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#25 - Some people mistakenly believe that since we do not

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The principle questions seem to be hard to master. The only technique we learned from the full-length course for this type of problem is that of abstraction. But I find abstracting the stimulus to be tricky in practice. Our way of abstracting could be quite different from the correct answer choice’s way of abstracting. It is easy to give different importance to different parts in the stimulus. For instance, in this problem, I abstracted the stimulus as “some information is helpful about learning something. However, the deeper we dig into a topic, the less useful it becomes.” As a result, I chose B since it is the closest to my abstraction. The correct answer A does not address how the deeper we go, the less useful it is. Instead, it states that we can infer little about the origin of our solar system. Could you please tell us what is the correct answer’s abstraction supposed to be so that the correct answer winds up being A? And also how in the future, we could arrive at an abstraction of the stimulus that is similar to that of the correct answer choice? Thank you in advance for replying.
Nikki Siclunov
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Principle questions are indeed more difficult to master, which makes it even more imperative to correctly prephrase the abstract rule that underlies the reasoning in the argument.

In the question you bring up, your prephrase was not 100% correct. It's not as if the deeper we dig into a topic, the less useful our study of it becomes. Rather, the more distant the period we are studying is, the less useful the study of the present becomes. In other words, the author concedes that we can learn about the distant past, but modifies that position by observing that the more distant the period is, the less useful our study of the present is. There is clearly a temporal element that underlies the principle here, which is why answer choice (A) is correct. None of the other answer choices come close to this idea. I suppose (C) would be attractive; however, the idea of a "distance" in answer choice (C) is more metaphorical than temporal.

In general, you are correct in that there are multiple ways to abstractly formulate a principle, as with most other question types. However, as long as your prephrase is accurate, i.e. as long as it matches correctly the principle illustrated by the passage, you can use it as a lens through which to examine the five answer choices. In this instance, your prephrase did not capture an important nuance of the reasoning contained in the stimulus.
Nikki Siclunov
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Can you please explain how to approach #25?

I thought the principle was "the more distant the period we are studying is, the less useful the study of the present becomes." However, I didn't fully understand the sentence. I was stuck between (A) and (C) and I chose (C) because (A) was talking about the origin of the solar system and not its present.

If you can explain how to attack this problem that would be great. Thanks.
Steve Stein
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Hi Jon,

That's an interesting question. In the stimulus, the author provides that current clues can be helpful but become less useful as we go farther back in time. Closely conforming to this principle is correct answer choice (A), which provides that recently collected data can be helpful in drawing inferences but become less helpful when studying the distant past, all the way back to the origins of our solar system.

Answer choice (C), on the other hand, provides that understanding an author's world view is more difficult if one has a very different world view from that of the author. This is a very different notion from that presented in the stimulus, as this choice lacks the idea that the farther back we go in time, the less applicable and valuable current evidence is to the inquiry.

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

Steve Stein
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Hi, I'm still a bit stuck between (A) and (C). I understood the temporal element of the stimulus, but I took it to mean that recent data offer clues to the past, but the more distant the past, the less helpful that data is.

I thought (A) was wrong because it described "recently *collected*" data, not recent data. Thus, it would be possible that that recently collected data is actually, say, a very old fossil -- which has no connection to the present.

Whereas in (C) we don't get a temporal element, but we get something analogous -- that in order to understand something, the more "distant" we are from it (whether in time or world view) the less useful it is for interpretation. Given the "recently collected" problem, I thought that fit better. Can you help?
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Hi mN2,

The difference between (A) and (C) is the temporal element.

The stimulus tells us that data we can collect today (current geography, geology, and climate data) can inform our understanding of the past. You're right that some items collected today, like fossils, may be really old -- but overall, the usefulness of data collected in modern times decreases as scientists try to look further and further into the past.

Answer choice (A) includes the temporal element -- data collected today from our solar system is most useful in studying recent events in space. Some data collected by astronomers may relate to old events, in the same way you were thinking about fossils -- for example, some data collected by observing the flickering of the stars relates to events that occurred thousands of years ago, since light takes time to travel across the universe. But there's still a strong temporal element here -- data collected in modern times is helpful to explain recent events, but is less helpful in studying very ancient events like the origin of the solar system.

Answer choice (C) uses distance in a different way, by talking not about distance in time, but distance in terms of points of view. This is a pretty big shift in concept. In (C), we're no longer focusing on objective criteria, like how recently data was collected, but on a subjective assessment of how far apart views are on an undefined spectrum. It's a subtle shift, but answer choice (A) provides the closer analogy since it's focused on time, whereas (C) is focused on "distance" in terms of different sociological perspectives.

I hope this makes sense. Good luck studying!