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Complete Question Explanation

Assumption. The correct answer choice is (A)

This is a challenging problem because two of the wrong answer choices are attractive. The argument
itself is not overly complex, but you must pay attention to the language. Consider the conclusion of
the argument:

     “Publicity campaigns for endangered species are unlikely to have much impact on the most
     important environmental problems.”

Ask yourself, why is it that these campaigns are unlikely to have much impact on the most important
problems? According to the premises, the reason is that “it is more difficult to elicit sympathy for
other kinds of organisms [than large mammals].” The reasoning shows that the author believes there
is a connection between the important problems and organisms that are not large mammals. This
Supporter connection is perfectly reflected in answer choice (A), the correct answer. Again, when
faced with an Assumption question, remember to look for connections between rogue elements in the
argument, and then seek that connection in the answer choices.

Answer choice (B): The argument is about eliciting sympathy, and no assumption is made about
microorganisms experiencing pain.

Answer choice (C): This is a Shell Game answer. The conclusion is specific about “publicity
campaigns for endangered species” as they relate to environmental problems. This answer refers to
“publicity campaigns” in general—a different concept. It may be that the most effective publicity
campaign for the environment has nothing to do with organisms. Consequently, this answer is not an
assumption of the argument.

Answer choice (D): This answer choice is worded too strongly and is an Exaggerated answer.
“Ignore” goes further than what the author implies. The author indicates that it is “more difficult
to elicit sympathy for other kinds of organisms,” but the author does not say it is impossible to get
sympathy from individuals if a non-large mammal is involved. Further, the argument is specific
about the impact on the “most important” problems, and this answer goes well beyond that domain.

Answer choice (E): The microorganisms discussed at the end of the argument are an example (“such
as”); therefore, the author does not assume this type of relationship must be true in order for the
conclusion to be true.
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I think that I understand the difference between answer choices A and E, but I'm not sure. This is how I see the argument structure:

Premise: for while the ease of of attributing feelings to large mammals facilitates evoking sympathy for them, it is more difficult to elicit sympathy for other kinds of organisms, such as the soil microorganisms on which large ecosystems and agriculture depend.

Conclusion: Publicity campaigns for endangered species are unlikely to have much impact on the most important environmental problems.

Using the assumption negation technique on A results in: "The most important environmental problems do NOT involve endangered species other than large mammals." In regular english, large mammals are the most important environmental problems, which directly contradicts the conclusion.

Using the same technique on E results in: "An organism can be environmentally significant only if it does NOT affect large ecosystems or agriculture." This seems to be an opposite answer, but I can't really explain why it seems that way. Could you explain why E is wrong? Thanks powerscore!
 Matt Griffiths
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Good question, oops27. The fatal blow for answer choice (E) here is the word "only," one of the LSAT's favorite words.

You correctly identified the conclusion and premise here. In this Supporter Assumption question, we are looking for another premise -- an unstated premise. One great way to do this is to look for a term or phrase in the conclusion that is not connected to a term in the given premise.

Here, the phrase "most important environmental problems" stands out like a neon sign. That's quite a strong statement, yet is that phrase anywhere else in the stimulus? Nope. So which problems does the author think are the most important? Well, apparently they are not the problems involving large mammals, because the stimulus states that it is easy to evoke sympathy for them. What other types of environmental problems are there? The stimulus tells us it's harder to evoke sympathy for "other types of organisms." Answer choice (A) fits that perfectly, as it connects the most important environmental problems to other types of organisms/species, thus giving us our unstated premise.

Answer choice (E) seems to go well with our premise until we see that it contains the word "only." That implies that environmental significance is exclusively the realm of organisms that affect large ecosystems and agriculture. But the stimulus never gave these organisms such exclusivity; rather it mentions them as an example by using the words "such as ..." Additionally, (E) fails to address the conclusion's "most important environmental problems" phrase.

Be careful with your assumption negations! A negation of answer choice (E) would actually be something like: "An organism can be environmentally significant NOT only if it affects large ecosystems or agriculture." Or in other words, "An organism doesn't have to affect large ecosystems or agriculture to be environmentally significant." No exclusivity! And when we plug that negation back in, it doesn't hurt the conclusion at all. This can't be the right answer. That is subtly different from your negation, which rather than eliminating exclusivity instead gives exclusivity to another group.

