* With apologies to John Gray, and everyone else too.
Thanks to Jason and Co. for allowing me to guest-blog this week. I want to wrap up by talking about a couple of the things I see as an impediment to the ELS enterprise, and specifically to scholarly collaboration between legal academics and social scientists.
Traditionally, the American legal academy -- reflecting its primary mission to train professional advocates -- has generally taken what I think of as an adversarial approach to inquiry: One has a position to be supported, or a result to be achieved, and one marshalls evidence and arguments in support of that position/result while minimizing, discrediting, or otherwise undermining evidence and arguments that oppose it. The opposition does the same thing, and the best arguments (usually) win.
This model -- which, I think it's fair to say, pervades the legal academy -- gives rise to a number of externalities: an emphasis on rhetoric and argumentation, a prioritizing of deductive over inductive and abductive modes of reasoning, and an innate skepticism about facts and data. But while it is a tremendously powerful, efficient mechanism for accomplishing all kinds of things, it is a lousy model for "doing science;" and, in fact, is fundamentally at odds with how scientists think about what they do. (As I noted in a comment to an earlier post, I noticed this most starkly during my two years at NSF, when law faculty would often submit grant proposals that said, effectively, "If you fund my research, I will prove that...").
On the other hand, the intellectual culture of the social sciences brings its own pernicious effects to the collaborative relationship as well. The worst of these is a form of scientism I believe stems from social scientists' relatively low position in the scientific food chain. For many, it takes only a few instances of hearing that one's field "isn't a real science" to become unreasonably defensive and prone to elevate method over all else. One consequence of this is social scientists' tendency to denigrate legal academics' values, including the importance they place on individual cases (versus broad trends), doctrine (versus outcomes), and the normative implications of legal decisions (versus positive explanations of the decisions themselves).
My own view is that the best remedy for these meta-problems begins in the classroom. Law schools that offer courses in (social) scientific thinking -- and social science departments that welcome law school faculty, cross-list courses, and so forth -- underscore the idea that we share common pedagogical goals (critical thinking, logical consistency, etc.) and that both approaches are equally -- albeit differently -- valuable. Moreover, they provide a natural point of contact between the two cultures, and in so doing open up possibilities for greater cross-disciplinary translation and collaboration.