It’s Models All the Way Down

Science Matters

In Rapanos v. United States, Justice Antonin Scalia offered a version of the traditional tale of how the Earth is carried on the backs of animals. In this version of the story, an Eastern guru affirms that the earth is supported on the back of a tiger. When asked what supports the tiger, he says it stands upon an elephant; and when asked what supports the elephant he says it is a giant turtle. When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies “Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down.”  By this analogy, Scalia was showing how other judges were substituting the “purpose” of a law for the actual text written by congress.

The moral of the story is that our perceptions of reality are built upon assumptions. The facts from our experience are organized by means of a framework…

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