David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 42 (4):497-507 (2011)
An astonishing volume and diversity of evidence is available for many hypotheses in the biomedical and social sciences. Some of this evidence—usually from randomized controlled trials (RCTs)—is amalgamated by meta-analysis. Despite the ongoing debate regarding whether or not RCTs are the ‘gold-standard’ of evidence, it is usually meta-analysis which is considered the best source of evidence: meta-analysis is thought by many to be the platinum standard of evidence. However, I argue that meta-analysis falls far short of that standard. Different meta-analyses of the same evidence can reach contradictory conclusions. Meta-analysis fails to provide objective grounds for intersubjective assessments of hypotheses because numerous decisions must be made when performing a meta-analysis which allow wide latitude for subjective idiosyncrasies to influence its outcome. I end by suggesting that an older tradition of evidence in medicine—the plurality of reasoning strategies appealed to by the epidemiologist Sir Bradford Hill—is a superior strategy for assessing a large volume and diversity of evidence.
|Keywords||meta-analysis RCT randomized controlled trial evidence|
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References found in this work BETA
James Woodward (2010). Causation in Biology: Stability, Specificity, and the Choice of Levels of Explanation. Biology and Philosophy 25 (3):287-318.
Nancy Cartwright (2007). Are Rcts the Gold Standard? Biosocieties 1:11-20.
Jacob Stegenga (2009). Robustness, Discordance, and Relevance. Philosophy of Science 76 (5):650-661.
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Citations of this work BETA
Jonathan Fuller & Luis J. Flores (forthcoming). The Risk GP Model: The Standard Model of Prediction in Medicine. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C.
Boaz Miller (2013). When is Consensus Knowledge Based? Distinguishing Shared Knowledge From Mere Agreement. Synthese 190 (7):1293-1316.
Brendan Clarke, Donald Gillies, Phyllis Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (2014). Mechanisms and the Evidence Hierarchy. Topoi 33 (2):339-360.
Boaz Miller (2014). Catching the WAVE: The Weight-Adjusting Account of Values and Evidence. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 47:69-80.
Boaz Miller (forthcoming). Scientific Consensus and Expert Testimony in Courts Lessons From the Bendectin Litigation. Foundations of Science:1-19.
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