“Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been.”
Although this is a reference manual on scientific evidence, the Supreme Court in Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael1 extended the Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.2 decision on admissibility of scientific evidence to encompass nonscientific expert testimony as well.3 Put another way, experts not proffered as “scientists” also are held to the Daubert standard.4 So then we might ask, who are these nonscience experts and where do they come from? Many emerge from the realm of engineering and hence the relevance of “engineering” or “technical” expert testimony to this manual.
The Court’s distinction between these two kinds of expert testimony might suggest that there is a bright line dividing science and engineering. Indeed, a great deal has been written and discussed about this matter and arguments made for why science and engineering are either similar or different. It is a conversation that resonates among philosophers, historians, “scientists,” “engineers,” politicians, and lawyers. Apparently even Albert Einstein had a point of view on this issue as attested to by the above quotation. Perhaps this deceptively attractive dichotomy is best resolved by recognizing that at the end of the day engineering and science can be as different as they are alike.
There is no shortage of “sound bites” that attempt to categorize science from engineering and vice versa. Consider, for instance, the notion that engineering is nothing more than “applied science.” This is a too often recited, simple and uninformed view and one that has long been discredited.5 Indeed, it is not the case that science is only about knowing and experimentation, and that engineering is only about doing, designing, and building. These are false asymmetries that defy reality. The reality is that who is in science or who is in engineering or who is doing science or who is doing engineering are questions to be answered based on the merit of accomplishments and not on pedigree alone.
1. 526 U.S. (1999).
2. 509 U.S. 579 (1993).
3. See Margaret A. Berger, The Admissibility of Expert Testimony, in this manual.
4. See David Goodstein, How Science Works, in this manual, for a discussion of science and scientists.
5. Walter G. Vincenti, What Engineers Know and How They Know It (1990).