The epistemology of statistical evidence.

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Numerous accounts have been suggested to explain differences between statistical and individualised evidence and to justify restrictions on the use of statistical evidence in court. A dominant direction in such accounts is the idea that statistical evidence is lacking in some certain quality, making it epistemologically unwarranted for establishing the fact it is introduced to prove. Among the qualities suggested are luck, appropriate causal connection, weight, and case-specificity. Epistemic accounts thus constitute attempts to identify an intrinsic quality which individualised evidence (such as eyewitness testimony, confession, the individual's medical records) has but statistical evidence lacks, a quality which makes inference from the statistical evidence to the particular case epistemologically deficient. To the existing debate around epistemic accounts, this article adds several generic and inherent problems from which any epistemic account suffers. Based on these generic problems, it is concluded that the epistemic direction lacks potential. If there is any justification for restricting the use of statistical evidence in court, it does not lie in epistemology; it has to lie elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-143
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Evidence and Proof
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2011


  • THEORY of knowledge
  • INTRINSIC factor (Physiology)
  • MEDICAL records
  • Accuracy
  • Bayes
  • Policy
  • Probability


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