Saturday, March 25, 2006
Ideas Have Consequences, by Richard Weaver. I'm not very far, so all I can really say is that it's good, but dense. Not as dense as Kirk's The Conservative Mind (which I foolishly undertook fall semester), and not nearly as long, but it takes a bit of mulling over to really "get". Oh, and if you read the reviews on Amazon, take them with a grain of salt, considering they were all written at least 50 years after the book was published, some of the commenters don't seem to have checked the copyright. Anyway, this passage (sorry, it's long) in particular struck me, probably because we're covering Equal Protection in Con Law right now:
"It is eloquent of that loss of respect for logic to which we owe so many disasters that the French Revolution made equality and fraternity co-ordinates. In so doing, it offered a foretaste of the contemporary political campaign, which shamelessly promises everything.
Equality is a disorganizing concept in so far as human relationships mean order. It is order without a design; it attempts a meaningless and profitless regimentation of what has been ordered from time immemorial by the scheme of things. No society can rightly offer less than equality before the law; but there can be no equality of condition between youth and age or between the sexes; there cannot be equality even between friends. The rule is that each shall act where he is strong; the assignment of identical roles produces first confusion and then alienation, as we have increasing opportunity to observe. Not only is this disorganizing heresy busily confounding the most natural social groupings, it is also creating a reservoir of poisonous envy. How much of the frustration of the modern world proceeds from starting with the assumption that all are equal, finding that this cannot be so, and then having to realize that one can no linger fall back on the bond of fraternity!"
I also just finished Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom by Peter Huber, an MIT trained engineer/ Harvard trained lawyer and one time clerk to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (and, interestingly enough, Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the D.C. Circuit) who also wrote Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists, one of my favorite books on environmentalism, which I also recommend. Anyway, GR was written in 1991, so parts are a little dated, but it's really interesting (especially for a law student), and funny in a pull-no-punches sort of way. Some of the topics are clinical ecology, sudden acceleration, traumatic cancer, cerebral palsy litigation, and Benedictin, among others, usually addressing the problem of "expert" witnesses at the same time. In a way I saw it as a series of cautionary tales for would be overzealous trial lawyers, but my real interest, as always, was the intersection of law and science, which is funny (but only in this post), since Weaver was not a big fan of science. Anyway, it's hard to find just one passage to put in here, but I'll try:
"It is, of course, very much to the lawyer's advantage to embrace the modern philosopher, to maintain that science is unreliable, to assert that nothing is really known for sure and that no one outside the courtroom is to be trusted. The more tightly law is bound to good science, the more orderly and predictable the legal process will become. Most people value order and predictability, but many litigators don't. "[L]itigators as a class are not disposed to value coherence in the law," observes federal appellate judge Laurence Silberman. "[T]he more uncertain the law, the more litigation will take place." For litigators, if for no one else, it is a positive advantage to maintain that science, being indefinable, can supply no reliable truth, that facts (and law too) can never really be known, that true scientific expertise can embrace any view, just like the lawyer paying the expert's fee."
So now that I wrote that all out it occurs to me that I haven't read a novel in a very long time, probably because I shouldn't (I have enough to read from my classes), but if you have any recommendations, leave a comment.
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