LSAT 90 – Section 4 – Question 19

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S4 Q19
Resolve reconcile or explain +RRE
+Medium 148.293 +SubsectionMedium

This is an RRE question.

Note that while the question stem says “justify,” it could just as well have said "would most help to explain" or “most help to resolve the paradox.” This is a classic RRE question where we have to explain a phenomenon.

The stimulus says it is widely known that the rescue squads serving high mountain areas with treacherous weather save the lives of many mountain climbers every year. This makes sense. For example, I am sure many lives are saved every year in the dangerous Alps by rescue squads. Then it says, however, that many experienced climbers believe that the rising annual toll of deaths and injuries among climbers in these regions can be significantly reduced only by completely abolishing the rescue squads.

So first we have this phenomenon of rising annual toll of deaths and injuries despite the rescue squads who save a lot of lives. But then experienced climbers are saying that deaths and injuries can be reduced only by completely abolishing the rescue squads. This seems paradoxical because we would think that we need to double or triple our rescue squads to save more climbers. Why do experienced climbers believe the opposite?

Answer Choice (A) says it is difficult to recruit and train members for the rescue squads. (A) might have been an explanation if we were asked to come up with any reason at all why experienced mountain climbers might say that we needed to get rid of rescue squads. Maybe because it is impossible to recruit or train members. So just give up on the whole project.

However, the question is not asking us to come up with any random reason why the experienced climbers believe rescue squads should be abolished. Rather, it is asking us why the experienced climbers believe doing so is the solution to the problem of rising deaths and injuries. (A) does not address this.

Be careful of these traps and make sure you explain the phenomenon in context. In this case, we have to explain the experienced climbers’ beliefs specifically in relation to rising deaths and injuries. They’re not just saying let’s abolish the rescue squad. They’re saying let’s abolish the rescue squad because it’ll bring down the death toll.

Answer Choice (B) says the recording of deaths and injuries tends to be more accurate in regions served by rescue squads. This makes sense. While rescue squads likely keep good records and have various standards and definitions as an organized group, regions that are not served by them may rely on inconsistent, ad hoc numbers from amateur climbers.

If the experienced climbers were only concerned about bringing down the annual reported numbers, (B) might have been an answer. Note, however, that we are trying to fix the reality of deaths and injuries, and not just trying to lower the reported numbers. We are not saying that if we do not see a problem, it does not exist.

While reported numbers might drop if you get rid of rescue squads, the actual deaths and injuries will not. (B) is not respecting the fact that these experienced climbers are proposing a solution to a real problem, and therefore fails to resolve the paradox.

Answer Choice (C) says that people who commonly take risks with their lives and health do not expect others to take those risks to save them. For brevity, let’s call this subset of people “risk takers.” Obviously, not all risk takers will take risks specifically by climbing mountains, and some of them might be skydivers, etc. But surely a subset of risk takers will take risks by climbing mountains, and per (C), they are therefore not expecting to be rescued.

If this is the case, why would abolishing rescue squads have an impact on deaths and injuries? If risk-taking mountain climbers get stuck in snow, they are happy to snowboard down the avalanche. They will not care that there are no rescue squads and are already behaving as if there were none.

(C) is something we see commonly in RRE questions, where some answer choices exacerbate the issue by blocking a potential explanation. A potential explanation could have been that those who get injured or killed are precisely the people who expect to be rescued, as we will see later in Answer Choice (E). (C) is not only talking about the wrong subject (we need to talk about people who are likely to get injured or killed, not risk takers), it is also saying they do not expect to be rescued. We need climbers to think that they are protected from trouble because they will be saved, and (C) is doing the opposite.

This leads us to Answer Choice (E), which is the version we want.

(E) claims that the lower the risk of climbing a mountain is perceived to be, the greater the number of less competent climbers who attempt to climb it. We first have to recognize that (E) is a comparative claim, and that the unstated part of this comparative is that the greater the risk is perceived to be, the fewer the number of less competent climbers.

In addition, we need to make two assumptions, both fairly reasonable and definitely more so than any assumption the other answers require. The first assumption is that when you remove the rescue squads, you increase not just the actual risk, but also the perceived risk. In other words, if I know that one mountain is protected by rescue squads and another is not, my perceived risk of the unprotected mountain goes up as a result.

The second assumption is that incompetent climbers are more likely to get injured or killed. This is also reasonable. The level of competence of mountain climbers is likely a normal distribution, where some are experts, most are in the middle, and some are incompetent. Who do you think will be more likely to get injured or killed? Of course, the less competent ones.

With these two assumptions, experienced climbers are saying that the incompetent climbers are the problem, and that rescue squads invite these incompetent climbers to get themselves hurt by lowering the perceived risk of climbing mountains. We therefore have to get rid of the rescue squads.

Answer Choice (D) says most of the people injured or killed while mountain climbing were not adequately prepared for the dangers they would face. (D) sounds similar to (E). The assumption we needed in (E) about how the incompetent are disproportionately injured or killed is made explicit in (D). If (D) is combined with (E), we might have an even better answer choice.

However, this is not a co-op game. We cannot merge (D) and (E) to create a better answer choice. We have to evaluate the answers independently. (E) is weak insofar as the assumption that incompetent climbers are more likely to get injured or die is weak. But, as we already discussed, that’s a fairly reasonable assumption.

However, (D) is very weak without (E). (D) just claims that people who were injured or killed were unprepared. That does not explain what will happen once we get rid of the rescue squads. Will the less prepared stop climbing mountains as a result? If you think so, then you are hopping over into the world of (E). (D) doesn’t say that and hence it does not resolve the paradox on its own.

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