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The Case Against the Special Epistemic Power of Randomised Control Trials

Author:

David Kinney

London School of Economics and Political Science, GB
About David

I would like to thank Katie Steele for all her help with this essay.

MSc student in Philosophy and Public Policy (2013-2014). He also holds a degree in Philosophy from Dartmouth College. His main areas of interest are the relationship between scientific methodology and public policy, and competing notions of wellbeing.

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Abstract

This paper evaluates and ultimately rejects the claim that Randomised Controlled Trials are a superior means of testing causal hypotheses. I argue that three common claims in favour of the epistemic power of RCTsthat they eliminate known nuisance variables, that they eliminate unknown nuisance variables, and that they avoid selection biasultimately fail to achieve their argumentative ends. Based on this argument, I conclude that rather than uncritically accept RCTs as the best test of causality, researchers should be prepared to use a variety of experimental methods.

How to Cite: Kinney, D., 2014. The Case Against the Special Epistemic Power of Randomised Control Trials. Rerum Causae, 6(1), pp.1–10.
Published on 01 Jan 2014.
Peer Reviewed

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