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# Each generation of Americans has lived longer. . .

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Intern
Joined: 30 Sep 2012
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Each generation of Americans has lived longer. . . [#permalink]

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04 Feb 2013, 02:20
ESSAY QUESTION:
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.

RESPONSE:
The argument claims that since the progress of medical technology shows no sign of abating, therefore it can be confidently predicted that most children, born in America in the next decade, will live past the age of ninety. Stated in this way the argument fails to mention several key factors on the basis of which it could be evaluated. The conclusion of the argument is based on certain assumptions for which there's no clear evidence.

First, the author readily assumes that medical technology is the sole factor that affects the life expectancy. Undoubtedly, progress in medical technology and affordable medical services may lead to a higher expectancy rate, but there may be other factors too. For instance, a decline in road accidents could be one of the reason. Similarly, strict laws for practicing doctors could be another one, since many innocent people die each year due to negligence and carelessness of doctors. However the author fails to consider these critical factors. Additionally, it is also important to figure it out that whether a common man in america has access to all those advancements and developments in medical science. If only rich and influential citizens avail the fruit of medical technology, then the claim made by author remains unsubstantiated and open to debates.

Second, the author assumes that a trend that has continued in past will continue in future also. However, this is rather a very weak and unsubstantiated claim. How can a trend continue just because one of the contributing factors. In fact, the author fails to consider the relevance and importance of other factors, as stated in last paragraph, that could be crucial to an increase in life expectancy. Perhaps, it could also be possible that despite significant advancement in medical technology, life expectancy increased by just 1-2 years in last century. If this were the case, then it's certainly next to impossible that within a few decades it will increase by over 10 years.

Third, the author concludes that 'most' children, born in next decade, will live past the age of ninety. Even if we assume that the trend will continue in future, it's not at all clear that today what is the proportion of people who live past 80 years. It could be possible that because a few people live past 125 years, the average life expectancy is above 80.

Without convincing answers to the above mentioned questions, one is left with the impression that the claim is more of a wishful thinking.
In conclusion the argument is flawed and hence unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthened if the author clearly mentioned all relevant facts, rather than making certain assumptions.
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Re: Each generation of Americans has lived longer. . . [#permalink]

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05 Feb 2013, 13:10
It is certainly getting better.

sahil2441 wrote:
Additionally, it is also important to figure it out that whether a common man in america has access to all those advancements and developments in medical science. If only rich and influential citizens avail the fruit of medical technology, then the claim made by author remains unsubstantiated and open to debates.

Then how come the average is already above 80?

sahil2441 wrote:
Perhaps, it could also be possible that despite significant advancement in medical technology, life expectancy increased by just 1-2 years in last century. If this
were the case, then it's certainly next to impossible that within a few decades it will increase by over 10 years.

Yes, but this assumption is unreasonable. If it says "each generation lived longer than the previous one", then we expect the difference to be statistically significant; perhaps a few years. There were several generations in a century, so it cannot be just 1-2 years.

sahil2441 wrote:
Third, the author concludes that 'most' children, born in next decade, will live past the age of ninety. Even if we assume that the trend will continue in future, it's not at all clear that today what is the proportion of people who live past 80 years. It could be possible that because a few people live past 125 years, the average life expectancy is above 80.

It is also possible that many people live until 81-89. However, if the average is so high as 80, it is not so unreasonable to assume that a lot of people should live until their nineties... though perhaps not "most".

I would also focus on the question of medical technology vs. other causes. Alternatively, you can also argue that the life expectancy probably cannot increase indefinitely.

Quote:
it's not at all clear that today what is the proportion of people who live past 80 years

This sounds awkward.
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Re: Each generation of Americans has lived longer. . .   [#permalink] 05 Feb 2013, 13:10
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