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#22981
Complete Question Explanation

Assumption. The correct answer choice is (C)

The scientist's position is that genetic engineering is not unethical (that it, it is ethical — do not let double negatives slow you down). Why? Because it has been going on for quite some time, as with the example of selective breeding of farm animals. By mentioning that such techniques "are said to be unethical" in the second sentence of the stimulus, the author is giving you an early warning that she will ultimately argue in their favor — this language is almost always indicative of a conclusion that will turn out to be the direct opposite of what "is said" (or what "some people say").

Does the conclusion follow logically from the main premise in this argument? Not necessarily. Just because a given practice is widespread does not mean that it is ethical. You need to connect the widespread use of genetic manipulation to its moral unassailability. Because the author assumes that the former guarantees the latter, you need to find a Defender Assumption that states that.

Answer choice (A): At first, this appears to be an extremely attractive answer. By establishing that genetic manipulation is never unethical, this answer choice provides an overarching principle that all but proves conclusion as true. However, we are not dealing with a Justify the Conclusion/Principle question! Our job in an Assumption question is not to prove the conclusion, but rather to find an answer choice that would disprove the conclusion if removed from it. It is not necessary that manipulation of the genetic code is never unethical, only that it is not unethical in the particular case of selective breeding. Principles often make for great Justify the Conclusion answers, but are seldom correct in Assumption questions!

Answer choice (B): Because neither genetic engineering nor selective breeding is accomplished in nature, this answer choice is irrelevant and incorrect.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice. As described earlier, the argument depends upon the notion that selective breeding is ethical.

Answer choice (D): This answer choice introduces an irrelevant consideration to the author's conclusion. Even if important for human survival, selective breeding may still be unethical. This answer choice is incorrect.

Answer choice (E): This answer choice establishes a conditional relationship between scientific accomplishment (S), the natural (N), and the ethical (E):
  • S ..... :arrow: ..... N ..... :arrow: ..... E
Indeed, if every scientific accomplishment is natural and therefore ethical, and selective breeding and genetic manipulation are both scientific accomplishments, the conclusion is proven as true. However, we are not dealing with a Justify the Conclusion/Principle question! Our job in an Assumption question is not to prove the conclusion, but rather to find an answer choice that would disprove the conclusion if removed from it. What if scientific accomplishment is not limited to what is already, in some sense, natural? We have no idea whether the unnatural is unethical, which is why the logical opposite does not weaken the conclusion.

Because it is not necessary that every scientific accomplishment is ethical (only that this particular case of selective breeding is), this answer choice is too strong to be correct. Principles often make for great Justify the Conclusion answers, but are seldom correct in Assumption questions!
 willmcchez
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#46715
In #40 in the assumption lesson 5 homework, I don't understand why A is incorrect, or rather, less helpful than C.

When negating A, I changed "never unethical" to "always unethical." Is that incorrect? Is that going too far (polar opposite over logical opposite)?

I suppose if I were to change A to "sometimes unethical," it doesn't hurt the argument as much as C's "is unethical."
 Adam Tyson
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#46926
It's the latter approach you want to take here, willmcchez, using logical opposition to make it "sometimes unethical". As you pointed out, this negation doesn't wreck the author's argument, so it is not an assumption of the argument.

The author doesn't have to assume that genetic manipulation is NEVER unethical (in other words, always ethical), but only that THIS type of manipulation is ethical.

That's why we use logical opposition instead of polar opposition when using the Assumption Negation Technique! A certain answer might justify the conclusion, but not be a necessary assumption of that argument, as is the case here with answer A.

Good analysis!

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