The Humble Justice Scalia
posted by Dave Hoffman
Justice Scalia isn’t often justly lauded for his humility. Today’s opinion in Molecular Pathology v. Myriad (the gene patenting case) provides an opportunity. His concurrence reads, in its entirety:
“I join the judgment of the Court, and all of its opinion except Part I–A and some portions of the rest of the opinion going into fine details of molecular biology. I am un-able to affirm those details on my own knowledge or even my own belief. It suffices for me to affirm, having studied the opinions below and the expert briefs presented here, that the portion of DNA isolated from its natural state sought to be patented is identical to that portion of the DNA in its natural state; and that complementary DNA (cDNA) is a synthetic creation not normally present in nature.”
There’s something heart-warming about this short opinion — a bit like Justice Steven’s ode to jalopies and country roads in Scott. It’s also a useful model of rhetorical humility in the face of pretty complex science. Justice Scalia is ordinarily celebrated for his caustic wit & slashing attacks: we should be happy when he takes a different approach.