LSAT 53 – Section 3 – Question 06

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT53 S3 Q06
Flaw or descriptive weakening +Flaw
+Easier 145.896 +SubsectionMedium

The question stem reads: The reasoning in the ornithologist's argument is most vulnerable to criticism on the grounds that the argument… This is a Flaw question.

The ornithologist begins by stating how a particular bird species (we will call this bird "X") diet is believed to consist primarily of vegetation (plants). However, the ornithologist concludes that belief is wrong. In other words, The ornithologist argues that "X" birds' diets are mostly not plants. As evidence, he describes how he camouflaged himself and watched hundreds of "X" birds every morning for a month. During his morning observations, he estimates that over half of what "X" birds ate were insects and animal food resources (not plants). This line of reasoning is flawed because the ornithologist only observed birds during the morning. Let's say I hypothesized that the belief humans frequently drink coffee is wrong. To prove my theory, I hid in people's closets for many months and watched their bedtime routines. During my observations, I noticed very few people drank coffee. Hypothesis proven, right? No! The problem is that I only observed people at night when they were unlikely to drink coffee. The other problem is that I shouldn't hide in people's closets. An ideal experiment has a representative sample.

Similarly, the ornithologist has only observed what "X" birds eat in the morning. However, what "X" birds eat in the morning might be unrepresentative of their diet on the whole. Now that we have identified our flaw let's move to the answer choices.

Answer Choice (A) is wrong. The ornithologist says he camouflaged himself. You might argue that perhaps his camouflage was ineffective. However, our job LSAT flaw questions in the reasoning, not to question the truth of the premises. Even if he did camouflage himself well, his argument is still problematic (he was only watching "X" birds in the morning!).

Answer Choice (B) is wrong. The ornithologist does not need to describe exactly what kinds of food "X" birds ate. He needs to say that plants accounted for 50% or less of their diet. So if it was true that most of "X" birds' diets were insect and animal food sources, that would imply 50% or less of "X" birds' diet was plants.

Answer Choice (C) is wrong. The author does not adopt the widespread belief. The author rejects the widespread idea that "X" birds' diet is mostly plants.

Correct Answer Choice (D) is what we discussed. If it was confirmed that "X" birds have different feeding patterns throughout the day, the ornithologist made an error by taking an unrepresentative sample of the birds' diet.

Answer Choice (E) is incorrect. Mapping on the stimulus to (E), we would get: fails to consider the possibility that "X" birds diet has changed since the earlier belief that "X" birds mostly ate plants was formed. Even if it was true that the popular belief was formed when "X" birds used to mostly eat plants, what matters is what the birds eat now. If "X" birds mostly eat insects and animals, then the popular belief is wrong. Being right in the past doesn't make you any less wrong in the present.

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