Mossburg's take on flawed reasoning is flawed, too

March 21, 2012

Marta Mossburg's column ("The irrational acts of people and governments," March 14) was revealing. Ms. Mossburg jumps from scientific research that points to errors in her own erroneous conclusion that certainly is not a logical extrapolation — "If even the smartest regularly make egregious mistakes, why should we trust 15 people to decide what Medicare should and should not pay for?"

Although people are certainly fallible, the fact that we make mistakes in our thinking does not mean we should simply stop making decisions. Does Ms. Mossburg mean that one person would be better than a group? This is fallacious, since sociological and anthropological research has demonstrated that people in all societies make decisions at least partially based on the norms of the community anyway. It does mean that we have to dispassionately examine facts, draw conclusions, and have open discussions of our ideas in the community and government to make decisions about the society we want.

Although I believe that a final medical decision should rest with the doctor and patient, the medical community as a whole makes decisions about common and expected practices of medicine. This prevents doctors from using unsubstantiated treatments.

Ms. Mossburg then makes an even bigger jump of irrational thought — "A more powerful government is destined to more often make bigger and worse mistakes." Would she prefer no government? History has shown that anarchy simply lets the strong and immoral dominate and violence reign. Or does she think it would be better to have a single person, as in a dictatorship or monarchy, make decisions? History has proven this doesn't produce good results either.

If we do not trust our ability to reason, then thousands of years of human thought about wise government, ethics, and scientific advances are discounted. We need wise government, which can only be created by our citizens and politicians logically thinking to the best of their ability. That is what the founding members of our country wanted for "ourselves and our posterity."

Barbara Stanton, Baltimore

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