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Copyright (c) 1988 Fordham Law Review
Fordham Law Review

ARTICLE: A UNIFIED THEORY OF SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE.

March, 1988

56 Fordham L. Rev. 595

Author

BERT BLACK *

Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

SCIENTIFIC evidence has always posed special problems for the law, 1 and in recent years these problems have become increasingly difficult. 2 Because an expert can be found to support almost any position, 3 most commentators agree on the need for judicial review and control, 4 but there is no consensus on how to achieve these objectives. 5 This Article argues that solving the problems surrounding the use and interpretation of scientific evidence requires a unified, coherent approach to deciding admissibility that covers all areas of science and all kinds of cases. In order to develop such an approach, this Article proposes a theoretical framework based on distinguishing two aspects of relevancy: (1) the validity of the reasoning leading to a conclusion, and (2) the reliability of the conclusion.

Validity and reliability, though intertwined, are very different concepts. One normally speaks of "valid" rather than "reliable" reasons or theories, and of "reliable" rather than "valid" instruments or machines. Results, conclusions, or techniques may be either valid or reliable. Behind these simple examples of everyday usage lie largely overlooked conceptual distinctions and relationships that are fundamental to a coherent legal theory of scientific evidence.

As used in this Article, reliability means that a successful outcome, or a correct answer, is sufficiently probable for a given situation. 6 A baseball player who gets a hit forty percent of the time is an extremely reliable batter, 7 but a lie detection device that correctly ...
 
 
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