Law and Science

A debate arose in class concerning whether an electricity company was responsible for delivering a service or a product (“electricity”) to its customers (because products and services are sometimes regulated differently). I liked the question for several reasons. As my science-degree-holding brother noted, there is a scientific fact of the matter as to what electricity is: alternating current is the oscillation of electrons. You are not getting new electrons pouring into your house, but having energy put through electrons in the wiring. General, the expenditure of energy is considered a service. However, we can quantify electricity (in Kwh, for example) in a way that allows us to talk about it in the way we talk about solid, tangible goods.

The takeaway isn’t about whether electricity is a good or a service, but this issue can be reasonably debated. It is also important that the science of the matter does not determine the law, and Oliver W. Holmes explains why in his adage, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” Law is an odd, swirling mix of logic, language, and science on one hand with anthropology, sociology, ethics, and emotion on the other.

My core interest is how the law can meet the emerging technological issues of the 21st century. It is clear that, as in the debate I described, the science of digital technologies alone is not enough to dictate the law that governs it.

If culture evolves and science expands, the law cannot remain stagnant.

For a different view on the relationship between science and the law, I recommend this presentation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsNpoH1r290

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