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#12 - The higher the average fat intake among the residents

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from my understanding, this stimulus shows a correlation between the average fat intake and the incidence of cancer (more fat intake, more cancer).

is answer choice D correct because it shows that the correlation doesn't necessarily exist based on the fact that high fat cannot cause high levels of pollution?

also, why is C incorrect?

Steve Stein
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Hi sarae,

Answer choice D introduces another factor that also exhibits a correlation: the high-fat places were also the high-pollution places, so that introduces another possible cause of the cancer: pollution.

As for answer choice C, the stimulus deals with the risk of cancer, not the likelihood of cancer's causing death.

I hope that's helpful! Please let me know whether this is clear--thanks!

Steve Stein
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got it! thanks!
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Thanks for the great explanations thus far. But I keep scratching my head on answer choice "C".

One way to weaken a causal argument such as this is to 1. find an alternate cause, or 2. remove the cause and show the effect occurs.

Certainly, the correct answer choice "D" provides an alternate cause. My confusion is that "C" removes the cause yet the effect remains: a classic weakening strategy. So, it appears they both weaken the argument. To decide which one MOST weakens it, I looked to the premises used, and how they supported the conclusion but still ended up with the wrong answer.

I realize that cancer causing death is stronger than what's required to weaken the argument, but how virulent the cancer happens to be is irrelevant so long as the effect: cancer (of any virulence) occurs even without the cause: fat intake. I wrongly concluded that due to this we have a weakened argument in answer choice "C".

I just want to understand the tricks the LSAT uses with cause and effect relationships and how to avoid them in the future.
Who Ray
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Hello Boston Law Guy!

You are doing a great job evaluating arguments with the potential weakening strategies in mind. However, you have got to be careful not to overthink things or assume too much. C is wrong because cancer ≠ death, and the stimulus is talking about incidents of cancer not cancer deaths.
If we expand the world of our question really quick, hopefully I can make that more clear. Lets say Countries A-E have high fat diets and 1000 incidents of cancer a year, and Countries F-J have low fat diets and 100 incidents of cancer. However, in Countries A-E, 99.9% of cancer is completely cured, so they only have 1 cancer death a year. In Countries F-J, they have terrible medicine and only cure 1% of cancer, so they have 99 cancer deaths per year.
In this unjust, but not terribly improbably, world we can see how cancer could be a leading cause of death in a country without weakening the cause and effect relationship.

This is a long way of saying be careful of terms that shift between the ACs and the stimulus.

Who Ray
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Hi! Could someone possibly explain/ breakdown in a little more detail as to why C is incorrect and E is incorrect? I get D is introducing an alternative reason but I can't see why E is wrong? C could be wrong bc its talking about actual death's caused by cancer whereas the stimulus talks about increasing the RISK of cancer. Please please help, thanks!
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I understand how D weakens the argument. D proposes an alternative cause to the cancer (environmental pollution instead of high average fat intake). But I don't fully understand why C is wrong. The conclusion is causal and it states that reduced fat intake (the cause) can lead to reduced risk of cancer (the effect). It seems that C weakens the conclusion by showing us a situation where the cause occurs, but the effect doesn't occur.

I have read the posts on this question, but I still don't fully understand it. Can someone please give me a detailed explanation of why D is right and especially why C is wrong?
Robert Carroll
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akansha and fighter,

First, lsatfighter, you seem to have a perfect understanding of why answer choice (D) is correct - it explains that the correlation between fat intake and cancer rates may be coincidental, because there's also a correlation between fat intake and environmental pollution. If the latter correlation holds, then perhaps cancer rates are higher in places where the fat intake is higher not because fat intake causes cancer but because environmental pollution causes cancer. In fact, if there's a correlation between anything else and high fat intake, that other thing would also be correlated with cancer...and, if the conclusion of this argument is taking a correlation to indicate causation, any other correlation could equally represent a causal relationship.

Answer choice (C) doesn't affect the argument because saying that cancer is a "prominent" cause of death doesn't mean it's more likely than other causes. It doesn't rank cancer as a MORE prominent cause than others. I think that's why answer choice (C) is tempting - it makes you think cancer is still AS BAD a problem in countries with lower fat intake. But that's not what the answer says - it just says cancer is "prominent". That doesn't mean cancer is as bad there.

Answer choice (E) is incorrect because we're talking about statistical generalities in the stimulus, and information about individual outliers really doesn't affect anything in this case. The stimulus said that higher average fat intake correlated with higher cancer incidence, but it never said that EVERY person in the country had a high fat intake, right? Perhaps the average was high, but certain people had a low intake of fat. It's also quite possible that those very same outliers who ate a low-fat diet in a country with a high average fat intake were the same outliers who had a low incidence of cancer! It's possible for the overall incidence of cancer to be higher without everyone having cancer, right? Answer choice (E) doesn't address whether these people had a higher, lower, or the same cancer I don't know how these exceptional individuals affect the argument. If they bucked the trend of eating higher-than-average fat, they might ALSO buck the trend in their countries by having a lower incidence of cancer. So these people might actually SUPPORT the argument. The point is, without further information, answer choice (E) may support, weaken, or do nothing to the on its own, it doesn't affect it.

Robert Carroll