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#11 - Some people claim that the reason herbs are not

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Complete Question Explanation

Assumption-SN. The correct answer choice is (C)

This stimulus mixes elements of causal and conditional reasoning, which is why it is important to have a solid understanding of both reasoning paradigms.

Whenever the author begins an argument by describing what “some people claim,” you can be almost certain that the main point of the argument will be a direct opposite of theirs. If “some people” believe that herbs are not prescribed because of their dubious medical effectiveness, the author will probably conclude that there is another explanation for it. The argument and counter-argument in this stimulus can be summarized as follows:

    ..... ..... ..... ..... Cause ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... Effect

    Some people: Effectiveness in doubt ..... :arrow: ..... Physicians don’t prescribe herbs

    Author: Herbs cannot be patented ..... :arrow: ..... Herbs cannot be recommended

You should immediately notice that the alternative explanation provided by the author only explains why drugs cannot be sold, not why physicians don’t prescribe them. The second sentence of the stimulus establishes a conditional relationship between the sale of drugs and regulatory-agency approval, and the rest of the stimulus explains why regulatory-agency approval cannot be secured by herb manufacturers:

    Premise 1: ..... Sells drugs ..... :arrow: ..... RA approval

    Premise 2: ..... RA approval ..... :arrow: ..... $200 million

    Premise 3: ..... $200 million ..... :arrow: ..... Hold a Patent

    Premise 4: ..... Herb manuf. ..... :arrow: ..... Hold a patent

The last premise triggers a contrapositive chain, which leads to the conclusion that manufacturers cannot expect to recover the $200 million in costs to get the regulatory-agency approval, and therefore cannot offer the drugs for sale:

    Herbs cannot be patented ..... :arrow: ..... Herbs cannot be sold

The author’s conclusion, however, is slightly different. She argues that because herbs cannot be patented, physicians cannot recommend (or prescribe) their medicinal use:

    Herbs cannot be patented ..... :arrow: ..... Herbs cannot be recommended

This conclusion is valid only if we assume that licensed physicians cannot recommend something that isn’t offered for sale:

    Herbs cannot be sold ..... :arrow: ..... Herbs cannot be recommended

The logical opposite of this Supporter Assumption most certainly weakens the argument: what if herbs could still be recommended by licensed physicians even though they weren’t offered for sale (perhaps they are available for free)? Answer choice (C) is therefore correct.

Answer choice (A): Because the author presents an alternative explanation for the fact that herbs are not prescribed as drugs, it is not necessary that herbs are medically ineffective. This answer choice supports the counter-argument the author is attempting to discredit, and is therefore incorrect.

Answer choice (B): When a substance is properly used as a drug is outside the scope of this argument and not something the author relies on in making her conclusion. This answer choice is incorrect.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice. See discussion above.

Answer choice (D): Non-herb substances are irrelevant to this argument. The only possible effect this answer choice might have on the stimulus is to provide a third explanation as to why herbs are not available as drugs, by virtue of analogy: if herbs also treated conditions that are too uncommon to make the sale of herbs profitable, then no wonder herbs aren’t available as drugs. This proposition would weaken the established causal relationship between physicians and herbs and is therefore not a correct assumption.

Answer choice (E): The cost of medical care is irrelevant to this argument.

Remember: the answer to an Assumption question will be confined to the exact nature and scope of the argument without introducing new elements to it.
amagari
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what is the official name for this type of reasoning? like "argument by counterexample"? The discussion doesn't help me classify it for the future.
Eric Ockert
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Hi amagari!

I think it is safe to categorize this argument as "conditional reasoning." Most of the analysis really breaks down to connecting the chain and taking the contrapositive of that chain. I would see the argument as:

Premises: Offer for sale as a drug :arrow: regulatory approval :arrow: $200 million :arrow: patent
Premise: Herbs cannot be patented (which means you can't get $200 million, which means you can't get approval, which means you can't offer them for sale as a drug)

Conclusion: Physicians cannot recommend herbs as a drug

So, you need to assume that if you can't offer them for sale (which we know from the premises), then physicians cannot recommend them (the conclusion of the argument). Answer choice (C) effectively gives you the contrapositive of this statement (once you apply the Unless Equation).

Answer choice (C): Physician can recommend :arrow: Offer for sale as a drug

Hope that helps!
Eric Ockert
PowerScore LSAT/GMAT/SAT Instructor