PT69.S3(P4) - Calvaria major is a rare but once-abundant tree

TheDeterminedCTheDeterminedC Alum Member
edited September 2019 in Reading Comprehension 1020 karma

I am retaking this PT and I really struggled with this passage. In particular, I have trouble understanding the difference between studies being debunked vs. studies giving two opposing facts.

I have come to understand that two ideas being opposite of one another does not lend credence to one theory at the dispense of another. This is reasoning was distilled in me by certain flaw questions that do precisely this. In this passage, we are told that person #1 states there are only 13 plants. Person #2 states there are hundreds of these plants (or only 13). Now, what else is there in this passage that would make the reader assume that #2 person is right, #1 is wrong and not the other way around? The author picking one side over the other is where I disagree incredibly.

The passage is difficult if one doesn't understand that the author thinks the dodo theory is BS. If one doesn't understand this, then they come out of this passage with the wrong idea that there are two opposing views and one shouldn't commit a flaw and pick one to be more right than another. This is exactly the way I was thinking. Questions #22, 24, 26 and 27 all rely on the subtle tone/view the author has---dodo theory is not the cause of the nonexistent phenomena.

Maybe LSAC got around this flawed territory by describing the author committing the flaw, then simply asking us questions about what the author thinks rather then what actually is the case.

My question is when are we logically right to choose one fact over another given the small amount of information in the passage? Yes, the author might have chosen a side, but is it right to throw logic out the window and go along with what the author thinks? Is it even possible that that an author can commit a flaw in an RC passage?

Thank you for reading.

Edit: I can see now where the author includes "the foremost expert on the plant ecology of Mauritius." So, the author's reason would be credibility I suppose. While it does help a bit when picking between two, it surly doesn't support the notion of the idea now being a "fact" as the author concludes.

Admin note: edited title


  • BumblebeeBumblebee Member
    edited April 2019 640 karma

    This is a great issue to discuss in RC!
    As a short reply to your question, yes RC authors can make logical flaws. Weaken and strengthen questions that exist on the RC strongly suggest that imperfect arguments exist even in RC passages.

    But I am unsure that the author here is committing the flaw you mentioned. The author presents two contradictory studies and agrees with one of them. How is this a flaw?

    One study found only 13 specimens.
    Another study found many more.

    These contradictory findings alone do not allow us to objectively decide which study is correct. But we only care about what the author thinks is factual. We need to identify which side the author picks and remember the reasons she/he gives in support of his/her choice. Unlike LR, we don't usually need to judge whether the author's reasoning credible, with the exception of rare weaken/strengthen questions.

    We need to primarily focus on what view/findings the author treats as facts, through recognizing his or her tone. For example, the way the author talks about Stanley's findings (10-11, 14-15)is very different from how she or he talks about Wendy's findings (50-53). The author treats Wendy's findings as a fact. The author says Stanley "assumed" something to be true. We dont know exactly why the author defers to Wendy's findings but that is okay.

    Perhaps, Wendy's study is completely wrong and Stanley was right. But that doesnt matter. What the author believes to be correct is all we need to grasp, and there are many breadcrumbs in the passage that give us clues about it.

  • TheDeterminedCTheDeterminedC Alum Member
    edited April 2019 1020 karma

    Wow, thanks so much for the detailed response. It's nice to know that RC passages do have flaws in them sometimes. It would make sense that weakening questions allude to their arguments not being air tight as well. That's a nice point you made.

    Well, the author agreeing with one study is not entirely the flaw I was suggesting. It's more of the fact that the author chose one and denied the other without giving a premise of why one is more right then the other. So, as long as the author provided a sufficient reason, which was lacking IMO, then it wouldn't be a flaw. I'm not sure if saying someone is the foremost expert in the field would be a sufficient reason in light of the context, where the original hypothesis is posed by an ecologist. Maybe if the ecologist was a Dentist, for instance, then it would be a pretty strong reason. But, like you said, this doesn't matter much for RC. If I understood your response correctly, it's the author's view and that's all that's important to keep in mind.

    From what you say the primary focus is on RC, I can tell you I've had the complete wrong perspective on passages then. I would say I was viewing passages more logic based (i.e. if I agree with the reasoning and why), rather than trying to understand what the author thinks and why they think this particular way. These perspectives are entirely different. I can see why the former perspective would lead to immense trouble on this passage, especially when the questions and answers are all told from the author's viewpoint. Luckily, this problem is one I can fix with a shift of focus and a bit of hard work. Thanks for pointing that out!!

    The example of the author's tone you gave went right over my head, even in blind review. Focusing more on tone and the author's reasons for why they believe certain ideas seems to be a promising area I can improve on as I continue to study RC.

    Thanks again, @Bumblebee.

  • BumblebeeBumblebee Member
    edited April 2019 640 karma


    The pleasure is mine! I'm glad that my post was helpful. I now understand what you meant by the author's flaw. I agree with you that the author doesn't seem to give sufficient reasons for dismissing Stanley's hypothesis. Had she/he explained in detail where and how Stanley's study went wrong, it would have been much more persuasive to argue for the other study's findings. Why did Stanley fail to detect younger specimens of the tree? Was his criteria for determining the tree specimens different from those of Wendy's? This remains unanswered.

    As you mentioned, actively detecting author's voice in the passage serves us well when answering questions in
    RC. Sometimes, I found that even the most neutral sounding passages have a question that asks about what the author would be most likely to agree with. :)

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