The underlying question offered seems to be – can we use one proposition to stand in for another? We are talking about goodness in medicine – improvement of outcomes in healthcare. The question is obviously – do the two measures “increases in life expectancy” and “decreases in infant mortality” represent good things, or bad things? Of course, they are good things, and may well illustrate the improvement of medicine.
The error is using such thingsas stand-alone substitutes for the larger definition of goodness in medicine. You can test propositions of other measures – is this or that change in medicine something that makes for better medicine, or not? However, when you try to test a certain proposition for goodness, you cannot substitute another proposition – ” increases in life expectancy” and “decreases in infant mortality” for “goodness in medicine.” This is a fallacy that leads to mischief and bad ideas.
If government underwrote the access to and cost of pregnancy termination, abortion, “decreases in infant mortality” would surely take place. Does that mean the same thing that “medicine would be better” if “access” and “cost” were improved? If you notice that this has become a moral question, it certainly is – but it was from the very start. Using other propositions as a cat’s paw, a disguise, can distort and shadow the real measurement that one is interested in.
One of the moral concerns that we generally ignore, is the consequence of reducing human beings to objects and quantifiables. We should always stop and ask – How is this a good thing? Otherwise, we argue moral questions in the guise of algorithms.
For example – people who oppose abortion will frequently argue that the calculation of infant mortality should carry the number of aborted fetuses in the denominator, and people who support abortion will argue against this. Such an argument is about algorithms, arithmetic. Abortion does not belong as a form of arithmetic, but rather is a fundamental human moral question. Is it right or wrong? We have learned to sidestep such moral questions by recasting them in arithmetical terms.
A good example of a moral cripple was Adolf Eichmann of Nazi Germany. He was promoted to a level of responsibility far higher than what he had had before, so he wanted to demonstrate excellence. Even while he was on trial in Jerusalem for war crimes, he couldn’t stop talking about what a good job he had done in the bureaucracy, bulling through obstacles, making things work, being a go-to guy. He would tell Jewish jailers, some of whom had fled the Nazi Reich, what a bang-up job he did. He was unable to see through the curtain of bureaucracy to know that “being good at his job” equaled the killing of innocent people. His Fuehrer said that doing this was good for Germany, and he sure wanted to show how competent he was in doing the right thing. He went to the noose never quite understanding what an evil puppet he was.
Why are we going towards tolerating Amtssprach – “office language,” with its euphemisms and such – to cloak our moral actions?