In defense of meta-analysis

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Abstract

Arguments that medical decision making should rely on a variety of evidence often begin from the claim that meta-analysis has been shown to be problematic. In this paper, I first examine Stegenga’s (Stud Hist Philos Sci Part C Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 42:497–507, 2011) argument that meta-analysis requires multiple decisions and thus fails to provide an objective ground for medical decision making. Next, I examine three arguments from social epistemologists that contend that meta-analyses are systematically biased in ways not appreciated by standard epistemology. In most cases I show that critiques of meta-analysis fail to account for the full range of meta-analytic procedures. In the remainder of cases, I argue that the critiques identify problems that do not uniquely cut against meta-analysis. I close by suggesting one reason why it may be pragmatically rational to violate the principle of total evidence and by outlining the criteria for a successful argument against meta-analysis. A set of criteria I contend remain unmet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3189-3211
Number of pages23
JournalSynthese
Volume196
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 15

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)

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