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#10 - Millions of irreplaceable exhibits in natural history

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Complete Question Explanation

Assumption. The correct answer choice is (D)

This stimulus concludes that, since museum exhibits are currently allowed to decay even though those exhibits have been necessary for certain advances, funds must be made available to preserve at least the exhibits that will have value in the future.

The argument makes a number of assumptions. Among other things, it presumes that future technology will not enable scientists to use decayed exhibits, and that future science will require any exhibits at all. You should realize that there is a problem with assuming things about the future. The right answer choice is likely to address that, by enabling us to assume the future.

Answer choice (A): This response can be correct only if it is required to defend the argument. Using the assumption negation technique, we realize that even if preservation does not override economic concerns, it might still be a very good idea to spend money on preservation (in fact, preservation might be positive for economic concerns), so this choice does not provide necessary defense, and is wrong. Furthermore, the stimulus never concluded that we should spend money on every exhibit, only that we should preserve at least some.

Answer choice (B): The argument concerned preserving the exhibits for eventual scientific study, so what happens after the study is not a huge issue. Even if you thought that perhaps this choice addressed the possibility that science might need the exhibit again, you should have eliminated this choice, because an experiment could destroy some of an exhibit, but leave most of it for the future, so it might not be necessary to have non-destructive experiments.

Answer choice (C): A specific example of a single type of exhibit that should be preserved might be taken as helpful to the argument. However, if studies on the eggs of extinct insects are not needed, that doesn't prove that we can't know what we should preserve for the future. Actually, that negation is somewhat helpful, because it eliminates something that we'd have to worry about. This choice is wrong. Remember, the argument needs to generally assume that we can know what to preserve future, but it doesn't need to give any specifics.

Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice, and addresses the crucial issue of the future. It is absolutely essential that we can predict which exhibits will be useful in the future, because if we can't, the recommendation that we raise funds to preserve those exhibits doesn't make sense.

Answer choice (E): This choice is not at all helpful, and is incorrect. You should not assume that this choice makes it more likely that we should raise funds, because this choice states that attempts at preservation are futile.
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I got it down to B and D here. In D, the "data [that] will be of most use" seemed too varied from the conclusion's "exhibits that will be most valuable". They seemed like two separate topics. The data/exhibits and use/valuable immediately pushed me away. Any tips for recognizing this early or should I have just gone straight to B and asked if the analysis really needs to be performed in a non-destructive way?

Thank you!
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Hi mg,

It's ok to narrow your options down to two answer choices and then spend some time weighing them. You're right that the phrases in the stimulus and the correct answer choice are a bit different, but the LSAT won't always provide you with a one-to-one match. Sometimes you have to make some small inferential jumps to get to the right answer. :)

The heart of the argument in the stimulus is about performing analyses on museum exhibits that could provide useful information to scientists before those exhibits decay and become worthless to researchers. The concern is about studying the "most important" exhibits before it's too late -- the eventual decay of all the exhibits is assumed.

Answer choice (B) isn't critical to the heart of the argument about studying museum exhibits before it's too late. Since the author states that the exhibits will be allowed to decay anyway, it's unimportant to her argument whether the study of the eggs would harm them or not. In any case, even if studying the exhibits would harm them, the author would likely still advocate for studying the eggs in light of the critical information they can provide to scientists.

Answer choice (D) is relevant to her argument about studying the most important exhibits before it's too late. How can we prioritize studying the most important exhibits before it's too late if we don't know which eggs will provide the most useful information to scientists in the future?

Since this is an assumption question, you can check your work with the Assumption Negation Technique if you're not confident about your answer choice.

I hope that helps clear things up. Good luck studying!

Athena Dalton
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I'm struggling to understand why exactly A was wrong. I was between A and D but for some reason ignored my gut and went with A.

If preservation does not override economic consideration, wouldn't that weaken the conclusion because it would bring up the case that even if preservation is SUPER important for the future of science, because it might be let's say too expensive, then we wouldn't preserve it and give up the potential benefits to the future of science?

I'm confusing myself here. I know it's wrong but I want to know why exactly it's wrong....
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Also is A wrong because it's making the case for ALL irreplaceable exhibits, whereas the conclusion is only talking about preserving the irreplaceable ones that could be helpful for the future of science? Aka A is too broad?

If so, I get that part, I just don't get why it's not necessary to the argument
James Finch
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Hi Biksam,

The issue with (A) is that it introduces an element, preservation versus economic considerations, that is absent and irrelevant to the argument in the stimulus. We do have the conclusion discussing raising funds for preservation, but the important elements of the conclusion are the link between preservation of the exhibits and their value to science in the future.

We can use the Assumption Negation technique to eliminate it:

If a museum exhibit is irreplaceable, its preservation is not so important that it overrides economic considerations, therefore funds need not be raised to preserve at least those exhibits that will be most valuable to science in the future.

Does that follow? No, it doesn't, because we are dealing with different things in stimulus and conclusion. So (A) cannot be our answer choice.

Contrast that to the correct answer, (D):

If it cannot be known at this time what data will be of most use to scientific investigators in the future, then funds need not be raised to preserve at least those exhibits that will be most valuable to science in the future.

That works, because if we don't know what's going to be useful in the future, how can we then selectively preserve that? We can't, so (D) is the correct answer choice.