Photo credit: Ami Vitale/Panos
By Mark Joseph Stern
Justice Antonin Scalia was a brilliant man in many ways. He was not, however, a science expert, or a science enthusiast, or even a science believer.
In one puzzling opinion, he admitted that he wasn’t sure whether he accepted the reality of molecular biology. In another, he wrote that “creation science” (that is, creationism) was a legitimate “body of scientific knowledge” and that public schools can teach “whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution.” And in a dissent contesting the federal government’s duty to combat climate change, he shrugged that the court’s “alarm over global warming may or may not be justified.”
President Barack Obama has an opportunity to reorient the court in a more scientifically literate direction. David Faigman, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, recently declared that the current Supreme Court justices “have little understanding of science and make no effort to connect relevant scientific premises to their constitutional decisions.” Surveying the court’s science-based decisions, it’s hard to disagree.
That’s why the Supreme Court needs a nominee who respects, values, and understands science—as well as the integral role that science plays in many crucial legal decisions. From environmental protection to reproductive rights, gay rights, and juvenile justice, many of the court’s most important, high-profile cases hinge on questions on scientific fact. Putting a science-literate justice on the court would help steer these critical cases toward outcomes that are grounded in reality.
Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.