LSAT 90 – Section 4 – Question 02

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S4 Q02
Flaw or descriptive weakening +Flaw
+Easier 148.293 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Flaw/Descriptive Weakening question.

The stimulus says that making some types of products from recycled materials is probably as damaging to the environment as it would be to make those products from entirely nonrecycled material. This is the conclusion. If we use soda cans as an example, making soda cans from recycled aluminum is just as damaging to the environment as making them from new aluminum.

Why is this so? The premise is that the recycling process for those products requires as much energy as producing them from raw materials, and almost all energy production damages the environment. Okay, so producing a recycled aluminum can and a new aluminum can are equally damaging to the environment in terms of energy production.

But does that mean they are equally damaging to the environment, period? What about the actual materials used? Surely we cannot assume that energy production is the only factor that determines environmental damage. The fact that a recycled can’s aluminum came from other cans and not aluminum mines has to count for something.

The reasoning here is cost-benefit analysis, and the author failed to consider other costs and benefits. The argument accounted for energy production as a component of environmental damage but forgot to account for other components. We’re not looking at causal reasoning.

Since we spotted the flaw, let’s turn to the answer choices.

Answer Choice (B) says that the argument treats an effect of energy-related damage as if it were instead the cause of such damage. What is the effect of energy-related damage? Maybe we will see 80-degree weather in New York on Christmas, but why is this relevant? The argument is not even close to a causal one and (B) does not describe the argument’s flaw.

Answer Choice (E) says that the argument presumes that simply because one phenomenon follows another, the earlier must be a cause of the later. Both (B) and (E) describe cookie-cutter flaws related to causation, and if such flaws were actually present in the argument, they would be the right answer choice. But (E) has nothing to do with this argument.

Answer Choice (A) says that the argument uses the word “environment” in one sense in the premise and in a different sense in the conclusion. (A) describes another cookie-cutter flaw that could be correct in other questions, but not in this one. It accuses the argument of having shifted the meaning of a key term or phrase, but it is clear that the premise and the conclusion are referring to the same concept of environment.

Answer Choice (C) says that the argument fails to consider that the particular types of recycled products that it cites may not be representative of recycled products in general. However, the columnist explicitly said making some types of products from recycled material is probably as damaging, not that recycling is just as damaging in general as making products from new materials. And surely the columnist never cited any particular types of products. While I used soda cans to illustrate the argument, the columnist’s argument was nonspecific.

Answer Choice (D) says that the argument fails to consider that making products from recycled materials may have environmental benefits unrelated to energy consumption. This successfully picks up on the accounting error we spotted earlier. This is a benefit of recycling that the argument failed to account for.

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