Debate: Are mechanisms required to establish treatment effects?

Professor Jon Williamson and Dr Jeremy Howick
Event date
Event time
18:00 - 19:30
University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education
Rewley House
Wellington Square
Venue details

Sadler Room

Event type
Gallery tours / talks
Event cost
Disabled access?
Booking required

An enduring debate in the history of medicine exists between people who believe that we need to know how a treatment works in order to know that it works and those who believe that careful observation is enough.

Recently, a ‘new mechanical philosophy’ has emerged, with some philosophers of science arguing that unless we have evidence of a mechanism that a treatment works, we do not know whether it works. This philosophical view is opposed to a view commonly held by proponents of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) who point out many historical cases ranging from lemons to cure scurvy to aspirin reducing cancer incidence where we have no idea what the mechanism is yet we believe we know the treatments work.

In an epic attempt to resolve this long-standing debate once and for all, leading contemporary proponents of each view will make their cases:

Professor Jon Williamson will argue that we do need to have evidence of mechanisms in order to prove treatment works.

Dr. Jeremy Howick will argue that while evidence of mechanisms can be useful, they are not required to establish that a treatment works.

This talk is part of the History and Philosophy of Evidence-Based Health Care module, which is part of the MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care.

This is a free event and members of the public are welcome to attend.