The Man of One Study
By Bryan Caplan
So here’s why you should beware the man of one study.
If you go to your better class of alternative medicine websites, they
don’t tell you “Studies are a logocentric phallocentric tool of Western
medicine and the Big Pharma conspiracy.”
They tell you “medical science has proved that this drug is terrible,
but ignorant doctors are pushing it on you anyway. Look, here’s a study
by a reputable institution proving that the drug is not only
ineffective, but harmful.”
And the study will exist, and the authors will be prestigious
scientists, and it will probably be about as rigorous and well-done as
any other study.
And then a lot of people raised on the idea that some things have Evidence and other things have No Evidence think holy s**t, they’re right!
On the other hand, your doctor isn’t going to a sketchy alternative
medicine website. She’s examining the entire literature and extracting
careful and well-informed conclusions from…
Haha, just kidding. She’s going to a luncheon at a really nice
restaurant sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, which assures her that
they would never take advantage of such an opportunity to shill
their drug, they just want to raise awareness of the latest study. And
the latest study shows that their drug is great! Super great! And your
doctor nods along, because the authors of the study are prestigious
scientists, and it’s about as rigorous and well-done as any other study.
But obviously the pharmaceutical company has selected one of the studies from the “very good” end of the bell curve.
Read the whole thing, including the stuff about the minimum wage.