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Complete Question Explanation

Flaw in the Reasoning. The correct answer choice is (A)

The structure of the argument is as follows:

     Premise: Food producers irradiate food in order to prolong its shelf life.

     Premise: Five animal studies were recently conducted to investigate whether this
     process alters food in a way that could be dangerous to people who eat it. The
     studies concluded that irradiated food is safe for humans to eat.

     Premise: These studies were subsequently found by a panel of independent scientists to
     be seriously flawed in their methodology.

     Conclusion: Irradiated food is not safe for human consumption.

The author uses the fact that the studies were flawed to conclude that irradiated food is not safe
for human consumption. Is this a reasonable conclusion? No. The studies purported to prove that
irradiated food is safe. The fact that the studies used flawed methodology should have been used
to prove that the studies did not prove that irradiated food was safe. Instead, the activist takes the
argument too far, believing that because the studies did not prove that irradiated food is safe, therefore
irradiated food is not safe. This is the third error in the Errors in the Use of Evidence section, where
“Some evidence against a position is taken to prove that position is false.” Answer choice (A)
perfectly describes this mistake.

Answer choice (B): Use the Fact Test to easily eliminate this answer. Although past studies were
shown to have methodological flaws, this evidence is not used to prove that methodologically sound
alternatives are impossible to achieve.

Answer choice (C): It’s true, the argument does fail to consider the possibility that a non-flawed
study might provide only weak support for its conclusion. But—and this is the critical question—is
that a flaw in the reasoning of the activist? No, it is perfectly acceptable for the author to ignore
an issue (non-flawed studies) that does not relate to his argument. Remember, the correct answer
choice must describe a flaw in the reasoning of the argument, not just something that occurred in the
argument.

Answer choice (D): As with answer choice (C), the author has failed to consider the statement
in this answer choice. But is this a flaw? No. The fact that animal testing is widely done and the
results are accepted as indicative of possible problems with humans falls under the “commonsense
information” discussed back in Chapter Two. Testing products on animals is a current fact of life,
and the author did not make a reasoning error by failing to consider the possibility that what is safe
for animals might not always be safe for human beings.

Another way of looking at this answer is that it effectively states that the author has failed to consider
that there is a False Analogy between animals and humans. He fails to consider it because the
analogy between animals and humans is not false.

Answer choice (E): Again, the activist does fail to establish this, but it is not necessary since the
independent scientists only commented on the methodology of the study, not the irradiated food itself.

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