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#20 - Recent medical and anthropological data show that

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Complete Question Explanation

Assumption—SN. The correct answer choice is (A)

Despite the length of this stimulus, the argument is simple in structure. It also is deceptive, because while no explicit conditional indicator words are present, the conclusion is the result of an unstated conditional rule that the author assumes must be the case.

The stimulus author discusses recent medical and anthropological data showing that prohibitions on the use of certain foods served important social, economic and medical functions in ancient cultures.

It is not in dispute that the prohibitions served these functions. However, the author argues that those who originally imposed the prohibitions did not do so in order to produce the social, economic and medical functions.

The author’s only support for this conclusion is the evidence that those who originally adopted and enforced the prohibitions did not have access to the same data as modern researchers. So, for the conclusion to be valid, it must be the necessary implication of this evidence. In other words, for the conclusion to be valid, it must be the case that the following conditional relationship exists: if certain medical and anthropological data was not available to the people who originally adopted and enforced prohibitions on the use of certain foods, then that medical and anthropological data cannot explain the origin of the prohibitions.

This relationship can be diagrammed as:

data access = access to medical and anthropological data showing that prohibitions on the use of certain foods served important social, economic and medical functions

data explain = data can explain the origin of the prohibitions involved

    data access ..... :arrow: ..... data explain

Put together, the argument contained in the stimulus, including the assumption, is:

    Premise: ..... recent medical and anthropological data show that prohibitions on the use of certain foods served ..... ..... ..... important social, economic, and medical functions in ancient cultures

    Premise: ..... but, those who originally adopted and enforced the prohibitions did not have access to the same
    ..... ..... ..... modern data as modern researchers (i.e., data access)

    Assumption: ..... data access ..... :arrow: ..... data explain

    Conclusion: ..... the data cannot explain the origin of the prohibitions involved (i.e., data explain)

Answer choice (A): This is the correct answer choice. This answer choice presents a restatement of the conditional relationship described above, providing that if the origin of a food prohibition is to be explained, then it must be explained in the context of understanding or knowledge, possessed by the people who originally adopted and enforced the prohibition. This restatement is the contrapositive of the assumption identified above, and so is logically identical to it:

    data explain ..... :arrow: ..... data access

Answer choice (B): The word “contradictory” in this answer choice plays on the statement in the stimulus that the recent data cannot explain the origin of the food prohibitions involved. The phrase “cannot explain” implies the data is contradictory to the prohibitions. However, not only does this reflect an improper reading of the stimulus, it also would be an improper reading of the answer choice as a whole, which refers to food prohibitions that are contradictory with each other, rather than data contradicting information regarding the origin of food prohibitions.

Answer choice (C): This information is irrelevant to the conclusion, which did not deal with what leads to the origin of the prohibitions, but rather with what information may be used to explain those origins.

Answer choice (D): This answer choice is incorrect, because the issue is not whether the original purpose of the food prohibitions was forgotten, but rather what information may be used to explain the origin of the food prohibitions.

Answer choice (E): It is not required for the conclusion that the people who originally adopted and enforced food prohibitions in ancient cultures generally had a nontechnical understanding of the medical functions of the prohibitions. The support provided for the conclusion had to do with the lack of access to data, rather than the ability to understand data.