Don Boudreaux on Science and Choice
Yesterday's letter from Don Boudreaux to the Wall Street Journal is simply too good not to reprint here:
30 December 2005
Editor, The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281
While Thomas Stossel magnificently punctures the pretentiousness of medical journals ("Mere Magazines," Dec. 30), a further point must be made: researchers, physicians, and the news media increasingly but wrongly treat scientific findings as prescriptions for how people should live. Even the most unassailable scientific truths do not, and should not, alone determine people's preferences and choices. For example, no scientific researcher can determine if the pleasure Mr. Smith enjoys from smoking cigarettes is greater or less than the costs he suffers from lower life expectancy.
Science can tell us only the likely consequences of our actions; it cannot tell us how to evaluate and weigh these consequences.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
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