Scientific Consensus and Expert Testimony in Courts: Lessons from the Bendectin Litigation

Boaz Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


A consensus in a scientific community is often used as a resource for making informed public-policy decisions and deciding between rival expert testimonies in legal trials. This paper contains a social-epistemic analysis of the high-profile Bendectin drug controversy, which was decided in the courtroom inter alia by deference to a scientific consensus about the safety of Bendectin. Drawing on my previously developed account of knowledge-based consensus, I argue that the consensus in this case was not knowledge based, hence courts’ deference to it was not epistemically justified. I draw sceptical lessons from this analysis regarding the value of scientific consensus as a desirable and reliable means of resolving scientific controversies in public life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-33
Number of pages19
JournalFoundations of Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Consensus
  • Expert testimony
  • Science and policy
  • Science and technology studies (STS)
  • Social epistemology


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