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#8 - John of Worcester, an English monk, recorded the

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Complete Question Explanation

Strengthen—CE. The correct answer choice is (C)

The author of this stimulus tells us that, generally, there is a correlation between sunspot activity and the appearance of an aurora borealis. Five days, on average, after sunspot activity occurs, an aurora borealis will appear.

On a certain day in 1128, an English monk recorded seeing two unusually large sunspots. Five days later, in southern Korea, a brilliant aurora borealis was observed. By applying the general rule regarding the correlation between sunspot activity and the appearance of an aurora borealis, the author concludes that the Korean sighting helps to confirm the English monk’s account.

By concluding that the Korean sighting of an aurora borealis helps to confirm the monks’s sighting of sunspot activity, the author is saying that the two events are linked. The implication is that this linkage is causal, meaning the sunspot activity caused the aurora borealis to appear. As with all causal conclusions on this LSAT, this conclusion is flawed and there are many questions left unanswered.

For example, the evidence established that there generally is a correlation between these types of phenomena, but is there actually a causal relationship between them? Even if there is, how often does an aurora borealis occur at that time of year in that part of the world? If they appear on a daily basis, for instance, that frequency would undercut any inference of a causal connection between the specific sunspot activity observed by the monk and the Korean sighting. And the same problem arises if the frequency of sunspot activity during that period was so great that you could not know whether the aurora borealis observed in Korea resulted from the activity viewed by the monk, or some other sunspot activity.

The question stem identifies this as a Strengthen question. Your prephrase is that the correct answer choice will provide evidence that tends to establish a causal relationship between the sunspot activity observed by the monk and the aurora borealis observed in Korea, rather than just a generalized correlation between sunspot activity and the appearance of an aurora borealis.

Answer choice (A): The appearance of an aurora borealis even in the absence of sunspot activity would weaken the conclusion. Evidence that the purported effect occurs even in the absence of the alleged cause undermines the assertion of a causal relationship.

Answer choice (B): This historical information regarding Chinese sightings of sunspots is irrelevant to the question of whether the English monk’s sighting of sunspot activity on a certain date is confirmed by the Korean sighting of an aurora borealis five days later.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice, because it provides evidence that the aurora borealis observed in Korea must have been caused by heavy sunspot activity. While this information does not prove that the aurora borealis was caused by the specific sunspot activity reported by the monk, and does not prove that the monk actually observed sunspot activity, it does support the existence of a causal relationship between sunspot activity and that particular aurora borealis.

Answer choice (D): This answer choice provides details about how the monk would have observed the sunspots, but fails to tie together more strongly the monk’s observation with the appearance of the aurora borealis over Korea.

Answer choice (E): Assuming that the monk’s drawing accurately depicted sunspot activity, his drawing may provide some confirmation of his sighting. However, this additional confirmation source is irrelevant to the conclusion, which stated that the Korean sighting helps to confirm the monk’s account. Any other type of confirmation is irrelevant to the conclusion.
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The correct answer is C, however I do not understand why/how C strengthens the argument.

Should I assume that since the monk is "an English monk" he is located in England? It seems like a great distraction. If he is in England and observed the sunspots in England, than we need an answer that would connect the sunspots in England and the borealis in Korea. My guess was A, which of course turned out to be false.

How does C help the argument? I do not see it.

Thank you.
Robert Carroll
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In this stimulus, the author connects two events - sunspot activity and subsequent aurora borealis. The author believes that the observed aurora borealis in Korea confirms the earlier sunspot observation, so the author imputes a casual relationship to the sequence of events - sunspots caused aurora borealis. However, even if we know that sunspots cause aurora borealis, we don't know that sunspots are the only cause of aurora borealis. In any causal argument, we can strengthen the conclusion by showing that there is no alternative cause for the effect.

If we could show that the aurora borealis has no other cause than sunspot activity, then the author would be right that these two events are connected.

Answer choice (C), if true, allows us to infer that the observation of sunspots as far south as Korea means there must have been heavy sunspot activity. If the effect (low-latitude aurora borealis) of heavy sunspot activity was observed, and there is no other possible cause for that effect, then there must really have been heavy sunspot activity. So John of Worcester's reported sighting of unusually large sunspots occurred just at the time when we had independent evidence of an effect of heavy sunspot activity - so John was probably right! This answer choice strengthens the argument by showing that what John claimed to have seen was the only possible cause of the separate event observed in Korea.

You don't need to assume that John is located in England, although you have no reason to doubt that an English monk is located in England. The geographical information is meant, if anything, to show that it's pretty unlikely John communicated with the people in Korea, so these are probably events with only an astronomical connection, not events that were observed by the same people.

Answer choice (A) actually weakens the argument by showing that the effect (aurora borealis) can occur without the supposed cause (sunspots).

Robert Carroll