LSAT 46 – Section 2 – Question 08

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT46 S2 Q08
Weaken +Weak
+Easiest 144.676 +SubsectionEasier

The question stem reads: Which one of the following, if true, most weakens the argument? This is a Weaken question.

The author begins by describing how the laboratory experiment, which is the most effective method for teaching science, is disappearing from secondary school curricula. Instead of the laboratory experiment, students are simulating experiments using computers. We then see that the author believes this (simulating) experiments on computers) should be stopped, which is the author's conclusion. The reason the author gives is that the practice of simulating experiments in high school results in many students going to university without knowing how to work with laboratory experiments. We can reorganize the argument to read:

P1: High school students are using computers to simulate experiments.

P2: Using computers to simulate experiments results in many students going to university without knowing how to work with lab equipment.

C1: Simulating experiments should be stopped.

I highlighted the should to indicate that this conclusion is normative. Normative claims deal with good and bad. However, nothing is inherently good or bad about the world; determining what is good and bad requires us to make a value judgment. Is there anything inherently wrong with intentionally driving over a squirrel? You might argue that deliberately mowing down squirrels is wrong because it takes away life. Then I would ask you why taking away life is bad. You say it causes suffering. I say, what is wrong with suffering… and you see where I am going here. The upshot is that normative claims can only arise from other normative claims. If I have a normative claim in the conclusion, I need a normative claim in the premises.

The conclusion that we should stop simulating experiments in high school is normative, so I need to have a normative premise. However, the premises are descriptive; they describe a state of affairs. So what if kids go to college without knowing how to use laboratory equipment? There is nothing inherently wrong with that. The author assumes that it is a bad thing when we do not know if it is. To weaken this question, we need to look for an answer choice that suggests that going to college without knowing how to use laboratory equipment is not bad. The correct AC does not need to destroy the argument. It merely needs to cast doubt on the conclusion.

Answer Choice (A) says it is difficult for secondary schools to keep up with scientific knowledge without using computers. We have multiple issues. That might be true, but there is more to computer usage than just simulating experiments, so we do not know if this AC is even relevant to the argument. Even if we modified this (A) to say "difficult to keep up without simulating experiments," this would still be an incorrect AC. So what if it is difficult to teach students without computers? Just because something is easier for schools to teach using computers, that does not mean it is the right thing to do.

Answer Choice (B) is wrong on multiple counts. First, these schools might still have students simulate experiments on the computer and observe the teacher in other experiments. Even if there were mutually exclusive practices, the more critical issue is that the author's argument is entirely unconcerned with schools that do not simulate experiments on computers. The author merely wants to say that schools using computer simulations should stop.

Answer Choice (C) is irrelevant to the argument. The fact that computers are useful for teaching scientific terminology does not rule out computer simulations' bad downstream effects on university students. It can be true that both computers are useful for teaching scientific terminology, and using computers to simulate experiments is bad for students.

Answer Choice (D) is incorrect because the fact that secondary schools and universities have invested a lot of money into computers does not magically make using computers to simulate experiments acceptably. The author would simply reply, "That's unfortunate." (D) is the sunk cost fallacy.

Correct Answer Choice (E) because it identifies a reason that students going to college without knowing how to use lab equipment might be bad and rules that out. If not knowing how to use laboratory equipment makes students ill-prepared to learn science, that certainly seems bad. (E) rules that possibility out by saying students can learn just fine without knowing how to use lab equipment.

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