nuclear power and chemical plants.[72]

    The impact of these points is rather complex. In theory, juries are brought together without prior knowledge of the specific case at hand, retain anonymity, and should reflect a representative cross-section of the broader community. In most cases juries are drawn from a cross-section of the public with relatively diverse tacit knowledges. On a preliminary assessment these factors make it difficult to transport concepts such as attentive publics and tacit knowledge to the jury context and it will be difficult to ascertain how prior tacit knowledge of the particular jurors has influenced the formulation of any particular jury decision. There is, nevertheless, a broader sense in which the concepts "attentive publics" and "tacit knowledge" possess relevance. In a sense, through participating in the legal process, the jury becomes a de facto attentive public. The jury is expected to rapidly learn about the specific scientific viewpoints of the protagonists. Their evaluation of such positions will in turn be influenced by impressions of the importance of their role in the general and particular administration of justice and confidence in, and commitment to, the polity. Jury assessments may be affected by broader shared tacit knowledges of science, tacit knowledge of the operation of the legal system, the perceived seriousness of juror roles and jurors' responses to public perceptions of social problems. These observations also overlap with our earlier discussion of institutional identification and trust.

    Belief that the jury provides a site for public education about specific scientific issues hints at the difficulties involved in making generalisations about the conclusions made by juries that do not take into account the specific features of the case at hand and how it is presented to them.

    5. Conclusion: the politically contested nature of the concept of jury competence

    There are a number of implications for public participation flowing from a constructivist approach to jury competence. The first is that there is no simple basis on which competence may be determined. We would contend, nevertheless, that recognising this implication does not lead to complete idealism or nihilism in which all knowledge claims are treated as equally valid.[73] Rather, evaluating competence inescapably involves social/political judgments. In some contexts the role of judgment may become largely invisible--such as where there is a high level of agreement in relation to the trustworthiness of individuals, institutions and the efficacy of their knowledge(s). However, juries typically work in contexts where there is a lack of consensus over these very issues. Ascribing or denying competence to jury decisions is a highly charged political activity. Claims about competence/incompetence are used by protagonists in legal contexts to both legitimate and delegitimate jury decisions. For many jury critics, the general image of incompetence is most commonly deployed to delegitimate the role of the jury absolutely. For others, including many jury proponents, it is jury competence in the specific context that is most regularly challenged. There are broader political implications in recognising the politically charged nature of competence. For those working in an Enlightenment positivist framework, images of jury competence have regularly been linked to images of democratic capability. According to this approach, maintaining the jury system is dependent on improving the scientific literacy of the lay public to achieve democratic outcomes:

    Within such frameworks, disbanding or restricting public participation in the jury might not constitute a challenge to democratic processes if the public is unlikely to attain the requisite degree of competence. The legitimatory rhetoric of competence disguises points of political conflict in contemporary society. For instance, the occasional fragmentation and political conflict between expert knowledges and the important interplay between lay and expert understandings of science and technology--in short, the fundamentally political nature of modern science and technology--are disguised.

    The failure to recognise and deal with the political nature of jury competence could well create problems for those wishing to maintain the social authority of the legal system. Using a strict technocratic model to deny the jury input into decision making provides a challenge to notions of democracy in which the public has a right to shape decisions which directly affect them. It also implies that contemporary science and technology are beyond the grasp and control of the public. Such a situation might contribute to the development of polarised public responses--drawing from romantic perspectives--calling for the total rejection of science and technology.[75] Challenging jury competence in relation to specific decisions could also lead to problems of legitimacy for legal institutions. The conclusions drawn by juries can be influenced by the contingencies in the knowledge-making setting. Our earlier discussion highlighted the importance of public understandings of science linked to contingencies such as tacit knowledge, trust and institutional identification, simplification and exposition. Uncritical notions of competence deny the complexities involved in deriving legal decisions in relation to science and technology. Ironically, denying these contingencies leaves legal institutions vulnerable to criticisms of denying themselves a textured means of explaining the outcome of their decisions. The failure to adequately problematise scientific knowledge and the notion of its public understanding, as is the case in the dominant discourse on jury competence, has meant institutions anxious to maintain their public authority by promoting the public understanding of science may be contributing to the opposite outcome. [76]

