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The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law

Volume 15, Issue 1, May 2015

Special issue on Daubert

Mark Amadeus Notturno
Pages 5-25
DOI: 10.5840/jpsl20151512

Falsifiability Revisited: Popper, Daubert, and Kuhn

The Supreme Court’s 1993 Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals decision acknowledged a change in the Federal Rules of Evidence for the admissibility of expert scientific testimony in legal proceedings. Two of the most controversial aspects of the decision were the Court’s general comments about science, and its appeal to Karl Popper’s notion of falsifiability as “a key question to be answered in determining whether a theory or technique is scientific knowledge that will assist the trier of fact.” Indeed, Chief Justice Rehnquist acknowledged in his dissenting opinion that he did not know what falsifiability meant and that he thought other judges would not understand it either. This paper explains what Popper meant by falsifiability, why it has been misunderstood, why it is important today, and how the Court’s decision reflects the larger move from foundationalism to fallibilism that has taken place in epistemology over the course of the twentieth century.

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