Kahan on Science & Law School Education

At the Cultural Cognition Blog, Dan Kahan introduces a new project:

“I’ve been asked to be part of an NAS working group that will develop a proposal on how science should figure in the training of lawyers. I’m going to put together a memo that outlines my own initial views and distribute it shortly before the first meeting (in mid January). Below is a condensed account of the points and themes that my memo will stress. But my ideas are provisional & formative; indeed, I share them to invite your reactions, which I expect to stimulate and educate my own thinking.

I welcome feedback not only on the substance but also on what to include in an annotated bibliography, the germ of which appears after the narrative section. The bibliography is not meant as a syllabus for a course; some of the items would no doubt be assigned in the sort of “forensic science literacy” course I am describing, but mainly I am trying to compile sources that help make the spirit & philosophy of such an offering more vivid for memo readers.”

The remainder of the post, which talks about the components of science training for lawyers, is both provocative (in the best sense) and illuminating.  I figured it’d be of interest to our readers, especially in light of the recent discussion on this blog regarding the relationship between legal scholarship, legal education, and the practice of law. (And in light of the responses in the HLR Forum to Dan’s forward, one of which claimed to hear in Dan’s work “the sounds of an earlier era, the era when Progressives believed that scientific expertise could be called upon to resolve normative questions that divided the nation …”)  In the blog post, Dan argues that the key task of law schools in here is to teach students to “recognize what constitutes sound forensic science and what doesn’t. A model course should instruct students in the general concepts and procedures that one must understand in order to perform this recognition task reliably, including principles of validity; elements of probability; and methods of inquiry (more on these below).”  This conception of scientific legal education is, I think, linked with Dan’s famous speech on the core role that judgment and recognition generally plays in legal education.

In any event, check it out and contribute to the project!

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