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I was between two answers and I chose the wrong one. I don't see why my answer is wrong. if someone can offer an explanation, it would be super helpful!

Thank you.

[stimulus from Dec 2009 LSAT, LR 1, #8; removed as LSAC content cannot be posted]

Flaw in Reason:

B - correct answer
fails to consider an alternative explanation of the decline in sales of ice cream

E - my choice
presumes without providing justification, that people who eat cheddar cheese never eat ice cream
 Nikki Siclunov
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The author concludes that more and more people are choosing to increase their calcium intake by eating cheese than ice cream, because sales of cheese have increased and sales of ice cream have decreased. This is a causal argument, as the conclusion presents an explanation of a phenomenon introduced in the premise:

Cause: people are choosing to increase their calcium intake by eating cheese than ice cream;

Effect: sales of cheese have increased and sales of ice cream have decreased.

As with all causal reasoning arguments, alternative explanations for the stated effect weaken the conclusion. This is why (B) is correct.

Answer choice (E) describes an unwarranted assumption - that people who eat cheese never eat ice cream. There is no evidence that the author assumed that to be true. What if some cheese eaters do eat ice cream? This would not weaken the conclusion: as long as the sales of cheese have increased and the sales of ice cream decreased, it is reasonable to suspect that we have more cheese-eaters (and fewer ice cream-eaters) than before. The problem with the conclusion is that the author attributes this trend to a deliberate choice to increase calcium consumption by eating cheddar cheese rather than ice cream.
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You say that the cause is "people are choosing to increase their calcium intake by eating cheese than ice cream," but doesn't this cause rely on the assumption in answer choice D?

For all causal reasoning arguments, isn't another way of weakening them to attack the cause as well? In this case, Answer choice D attacks it by highlight an assumption made without any real justification.
 Adam Tyson
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The cause has nothing to do with which dairy product is the better source of calcium, MissHumor. It's just about the motive for switching, and arguments about motive are a type of causal argument because they look into what is making people do something. In this case, people could be altering their source of calcium because they prefer the texture or the taste or the variety of the ways they can use it, regardless of which is the better source of calcium, but the author still thinks that people are actively swapping one product for the other and that they are doing because they are thinking about calcium. Maybe they don't care about calcium at all? Maybe they aren't even switching from one product to the other? Could it be that the people who always ate ice cream are still doing so, but less, maybe because they are concerned about sugar intake, or the rising cost of ice cream, or because there has been a growing number of cases of tainted ice cream causing illness and people are afraid? Maybe the cheddar cheese eaters are still the same as before, but they are eating more cheddar because a new study came out showing that it is good for your skin, or the cost has come down, or new varieties of cheddar have come to market that are extremely popular? Or new people who never used to eat either product started buying cheddar?

The problem here isn't about calcium, but about cause. Is calcium the cause of the change in the market for these products, or could something else be behind it? Are the two phenomena - decrease in ice cream sales, increase in cheddar sales - even related, or is it just a coincidence? Only answer B captures that idea of possible other causes (alternative explanations).
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I have a question about option A. If we consider statistical analysis, for example, ice cream sales declined from 100 to 50 (any unit, i.e. calcium intake per serving per day), cheddar cheese sales increased from 10 to 20 (same unit), then the conclusion itself is not valid, no matter why people consume those two dairy products. Isn’t it a flaw?
And if we consider B, for the same reason, people may have changed their ice cream consuming habit because of other reasons, like reducing sugar intake, however, Icecream may still be more important calcium resources compare to cheddar cheese, 50>20.
 Adam Tyson
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Thanks for the question Aliya316! When analyzing a Flaw answer, you should look for it to meet two criteria:

1) Is the answer true? That is, does it accurately describe what happened in the stimulus?

If no, cross the answer out and move on. If yes, look to the second criterion:

2) Is this a problem for the argument?

If it's a problem, you have the right answer, but if not - if the author could shrug it off and say "yeah, so what?" - then it's a wrong answer and should be crossed out.

Answer A here is true, in that the author did not provide statistical evidence. It meets that first criterion. But what about the second? Imagine confronting the author with this complaint. "Hey, pal, where's the data? You didn't give any stats!" Would the author have to crumble and admit their argument was flawed? Or could they say "Yeah, you're right, I didn't. So what? I told you all you need to know - ice cream sales are down and cheddar sales are up. Obviously some people are switching from ice cream to cheddar!"

The latter would be a reasonable response in face of that criticism. Although statistical data might be helpful and interesting, and it might either support or weaken the argument depending on what it told us, it is not a flaw to omit that data. The argument can be valid in the absence of statistics, and so this is not a flaw in the reasoning.

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