Causal or Accidental Correlation – A Challenge for Science

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In a Philosophy Bites episode, John Worrall is interviewed about how trustworthy the experiments on which evidence-based medicine rests. Specifically, he discusses how suitable randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are for establishing causation. Continue reading

When a cause cannot be found

MUS

There is a philosophical problem within medicine: how to deal with causal complexity and variations. While existing methods are designed for large scale population data and sufficiently homogenous sub-groups, a number of medical conditions are characterised by their heterogenic and complex nature: low back pain (LBP), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), tension-type headache (TTH), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and many others. Continue reading

What RCTs can’t do

bush-booze-coke-potEstablishing causation is not an easy task and a number of scientific methods have been developed specially for this purpose. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are by many, but not all, considered to be the gold standard. This means that RCTs are thought to provide the highest form of evidence of causation, and the results of such studies are frequently used to guide expert advice on what to eat, how to teach, which medical treatment to choose, whether to worry about pesticides, and so on. But can we trust RCTs to tell us the full causal story? Not really. Continue reading