In 2003 a joke meta analysis on the effects of parachutes was published
We were unable to identify any randomised controlled trials of parachute intervention.
This is an exceptionally well known paper, but what does it actually tell us?
Some things are so obvious that rigorous scientific studies are neither necessary nor ethical
This is almost trivially true, but you can also easily see where this ends
This drug is very effective.
There are no rigorous scientific studies that show any benefit of this drug.
So you also would not use a parachute if you fall out of an airplane? Because they haven't been tested in rigorous studies as well.
So maybe we should read this paper in a different way
When I stronly believe that something is true then rigorous scientific studies are neither necessary nor ethical
Are people using this parachute trial as an argument for medical interventions that do not work?
The parachute analogy is a poor one for most medical interventions
Falling from an airplane has only 1 causal pathway leading to harm. In contrast, most human diseases have multifactorial etiologies
Parachutes improve survival from nearly 0% to nearly 100%. Empirical analyses show that few medical practices offer so large a magnitude of benefit.
822 citations of the 2003 paper
35 with a claim that a practice is akin to parachute
22 with one or more RCTs performed
6 cases: trial confirmed practice
5 cases: trial rejected practice
5 mixed results, 2 halted, 4 ongonig
While I like the overall idea of the paper, the analysis does not seem particularly detailed and there is an obvious error in the supplementary table (duplicate entry for a claim)
When people use the parachute analogy in scientific studies in about half the cases where these claims were later tested they turn out to be wrong
We can conclude that people are using the parachute analogy unjustified
The Parachute meta analysis has very successfully used a joke paper to criticize demands for rigorous science
Unfortunately it is a flawed argument, Hayes et al have done their best to scientifically refute that argument
This has not changed the fact that the flawed reasoning of the Parachute paper is still much more popular than the scientific refutation