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When Questions of Science Come to a Courtroom
Last Wednesday, the nine justices heard arguments in the first global warming case to come before the court. Massachusetts, 11 other states and several cities and environmental groups are saying that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has ignored the requirements of the Clean Air Act and otherwise shirked its responsibilities by failing to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases, chiefly carbon dioxide.
...much of the argument hinged on scientific questions. Is the earth’s climate changing? If so, are human activities contributing to the change? ...Mainstream science has answers to these questions (yes and yes). But while it is impossible to argue that earth has not warmed up a bit in the last century, there are still some scientists with bright credentials and impressive academic affiliations who argue that people don’t have much do to with it. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested on Wednesday, maybe the court will decide to decide this issue for itself. ...If it does, it will also confront issues outside the realm of mainstream science.
One is the standard of proof. Typically, scientists don’t accept a finding unless, statistically, the odds are less than 1 in 20 that it occurred by chance. This standard is higher than the typical standard of proof in civil trials (“preponderance of the evidence”) and lower than the standard for criminal trials (“beyond a reasonable doubt”). ...Lawyers work in reverse. They know their desired outcome at the outset, so they gather arguments to support it. While it would be unethical for scientists reporting on their work to omit findings that don’t fit their hypotheses, lawyers are under no compunction to introduce evidence that hurts their cases; that’s the other side’s job.
Originally posted by dave_54
Not that pivotal.
... The case of itself is meaningless except for building future case law.