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#26509
Complete Question Explanation

Question #20: Method of Reasoning. The correct answer choice is (E).


Muñoz argues that the Southwest Hopeville Neighbors Association opposes the new water system, citing it as evidence of citywide opposition. Gamba concedes that the association did oppose the new water system, but observes that only a small fraction of the members voted. In fact, those who voted against represent less than 1% of the town's population. On that basis, Gamba observes that the association's vote does not necessarily represent the view of the majority of Hopeville's residents.

The stem asks us to describe Gamba’s strategy of argumentation, and the answer should ideally be prephrased: Gamba undermines Muñoz's argument by showing that it is based on a sample that may well be unrepresentative of Hopeville’s population. This prephrase agrees with answer choice (E).

Answer choice (A) is incorrect, because no mention is made of whether people with certain views are more likely to vote.

Answer choice (B) is incorrect, because Gamba neither suggested nor implied that Muñoz manipulated the statistical data. Just because the data is unreliable or unrepresentative doesn't mean it's been manipulated.

Answer choice (C) is attractive, but incorrect. Gamba does suggest that Muñoz's statistical evidence is inconclusive, i.e. it doesn't prove that the city as a whole opposes the ban. However, Gamba does not exactly attempt to refute Muñoz's argument. Refuting Muñoz's argument would be tantamount to claiming that the city actually approves of the new water system. Gamba never claimed that it does.

Answer choice (D) is incorrect, because Gamba never suggested that Muñoz's evidence is impossible to disconfirm, or refute. Muñoz's evidence is seen as unreliable, not irrefutable.

Answer choice (E) is the correct answer choice, as it agrees with our prephrase above. Gamba attempts to weaken Muñoz's conclusion by claiming that the statistical sample upon which the conclusion is based (the association's vote) is too small to be dependable (it represents only 1% of the population).
 mN2mmvf
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#39104
Why does "refute" imply arguing the opposite of the hypothesis? I thought it meant simply to disprove the hypothesis; so, in this case, refuting would not be arguing that the city approves of the new system, but rather that we can't be sure it disapproves. I agree, certainly, that he did not go all the way to disprove the claim; but the answer choice doesn't require that...it says only that he attempted to refute.

I struggled between choices (C) and (E) and didn't like (E) because I didn't understand how you could call a vote of a random neighborhood association a "statistical sample." I saw that the small size of the body (and the nature of the body itself) meant that the result would not be representative. But the word "sample" to me suggested that an actual study had been intentionally conducted, and that was not the case here. So I chose (C).
 James Finch
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#39484
Hi M,

The issue with (C) is that "refute" does not mean merely showing that a stated conclusion is not proven by the stated premises, but instead proving that conclusion to be false based on counter-premises. (C) describes a form of flawed reasoning (drawing a conclusion unsupported by its own premises) and could only be the correct answer choice if the stimulus itself had:

1: Gamba claiming that Munoz's claim is false, and;

2. counter-premises showing that Munoz's conclusion cannot be validly drawn from his/her premises

(C) in fact describes Gamba as succumbing to the same flawed reasoning as Munoz and drawing a conclusion far too strong to be supported by the given premises.

Instead, (E) describes the valid reasoning given in the stimulus, that Munoz's conclusion, while possibly true, does not logically follow given his premises. The statistical sampling is the same process whether used by academics, polling companies, or a layperson: a valid survey of a group requires a certain size and randomness for its sample. As Munoz is attempting to use a Neighbors Association vote as indicative of the opinions of the entire city, it is subject to the same rules as any other sample.
 mN2mmvf
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#39525
Thanks James! I definitely agree that Munoz is subject to the same rules about the process, I just didn't like *calling* it a "statistical sample." ;)
 James Finch
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#39591
Glad to be of help! Some of the toughest questions on the LSAT are only difficult because the test makers are writing the stimulus, answer choices or both in the most obtuse way possible. I would never refer to the evidence used in the stimulus as a "statistical sample" either, but since it could be technically true, we can't use the odd language to rule it out.
 theamazingrace
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#83089
Would answer choice C also be wrong because we are not worried about the truth/soundness of the premise? We are evaluating the argument to see if the conclusion follows from the premise and we accept the premise as true. Or am I misinterpreting what answer choice C is saying?

Thanks!
 Adam Tyson
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#84402
The problem with answer C, theamazingrace , is that we have no idea what evidence, if any, Muñoz relied upon. Answer C describes a situation where Muñoz argued "my premises are true, therefore my conclusion must be true," and Gamba responded by showing that the truth of those premises wasn't enough to prove the conclusion. Since we were not given any information about how Muñoz arrived at his conclusion, but were only given his (possibly unsupported) claim, this does not describe what happened in the stimulus.

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