When statistical evidence is not specific enough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many philosophers have pointed out that statistical evidence, or at least some forms of it, lack desirable epistemic or non-epistemic properties, and that this should make us wary of litigations in which the case against the defendant rests in whole or in part on statistical evidence. Others have responded that such broad reservations about statistical evidence are overly restrictive since appellate courts have expressed nuanced views about statistical evidence. In an effort to clarify and reconcile, I put forward an interpretive analysis of why statistical evidence should raise concerns in some cases but not others. I argue that when there is a mismatch between the specificity of the evidence and the expected specificity of the accusation, statistical evidence—as any other kind of evidence—should be considered insufficient to sustain a conviction. I rely on different stylized court cases to illustrate the explanatory power of this analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12251-12269
Number of pages19
JournalSynthese
Volume199
Issue number5-6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Criminal trials
  • Decision
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Naked statistical evidence
  • Probability
  • Specificity
  • Standards of proof

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)

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