Meta-Analysis in the Mirror of Its Quotations: Science, Scepticism, Scorn, and Sarcasm

Franz H. Messerli MD; Sripal Bangalore; Adrian W. Messerli


Eur Heart J. 2019;40(40):3290-3291. 

In This Article

Scorn and Sarcasm

According to Aronson[11] the meta- in meta-analysis derives indirectly from Aristotle, or rather Andronicus of Rhodes an editor of Aristotle's work. He titled the first set of Aristotle's papers on natural sciences The Physics, and a second set of papers The Metaphysics because they were written after The Physics. Because These Metaphysics dealt with what Aristotle called 'primary philosophy' rather than physics, the term meta-physics acquired over time the negative connotation of 'not real' physics. No surprise then that there exist some rather nihilistic thoughts about meta-analyses: 'A meta-analysis is to analysis what meta-physics is to physics' (anonymous). Pertaining to Law et al. potpourri,[3] we dared to expressed scepticism regarding the validity of meta-analyses in general: 'A meta-analysis is like a sausage, only God and the butcher know what goes in it and neither would ever eat any'.[12] As Egger et al.[13] pointed out in an excellent review the authors of a highly distinguished series of systematic reviews of care during pregnancy and childhood[14] have been dubbed as terrorists with the term 'an obstetrical Baader-Meinhof gang'.[15]