    Commentary by David Bernstein[*]

    Edmond and Mercer identify three justifications for the use of civil juries. The first is that the collective wisdom of six to twelve individuals from a cross-section of the community is more likely to lead to an objectively correct result than is a lone judge's ruminations. This view, while plausible with regard to run-of-the-mill cases, is almost certainly mistaken with regard to toxic tort cases and other civil cases involving complex scientific evidence.[77]

    A second reason that juries might be preferable to judges is that juries are perceived to be a check on legal rigidity. Juries are expected to base their verdicts on "extralegal values" or "their sense of justice."[78] A jury can therefore legitimately punish Charlie Chaplin's sexual misconduct by finding he was the father of an illegitimate child, even though genetic tests showed this was impossible. But if the Chaplin verdict was correct, then jury trials are no more than popularity contests, and the rule of law is reduced to a mere rhetorical device.

    Finally, sundry sociologists of science, such as Sheila Jasanoff and, apparently, Edmond and Mercer, believe that in the absence of a consensus over the trustworthiness of various "claimants to knowledge," it makes far more sense to allow scientific decisions to be made democratically through juries than to allow the technocratic elite to make them. It must be realised, however, that consensus is no real standard at all. Given the diversity and breadth of the scientific (and pseudo-scientific) community, and the financial incentives for experts involved in major product liability cases, consensus is extremely rare.

    The availability of important products including vaccines, contraceptives and medical-grade silicone has been threatened by US jury verdicts. Allowing scientifically ignorant jurors to determine whether these products are to be available makes absolutely no sense from a public health point of view. I would be content to allow Edmond and Mercer the option of letting a random sampling of the public to vote on whether their families may have access to such products. On the other hand, I believe the rest of us to be very much entitled to use these products regardless of the upshot of the whim, superstition and "sense of justice" of sundry panels composed of six to twelve of our fellow citizens.

    Fortunately, over the last decade or so, US judges have become increasingly interested in ensuring that legal decisions actually conform to the underlying evidence. This inevitable result has been a welcome decline in the authority of civil juries.

    Commentary by Ian Freckelton[*]

    The debate about the jury's capacity to process the complexities of scientific evidence adequately has an analogy in the game of cricket. The focus in criminal trials on the jurors is like the focus in cricket on the batsmen. But one can also factor into the evaluation process the condition of the ball, the state of the pitch, the skills of the bowler, the impact of the home ground, the effect of a supportive crowd and even the role of the umpire. If the focus of inquiry is solely or even predominantly on the batsmen's ability to bat, the inquiry risks losing perspective.

    The fundamental question in the context of jurors being able to grapple effectively with scientific evidence is how to regulate the delivery of information to lay decision makers to maximise their chances of dealing adequately with it. The persons responsible for this are expert witnesses, lawyers and judges. That their several performance at times have left something to be desired does not necessarily reflect upon the juror's competence at all.

    For over a century, what has characterised the debate about juror competence is a remarkable lack of empirical information--a defect that has not deterred in the slightest advocates of juror competence or of juror incompetence from making assertions in support of their positions.

    The passion engendered by the debate arises primarily from the symbolic significance attributed by many to the role of the jury as a populist bulwark against judicial and executive tyranny. Commentators have also highlighted the imperative for jurors to "get it right" when processing information that may result in erroneous conviction or acquittal. Both notions are unrealistically positivist and encumbered by unhelpful romanticism.

    There is no shortage of examples of "rogue" forensic scientists and of poor scientific practice which was only exposed by the legal system too late for those convicted. In the United States there have been controversies aplenty in the last decade, for example about the evidence of the discredited footprint expert Louise Robbins[79] and about the forensic assertions of odontologist Michael West.[80] In England forensic science's travails have been prominently exemplified in the IRA bombing cases where partisan and inaccurate information was presented to juries in relation to explosives' analysis. In Australia, inadequate forensic science has come to the fore in the royal commissions into the Splatt and Chamberlain cases and then in relation to the evidence given by "Bomber Barnes," the former Deputy Director of Australia's largest forensic science laboratory in Victoria, in relation to gunshot residue.[81]

