LSAT 15 – Section 3 – Question 12

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT15 S3 Q12
Necessary assumption +NA
+Easier 147.463 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Necessary Assumption question. This is a classic NA stem, and we know it’s NA because the question stem is asking for an assumption the argument depends on.

Proponents of organic farming claim something. What do they claim? Chemicals used in farming harm wildlife. Makes sense. What about it? Well, this next sentence looks like a counter-point. If we’re going to stop using chemical fertilizers and still produce the same amount of food, we’re going to have to farm more land than we currently farm. That makes sense: We don’t use chemicals for the fun of it. We use them because they dramatically increase yields. So if we stop using them, the same amount of land will produce less food. Therefore, we’ll have to farm more land to produce the same amount of food. The final line looks like the conclusion: Organic farming destroys wildlife habitat.

Well, this may seem like a somewhat reasonable argument. It may not be immediately clear to us why it isn’t valid. That’s okay though. The answer choices will feed us the prompt that will help us resolve this. We want to approach NA questions by keeping an open mind, considering what each AC suggests, and using POE to navigate through.

Answer Choice (A) This doesn’t have to be true, but it’s interesting how this is constructed. This may seem to contradict a premise, but it actually doesn’t. The first line doesn’t say that these chemicals harm wildlife. It says that organic farming proponents claim that they do. So this answer is telling us that the proponents’ claims are true. But they don’t have to be. Even if these chemicals are perfectly safe, their absence will still decrease yields and increase need for more land devoted to farming.

Answer Choice (B) This is similar to A. I’m not sure that the chemicals’ effects on wildlife, if any, actually matters. The conclusion is only addressing the effects of needing to use more land for organic farming. The chemicals don’t need to be harmful for these effects to follow from the greater land usage of organic farming. This diminishes the benefits of organic farming, but it doesn’t impact the downsides which our conclusion is solely concerned with.

Answer Choice (C) This is the same issue as A and B. Seeing a third answer choice in a row miss the point in the exact same way makes me a little cautious though. I’m not going to change course until I finish the remaining answer choices, but I am prepared to reevaluate the stimulus if this continues. The LSAT is not normally so kind as to allow us to eliminate three answer choices all for the same reason. We accept the kindness when offered, but beware test writers bearing gifts.

Answer Choice (D) This doesn’t have to be true, but it’s at least moving in a different direction from A, B, and C. And I can see why it might be attractive. If we plant different crops, maybe we can increase yields that way. By switching from a lower yield crop farmed non-organically to a higher yield crop farmed organically, maybe we can balance our yields that way without having to devote more land to farming. That makes sense and might be a possibility, but does this have to be true? No. They don’t have to be the same crop to result in lower yields. Different crops can still get us to the same result. This is an interesting suggestion, but it doesn’t check out.

Correct Answer Choice (E) Oh, this makes sense. I definitely was not going to predict this, but it totally works. I’ve been assuming that there can’t be any overlap in land use: It is used for farming or as habitat but not both. But there is nothing that says it can’t be both. If organic farming uses land in a way that preserves it as habitat, it can have multiple functions and serve as both farm land and wildlife habitat. In this scenario, greater land use would not necessarily result in the reduction of habitat. Many shade-grown coffee farming practices have this effect. The coffee plants are allowed to grow beneath and along side other trees which preserves habitat for birds.

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