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JAMA Revisited
August 20, 2014

Hasty Generalizations

JAMA. 2014;312(7):753. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279678

Of all the faults that characterize medical literature, those arising from hasty generalizations, by which we mean the deduction of conclusions from an insufficient number or an inadequate verification of facts, are the most prominent, and constitute the greatest hindrances to real progress in nearly all the departments of medical science.

Next in baneful influence is the adoption and treatment of mere opinions or even suggestions, as though they were actual facts. From the simple facts that the elements of our food may be arranged, chemically, into nitrogenous and carbonaceous, and that the latter out of the living body are capable of uniting with oxygen and evolving heat, a Liebig announces the opinion that the nitrogenous elements of food are appropriated to the repair of the living tissues, and the carbonaceous to combustion and the support of temperature. Straightway this opinion is accepted, incorporated into our medical literature, and acted upon as implicitly and universally as though it had been the announcement of a clearly demonstrated fact. And yet it would puzzle the most erudite, even at this late day, to point out any facts which prove that the two classes of alimentary elements play any such separate role in the living body as has been assigned to them.

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