September 18, 2020

Science and Proving Harm: A Conversation w/ Carl Cranor


Aaron Freiwald, Managing Partner of Freiwald Law and host of the weekly podcast, Good Law | Bad Law, is joined by Philosophy Professor Carl Cranor, of the University of California, Riverside, to discuss toxic chemical exposure and the legal challenges in proving when a dangerous chemical or substance causes harm.


In today’s conversation, Aaron and Carl delve deep into the intersection between law and science. The author of numerous books and articles on today’s topic, Carl’s areas of interest include legal and moral philosophy, specifically issues concerning risks, science and the law, the regulation of carcinogens and developmental toxicants, and the use of scientific evidence in legal decisions. Carl and Aaron talk about a variety of things throughout this episode, ranging from tort litigation to the Trump administration. Aaron and Carl explore the differences between regulating pharmaceuticals and pesticides in comparison to toxins as well as what tools we as a society have to establish whether or not something is in fact safe or harmful. Statistical significance, the role of Judges, the EPA, philosophical values and ethics, toxicology and epidemiology, and the notion of “certain science” are all topics Aaron and Carl touch on. Are we in the middle of an assault on science?


A graduate of both UCLA (Ph.D.) and Yale Law School (M.S.L.), Dr. Cranor is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and a Faculty Member of the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program at UC Riverside. Professor Cranor has focused much of his career on the morality, legality, and justice of exposure to toxic molecules that could threaten the public’s health. He has written widely on philosophic issues concerning, risks, science and the law, the use of scientific evidence in legal decisions for regulating carcinogens and developmental toxicants, the idea of acceptable risks, protection of susceptible populations, and how society might approach the regulation of new technologies and toxicants to better protect the public’s health. At the undergraduate level he has taught courses on ethics, political philosophy, law and society, legal philosophy, environmental ethics, justice and utilitarianism, among others. At the graduate level seminars have included, philosophy of the tort law, legal philosophy, and the idea of acceptable risks. He has served on science advisory panels as well as on Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences Committees. Professor Cranor was the National Romanell-Phi Beta Kappa Professor in Philosophy for 2014-2015.


Listen in to learn more!


To learn more about Professor Cranor, and to see a full-list of his publications, please visit his bio page here.

To check out Tragic Failures: How and Why We Are Harmed by Toxic Chemicals, please click here.

To read Professor Cranor’s co-authored article, “The Use and Misuse of Bradford Hill in U.S. Tort Law,” please click here.

To read Professor Cranor’s article, “Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products: Advances in General Causation Testimony in Toxic Tort Litigation,” please click here.


Host: Aaron Freiwald

Guest: Carl Cranor


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