Evidence, causation and scientific disagreement

A core area of interest for EBM+ scholars is evidential pluralism. This is the thesis according to which to establish a causal claim (in medicine, but also elsewhere) we need multifarious evidence. More specifically, we need evidence that causes make a difference to their effects, and evidence of how causes produce effects. This way of combining different pieces of evidence should give causal claims better support (in accordance to the analogy of ‘reinforced concrete’, as discussed by Clarke et al.

One could think of evidential pluralism as a way of generating consensus on scientific claims. But what if we disagree? In this presentation, Federica Russo presents work in progress with Veli-Pekka Parkkinen and Christian Wallman. They examine the controversy generated by the ‘cholesterol hypothesis’: fatty diet causes heart disease. Through a detailed historical analysis of this case, they attempt a characterisation of scientific disagreement according to two main elements: where – in the scientific process – scientists disagree and why it is so. The broader aim of this study is to provide insightful conceptual tools to analyse present-day controversies.

Federica Russo is assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam  and a member of the EBM+ consortium.  Federica presented on ‘Evidence, causation and scientific disagreement‘  at the  EBM+ workshop ‘New frontiers for evaluating evidence in medicine‘, which took place on 20 June at UCL London. Read and download Federica’ s talk here.

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