The relationship between medicine and philosophy has a distinguished history. Maimonides, Avicenna, Galen, Descartes, and Locke were all philosophers and medical doctors. More recently, Peter Medawar and Archie Cochrane were strongly influenced by Karl Popper. There is an increasing body of evidence that combining History and Philosophy of Science on the one hand, and health care on the other creates synergies for the mutual benefit of all disciplines.
The course will consider:
- How and why did the idea that comparative studies were necessary to inform health care decisions replace other ‘methods’ such as reasoning from more basic sciences and ‘expertise’?
- Can average results be applied to individuals?
- What is the role of values?
We believe that the history and philosophy of science is an integrated discipline, and we will explore these issues with appeal to current and historical examples.… it is fair to say that not very much attention was paid by the originators of EBM to the philosophy of science… One hopes that the attention of philosophers will be drawn to these questions (Haynes, 2002)
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence – David Hume
History of science without philosophy of science is blind … philosophy of science without history of science is empty – Norwood Russell Hanson
Why study the history and philosophy of Evidence-Based Health Care (EBHC)?
- Deepen your understanding of EBHC. Just like understanding a country’s history can help you understand its current culture, so understanding how the ideas associated with EBHC arose will help you understand EBHC. Moreover, historical anecdotes are often easier to grasp than numbers.
- It is intrinsically interesting. Many people simply like delving into the history and philosophy.
- Become a better health care professional. There is a growing body of evidence that medical students who study the humanities perform better than those who focus exclusively on the sciences (Lancet 1996 (347:55-6), J Med Humanities 2004(30:53)). Explaining diagnoses, prognoses, and treatment benefits clearly to patients is important. You will developcommunication skills by both informal and formal presentations of your work, and by writing an extended essay. You will also improve your ability to think critically. Delivering Evidence-Based Health care is rarely straightforward. Dealing with complex scientific issues, writing research papers, teaching and presenting at conferences are now integral parts of clinical practice
- Become a better historian and philosopher of science. A team of philosophers, historians, and medical practitioners delivers this course. Philosophers and historians will therefore have the unique opportunity to study the history and philosophy of a particular science – EBHC – from the ‘inside out’.
- Why choose this course if you are neither a health care practitioner nor a philosopher nor a historian? Lay press bombards us with claims that diets will cure disease, that new medical technology promises to prolong life, and that environmental factors will kill you. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the course, technical jargon particular to each discipline will be entirely avoided. Hence the course is accessible to anyone interested in understanding the nature, history, and justification for the kinds of claims they face on a daily basis.
You can find further details, costs, etc. at: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/details.php?id=B900-77