    The problems of the evidence have included abandonment of neutrality, poor record-keeping, adoption of questionable techniques, bad methodology, use of tests still under development, failure to disclose inconsistent results and failure to submit to proper peer review processes. How is the jury to learn of such matters? By effective and informed cross-examination and by contrary expert evidence. In countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where the pools of experts available to the defence are shallow in the extreme, especially with the death by attrition of legal aid, the role of lawyers in keeping the scientists honest has become all the more important. The truth, though, is that trial lawyers' record as the fourth estate of the criminal courtroom has been far from formidable. If the scientific understanding of the lawyers is blurred, both judge and jury will be left with a mass of scarcely understandable data, generating the potential for miscarriages of justice.

    It may be that a combination of initiatives is necessary: improvement in scientific competence and communication; more judicial involvement to clarify issues in dispute; courts appointing their own experts in cases that require such a measure; enhancement of trial lawyers' competence to make expert witnesses accountable; and introduction of procedures to enhance the capacity of lay decision makers to arrive at their decisions on the basis of reasoned evaluation.

    Response by Gary Edmond and David Mercer

    The responses by Bernstein and Freckelton rely upon idealised images of law and science and their interaction. For Bernstein there is an implicit appeal to a resolution to scientific debate available to be invoked by rational judges or technocratic elites. For Freckelton, the "problem" can be resolved (or at least substantially reduced) by improving the communication of science to lay audiences and improving scientific and legal practices, such as eradication of scientific fraud and requiring competent cross-examination. Both commentators fail to grapple with occasions when scientific experts disagree. In cases where experts disagree, obtaining yet another expert opinion is unlikely to offer any decisive benefit over drawing from the opinion of a lay person.

    These difficulties have been clearly displayed in the failure of science courts to achieve widespread scientific, legal and public acceptability. Science court proposals have received criticism for assuming that the use of court-like procedures would be able to separate scientific facts from social preconceptions. One problem is that for a scientist to gain sufficient authority to pronounce in an authoritative way on a matter of scientific controversy, such a scientist is normally already a participant in the controversy in question. Selecting "scientist-judges" or "experts" who possess scientific authority but are not simultaneously embroiled in the proceedings is difficult. Further, selection of scientist-judges without prior involvement may well lead to inconclusive and/or non-authoritative conclusions. This highlights divisions within the so-called technocratic elite. In this context, Bernstein's position is contradictory. Whilst Bernstein accepts that "[given] the diversity and breadth of the scientific (and pseudo-scientific) community, and the financial incentives for experts involved in major product liability cases, consensus is extremely rare," he retains an unexplicated confidence in the ability of a so-called technocratic elite to resolve such issues.

    It is also worth noting that Freckelton does not engage with our position and Bernstein uncharitably misrepresents us. With respect to Bernstein, nowhere in our discussion do we contend that juries are "more likely to lead to an objectively correct result than is a lone judge's ruminations" nor that juries should base their verdicts solely on extralegal values or their sense of justice. Rather it has been our intention to argue that the choice of who should adjudicate between competing (expert) opinions is intrinsically political.

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    [*] The following discussion focuses on common law jurisdictions (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, Canada). For a more detailed discussion of similar themes see G. Edmond and D. Mercer, "Scientific literacy and the jury: reconsidering `jury competence'," Public Understanding of Science, Vol. 6, 1997, pp. 329-357.

    [*] Drawing from shared backgrounds in the history and philosophy of science, Gary Edmond and David Mercer have published a number of papers exploring the interactions of law and science in contemporary society. Gary Edmond is currently enrolled in a PhD at Cambridge University. He took a BA (Hons) from the University of Wollongong, receiving the University Medal, and then completed a law degree with first class honours from the University of Sydney where he was ranked first in his final year. Dr David Mercer is a lecturer in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Wollongong. Apart from law and science, his interests include the public understanding of science, scientific and technological controversy, and science and technology policy. His doctoral research investigated the debate surrounding the risks of electric and magnetic fields focusing on the construction of science-public policy in the Gibbs Powerline Inquiry. The authors are listed alphabetically.

