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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Citations of this work BETA
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.
Aki Lehtinen (2013). On the Impossibility of Amalgamating Evidence. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 44 (1):101-110.
Barbara Osimani (2013). Until RCT-Proven? On the Asymmetry of Evidence Requirements for Risk Assessment. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 19 (3):454-462.
Barbara Osimani (2013). Hunting Side Effects and Explaining Them: Should We Reverse Evidence Hierarchies Upside Down? [REVIEW] Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice (2):1-18.
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