The Moral Action
In response to “Morality Math” (March 24): Though the morality of pursuing a longer life is shown in Davis and Blackford’s calculations, one must ask why people aren’t content to better the life they have, no matter how short it is?
Malthusian visions of an overpopulated earth without the necessary resources every human needs to survive surpasses the desire to live longer. Foundations raise money for countries without plentiful resources. In contrast, I write this sitting at my kitchen table eating food from the refrigerator. As an American, pursuing a longer life doesn’t seem so far-fetched; many of our needs as a nation are met. But the same cannot be said for other nations. So where is the morality when I choose to prolong my life and take up resources that others who have not been able to experience a full life due to their lack of resources? The moral action is not to prolong our lives, but to help those in need. Living longer is tempting, but selfishly robbing others of limited natural resources is not worth the temptation, and is immoral.
In “Morality Math,” philosopher John Davis “assumes a population of 100 will contain 31 Free Choicers, who take both the treatments and reproduce; 19 Forced Choicers who take the treatments and do not reproduce; and 50 Forced Choicers who refuse the treatments and choose to reproduce. The numbers reflect his own rough intuitions.” This is an interesting academic exercise in philosophy, but it’s not math. These numbers have no basis in facts.
Bioethicist Peter Singer “assumes that people have an average happiness of 5 out of a possible 10 during the first 75 years.” Again, where do these numbers come from? Are you 6 happy for the first 37.5 years and 4 happy for the last 37.5 years, or vice versa? Are you 6 happy if you are born with a rich trust fund and 4 happy if you are a single working mom? Good math cannot be made from fanciful numbers.
Morality and math actually have little to do with these life-extension treatments. Ultimately, this will come down to commerce. Will someone make life-extension treatments? Yes, if someone will buy them. Will someone buy them? Yes.
B. J. Stolbov
Your Headline Here
It is standard journalistic policy to set the headline of each letter to the editor to stand as a quick identifier of its message. So I must say that I find it curious that from time to time you diverge from that practice—particularly when you print your occasional, token opposition letter. In those instances, you choose as a headline a remark intended as an editorial rebuttal—instead of an objective summation—of the letter’s actual text. You may find such shtiklakh clever, but the net effect is to cast doubt on the sincerity of your intentions in airing differing perspectives.
The most recent example of this bit of disingenuousness is the title you assigned to the Eric Artman letter of March 31. The letter writer challenged the familiar leftward assumption that further binding of the people to government will generate a more compassionate social order. You may disagree with the letter’s thesis, but that is Artman’s view.
However, your headline, “Yet Medicare Is a Huge Success,” does not summarize the letter’s text—as would normally be the case with other letters you run—but instead negates and tries to discredit it. Foul.
If you’d rather not print the letter, that is your option as editor and publisher. If you do choose to run it, however, honesty calls for letting it speak for itself, without playing cutesy rebuttal games with your titling. If you fear that your own opinion might be otherwise misconstrued (fat chance, that), you can always write an editorial—up front.
But don’t mess with somebody’s letter. The policy is cheap, and you can do better.