University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > A philosopher of science looks at medicine: do we 'need some large, simple randomized trials'?

A philosopher of science looks at medicine: do we 'need some large, simple randomized trials'?

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A number of arguments have convinced nearly all of the medical community that randomized controlled trials provide the most telling, most scientifically weighty evidence for the efficacy of any treatment. Earlier work suggests that all but one of these arguments fail to withstand critical scrutiny.

The exception is the argument from ‘selection bias’. Although this argument sounds very plausible, I suggest in this talk that it faces a number of both epistemological and practical problems. In particular it focuses attention on the relatively under-emphasised (epistemic) issue of ‘external validity’ (generalisability to the ‘target population’) and on practical issues about the significance of (very) large trials aimed at detecting small effects.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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