    [1]. American Bar Association, Jury Comprehension in Complex Cases (Chicago: ABA, 1989).

    [2]. J. Stone and W. A. N. Wells, Evidence: Its History and Policies (Sydney: Butterworths, 1991), pp. 16-22; J. Hunter and K. Cronin, Evidence, Advocacy and Ethical Practice: A Criminal Trial Commentary (Sydney: Butterworths, 1995), pp. 96-145.

    [3]. M. Galanter, "The civil jury as regulator of the litigation process," University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1990, pp. 201-271.

    [4]. New South Wales Law Reform Commission, The Jury in a Criminal Trial: A Discussion Paper for Community Consultation (Sydney, 1985), p. 48.

    [5]. E. P. Thompson, "Trial by jury," New Society, Vol. 50, 1979, pp. 501-502; A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. I (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, 9th ed.), pp. 280-287; V. Hans and N. Vidmar, Judging the Jury (New York: Plenum Press, 1986), p. 114.

    [6]. P. Devlin, Trial by Jury (London: Stevens, 1956), p. 164; G. Mungham and Z. Bankowski, "The jury in the legal system," in P. Carlen (ed.), The Sociology of Law (Keele: Sociological Review Monograph, 1976), p. 217.

    [7]. V. P. Hans, "Attitudes toward the civil jury: a crisis of confidence?" in R. Litan (ed.), Verdict: Assessing the Civil Jury System (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1993), pp. 248-281, at pp. 248-249; P. H. Schuck, "Mapping the debate on jury reform," in ibid., pp. 306-340, at pp. 328-329.

    [8]. Hans and Vidmar, op. cit., p. 116.

    [9]. R. J. Allen, "Unexplored aspects of the theory of the right to trial by jury," Washington University Law Quarterly, Vol. 66, 1988, pp. 33-45, at p. 35; C. A. G. Jones, Expert Witnesses: Science, Medicine, and the Practice of Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), p. 119. However, Jones discusses the concern raised by such practices. See also R v Duke (1979) 22 SASR 46 at 48.

    [10]. H. Kalven and H. Zeisel, The American Jury (Boston: Little, Brown, 1966), p. 165.

    [11]. Lord Roskill, Fraud Trials Committee Report (London: HMSO, 1986), p. 196.

    [12] S. S. Diamond and J. D. Casper, "Blindfolding the jury to verdict consequences: damages, experts, and the civil jury," Law & Society Review, Vol. 26, 1992, pp. 513-563, at p. 558.

    [13]. R. Lempert, "Civil juries and complex cases: taking stock after twelve years," in Litan, op. cit., pp. 181-247, at p. 182 [emphasis added]; J. S. Cecil, V. P. Hans and E. C. Wiggins, "Citizen comprehension of difficult issues: lessons from civil jury trials," American University Law Review, Vol. 40, 1991, pp. 703-774, at pp. 729-734, 744-745, 750-753; N. Vidmar, "Are juries competent to decide liability in tort cases involving scientific/medical issues? Some data from medical malpractice," Emory Law Journal, Vol. 43, 1994, pp. 885-911; M. S. Jacobs, "Testing the assumptions underlying the debate about scientific evidence: a closer look at juror `incompetence' and scientific `objectivity'," Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 25, 1993, pp. 1083-1115.

    [14]. M. J. Saks, "Do we really know anything about the behavior of the tort litigation system--and why not?" University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 140, 1992, pp. 1147-1291, at p. 1239; Hans, op. cit., p. 274.

    [15]. It is worth briefly acknowledging that the tendency to use the judge as a "yardstick" for evaluations of jury competence has been subject to criticism: Cecil, Hans and Wiggins, op. cit., pp. 762, 764; A. Kapardis, Psychology and Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 130-131; R. MacCoun, R., "Inside the black box: what empirical research tells us about decisionmaking by civil juries," in Litan, op. cit., pp. 137-180, at p. 164; Kalven and Zeisel, op. cit., pp. 9, 11.

    [16]. Kalven and Zeisel, ibid.

    [17]. MacCoun, op. cit., pp. 166-67, 177; Lempert, op. cit., p. 219.

