LSAT 12 – Section 1 – Question 01

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT12 S1 Q01
Main conclusion or main point +MC
+Harder 147.282 +SubsectionMedium

The question stem says “The main point of the argument is that…” Therefore, we know this must be a main conclusion or main point question, asking us to identify the author’s claim that is supported by other claims.

We begin with a claim about the likelihood or probability of something happening. Although it is not a precise claim, we learn that it is “probably” possible, by using human technology, to create a climate on Mars in which living organisms can survive. Right away, I am wondering if this claim will end up supporting another one (making it a premise) or being supported by another claim (making it a conclusion). We don’t quite have enough information yet, so let’s read on.

It looks like we are now being presented with more details as to how this occurrence might happen––it might be hundreds of years before humans could actually live on Mars, even if they had specific technology that would assist them (breathing apparatuses). The second half of this sentence begins with a “but,” usually indicating some sort of contrast or shift in the author’s point. But… we hear about a comparison, well, more than one of the “great temples and cathedrals” also took hundreds of years to build. Side note… huh? How is transforming a currently uninhabitable planet into a place humans could thrive similar to constructing a cathedral? But I digress. Let’s ignore how good or bad this argument seems, as that is not our job to assess in this case––we just need to decipher which is the author’s main conclusion. What role does this contrast play in the argument? Well, at the base level, the author is trying to set up the argument (remember, just a premise and conclusion) that hey, it might take a while until we can inhabit Mars, but didn’t other great feats in history take a while? This claim also introduces a specific piece of human technology, breathing apparatuses, that are implied to assist human life on Mars. So, we are walking away from this second sentence with hope that human technology could allow for life on Mars one day, by way of a comparison and an example. As of now, this second sentence makes the first more likely to be true: now we know, ever so slightly, how “it is probably within the reach of human technology to make the climate of Mars inhabitable.” So, the second sentence supports the first, and is a premise to the best of our knowledge.

Ooh! Wait! We have a third sentence here that builds on the first two, and might be a strong contender for our main conclusion! The claim states that we can prove that research efforts are reasonable if (indicating a sufficient condition) “there is even a chance” of making life on Mars possible. In other words, proving that there is a slight chance of altering Mars’ climate to be inhabitable is enough for us to justify research efforts. How do the first two sentences connect to this? Well, they each work to set up the fact that we may have met the sufficient condition for research to be justified, that we have this slight chance! The first claim tells us that creating conditions of life on Mars is a possibility, and the second sentence partially tells us how it is a possibility, and partially increases the likelihood of it being a possibility by comparison to history. Therefore, the first two claims support, or make more likely to be true, the fact that the sufficient condition in sentence three is met! Let’s read on.

“Besides,” or in addition, we are presented with one potential benefit of the process of making Mars inhabitable. One part of that process, “the intellectual exercise of understanding how the Martian atmosphere might be changed” can assist in understanding a big problem we have on Earth: atmospheric changes due to human activity. So, we have a reason that research into life on Mars would be beneficial, next to some information that sets up the possibility that this goal could truly be achieved. Which one of the author’s claims is being supported overall? This stimulus is similar to other tough main conclusion questions in the sense that these premises are not quite supporting an explicitly stated sentence, but instead we have to put the puzzle pieces together as readers to determine the direction the author is taking the argument. Why would the author have presented us with reasons to believe life on Mars could be possible and list a benefit of researching life on Mars, if they were not trying to let us know that the sufficient condition for justifying research efforts has been met? Remember, it was a pretty weakly worded sufficient condition; it is adequate or enough to establish that “there is even a chance” of making life on Mars possible in order to justify research efforts. The premises tell us that there is this slight chance, so the author’s conclusion must be that research efforts are now justified. Let’s search for this in our AC’s.

Answer Choice (A) This looks like a spot-on rephrase of the first sentence, that technology allows for the possibility of life on Mars. Remember, we thought this might be a supported claim, or the conclusion, after reading the first two sentences, but did the rest of the sentences make this first claim more likely to be true? No, instead, this claim ends up making a later claim more likely to be accepted, that research efforts are justified.

Answer Choice (B) This is a rephrase of the first half of that second sentence, which we determined to be a premise that limits but still sets up the likelihood of life on Mars.

Answer Choice (C) Definitely not our main conclusion. This was an example of other “similar” feats in history, but we can’t make a case that anything else in the argument makes this statement more likely to be true.

Correct Answer Choice (D) There we go! That’s exactly what we are looking for. And, it required some synthesis, or combining different pieces of evidence to support a conclusion, as we have seen other difficult MC questions require of us. After reading this entire stimulus, we are much more likely to accept that research efforts are justified, as the claims support this in some way.

Answer Choice (E) This is a rephrase of that last sentence, listing a potential benefit of pursuing research, which was a piece of support that research efforts are justified.

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