Applicability of scientific method to legal research

Applicability of scientific method to legal research

Applicability of scientific method to legal research

There exists a misconception that there are certain limitations for applying Scientific method as under.

  • Human behaviour changes too much from one period to the next to permit scientific, exact predictions.
  • Human behaviour is too elusive, subtle and complex to yield to the rigid categorization and artificial instruments of science.
  • Human behaviour can be studied only by other human observations and these always distort fundamentally the facts being observed, so that there can be no objective procedures for achieving the truth.
  • Human beings who are the subjects of such predictions and have the ability deliberately to upset any predictions we make.
  • Physical phenomena is different from social or legal phenomena

The same reasons are quoted for legal research. On proper analysis one would find that the scientific method can be meaningfully applied to socio-legal research if appropriate care is taken proper indicators are developed.

Law can never be E=mc2. Perfect,  absolute mathematical niceties may not be possible in all the cases. But one can reach near perfection by adopting suitable methods and methodology. Even the judicial behaviour is subject to legal research by adopting jurimetrics methods as laid by Lewlyn.

  1. Verifiability: It is viewed that verifiability is not assured as the concept of indicators vary from place to place, country to country.  For example if it is proved that rate of criminality is directly proportional to urbanization/illiteracy / poverty, the concept or definition of crime, urbanization, poverty vary from country to country.  Adultery is a crime in India and only a tort in England. Where as in pure sciences Mno2 is Mno2 any where.  However,  it is to be noted that broad generalizations always hold good even though variable have different connotations. Hence, verifiability is not effected.  That rate of criminality is directly proportional to poverty may hold good in any country though  the parameters of crime or poverty vary from place to place.
  2. Generality: Another objection that is raised is that in view of heterogeneity of the phenomena and legal complexity objectivity is affected.  No two persons will be alike; no two disputes will be alike.  The data collected will always be complex because of psychological and temperamental factors.  It is not always true. Given the standardization of tools of research which allow cross verification complexity and heterogeneity can be over come.  Even though no two persons will be alike and no two disputes will be alike there will be a basic element of commonality and similarity.  Other wise the whole system of regulation through law is a wasteful exercise. One needs to have separate law for each individual.
  3. Unpredictability: Human behaviour is unpredictable. In the same situation human beings behave differently. It also true that the same person in similar situations act differently.  But by and large the societal requirements can be gauged by the sociologists and suggest planning.  Legal research can be used to diagnose  the societal maladies and  suggest policy changes.  It can generate change, it can adopt itself to the changing needs and legal research facilitates the same. Law amply covers behavioural changes that manifest in the human beings.
  4. Objectivity: It is often criticized that subjectivity is the hall mark of socio-legal phenomena. It is to be noted that objectivity can be achieved and is achieved in legal research.  The researches based on judicial activism develop such methods where personal impressions are minimized.  Scales have been developed to minimize the subjective elements. Projective techniques are being used to guage inner feelings.
  5. Systematic: Systemic errors can also be minimized in legal research both in technical aspects and logical aspects by providing for checks and balances.  If the investigation is as per the accurate design the results will be objective.  It is a misconception to state that legal research is only qualitative and scientific method is bothered about quantitative analysis. Quantifying qualitative things is a developed technique and it is also experienced that by applying appropriate techniques even experimental design can be developed for legal research. One thing that is required for research is that it should have cause and effect form

Stages of Scientific Method:

According to Pauline.V. Young the phases of scientific procedure includes

  • Precise formulation of the problem in question
  • Formulation of working or exploratory hypothesis
  • Observation and exploration of the problem by variety of scientific techniques
  • Uniform recording of the data obtained
  • Classification of the data into series and/or sequences;

Scientific generalizing