    [18]. Hans and Vidmar, op. cit., p. 118. There are many similarities with the work of J. Baldwin and M. McConville, Jury Trials (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979).

    [19]. Saks, op. cit., pp. 1230-1231; Hans, op. cit., p. 265.

    [20]. E. Knittel and D. Seiler, "The merits of trial by jury," Cambridge Law Journal, Vol. 30, 1971, pp. 316-325, at p. 321.

    [21]. Lempert, op. cit., pp. 191-192, 196, 201, 204, 208; R. E. Litan, "Introduction," in Litan, op. cit., pp. 1-21, at p. 11; R. W. Harding, "Jury performance in complex cases," in M. Findlay and P. Duff (eds.), The Jury Under Attack (Sydney: Butterworths, 1988), pp. 74-94, at pp. 90-91.

    [22]. New South Wales Law Reform Commission, The Jury in a Criminal Trial: A Discussion Paper for Community Consultation (Sydney, 1985), p. 133; New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Criminal Procedure Report: The Jury in a Criminal Trial (Sydney, 1986), p. 87.

    [23]. L. Heuer and S. Penrod, "Increasing juror participation in trials through note taking and question asking," Judicature, Vol. 79, 1996, pp. 256-262; G. T. Munsterman, "A brief history of state jury reform efforts," Judicature, Vol. 79, 1996, pp. 216-219.

    [24]. See J. A. Henderson and T. E. Eisenberg, "The quiet revolution in products liability: an empirical study of legal change," UCLA Law Review, Vol. 37, 1990, pp. 479-553, at pp. 491, 534-535.

    [25]. Schuck, op. cit., p. 308.

    [26]. Lempert, op. cit., p. 202.

    [27]. Baldwin and McConville, op. cit., p. 131.

    [28]. Schuck, op. cit., pp. 310, 319; E. R. Sunderland, "The inefficiency of the American jury," Michigan Law Review, Vol. 13, 1915, pp. 302-316; Hans, op. cit., p. 249.

    [29]. 113 S.Ct. 2786 at 2798 (1993).

    [30]. I. Freckelton, "Expert evidence and the role of the judiciary," Australian Bar Review, Vol. 12, 1994, pp. 73-106, at pp. 77-78, 84, 85, 90, 105.

    [31]. G. Edmond and D. Mercer, "Keeping `junk' history, philosophy and sociology of science out of the courtroom: problems with the reception of Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc," University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 20, 1997, pp. 48-100.

    [32]. Consider F. J. Ayala and B. Black, "Science and the courts," American Scientist, Vol. 81, 1993, pp. 230-239, p. 230.

    [33]. A. Wildavsky, But Is It True? A Citizen's Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), pp. 395-409.

    [34]. A. Irwin, Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise and Sustainable Development (New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 9-17.

    [35]. New South Wales Law Reform Commission, 1985, op. cit., pp. 14, 41; Schuck, op. cit., p. 307; S. Daniels, "The question of jury competence and the politics of civil justice reform: symbols, rhetoric and agenda-building," Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 52, No. 4, 1989, pp. 279ff.

    [36]. J. Frank, Law and the Modern Mind (New York: Bretano's, 1930), p. 178. Compare, P. Robertshaw, Judge and Jury: The Crown Court in Action (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1995), pp. 200-201; B. S. Oppenheimer, "Trial by jury," University of Cincinnati Law Review, Vol. 11, 1937, pp. 141-147, at p. 142.

    [37]. H. Zeisel, "The debate over the civil jury in historical perspective," University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1990, pp. 25-32, at p. 30.

    [38]. L. Hand, "Historical and practical considerations regarding expert testimony," Harvard Law Review, Vol. 15, 1901, pp. 40-58, at pp. 54-56.

    [39]. B. Wynne, "Public understanding of science," in S. Jasanoff, G. E. Markle, J. C. Petersen and T. Pinch (eds.), Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995), pp. 361-388, at pp. 365-370.

