Letter: Galileo knew the feeling

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I SEE from Dr Tony Smith's 'Second Opinion' (Review, 1 May) that in future we can expect the courts to give greater weight to work published in a scientific journal than to the views of individual experts. This follows the United States' Supreme Court judgement in a particular case brought against a manufacturer of a drug that caused birth defects. 'Publication in such a scientific journal will be taken as strong evidence of 'general acceptance by the scientific community'. The court will rely on that consensus more than on any expert's individual opinion, no matter how eminent or persuasive he or she might be,' writes Dr Smith.

It is depressing to realise that modern courts operate on exactly the same principles, and would have to come to exactly the same conclusion, as the Spanish Inquisition did to the evidence produced by Galileo.

Three hundred and fifty- odd years on we appear to have learnt absolutely nothing about the validation of evidence.

P D SOMERVILLE

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

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