Artificial Intelligence and Law

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 173–219 | Cite as

The epistemology of scientific evidence

  • Douglas Walton
  • Nanning Zhang


In place of the traditional epistemological view of knowledge as justified true belief we argue that artificial intelligence and law needs an evidence-based epistemology according to which scientific knowledge is based on critical analysis of evidence using argumentation. This new epistemology of scientific evidence (ESE) models scientific knowledge as achieved through a process of marshaling evidence in a scientific inquiry that results in a convergence of scientific theories and research results. We show how a dialogue interface of argument from expert opinion, along with its set of critical questions, provides the argumentation component of the ESE. It enables internal scientific knowledge to be translated over into a wider arena in which individual nonexpert citizens and groups can make use of it. The external component shows how evidence is presented and used in a legal procedural setting that includes fact-finding, weighing the credibility of expert witnesses, and critical questioning of arguments. The paper critically reviews the standards of admissibility of scientific evidence using the ESE.


Scientific evidence Evidentialist epistemology Argumentation Expert opinion testimony Standards of admissibility 



This paper was supported by grant 70873134, Study on Evidence Management within the Model of Factual Investigation, from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and by grant 410-2005-0398, Argumentation in Artificial Intelligence and Law, of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Assumption University Chair in Argumentation Studies, Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric (CRRAR)University of WindsorWindsorCanada
  2. 2.The Institute of Evidence Law and Forensic ScienceHunan Tiandiren Law Firm, China University of Political Science and LawChangshaChina

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