Events Calendar
Mar 20
15:00 - 17:00
Mechanistic evidence in cancer epidemiology
Philosophy Work in Progress
Dr Michael Wilde (Kent)

This is a Royal Institute of Philosophy Public Lecture.

Abstract: A main aim of the Monographs programme of the International Agency for Research on Cancer is to evaluate the strength of the available evidence concerning whether a particular exposure is carcinogenic to humans. In some cases, the evidence from epidemiological studies alone is taken to be sufficient to establish carcinogenicity in humans (Bouvard et al 2015). This practice has received some criticism from philosophers of science. In particular, Bert Leuridan and Erik Weber (2011) have objected that there is never sufficient epidemiological evidence for carcinogenicity because this evidence comes only from observational studies, the design of which does not sufficiently rule out the possibility of alternatives to the causal hypothesis, for example, confounding, bias, or chance. Against this, I argue that in the evaluation of the consumption of processed meat as a cause of colorectal cancer, the epidemiological evidence alone was in fact sufficient to establish carcinogenicity. The argument appeals to the evidential pluralism that underlies the viewpoints for causal inference in epidemiology provided by Austin Bradford Hill (1965). I will argue that a model from traditional epistemology provides a good way of understanding causal inferences informed by Hill's viewpoints. Funding generously provided by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

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University of Kent,
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