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Complete Question Explanation

Flaw in the Reasoning—CE. The correct answer choice is (E)

This stimulus seeks to explain why, after a brief stint in 1817, bicycles virtually disappeared until 1860. The premise offered is that the acceptance of a technology requires coherence with society’s values, and based on this the author concludes that a change in values must have been the cause of the 43 year disappearance.

When we recognize this to be a Cause/Effect question we should immediately consider the various ways to weaken such an argument (in this case we know the supposed effect, and we are asked to identify a flaw, so we might start by considering possible alternative causes).

Answer choice (A): The argument does not presume that fads are never indicative of genuine acceptance, but instead points out that this particular fad was not initially indicative of genuine acceptance.

Answer choice (B): The argument does not fail to recognize that the reappearance of bicycles indicated a genuine acceptance; in fact, the author implies in the conclusion that there has been general acceptance.

Answer choice (C): Failure to provide support for one of the premises is not a flaw.

Answer choice (D): The question posed has direct relevance to the conclusion. It is a request for an explanation, which is provided by the conclusion (even though the underlying reasoning is flawed).

Answer choice (E): This is the correct answer choice, as it articulates the flaw in many causal arguments: The failure to consider possible alternative causes.
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I chose (A), because the Draisienne might have been accepted initially during the fad, then there would be no need for a change of social value. Is (E) correct because the author presumes the Drasienne was not initially accepted, while there might be other possible explanations for its disappearance?

Many thanks
 Alex Bodaken
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Thanks for the question! Let's start with why (A) isn't the credited answer, and then move on to credited answer (E).

(A) reads: "The reasoning in the argument is flawed because the argument presumes, without giving justification, that fads are never indicative of genuine acceptance." This is tempting, but it slightly misinterprets what the author does: she doesn't necessarily assume that fads are never indicative of genuine acceptance, but rather that this particular fad isn't indicative of genuine acceptance. That's all that she must believe in order to make her conclusion true, and while that is potentially a flaw in itself, it is not the flaw described in answer choice (A).

(E) reads: "The reasoning in the argument is flawed because the argument ignores, without giving justification, alternative possible explanations of the initial failure of bicycles." This is a classic cause and effect flaw, namely that the author has (as you note) has assumed that she knows why Draisienne disappeared (it wasn't accepted by society), when in reality, there are infinite possible reasons this could have occurred (a parts shortage, a famine, infrastructure collapse...etc. etc.). By ignoring other possible reasons for the Draisienne's disappearance, the author makes a fatal flaw, and that is what is described in answer choice (E).

Hope that helps!
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Thanks a lot Alex!

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