Scalia’s Supreme Court Replacement Should Respect Science

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.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – 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.”

    The woo-addled anti-science greedy corporate representatives in the senate are determined to obstruct all progress, and seem to be under the delusion that they have a “right” to fail to provide the public with properly manned functional services!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-35645775

    The US Senate will block a vote on any Supreme Court nominee from President Barack Obama, the Republican Majority Leader in the chamber has warned.

    Sen Mitch McConnell acknowledged Mr Obama’s right to propose a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier this month.

    But he stressed that Republicans controlling the Senate would also exercise their rights.

    Scalia’s death left the conservative-run Supreme Court evenly divided.

    It also set off a battle in a presidential election year over Scalia’s successor into the nine-member body.

    According to the constitution, the president nominates justices to the court while the Senate uses its “advice and consent” powers to confirm or reject that person.

    Powers to confirm or reject a particular person (on the basis of their competence?), does not sound to me me like “a right” to announce a blanket obstruction, of ANY nomination they are required to consider on its merits!

  2. The problem that I see with the administration of law is that it needs a system of remuneration that does not earn practitioners more money the more inefficient they are. This is explained very well in Chapter 12 of The Selfish Gene. At the moment we live in an environment that causes inefficiency to evolve stronger and stronger systems to extract wealth from the rest of humanity. Consider how buying a house has got more and more expensive. I am not referring to the cost of the building, but the cost of transferring it.

  3. John de Rivaz #3
    Feb 24, 2016 at 5:57 am

    At the moment we live in an environment that causes inefficiency to evolve stronger and stronger systems to extract wealth from the rest of humanity. Consider how buying a house has got more and more expensive. I am not referring to the cost of the building, but the cost of transferring it.

    Interestingly, my daughter gave up on attempting to buy a particular house she was interested in, which unfortunately messed up the seller’s arrangements to purchase their replacement house, and also messed up the the people who were selling to them in their proposed move.

    She liked the house and had made an offer subject to survey, but the sellers had employed a “cheap” law firm to handle the legal process.

    As you say charging or payment by the hour, encourages inefficiency in lawyers and in courts.

    In order to make progress with the sale, some documents were needed from a planning office, so after waiting for 7 weeks for a job which was required to be done in 2 weeks, she chased them up to send the planning consents required.
    A few days later a letter arrived, so she phoned them to ask why the information was not enclosed! They claimed it was in the letter, at which point she informed them that it was a 50 page document and they had sent a photocopy of the front cover! They offered to print her a copy for £50.

    She is a lawyer who deals with property transactions, so she phoned up the planning office herself, and had the missing document as an email attachment within half an hour.

    Other matters dragged on, so as she put it, “They can’t even do the job when I tell them how to do it”!
    The conveyancing law firm causing the problems, was using (supposedly supervised) unqualified office staff in the interests of cheapness! –
    This was one of the “benefits” of earlier legislation deregulating aspects of legal services in the interests of providing “customer choice” and “competition”!

    In the end, she gave up, wrote off the money she had spent on the survey, and bought a house half a mile further along the road.

  4. Let’s see how this works out in view of the Republican background noise!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-35823234

    President Barack Obama has announced he is nominating veteran appeals court judge Merrick Garland to be the next US Supreme Court Justice.

    The Supreme Court vacancy follows the death of Antonin Scalia last month.

    Judge Garland, 63, is viewed as a moderate and has won praise from senior Republican figures.

    The appointment has to be ratified by the Senate, but its Republican majority earlier vowed to block a vote on any Supreme Court nominee from Mr Obama.

  5. The obstructive dog-in-the-manger Republican ideologues, continue with no respect for anything except their own self-important deluded stupidity!

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/20/republican-senators-skipping-recess-to-block-obama/

    Republican senators skipping recess to block Obama Supreme Court appointment

    Senators are scheduled to be on a break from Washington for the next two weeks, but they have left behind a rearguard to keep the chamber running on low gear, denying President Obama a chance to install his Supreme Court nominee.

    It’s part of Republicans’ vow to do everything to keep Mr. Obama from replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death last month left the court divided 4-4, and left Democrats salivating over the opportunity to replace the conservative Scalia with a liberal.

    Mr. Obama last week nominated Judge Merrick Garland, an appeals court judge in the District of Columbia, to fill Scalia’s seat.

    Judge Garland has received near universal praise for his qualifications and temperament.

    Still some advocacy groups important to Republicans, such as the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Business, have given him low marks for rulings.

    Republican leaders didn’t budge in their vow to deny any Obama nominee a hearing, much less a vote, saying the responsibility for picking a replacement should rest with the next president.

    It would be unprecedented to leave the post unfilled for as long as after the election, and it appears Obama has nominated an excellent candidate, but hey! If the gun lobby does not like him, what does expertise count for?!!!!!!

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