Evidence-based Medicine: Defining Evidence
The overall goals of evidence-based medicine (EBM)
are to provide physicians and medical
Science in general attempts to portray
the idea that all ideas based on science and/or the scientific method are
factual, objective, and completely distanced from the social
inter-workings of humanity. Often
these attempts succeed. However,
on closer examination, the subtle workings of a social and rhetorical
humanity can be seen throughout the scientific realm, so inseparably woven
into the very foundations of the discipline that these influences are
nearly unseen, particularly by the very people that are the most deeply
immersed in the field, the scientists themselves.
The concepts of science cannot be communicated and interpreted
without the foundation of social and rhetorical interactive systems.
These systems of communication shape the information that is being
shared, interpreted, and sought after in science.
Through exploring how the use of a single term, “evidence,” and
its contextual definition are enacted in the medical discourse community,
many of these social and rhetorical influences will be examined and
brought to light.
A discourse community has its own culture that is reflected in the inherent definition and usage rules for a specific term. The promoters and teachers of the evidence-based medicine movement (primarily based in the UK) use the term evidence to label a certain set of information available to physicians and other medical personnel. Their use of the term evidence brings into questions issues of validity and the criteria for determining the information that qualifies as evidence.
Written by Amanda Fullan, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire
Last Updated December 15, 2001