    [40]. P. W. Huber, "Junk science and the jury," University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1990, pp. 273-302, at p. 273; L. Loevinger, "Science and legal rules of evidence. A review of Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom," Jurimetrics Journal, Vol. 32, 1992, pp. 487-502, at pp. 501-502; Note, "Confronting the new challenges of scientific evidence," Harvard Law Review, Vol. 108, 1995, pp. 1481-1605, at pp. 1583, 1585. Compare G. Edmond and D. Mercer, "Manifest destiny: law and science in America," Metascience, No. 10, 1996, pp. 40-58.

    [41]. G. Edmond and D. Mercer, "The secret life of (mass) torts: the `Bendectin litigation' and the construction of law-science knowledges," University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 20, 1997, pp. 666-706.

    [42]. D. E. Bernstein, "Junk science in the United States and the Commonwealth," Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 21, 1996, pp. 123-182, at p. 180; M. Kersten, "Preserving the right to jury trial in complex cases," Stanford Law Review, Vol. 32, 1979, pp. 99-120.

    [43]. P. W. Huber, Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom (New York: Basic Books, 1991), p. 3; D. Quayle, "Civil justice reform," American University Law Review, Vol. 41, 1992, pp. 559-569, at p. 565.

    [44]. P. W. Huber, "Junk science and the jury," University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1990, pp. 273-302, at pp. 297, 296, 293.

    [45]. Interestingly, much of the empirical research tends to undermine such claims. See V. P. Hans and W. S. Lofquist, "Jurors' judgments of business liability in tort cases," Law and Society Review, Vol. 26, 1992, pp. 85-115; B. J. Ostrom, D. B. Rottman and J. A. Goerdt, "A step above anecdote: a profile of the civil jury in the 1990s," Judicature, Vol. 79, 1996, pp. 233-248.

    [46]. M. Galanter, "Reading the landscape of disputes: what we know and don't know (and think we know) about our allegedly contentious and litigious society," UCLA Law Review, Vol. 31, 1983, pp. 4-71.

    [47]. E. J. Chan, "The `brave new world' of Daubert: true peer review, editorial peer review, and scientific validity," New York University Law Review, Vol. 70, 1995, pp. 100-134, at p. 102.

    [48]. Bernstein, op. cit., p. 181.

    [49]. D. Drazan, "The case for special juries in toxic tort," Judicature, Vol. 72, 1989, pp. 292-303.

    [50]. Fed. Rules Evid. Rule 706 U.S.C.A.

    [51]. B. Caspar and P. Wellstone, "Science court on trial in Minnesota," in B. Barnes and D Edge (eds.), Science in Context: Readings in the Sociology of Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982), at p. 250. See also A. Kantrowitz, "Democracy and Technology," in C. Starr and C. Ritterbush (eds.), Science, Technology and the Human Prospect (New York: Pergamon Press, 1980), pp. 199-211, at p. 199; K. G. Nichols, Technology on Trial (Paris: OECD, 1979), pp. 97-101.

    [52]. Note, "The case for special juries in complex civil litigation," Yale Law Journal, Vol. 89, 1980, pp. 1155-1176, at p. 1159.

    [53]. A. Irwin and B. Wynne, Misunderstanding Science? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); B. Barnes, About Science (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985); D. Nelkin, Selling Science (New York: Freeman, 1994); also M. C. LaFollette (ed.), Quality in Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982); P. Slovic, Fischhoff and S. Lichtenstein, "The psychometric study of risk perception," in V. T. Covello, J. Menkes and J. Mumpower (eds.), Risk Evaluation and Management (New York: Plenum Press, 1986); D. Mercer, "Science, technology and democracy on the STS agenda: review article," Prometheus, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1998, pp. 81-91.

    [54]. Wynne, op. cit., pp. 362-363; Irwin, op. cit., pp. 9-36.

    [55]. U. Beck, Risk Society (London: Sage, 1992); A. Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Cambridge: Polity, 1991). Irwin, op. cit., pp. 43-52.

    [56]. Wynne, op. cit., p. 375.

    [57]. R. Smith and B. Wynne (eds.), Expert Evidence (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 15.

    [58]. S. Jasanoff, Science at the Bar (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995); D. Mercer, "The NIEMR/EMF Controversy: The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge and Science Policy in the `Gibbs' Powerline Inquiry 1990/91," PhD Thesis, University of Wollongong, 1993.

