Quackery & Junk Science: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How To Spot It

Advocating for sound science in judicial and regulatory proceedings is one of ALF’s key missions. Our widely recognized expertise on this important subject goes back to the amicus briefs that we filed on behalf of esteemed scientists—such as Nicholaas Bloembergen (a Nobel laureate in physics) and Bruce Ames (one of the world’s most frequently cited biochemists)—in each of the Daubert trilogy of Supreme Court cases. In fact, the Daubert opinion, which emphasizes the “gatekeeper” role that federal judges must play in ensuring that juries are exposed only to scientific testimony that is reliable, quotes ALF’s brief on the meaning of “scientific . . . knowledge” as used in Federal Rule of Evidence 702(a). And as our more recent amicus briefs reflect, ALF’s focus on the need for sound science in judicial proceedings continues on subjects ranging from climate change to EPA’s and FDA’s scientific determinations about the safety of consumer products. We also have been monitoring proposals to strengthen federal judges’ gatekeeper role on admissibility of expert scientific testimony. Keeping junk science out of judicial and regulatory proceedings inures to the benefit of the broad public interest as well as to the American judicial system and litigants.

A fascinating article in the June 2022 edition of For The Defense, published by DRI-The Voice of the Defense Bar, traces how centuries-old medical quackery has evolved into junk science in courtrooms. The article, Quackery & Junk Science: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How To Spot It, was written by Melody C. Kiella, a partner at McAngus Goudelock & Courie, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia, and David M. Wilson, a shareholder of Gaines, Gault Hendrix, PC in Birmingham, Alabama. Among other things, the article explains the significant but often confused difference between differential diagnosis and differential etiology. The article is well worth reading, and we appreciate the authors having given us permission to link to it here.

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