Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Causality in the Sciences$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo, and Jon Williamson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199574131

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 15 June 2019

Causality, theories and medicine

Causality, theories and medicine

Chapter:
(p.25) 2 Causality, theories and medicine
Source:
Causality in the Sciences
Author(s):

R. Paul Thompson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.003.0002

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are pervasive in clinical medical research, which stands in stark contrast to other sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology. Most clinical researchers that use RCTs regard them as uncovering causal connections. R. A. Fisher best articulated the rationale for this position in 1935. According to Fisher, if randomization, blocking and replication demonstrated a connection between an intervention and an outcome, that connection is causal. This chapter argues that RCTs in clinical medicine do not reveal causal connections. Causal claims in clinical medicine, as in the rest of science, are justified by reference to a robust theory, not RCTs. Part of the argument rests on crucial differences between Fisher's use of RCTs in agriculture and the current use of RCTs in clinical medicine. Two key differences are: the different role of randomization and the legitimacy of assuming homogeneity of the intervention and control entities. A more significant part rests on the integrative power of robust theories; causal attributions are justified by demonstrating that they are, or can be, embedded in a large well-confirm framework. RCTs, by contrast, at best provide isolated input-output connections. A secondary thesis of the paper is that robust theories also allow causal claims to be well-confirmed.

Keywords:   randomised controlled trials, theory structure, evidence, causality, experimental design

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .