Proof in Science and Law: Gatekeeping Expert Testimony

Cassandra Pinnick
Western Kentucky University
October 14th, 2004, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
Walter 235

pinnickA practical application of that formal notion: proof, arises at the intersection of science and law. Courts of law depend upon expert testimony to adjudicate matters at trial. This dependency requires minimally that there be criteria by which a court may certify that an individual is an expert. And, as science plays a growing pivotal role in litigation, it is apparent that courts need standards of proof by which an additional, prior, question can be decided, namely: Is the very content of the expert testimony scientific? I consider how, if at all, the current state of the interaction between science and law, and the implications this has for public affairs, places any burden on philosophy.

Cassandra Pinnick, a California native born in Watts, completed her undergraduate degree in 1973, at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in Philosophy with a minor in Mathematics. She practised law as a private practitioner from 1976 through 1987, in California and Hawaii. In 1993, under the supervision of Larry Laudan, she completed the Ph.D. in Philosophy, at the University of Hawaii – Manoa. She joined the faculty at Western Kentucky University in 1992, and has primary responsibility for courses in logic and philosophy of science.

She is a Fellow at the Center for the Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, and was a Resident Fellow at the Center for the academic year 2000-2001. Since 2001, she has been Visiting Faculty in Philosophy and Logic, at the Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico. In 2004, she became the first Executive Secretary for the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS). In 2003, Pinnick was an invited speaker at the GAP.5 meetings, the Fifth International Congress for Analytic Philosophy, in Bielefeld, Germany. In 2004, she was a speaker at the 5th Quadrennial International Fellows conference, Krakow (Rytro), Poland, and at the Fifth Biennial Congress for the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS), San Francisco.

Pinnick’s research concerns the epistemology of evidence, justification, and belief, and she is interested to link these philosophical topics to important public policy debate.

She is co-editor, with Noretta Koertge and Robert F. Almeder, of Scrutinizing Feminist Epistemology: an Examination of Gender in Science (Rutgers University Press 2003). Her work is published in journals such as Philosophy of Science, Metascience, Science & Education, Social Epistemology, Social Studies of Science, and the International Journal for Philosophy of Science.

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