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Faulty Reasoning and the Fall of the Roman Empire

Malaria, an ancient killer has been in the news recently in the use of hydroxychloroquine (has long been used to treat malaria) to treat and prevent covid-19. According to the most recent World Malaria Report, there were an estimated 228 million cases of malaria worldwide and 405,000 malaria-related deaths in 2018.

According to the American archaeologist, David Soren, malaria may have contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. The DNA work of British scientist, Robert Sallares has now confirmed that malaria was a killer during late Roman times.

The Romans cannot figure out the relationship between the Anopheles mosquito and malaria. They thought that the cause is due to the bad scent or bad air from the swamps, thus the Latin word, “mala aria”, from which malaria got its name. Those Romans who lived in the mountainous areas were spared from malaria because they were away from the swamps. Today due to the discovery by Sir Ronald Ross, we know that malaria is caused by the parasite, Plasmodium, transmitted by the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes which breed in stagnant water like in the swamps.

Lesson Point:

Faulty reasoning of linking the cause of malaria to bad air could not control the spread of malaria. It led to disaster for the Roman empire as fewer capable soldiers could be recruited due to the disease.

Faulty reasoning occurs when the conclusion is not supported by the data.

For example, breaking a mirror and then met with a car accident make you conclude that “Breaking mirrors causes bad luck.” This is an illogical conclusion based on two unrelated incidents.

Critical thinking prevents us from faulty reasoning to deceive us to buy a poor product, to make unwise project decisions, vote for the wrong candidate or accept an unsuitable job and solving problems.

Recommended short reading on Critical Thinking:

Dr. CK Khoo trains employees from multinational companies in Critical Thinking Skills. His next Critical Thinking Skills workshop is on September 10-11, 2020. To register, kindly contact: or fill in the Contact Us form:

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