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It is the most grotesque of ironies that much of twentieth-century jurisprudence has been an effort to make law into a science. This effort amounts to a reversal of a far earlier appropriation. It was the observation of regularities in gravity and the movement of the planets that reformed science and gave credence to the locution, 'the laws of nature.' Nature was "lawful" because it appeared to follow undeviatingly a certain regimen, which is to say that any deviations observed were held to be clues as to the true content of the laws that were being followed. Mathematics was the language in which the laws of nature were encoded. This view of science has persisted, most especially among scientists. But the view of law from which it took its description has undergone a dramatic change.

Law is generally held to be the most contingent of human disciplines, especially by lawyers. It was the birth of the modem state, at about the same time and place as Galileo's observations, that severed law from theology and married it instead to that most fickle of contingencies, politics. This severance meant that law would thereafter be understood as the very opposite of the unchanging symmetries of nature. Therein lies the irony: The twentieth century attempted to seize the mantle of science for law when science itself had so long ago appropriated the idea of "laws" that that idea is virtually unrecognizable to most persons dealing with law today.


Constitutional Law | Law