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#19 - Orthodox medicine is ineffective at both ends of the

PowerScore Staff
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Complete Question Explanation

Weaken. The correct answer choice is (D)

The stimulus makes a series of assertions without associating any of them, so if you could not find a main conclusion, there is a reason for it-- the stimulus has no stated main conclusion.

There are two general assertions in the stimulus:

1. Since orthodox medicine is largely ineffective against minor ailments and is ineffective against many serious, life-threatening illnesses, orthodox medicine is ineffective at the extremes.

2. People turn to alternative medicine when orthodox medicine does not help or when its side effects are unacceptable, but alternative medicine does nothing at all.

From those general assertions, you can presume that the stimulus is geared toward the unstated conclusion that there are illnesses for which no treatment is effective, which actually is answers another question about this stimulus (on the test there were two questions accompanying it).

However, you are asked to weaken the charge against alternative medicine. Notice that this question is much different from the usual weaken question. Typically you weaken an argument, which means that you do not attack the initial stated premises, you merely attack whether the conclusion follows. In this case, you actually must attack the charge, or “premise,” since you are asked to. You should basically look to contradict the idea that alternative medicine has no effects.

You need to remain flexible on test day, because you will be asked a few questions that do not match nicely to the usual. Remember, those questions tend to be very easy, and are just to find out whether you follow instructions.

Answer choice (A): Since this choice does not make it clear that alternative medicine caused the predictions of orthodox medicine to fail, you cannot conclude that the “miracle” effect in this choice was due to alternative medicine, so this choice is wrong.

Answer choice (B): Simply explaining that alternative and orthodox medicine are based on different concepts does not show that alternative medicine has any effects, so this choice is wrong.

Answer choice (C): Even though “hope” is an effect, this choice does not make it clear that a medical effect occurs, and it should be fairly clear that the stimulus concerns whether or not treatments change the actual disease condition, not whether people feel better about illness.

Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice, and explains how “hope” can have a medicinal effect. If a person’s belief causes the person to fight a disease more effectively, alternative medicine ultimately has the kind of effect the stimulus concerned, so the charge made in the stimulus is wrong.

Answer choice (E): Whether or not treatments used in orthodox medicine at times prove totally ineffective has nothing to do with showing that alternative medicine can have an effect, so this choice is wrong. The charge was that alternative medicine has no effects. Even though you might conclude on that basis that orthodox medicine is better, you were asked to attack the charge, not something that you might conclude on the basis of the charge.
LSAT Novice
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Dear Powerscore,

It may be because I'm overthinking this but, the premise states that" people turn to alternative medicine when orthodox fails them." How would you know whether or not the person didn't have belief in the orthodox treatment? D doesnt specify that only when they have belief in alternative medicine does it work why wouldn't this work for orthodox too then?

Thank you in advance!
Jonathan Evans
PowerScore Staff
PowerScore Staff
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Hi, MMathew,

Good question! As the Administrator explanation notes, this problem has a somewhat unusual construction for a weaken question. The stimulus is not directed towards one necessary conclusion; instead, the author makes several statements, some of which appear to be more statements of fact, others of which appear to be more statements of opinion.

Consider for instance the discussion of traditional medicine at the extremes. The conclusion in the first sentence (1) that traditional medicine is ineffective at the extremes has reasonably sound support from the statements in the second sentence (2).

As you analyze and react to this stimulus, you might note that the first half of the stimulus is stronger.

In the third sentence (3), the author pivots to her discussion of "alternative medicine." The third sentence about how and why people turn to alternative medicine also appears unimpeachable.

However, there is a shift in tone in the last sentence (4). No longer is the author making dry observations about the efficacy of traditional medicine or what motivates patients to seek alternative medicine. Instead, the author adopts a slightly more judgmental tone: "Alternative medicine is just worthless snake oil!"

If anything, this stimulus resembles a Must Be True stimulus, but the LSAT writers decided to go a different route. In the question stem, they ask you to weaken the "charge made against alternative medicine." Your next job is to find where such a charge is made. As we noted, sentences (1), (2), and (3) have no charge, implicit or explicit, against alternative medicine. The key sentence is sentence (4), in which she basically disses alternative medicine.

What is the "charge made against alternative medicine?" The claim is that alternative medicine has no effects at all. Thus, this is the conclusion we need to weaken.

In our prephrasing, how should we weaken this claim? Is there any evidence offered to support the claim that alternative medicine has no effects at all? No, there is not. This is effectively an unsupported statement. Therefore, any evidence that alternative medicine is effective would weaken this conclusion.

This is why (D) is the credited response.

Let's tie this in to your specific question. Note that for the purposes of this question we are only interested in the efficacy of alternative medicine; the question stem and answer choices do not concern traditional medicine at all. Thus, it may very well be the case that people's belief in orthodox medicine has an effect on outcomes, but it doesn't matter either way for this question.

We are only interested in the alternative medicine portion of this stimulus, specifically the last sentence (4). Based on the way the question is asked, you can pretty much forget about the rest of the stimulus.

I hope this helps!