Friday, March 14, 2003

Call for a Really New Evidence Scholar(ship): A Pressing Need for a Really Good Translator

During the last thirty years there has been an explosion in the systematic study of methods of analyzing and arguing about evidence and evidentiary processes. The depth and variety of the study of such methods have increased enormously. For example, Bayesians are exploring Bayesian logic and methods with a depth & subtlety not seen before. Beyond these novel approaches to old-hat Bayesian theory, non-law scholars in many fields are plumbing matters such as temporal & tense logic; planning theory; artificial or computational intelligence; artificial life; various theories of "argumentation" (including dialogue and the logic of rhetoric); various and numerous methods of making use of networks & graph theory (e.g., David Schum's directed acyclic graphs embedded in ancillary networks, Judea Pearl's causal networks, Howard's or Schachter's version of influence diagrams, social network analysis); connectionist processing; parallel & distributed processing; data mining (including "intelligent" data mining); various theories and methods of abduction or abductive inference (see, e.g., John Josephson, David Schum, Umberto Eco); fuzzy and rough set theory; theories of self-regulating agents; new theories of induction; and on and on and on. Many of these "arcane" methods are now deployed in the "real" world -- some of them, for example, help make Japanese trains run fast and others help Microsoft search engines and software bug diagnosis programs work, and some of these methods help to predict the weather.

Despite the importance of such developments & fields -- developments & fields that hold important keys to the way human beings do or might make sound judgments about the world --, most legal scholars in Evidence are only faintly aware of these disciplines and studies (even though some of our number know a fair amount about a relatively small sample of these disciplines, fields, and studies). This kind of ignorance is practically inevitable: just keeping up with diverse developments in modern logic is a full-time job. And that's why I am issuing this plea.

Legal scholars - Evidence scholars, in particular - need an interpreter: they need the services of scholars who know something about the sorts of matters just mentioned and can explain their meaning to Evidence scholars. Formerly, there were a few scholars did a bit of this sort of thing - this important job of translation - but those erstwhile and occasional translators are now busy with other matters. Therefore I urge you to be on the lookout for enterprising new scholars who can help educate legal scholars in evidence about the new wave of logic and evidence scholarship -- and who can do so well enough so that legal scholarship in evidence has the right to keep the name it claims for itself.

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