Genetic Case Studies and Causality

Hansjörg Rothe


Recent developments in genetics have lead to a variety of new methods in medicine. Over the last two decades some completely new methodological approaches have emerged and are by now established in daily research routine. This article is focussed on Mendelian randomization, a method which uses information from genetic case studies to clarify causal relations between parameters found to be associated in muliti-center epidemiological randomized trials. I argue that, with Mendelian randomization, multilevel analysis has in fact entered the stage of medicine: It could be referred to as “genetic multilevel analysis” in that it establishes causal relations by means of transition from the macro to the micro level and back. Features of multilevel analysis, as it was established in economics and sociology, and went to philosophy from there, are compared with Mendelian randomization, where at the micro level individual genetically defined polymorphic sub-populations are analyzed. Max Weber, who contributed to medical methodology himself and may be regarded as one of the founding fathers of sociology, is proposed as a major inspirator for multilevel analysis.

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