Lectures to Address Science, Law and Public Health

October series features Carl Cranor, UCR philosopher and advocate of environmental law reform

carl cranor

An October lecture series will feature Carl Cranor discussing science, the law, and public health.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Carl F. Cranor, distinguished professor of philosophy and faculty member of the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program at the University of California, Riverside, will present a series of three lectures in October on the theme “A Brief History of the Philosophic Relations Between Science and Law to Protect the Public’s Health.

The lecture series begins Oct. 13 and honors Cranor, who in July was awarded the prestigious Romanell-Phi Beta Kappa Professorship in Philosophy for 2014-15. The award is presented to one philosopher every year by the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest and most widely known academic honor society in the United States.

Cranor is known globally for his research on the regulation of toxic substances, the ethics of risk, and the philosophy of law and science. His work has changed how scientific testimony is addressed in court cases as well as aspects of regulation in California.

Lecture dates are Oct. 13, Oct. 15 and Oct. 20. The first two events will be on the UCR campus, and the final lecture will be held in the courthouse in downtown Riverside, 4050 Main St. The lectures are free and open to the public, but reservations are requested. Parking permits for the campus events may be purchased at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at University Avenue.

The lecture series is presented by University Honors and the Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Topics and event details are:

  • “Industrial Chemicals As Nuisances: The Rise of Environmental Health Laws and Their Limitations” – Monday, Oct. 13, at 5:30 p.m. in the UCR Genomics Auditorium. RSVP here by Oct. 10. Cranor will discuss how current environmental laws enacted to protect the public’s health were based on the philosophy of older nuisance laws. These “postmarket” allow industrial chemicals to enter commerce without any legally required testing. Public health agencies can only protect the public’s health after there is evidence of risks or harms. Cranor will address the philosophic adjudication of science and laws aimed at protecting the public’s health, and recommendations for improvements.
  • “Cancers, Brain Disorders, and the Feminization of Boys: Can We Avoid Poisoning Our Children?” – Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 5 p.m. in Material Science and Engineering 116. RSVP here by Oct. 13. Exposures to toxicants in utero or post-natally can become biologically embedded in children’s or adult’s bodies resulting in diseases, dysfunctions, and sometimes premature death. The Centers for Disease Control reveals that we are all contaminated, including pregnant women and newborns. Postmarket regulations take too long to protect children from toxic industrial chemicals during sensitive developmental stages. Cranor argues that we must philosophically re-conceive the law-science relationship to require good premarket testing of compounds proposed for commercialization and enhanced postmarket testing of existing substances.
  • “How Do Obscure Supreme Court Decisions Affect Me?” – Monday, Oct. 20, 5:30 p.m. in Division 1 of the Riverside courthouse. A reception will follow in the courthouse rotunda from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. RSVP here by Oct. 15. When protective regulations fail, persons who have been wronged must rely on tort or personal injury law for remedies. Sluggish postmarket regulations likely permit more harm to the public than premarket laws. Three U.S. Supreme Court decisions changed how scientific testimony should be reviewed by courts to remedy injuries. Cranor will describe major events in the philosophic history of the use of scientific evidence in the tort law, ending with a salutary decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products (2011) that better protects the public. This major decision incorporated critical elements of Cranor’s research.

Cranor serves on the Scientific Guidance Panel of the California Environmental Contaminant Biomonitoring Program. The panel plays a significant role in the California Biomonitoring Program, making recommendations about the program’s design and implementation — including the identification of chemicals that are a priority for monitoring in California — and providing scientific peer review. He previously served on three other state science advisory panels: Proposition 65, which requires the state to publish an annual list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive health problems; the Electric and Magnetic Fields Program; and Nanotechnology.

He earned a B.A. in mathematics with a minor in physics at the University of Colorado, a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from UCLA. He is the author of “Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants” (2011); “Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice” (2006); and “Regulating Toxic Substances: A Philosophy of Science and the Law: (1993); and is co-author of a report for the Office of Technology Assessment, “Identifying and Regulating Carcinogens” (1987), and a study by an Institute of Medicine committee, “Valuing Health: Cost Effectiveness Analysis for Regulation: (2006).

His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the University of California Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz
Tel: (951) 827-5323
E-mail: gladis.herrera-berkowitz@ucr.edu

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