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May 03, 2007


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Thanks for the kind words. You've made the point more sharply and directly than I have: science can't "jump over its own shadow" by using its own tools to study itself. Rather, some other disciplines need to guide us when we attempt to judge the wisdom of so-called scientific advances.

My worry is that an increasing association of rigor with scientific method will marginalize the voices of those who prefer a synthetic over an analytic approach....i.e., those who want to comment on a big picture, rather than follow more reductionist and fragmentary research programs.

I agree. What's fascinating is that scientism itself affects scientific practice, and not entirely for the better, either. As I remarked in an email to Jeff, evidence-based medicine is a particularly interesting lens through which to examine some of this issues insofar as EBM involves engagement of the thorniest epistemic questions.

Yet, one of the more valid critiques of EBM is that it relies far too much on the randomized controlled trial in prioritizing and ranking evidence. Qualitative evidence is denigrated, when, for some objects of inquiry, qualitative evidence is either the best or the only means of engaging the phenomenon.

It is why the term empiricism itself is, among some quarters, elided with quantitative analyses favored by the natural sciences. Empiricism historically did not mean this, and it need not mean this now.

A commitment to EBM involves using all available evidence to guide practice. It's partly why I think philosophy of science is really important in thinking about EBM.

(I've mentioned the RCT issue here and here on the blog).

I guess I'm particularly partial to a big picture view, because I think the medical humanities are conducive to that kind of perspective.

This also applies to professional nursing research. As an FYI, two qualitative research authors of note: Patricia Munhall and Christine Tanner.

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