    [59]. J. R. Ravetz, Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp.181-208; B. Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987); T. Shinn and R. Whitley (eds.), Expository Science (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1985).

    [60]. S. Hilgartner, "The dominant view of popularisation: conceptual problems, political uses," Social Studies of Science, Vol. 20, 1990, pp. 519-539, at p. 523.

    [61]. M. Mulkay and N. Gilbert, "Putting philosophy to work: Karl Popper's influence on scientific practice," Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Vol. 11, 1981, pp. 389-407; B. Wynne, "Knowledges in context," Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 16, 1991, pp. 111-121, p 114; M. Hamm, "Textbook portrayals of science and technology: issues in a television age," Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 16, 1991, pp. 88-98.

    [62]. McLean v. Arkansas 529 F. Supp. 1255 (1982) and Edwards v. Aguillard 107 S.Ct. 2573 (1986).

    [63]. 113 S.Ct. 2786 (1993).

    [64]. G. Edmond and D. Mercer, "Recognising Daubert: what judges should know about falsificationism," Expert Evidence, Vol. 5, Issues 1 & 2, 1996, pp. 29-42; P. Quinn, "The philosopher of science as an expert witness," in J. Cushing, C. Delaney and G. Gutting (eds.), Science and Reality: Recent Work in the Philosophy of Science (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984).

    [65]. See the dissent of US Chief Justice Rehnquist in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 113 S.Ct. 2786.

    [66]. Mike Michael, "Lay discourses of science: science-in-general, science-in-particular, and self," Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 17, 1992, pp. 313-333; D. Mercer, "Understanding Scientific/Technical Controversy," Science and Technology Policy Research Group, University of Wollongong, Occasional Paper No. 1, 1996; G. Edmond, "Down by science: context and commitment in the lay response to incriminating scientific evidence during a murder trial," Public Understanding of Science, Vol. 7, 1998, pp. 83-111.

    [67]. Jasanoff, op. cit., pp. 3-4.

    [68]. B. Wynne, Rationality and Ritual: The Windscale Inquiry and Nuclear Decisions in Britain (Chalfont St. Giles: British Society for the History of Science, 1982), Chapter 7.

    [69]. Huber, 1991, op. cit., pp. 148-149; Jasanoff, op. cit., p. 11.

    [70]. K. Prewitt, "The public and science policy." Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 7, 1982, pp. 5-14; J. D. Miller, "Scientific literacy: a conceptual and empirical review," Daedalus, Vol. 112, 1983, pp. 29-48.

    [71]. J. Ziman, "Public understanding of science," Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 16, 1991, pp. 99-105, at p. 103.

    [72]. Irwin and Wynne, op. cit.

    [73]. B. Barnes, The Elements of Social Theory (London: UCL Press, 1995), pp. 110-111.

    [74]. Wildavsky, op. cit., p. 408.

    [75]. Beck, op. cit.

    [76]. Wynne, 1995, op. cit., pp. 364-365.

    [*] David Bernstein is an Assistant Professor at George Mason University School of Law, where he teaches Evidence and Environmental Regulation. Professor Bernstein is a graduate of Yale Law School and has served as Research Fellow in the Julius Silver Program in Law Science and Technology at Columbia University School of Law.

    [77]. As I am limited to 500 words of commentary, I direct the reader to my article "Procedural tort reform: lessons from other nations," Regulation, No. 1, 1996, at p. 67, for a detailed argument on this point.

    [78]. E.g., Marc Galanter, "The regulatory function of the civil jury," in Robert E. Litan (ed.), Verdict: Assessing the Civil Jury System (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1993), pp. 88-90 .

    [*] Barrister-at-Law, Victoria, NSW, Qld, SA, ACT and Tas.

    [79]. M. Hanson, "Believe it or not," American Bar Association Journal, Vol. 79, June 1993, p. 64.

    [80]. M. Hanson, "Out of the blue," American Bar Association Journal, Vol. 82, February 1996, p. 50.

    [81]. See Ian Freckelton, "Judicial attitudes toward scientific evidence: the antipodean experience," University of California Davis Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 4, 1997, pp. 1139-1227.

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