Disagreement among experts
Other Names: Disagreement between expert witnesses
Conflicting viewpoints of specialists
Nature: Industrial, commercial and financial structures depend upon the talent and inventiveness of experts, as do medicine, law, universities and the information infustry. The expert witness on either side may present or stress one aspect of the evidence, and ignore or play down that which could lead to the opposite conclusion.
Background: A high proportion of experts were trained in universities and provided with credentials by their peers and specialized government agencies. It is only in practice that the consequence of their specialized training becomes apparent in the form of disagreements between them which derive in large part from the fragmentation of the disciplines through which they were trained.
Incidence: Many important questions remain unresolved, or delayed, because of conflicts between experts: poor health associated with the Gulf War veterans; exposure to Agent Organge defoliant; effects of toxic waste or acid rain; acknowledgement of global warming; effects of rising population levels. This poses a problem for journalists who are often unable to determine which opinion to reflect in communicating through the media to the public.
Claim: The prosecution expert never draws conclusions that suggest the accused is not guilty, while the defence expert never presents evidence suggesting his guilt.
Counter Claim: The genuine controversies do not arise because expert witnesses try to prove two opposite views to the best advantage, but because often there is conflicting evidence, or because the agreed evidence is interpretable in more than one way.
Problem Type: F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update 12.02.2000 – 00:00 CET