|The following appeared in a trade publication for the insurance industry:“Each generation of Americans has lived longer that the ones preceding it, as the national life expectancy has approached 80 years old in recent years. The progress of medical technology shows no sign of abating. Therefore, we can confidently predict that most children born in America in the next decade will live past the age of ninety.”
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.
|The argument states that since each generation of Americans has lived longer than the ones preceding it. Therefore, as the national life expectancy has approached 80 years in recent years, we can confidently predict that most children born in America in the next decade will live past the age of 90. Stated in this way the argument fails to discuss many of the assumptions, on the basis of which it could be evaluated. In the absence of evidence to support these assumptions the argument seems flawed.First, although the argument claims that the average national life expectancy is now 80 years, it fails to discuss all the reasons for this increase. Mathematically, average is a very dangerous statistic to put forward to prove an argument. Averages can be boosted tremendously by eliminating the samples which are farthest from the average. In the present case, one of the reasons of increase in average life expectancy could be the continuous lowering of infant mortality rate in America. With the progress in medical science, we have got the infant mortality rate nearly down to zero, which in turn boosts the average life expectancy. Going by the same logic, if we do not have any more opportunities to decrease infant mortality, we would not be boosting the life expectancy age by the amount we have been doing so in the past decades. Thus to attribute increase in life expectancy solely to increased lifespan of Americans, the argument needs to also mention the trend in infant mortality over the same period.
Second, the argument states that since the progress in medical technology shows no signs of abating we can expect the life expectancy to increase further. But the argument fails to mention cures for which diseases are the currently being researched, and how many Americans are affected by these diseases. Like any other prudent business the medical research companies would have targeted the most lethal diseases in America for research in previous decades. It is highly likely that cures to these diseases have already been developed and hence we see the tremendous increase in life-expectancy. To believe that further research would lead to a similar increase in life expectancy, the argument needs to mention the mortality rates of Americans for the diseases currently being researched.
And finally, the argument fails to take into account what the maximum life expectancy of a human body can be. Human body at its basic is a bio-mechanical device, and like all mechanical devices it faces wear and tear. To support an argument that the average life expectancy will increase to 90 years, the trade publication needs to support it by quoting scientific studies that can show that the human body can sustain the rigors of life for 90 years. In the absence of such a proof, it is safe to assume that the human body will not last to an age of 90 and hence we will not experience the increase in life expectancy as we have been experiencing.
In conclusion the argument seems to flawed as it fails to give evidence for several key assumptions. We do not know how much of an effect decreased infant mortality rate has had, in the increase in national life expectancy. The argument fails to list the mortality levels associated with the diseases currently under research by medical companies and also does not provide proof from any scientific study to determine the maximum possible life span of the human body. In the absence of these evidences, the argument seems flawed and a case of wishful thinking.