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facts in the courtroom v. facts in the laboratory

 
 
Deckard
 
Reply Sun 7 Feb, 2010 04:06 pm
How do facts as understood by the scientific profession and laboratory context compare and contrast with facts as understood by the legal profession and courtroom context? There are many similarities but there must also be some major differences.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 3,308 • Replies: 44
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kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Feb, 2010 05:17 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;125866 wrote:
How do facts as understood by the scientific profession and laboratory context compare and contrast with facts as understood by the legal profession and courtroom context? There are many similarities but there must also be some major differences.


Facts are facts, namely truths. But, according to the rules of evidence, some facts are admissible in court, and some facts are not admissible. This will vary as between criminal and civil cases, and also as among states depending on whether the action is federal or state.
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Feb, 2010 05:29 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;125900 wrote:
Facts are facts, namely truths. But, according to the rules of evidence, some facts are admissible in court, and some facts are not admissible. This will vary as between criminal and civil cases, and also as among states depending on whether the action is federal or state.


So an inadmissible fact is meaningless in the courtroom though it may still carry weight outside of the courtroom. Seem like refusal to admit a fact is lying by omission especially if an inadmissible fact could outweigh or balance out an admissible fact. This is definitely a big difference from scientific fact. The jury does not consider all the evidence, only all the admissible evidence.

Is the term "legal fact" safe to use in contrast to "scientific fact" or does it have some more technical meaning?

For example: can we say that legal facts are scientific facts minus what is inadmissible?

Venn Diagram? Are scientific facts and legal facts overlapping circles within the bigger circle simply labeled "facts"? If so, what other kinds of facts are there?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Feb, 2010 07:31 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;125904 wrote:
So an inadmissible fact is meaningless in the courtroom though it may still carry weight outside of the courtroom. Seem like refusal to admit a fact is lying by omission especially if an inadmissible fact could outweigh or balance out an admissible fact. This is definitely a big difference from scientific fact. The jury does not consider all the evidence, only all the admissible evidence.

Is the term "legal fact" safe to use in contrast to "scientific fact" or does it have some more technical meaning?

For example: can we say that legal facts are scientific facts minus what is inadmissible?

Venn Diagram? Are scientific facts and legal facts overlapping circles within the bigger circle simply labeled "facts"? If so, what other kinds of facts are there?


No. There are rules of evidence, For example (with some exceptions) hearsay evidence is inadmissible. But there are good reasons for that. I have never heard the term, "legal fact" (except, perhaps, in connection with facts about the law). As I said, facts are just truths. But some are admissible in a court room, and some are not. There is a contrast between admissible and inadmissible facts, not between legal facts and scientific facts.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Feb, 2010 11:51 pm
@Deckard,
People always say that "a fact is a fact"
but
The facts about a physical process or a chemical reaction can be directly demonstrated.
The facts about history or a historical process (evoloution, cosmology) can not be directly demonstrated.
The law deals more with evidence, verdicts and precedents than with facts.
Some evidence consists of facts of various kinds and with various degrees of reliability. Eye witness descriptions (notroiously inaccurate), videotape pretty good, fiber analysis, fingerprints and blood types (not so good), DNA fingerprints (pretty good).
The verdicts in a courtroom (not always justice, not always based on truth). For criminal cases "beyond the shadow of a doubt", for civil cases "the preponderance of evidence". Not all facts are equal and not all truth is equally reliable or equally confirmed.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Feb, 2010 11:58 pm
@prothero,
prothero;126020 wrote:
People always say that "a fact is a fact"
but
The facts about a physical process or a chemical reaction can be directly demonstrated.
The facts about history or a historical process (evoloution, cosmology) can not be directly demonstrated.
The law deals more with evidence, verdicts and precedents than with facts.
Some evidence consists of facts of various kinds and with various degrees of reliability. Eye witness descriptions (notroiously inaccurate), videotape pretty good, fiber analysis, fingerprints and blood types (not so good), DNA fingerprints (pretty good).
The verdicts in a courtroom (not always justice, not always based on truth). For criminal cases "beyond the shadow of a doubt", for civil cases "the preponderance of evidence". Not all facts are equal and not all truth is equally reliable or equally confirmed.


To say that something is a fact in one sense of that term is only to say it is a truth. In another sense of the term, "fact" it is to say that it is a known truth. There are, of course, different kinds of truths, and there are different ways of knowing them (and/or discovering or confirming them) and different ways of weighing them, but, for all that, a truth is a truth.
VideCorSpoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 12:05 am
@kennethamy,
Deckard;125866 wrote:
How do facts as understood by the scientific profession and laboratory context compare and contrast with facts as understood by the legal profession and courtroom context? There are many similarities but there must also be some major differences.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 12:13 am
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;126024 wrote:


It does not seem to me that science has both the burden of production, and also, the burden of persuasion, but only the former. It is not up to the scientist to persuade anyone of anything. Scientists who are aware of the evidence, have the burden of persuading themselves. It is different in the law. The lawyer does have both burdens: production and persuasion.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 12:24 am
@kennethamy,
It isn't really a difference between the laboratory and the courtroom. You have to weigh the cost of being wrongly claiming something vs the cost of dismissing something correct.

In a psych study they might be fine with 95% confidence, in a nuclear plant or the courtroom probably not.
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 12:30 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126022 wrote:
To say that something is a fact in one sense of that term is only to say it is a truth. In another sense of the term, "fact" it is to say that it is a known truth. There are, of course, different kinds of truths, and there are different ways of knowing them (and/or discovering or confirming them) and different ways of weighing them, but, for all that, a truth is a truth.

