LSAT 90 – Section 4 – Question 09

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S4 Q09
Point at issue: disagree +Disagr
+Medium 148.293 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Point at Issue/Disagreement question.

The question stem says the statements commit Robin and Kendall to disagree. Because of the word commit, I am getting the sense that the disagreement is not going to be explicit, but rather strongly implied.

Robin says archeologists can study the artifacts left by ancient cultures to determine whether they were nomadic or sedentary. If the artifacts were made to last as opposed to quickly discarded, then the culture was likely sedentary. Note that this implies that if the artifacts were made to be discarded, the culture was likely nomadic. Robin lays out only two cultures, nomadic or sedentary; and only two types of artifacts, durable or non-durable. So the non-durable type is pointing to (evidence of) a nomadic culture whereas the durable type is evidence of a sedentary culture.

A note about the "arrows." The sentence is presented using "if" so you might be tempted to map this out as a conditional relationship. It wouldn't be wrong, though it would be overlooking the actual meaning of the sentence which is implicitly expressing a causal relationship. Think about why the type of artifact is evidence of the type of culture. In other words, why would finding durable artifacts point to the culture's being sedentary? The implicit reason is because certain types of culture are more likely to make certain types of artifacts. In other words, sedentary culture causes the production of durable artifacts. The logic here is causation. A tends to cause X whereas B tends to cause Y. A and B are long gone and all we have left are X and Y. So finding X or Y is the evidence of A or B. That's the underlying logic. It's not conditional. It's causal.

Kendall then says what artifacts a people make is determined largely by the materials available to them. Kendall is telling a different causal story. For example, if they were next to a forest, they probably made artifacts out of wood. If they were next to a quarry, out of stone. Because Kendall has a different causal story (hypothesis) in mind, he's thinking that these artifacts may not tell you about the type of culture they were. Rather, they might only be evidence of what materials the cultures had access to.

Okay, so this is a Disagree question. Recall your spectrum of support. On one end we have supported, on the other end anti-supported, and right in the middle is unsupported, i.e., it is neither supported nor anti-supported. We are looking for an answer choice where you can land one speaker on one end and another on the other end. And if either speaker lands in the unsupported territory in the middle, the answer choice is automatically wrong because you cannot disagree with someone who has not expressed a position.

Answer Choice (A) says they disagree over whether the distinction that Robin makes between two kinds of cultures is illicit, i.e., not allowed. Robin would, of course, disagree with this. She makes the distinction between nomadic and sedentary. Kendall has expressed absolutely no opinions on this. Kendall just says artifacts do not tell you much about this distinction. Robin is in the anti-supported territory and Kendall is in the unsupported territory.

Correct Answer Choice (B) says they disagree over whether it is reasonable to assume that a culture whose artifacts were not durable was nomadic. Robin says if the artifacts were durable, the culture was likely sedentary, so it is implied that if they were not durable, they were nomadic. So Robin agrees with (B). But Kendall disagrees. Kendall thinks that non-durable artifacts may simply be evidence of the kinds of (non-durable) materials the culture had access to, regardless of whether that culture was sedentary or nomadic. For Kendall, (B) is anti-supported.

Answer Choice (C) says they disagree over whether any evidence other than the intended durability of a culture's artifacts can establish conclusively which of the two kinds of cultures a particular culture was.

The difficulty of (C) is just in the grammar. (C) is talking about whether we can conclude a culture was nomadic or sedentary based on some feature other than the durability of artifacts. For example, maybe we can point to the establishment of cities as evidence that they were sedentary. Maybe we can point to sparse traces of a culture that span a vast territory as evidence that they were nomadic. Neither Robin nor Kendall expresses any opinion on this, so (C) sits at the unsupported territory for both.

For (C) to be correct, one of them, probably Robin, would have to say that the only thing you can look at to determine if a culture was sedentary or nomadic is the durability of their artifacts. And Kendall would say you can also look at other features like traces of cities or movement patterns.

Answer Choice (D) says they disagree over whether the distinction that Robin makes is as important as many archeologists have thought. From Robin’s perspective, it is unclear whether this is as important because we do not know exactly how important archaeologists thought this distinction was in the first place. And Kendall did not say anything at all about nomadic versus sedentary cultures. So (D), like (C), is totally unsupported for both.

For (D) to be correct, we would need someone, likely Robin, saying archeologists make this distinction because it is important, and one of the ways they study this is by looking at artifacts. And Kendall would say this distinction is not that important, and that is why most archeologists study something else.

Answer Choice (E) says they disagree over whether studying a culture's artifacts can reveal a great deal about the culture. Both Robin and Kendall would probably agree here. Robin thinks that studying artifacts can reveal whether a culture was nomadic or sedentary. Kendall thinks that studying artifacts can reveal the types of materials they had access to. So they both agree that it can reveal a great deal. They just disagree over what the revelation is because they disagree over the causes of the artifacts in the first place.

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