When Academics Attack: CELS and the Death Penalty

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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5 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    On “replication”- my understanding is that in the physical sciences very few times do people try to “replicate” results in the way that D-R seem to be using the term above unless they think there is something clearly funny about the results (either they think there is clear book-cooking or else a clear mistake.) Rather, they perform similar experiments while changing some aspects to see if the results are robust. This is much closer to Wolfer’s approach, from what’s described here. (I haven’t read the papers and am just going on the description.) Michael Weisberg, a philosopher of science at Penn, has a very good paper on robustness for those who are interested, “Robustness Analysis”, in _Philosophy of Science_, vol. 73, 730-742.

  2. Alex says:


    A general question, could you suggest any good introductory boks on empirical methods (in particular empirical methods used in the social sciences – such as employed by the studies you discusss in this post)?


  3. Hadar says:

    Being there actually brought a flashback from the days I was following the debates on Science and Nature about the sexual orientation of fruit flies. Biological geneticists were quibbling and attacking each other over methodological issues, and I kept thinking that, while the debate seemed genuinely about science, it was also perceived as something that would have bearing on a much more significant ideological debate (the innateness of sexual orientation in humans). Elegant car wreck, indeed.

  4. Don Braman says:

    Of course, this is precisely what cultural cognition theory predicts will happen when advocates retreat from explicitly partisan normative justifications to ostensibly neutral empirical arguments. It’s far easier to agree to disagree on foundational worldviews (“we value different things”); when you make a factual claim, the implication is that saying otherwise is a challenge to the truth (“I’m honest; You’re lying!”). And, because worldviews shape factual evaluations, what was once an argument about diverse value preferences is replicated in more heated terms in the empirical debate. See, e.g., empirical debates over guns, abortion, the death penalty, global warming, nuclear power, gay parenting, etc.

  5. David Kaye says:

    Alex asked about an introductory text on empirical methods. He could take a look at Prove It with Figures: Empirical Methods in Law and Litigation, by Hans Zeisel and me. I am biased of course, but this book uses a minimum of math and has received generally good reviews.

    In some fields spurious findings are commonplace because of the sheer number of mindless studies or variables studied. Replication therefore has become de rigeur in genome-wide association studies.

    A broader notion of replication is “triangulation” described by Zeisel. It is particularly useful in trying to discern causation from observational studies.