Science and the Law

Clashing World Views in Search of a Common Understanding
  • P. A. HancockEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 821)


The present work examines some of the clashes and contentions that exist between science (the way in which rational exposition seeks to understand the world around us) and the law (the encoded incarnation of sufficient levels of human agreement within specific societies). In theory, these ways of knowing should act in accord with each other. In practice, often they do not. The typical and traditional way to finesse any particular inconsistency between these realms of human activity is to assert that science and law occupy different ‘magesteria’ of thought. That is, they differ so radically that they may even necessarily be incommensurate one with the other. This assertion is tenable because science and the law are each framed by, react to, and serve sufficiently different constituencies of the human enterprise so as to reasonably be identified and separated in this way. However, I reject these so-called ‘magesterial’ divisions. To support such a rejection, I here compare science and law and how they each approach their mutual experience of a common reality. I look, albeit very briefly, to explore the historic antecedents of the current schism between the two and observe that not all cultures have rended apart these dual faces of humanity. Yet, unfortunately, this intellectual schizophrenia has burgeoned as a result of the pervasiveness of technology and the influence of the west in framing the global worldview. These concerns are expressed around questions as to ways in which scientific expertise is treated in the legal field. But, even as we view these cited interactions we can at the same time, also ask whether it id possible to actually enact a ‘science’ of law. The latter effort might, for example, specify when and where scientific understanding necessarily has to take priority over legal precedence. In conclusion, philosophical ways are sought through which the fundamental division between law and science can be healed to the betterment of our common future.


Science Law Culture clash Dissonance 



I am very grateful for the comments and recommendations provided by Professor Michael Wogalter in creating the final version of the present work. While the present opinions are solely my own, I remain grateful for his insights and directions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

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