‘Epidemiologie moet weer betrouwbaar worden’

Epidemiologie is, ondanks hoe men het doet voorkomen, erg beperkt en wordt volop misbruikt om politieke doelen te bereiken. In een stuk van 33 pagina’s legt G.B. Gori, epidemioloog, uit hoe dat komt.

Epidemiologie, de ‘wetenschappelijke’ basis voor de huidige anti-roken gekte, kan onder andere geen oorzaak en effect aantonen en is erg gevoelig voor de interpretatie door – en vooringenomenheid van – onderzoekers, media en opdrachtgevers. Dat maakt het een speelbal van de politiek en (financieel) krachtige belangengroepen. 

Hij  pleit voor een herstel van de naam van epidemiologie als een gezonde wetenschap.

The guide of scientific experimentation is a set of common sense rules embedded in the scientific method aiming at attaining control and if possible, the elimination of mistakes, delusions, and biases that may confuse outcomes. Most non-scientists are intimidated by the baffling difficulty of scientific research, but although the testing techniques, procedures, apparatus, and language of science can be bewilderingly complex, their common goal is to satisfy three essential requirements:

  • A warrant of identity and accuracy, i.e. the object measured in an experiment is indeed what it is claimed to be measured, and measured with sufficient accuracy.
  • A warrant that the effects observed are due exclusively to the causal hypothesis studied (for instance: exposure to a chemical), and not to other disturbances that interfere with an experiment’s conduct and may alter and confound the results.
  • A warrant that an experiment and its results have been consistently reproduced in the hands of different experimenters.

Without meeting these three rules, no hypothesis or conjecture could be considered enduring and useful knowledge with any degree of objective certainty. It also could not be confidently transformed into reliable technologies or reasoned policy decisions, either public or private.

Mistakes and oversights remain possible, but without conforming to the discipline of those warrants, conjectures remain ad hoc hypotheses that are “not fruitful,” in the words of the National Academy of Sciences.

En aan deze regels voldoet de epidemiologie niet, volgens Gori.

[E]pidemiological observations…have serious disadvantages…[T]hey can seldom be made according to the strict requirements of experimental science and therefore may be open to a variety of interpretations. A particular factor may be associated with some disease merely because of its association with some other factor that causes the disease, or the association may be an artifact due to some systematic bias in the information collection……

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