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#2 - An unstable climate was probably a major cause of the

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I chose B while the correct answer was D.

The stimulus states:
1. Unstable climate ~caused fall of Rome
2. Evidence: tree-rings
3. Variable climate hurt food production + made empire hard to defend

Task: strengthen

B seemed to rule out the option of "unrest," which I thought was like fighting in Game of Thrones so it seemed to support climate being responsible for bad food production.
Is B wrong because it does not directly address food production?

D seemed to weaken the argument. If Europe consistently experienced happy favorable weather for agriculture, then that rules out the option of a "variable climate."
Why is D correct?
Jon Denning
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Hey MB - thanks for the question!

I believe this mostly comes down to a misreading.

"Unrest" in (B) simply means discord in the region, something we would surely expect to find a fair amount of in an empire in decline. It's not a cause of the decline, but a symptom. A sign that things truly are beginning to fall apart.

So when (B) says that the areas of greatest climatic instability experienced no more unrest than other areas, it's actually weakening the argument that climatic fluctuations were the cause of problems: the places where the climate was least stable didn't see any greater problems than more climatically-serene regions.

Instead, we want to show a stronger connection between climate and Roman empire success/failure. That the ups and downs of the empire may indeed be tied to the weather.

(D) gives us that connection by saying when the climate was favorable for agriculture (unlike the time period in the stimulus), the Roman empire thrived! The idea of good climate/crops :arrow: empire success makes the notion of
bad climate/crops :arrow: empire collapse more likely.

Note: (D) is a long way from proving anything in the stimulus. It simply shows a tighter link between weather/crops and the success of the empire, which bolsters the claim that poor weather could hamper that success.
Jon Denning
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I chose B as well because I thought it to eliminate an alternative cause.

And D I didn't like, still don't like, because it seems like an answer choice that LSAT usually wants us to stay away from. I realize it may create a stronger link..but when we're talking about empire crumbling because of agriculture, how is it strengthen to say the complete opposite of that?

When is it ok to use the opposite sort of answers like for this question? For example: When this was bad, this happened.... a/c: so when this was good, this didn't happen...

Basically what D is saying and I always have a hard time picking these answers. Advice???
Robert Carroll
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Answer choice (B) breaks the connection between climate instability and unrest, which makes it seem like climate instability does not lead to the kinds of things that could collapse the Roman Empire. It thus weakens the argument.

Answer choice (D) strengthens the connection between climate and food production. If the variable climate was, as the argument claims, responsible for poor food production, which in turn led to the fall of the empire, then you'd expect a good climate not to lead to such problems. This is a classic "Show that when the cause does not occur, the effect does not occur" method for strengthening cause and effect arguments. If the author is right about causation, then removing that cause should also remove the effect. If it doesn't, then the effect was going to happen anyway - the the author's cause isn't the real cause. Answer choice (D) basically says "if the cause isn't present, the effect won't be either, so the author is more likely to be right that this really was the cause."

Robert Carroll