Critical Interruptions in the Psycho-Legal Infrastructure: Toward an Epistemic Shift

Christopher R. Williams, State University of West Georgia

ABSTRACT
Clinical endeavors to predict future dangerousness continue to be woefully inadequate, yet their subsequent application in the legal forum continues to effect thousands of individual lives. Comforts such as freedom, autonomy, and self-determination are necessarily imperiled as attempts to balance individual rights and community safety are brought to the forefront of the justice process. Negation of these comforts becomes justifiable to the extent that clinical predictions are based on sound clinical knowledge and that such knowledge can be effectively and accurately employed. In this paper, I argue that clinical prediction is not only erroneous, but that such errors are related to the prevailing Newtonian paradigm that informs the epistemological infrastructure of the behavioral sciences. Cause-effect relationships, linear logic, and absolute orer appear as misconceived and illusory conceptual foundations in the light of advances in the "new sciences" of quantum physics and chaos theory. Employing several principles from quantum physics and nonlinear dynamics, I pose a critical challenge to current psycho-legal practices. I conclude by exploring how the new sciences might further our regard for justice within the domain of psychology and law.

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Updated 05/20/2006