Authors' replyBMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7413.504 (Published 28 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:504
All rapid responses
Editor - I am impressed by your commitment to excellence in scientific journalism. I am no less impressed by the decision of James E Enstrom and Geoffrey C Kabat to submit their findings at the wrong time and, it seems, to the wrong audience.
The "rapid responses" to the article clearly indicate what is wrong in medicine - the lack of a logically consistent and mathematically competent body of knowledge, of genuine science indeed.
I have recently reviewed an article dealing with a basic avionics problem. The work was sponsored by Boeing. No respondent to that article cared about the sponsor - it could have been the Vatican or the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for that matter. Scientific objectivity does not come out of the loudest mouth or the deepest pocket. After all, it is common knowledge how indebted modern physics and engineering are to the military-industrial complex. The DARPA website proudly displays its contribution to the advancement of science. Why not the pharmaceuticals, the tobacco industry, or PETA?
The fact that research papers in medicine can be attacked using rhetorical tools such as quilt by association or incrimination by innuendo points to this fundamental problem: the critical path to science has not been found in medicine. The consequences are serious, very serious indeed - serious enough to warrant scientific debates in illustrious journals such as BMJ.
A good starting point would be calling into question the employment of a mathematical tool (statistics) in a mathematically incompetent field (medicine). I could find nowhere the justification of employing statistics in medicine. Without such a justification, it is impossible to judge the scientific merit of medical research papers that rely on this tool.
Competing interests: No competing interests