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#25 - New evidence indicates that recent property

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Complete Question Explanation

Strengthen-#%. The correct answer choice is (A).

In this stimulus, the author discusses the effect of a certain property development project on wildlife in a national park bordering the development. Despite apparent concern that the development would harm the wildlife, it turns out that has not been the case.

The author points to survey evidence to support this view. A survey of the park’s wildlife was conducted just before the development occurred. The author compares this earlier survey to the most recent survey, conducted about a decade later. The comparison shows that the amount of wildlife in the park actually increased during that ten-year period. (This is a fact - don't question it!). Based on this evidence, the author concludes that the property development has not hurt the park’s wildlife. And, to dispel concern that the increase in wildlife may itself be a problem, the author adds that the park has the resources to support the current, increased level of wildlife without strain.

We know to be cautious of surveys used as evidence on the LSAT. There are many ways in which these surveys can be conducted improperly, and in which the data can be misinterpreted. Here, it appears that the author is taking the increase in the total number of wildlife as evidence sufficient to show that the development has not adversely affected the wildlife. But the number of wildlife is just one indicator. For example, how is the health of the animals? Are there more animals, but the animals are in poor health? How did the numbers increase? And how was the increase apportioned? For example—using animals that may not actually be in the park—are there more squirrels in the park, but the bears have died off due to disease or starvation? Finally, how was the survey conducted? Was there visual confirmation of the presence of each animal, or did the researchers depend on some formula to get the number?

A skeptical reader would want these questions and others answered before accepting the author’s conclusion. The question stem indicates this is a Strengthen question. Our prephrase is that the correct answer choice will address a question such as those posed above, in a way that supports the author’s conclusion that the property development has not harmed the park’s wildlife.

Answer choice (A): This is the correct answer choice, because it goes beyond just the total number of animals in the park to look at the change that has occurred within each species of wildlife. The survey showed that the same species remain in the park. So, none have died off, and the numbers are not the result of the influx of some new species of wildlife. Each species has remained and grown in number. This does not answer the other questions regarding how the survey was conducted and the health of the wildlife, but it does strengthen the argument by addressing one potential concern.

Answer choice (B): While it is tempting to say that this answer choice would weaken the conclusion by showing a fault in the survey process, it is better to say that we do not have sufficient information to know what impact it has on the conclusion. Because the conclusion is based on the difference between the earlier and recent surveys, we would have to know when during the year the earlier survey was taken.

Answer choice (C): This answer choice is irrelevant to the conclusion. Although the park resources ten years ago would not have been able to handle the increased populations of wildlife, the author told us that the park’s current resources can handle the increased populations without strain.

Answer choice (D): This fact hurts the conclusion, because it calls into question the validity of the comparison between the numbers found during the earlier survey and the numbers found during the recent survey. If the current methods are better at finding animals than the older methods, then we cannot tell whether the amount of wildlife has actually increased. It may be the case that the better methods simply discovered a higher percentage of the wildlife in the park, even if the total amount of wildlife has decreased.

Answer choice (E): This answer choice is irrelevant to the conclusion, because we have no reason to think an inventory of plant life in the park has anything to do with the amount of wildlife in the park. The fact that the survey was more comprehensive in this way, by taking an inventory of the plant life, does not mean that the survey was more comprehensive regarding the wildlife.
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Quick Question: The one thing that really throws me off about this stimulus is the use of "On the contrary" at the beginning of the second sentence. When I first read through, I thought the the author was going to try to argue that the new developments DID adversely affect the park's wildlife. So, if the "On the contrary" was not referring to the author's position, what point was it referring to? I am probably just looking into this too much, but I just want to make sure that I understand this! Any explanation would be much appreciated :)
Adam Tyson
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Hey Jeanel, thanks for asking. "On the contrary" here refers to the idea that "recent property development [has] adversely affected..." - in other words, it supports that first sentence, which says that the development has NOT had that effect.

The argument sets up the idea that things haven't gotten worse, but have actually gotten better. That's what the "on the contrary" phrase is telling us.

It hasn't gotten hotter this summer compared to last summer. On the contrary, it has gotten much cooler.

Mel Gibson hasn't settled down as he has aged. On the contrary, he has gotten nuttier.

The LSAT isn't getting harder for Jeanel. On the contrary, it's getting much easier.

See how that works?

Now, if the argument had started with something like "some people say that the development has not adversely affected the wildlife, but contrary to that claim, it actually has, and here's why I say that...", then the "contrary" reference would indicate a counter-argument. We just don't have that kind of structure here.

Take another look and see if that makes sense to you.
Adam M. Tyson
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For me, Powerscore's lesson of "filling out a potentional weakness" to strengthen an argument during a prephrase phase tremendously helped me out to reach a correct answer