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June 28, 1995

Culture Clash: Law and Science in America

Author Affiliations

Department of Defense Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Washington, DC

JAMA. 1995;273(24):1962. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520480082049

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In the author's view, America embraces science as an objective process, which evaluates theories on the basis of standard criteria. Through science, systematic experimentation yields reproducible results, and brilliance is manifested by doing something that no one has done before.

Scientists build upon their predecessors' accomplishments. In this continuum, each successive advance is made possible by the prior work of others, but individual achievement is easily recognized. Moreover, there is universal agreement that scientific progress benefits the commonwealth.

While science deals with knowledge of the natural world, law seeks to peacefully resolve human disputes through the application of a defined process. In the course of this dispute resolution, social goals are often accommodated and championed. The legal process is more time sensitive than scientific endeavors, and events often dictate a decision before the receipt of all objective data. The legal rules that are used are crafted by appellate judges who

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