A fact is a known truth?
That might be OK except for the problems with both the concepts of "knowing, epistomology" and "truth" (What is truth?).

Some facts are more reliable and more certain and closer to truth than others? Water is composed of the elements hydrogen and oxygen seems more established and more comfirmable than say the earth is warming due to human activity or Napolean was a megalomaniac.
An eyewitness reporting the "facts" of a crime is less reliable than a videotape of the event. Neither "facts", "knowing" or "truth" are all that easy to determine and to define.

Theories of knowledge and definitions of truth directly relate to the concept of "fact" and not all "facts" have equal truth value. Scientific "facts" generally are regarded as the most reliable and the most confirmable so everybody likes to put "scientific" in front of their fact assertions but most courtroom facts are not scientific facts.
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 02:15 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;125951 wrote:
No. There are rules of evidence, For example (with some exceptions) hearsay evidence is inadmissible. But there are good reasons for that. I have never heard the term, "legal fact" (except, perhaps, in connection with facts about the law). As I said, facts are just truths. But some are admissible in a court room, and some are not. There is a contrast between admissible and inadmissible facts, not between legal facts and scientific facts.


I think scientific facts do correspond more closely with legal facts as you have described them here. Legal facts are facts about the law such as precedents, statutes and well, laws. A law could be defined as a legal fact.

Perhaps the OP should be rephrased to read: What is the difference between law, as understood in a court, and scientific fact, as understood in the laboratory?

This question can eventually be reduced to the question: What is the difference between normative and positive statements?

Yet the fact that the language of the courts and the language of the laboratory overlap in so many places (Newton's 'Laws' for example) suggest some commonality between the two professions. This causes confusion but it is not surprising. Consider the fact that Francis Bacon was both the herald of modern science and the Lord Chancellor. The two traditions are intertwined. The Age of political revolutions was also the age of scientific revolutions.
0 Replies
 
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 07:37 am
@Deckard,
Deckard;125866 wrote:
How do facts as understood by the scientific profession and laboratory context compare and contrast with facts as understood by the legal profession and courtroom context? There are many similarities but there must also be some major differences.

The main difference is that anecdotal evidence and witness testimony has less wieght in the lab (strictly speaking it shouldn't have any - though I doubt it can be eliminated).
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 07:51 am
@prothero,
prothero;126031 wrote:
A fact is a known truth?
That might be OK except for the problems with both the concepts of "knowing, epistomology" and "truth" (What is truth?).

Some facts are more reliable and more certain and closer to truth than others? Water is composed of the elements hydrogen and oxygen seems more established and more comfirmable than say the earth is warming due to human activity or Napolean was a megalomaniac.
An eyewitness reporting the "facts" of a crime is less reliable than a videotape of the event. Neither "facts", "knowing" or "truth" are all that easy to determine and to define.

Theories of knowledge and definitions of truth directly relate to the concept of "fact" and not all "facts" have equal truth value. Scientific "facts" generally are regarded as the most reliable and the most confirmable so everybody likes to put "scientific" in front of their fact assertions but most courtroom facts are not scientific facts.


And, of course, there is the problem of "what" and "is" too. We cannot answer all questions at once. If scientists started worrying about what "cause" means before they tried discovering what the cause of polio was, they would never have gotten to find out what was the cause of polio. It isn't that the question, what is a cause is not important. It is that the question is not directly relevant. That there is a distinction between two meaning of fact, is true whether or not we know the meaning of true. Just as that there is a distinction between two meanings of "bank" is true even if we don't have a fix on the meaning of "meaning" or the meaning of "true". First things first, second things second, and third things, third. How many "truth values" do you think there are. And, by the way, what do you mean by "truth-value"? In classical logic we have the saying, "partly false, completely false".
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 08:55 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126117 wrote:
And, of course, there is the problem of "what" and "is" too. We cannot answer all questions at once. If scientists started worrying about what "cause" means before they tried discovering what the cause of polio was, they would never have gotten to find out what was the cause of polio. It isn't that the question, what is a cause is not important. It is that the question is not directly relevant. That there is a distinction between two meaning of fact, is true whether or not we know the meaning of true. Just as that there is a distinction between two meanings of "bank" is true even if we don't have a fix on the meaning of "meaning" or the meaning of "true". First things first, second things second, and third things, third. How many "truth values" do you think there are. And, by the way, what do you mean by "truth-value"? In classical logic we have the saying, "partly false, completely false".
somehow or somewhat
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 09:01 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil. Albuquerque;126140 wrote:


Whose logic is that (I ask with great trepidation)? Not mine.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 09:03 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126142 wrote:
Whose logic is that (I ask with great trepidation)? Not mine.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 09:06 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil. Albuquerque;126144 wrote:

Learn what? I asked a question. Whose logic are you talking about? .
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 09:08 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126145 wrote:
Learn what? I asked a question. Whose logic are you talking about? .


Whose else ??? Yours !

Quote:
"If scientists started worrying about what "cause" means before they tried discovering what the cause of polio was, they would never have gotten to find out what was the cause of polio"


From the sentence did they found it or not ?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 09:10 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil. Albuquerque;126146 wrote:
Whose else ??? Yours !


And what is your question about my logic? In fact, I said exactly the contrary of what you wrote I said. That is why it is so difficult to converse with you. You misunderstand almost everything I write. I said that scientists do not (NOT) have to know what the analysis of cause is to find out what is the cause of polio.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 09:12 am
@kennethamy,
Quote:
"If scientists started worrying about what "cause" means before they tried discovering what the cause of polio was, they would never have gotten to find out what was the cause of polio"


From the sentence did they found it or not ? What do you conclude ?
 

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