Natural Science in Law: Developing Theory and Methodologies for Interdisciplinary Research in Environmental Law
Terms and concepts originating in the natural sciences permeate the law. This is especially true in “new” legal fields like environmental and medical law, but is also true in many “classic” fields such as tort law, in which, for example, scientific expertise is often needed to determine risk or fault. Differing interpretations of these terms and concepts in different disciplines affect decision making and make it difficult to ascertain whether the law is being complied with. When scientific concepts are made part of the law, reference to the natural sciences is often necessary in order to properly understand or apply the law. If judges or other decision makers misunderstand or misuse natural science, the laws’ ability to achieve legislative goals may be hindered. This project has two specific objectives. First, we will analyze science-inflected legal concepts in several environmental regimes that regulate the topics of pesticides, genetically modified organisms, and species and habitat protection. By analyzing the legal and natural scientific aspects of these concepts, we will clarify the roles of jurists and natural scientists in interpreting environmental law to help improve environmental decision making in these areas. Our second objective is to facilitate the improvement of environmental decision making more broadly by developing a method for the interdisciplinary analysis of laws that contain scientific concepts.