Hope that helps you a bit.
 Katya W
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Hi, I ended up not choosing answer A because I had a misconception that (please excuse me if this is naive/uninformed of me, which I’ve now realized it is) endangered species are animals (mammals, etc.), not necessarily the same as micro-organisms. I understand micro-organisms are alive as well, but I never thought of them as “animals”. So when I saw that answer choice A said “the most important environmental problems involve endangered species...” I immediately thought, “No, the author is saying the most important environmental problems are other kinds of organisms, such as micro-organisms.” And “Other kinds of organisms”, again, did not evoke the fact that microorganisms are “endangered species” because of my understanding of endangered species as I described above.

I chose answer choice C, which I understand is described as a Shell Game answer, but to me this answer was restating the fact that the author was discussing publicity campaigns involving the environment, which he appears to believe are most effective when they elicit sympathy for an organism.

Does it make sense where my head was at? I just want some backing from someone that understands why I would think that way, and to explain to me how I could improve. It really seems to me the LSAT expects a lot more detailed knowledge and understanding of subjects than I possess. I obviously know what endangered species are, but my scope of what types of organisms that encompasses was limited. Either way, I am glad that going through these problems just helps me learn more for the next time I run across a similar topic or question!
 Adam Tyson
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It totally makes sense, Katya, and this is why practice is so important on this test. It reveals to us our particular assumptions and misunderstandings that can get in the way of our success! You made the assumption that "endangered species" referred only to animals, but now you know that the term "species" can also refer to microorganisms. It can also refer to plants - the American Chestnut Tree, for example, is an endangered species thanks to chestnut blight, a nasty fungus.

Another common assumption that we need to overcome in order to succeed on the LSAT is that humans are different from animals, so an argument about one of them tells us nothing about the other. False! Humans ARE animals, and we need to check our egos at the entrance to the testing center!

And another is that "environmental conditions" refer only to weather and geography, like drought and snow and the presence of mountains or rivers, etc. False! Environmental conditions also include the presence or absence of predators and food sources, and even artificial conditions such as human habitations. For the coyotes in my neighborhood, garbage cans and fences and automobiles are environmental conditions that they need to deal with in order to survive!

Watch out for these sort of "umbrella" concepts that may cover a wide assortment of specific elements, and don't be too hasty to say that a certain concept or element is not within the scope of another one. Widen your field of view!
 Katya W
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Thank you Adam! And thank you for putting the other umbrella terms in there. I’m going to write those down and put them in my pocket :-D
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Can someone convince me of A?

My pre-phrase was basically "The most important environmental problems are NOT problems concerning the endangerment of large mammals". (I specifically took note to watch out for a trap answer that offered other kinds of organisms as the most important.....and this was the correct answer)

When I negate A, it makes perfect sense and would basically destroy the argument as the most important problems DO INVOLVE endangered large mammals.

But when I read A as written, it doesn't come as clearly as a required assumption, but instead, a sufficient assumption.

My issue with A is:

It says The MOST important ENVIRONMENT problems involve ENDANGERED SPECIES other than large animals.

Yes, the author provides microorganism species as an example that (to me, implies) is MORE important than endangered large animals. But A says it is the MOST important ENVIRONMENTAL problem.

Implying one is more important does not make it the most important environmental issue. To me this answer is sufficient but is not required. Microorganisms endangerment could be more the MORE important environmental issue over large mammalian endangerment without it being THE MOST important environmental issue.

I was stuck between A and D and chose D. I did not like "ignore" because it felt too strong and was not required. I forgot to do the Negation Test. Thinking now, I would have negated D as, if people did NOT ignore unless they sympathize. "Not ignoring" is meaningless in terms of "having much of an impact". We don't know what impact it would have if people chose not to ignore.

Overall, A is sufficient but is absolutely 100% not required, even though it is the "best" answer.

Am I supposed to think that because the author denies one thing as the most important and then simply mentions another thing, that the purpose of mentioning the other thing is to imply that it is the most important instead? B/c I don't agree with that. To me, that would by MY OWN assumption. Other than this connection, I see nothing at all that implies endangered species other than large mammals being the most important environmental issue.

After taking 8 practice tests, this is the first question I have had trouble accepting LSAC's credited response. I also missed a previous Assumption question because I selected a sufficient assumption that was not required. So I really drilled in my head to that sufficiency does not mean necessity and can over reach. To me, A over reaches and would be sufficient, but not required.

I feel like I am either getting a truly deep understanding of this, or there is something critically wrong in my understanding. me please :(
 Adam Tyson
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You've answered your own question right here, helpwanted:
When I negate A, it makes perfect sense and would basically destroy the argument as the most important problems DO INVOLVE endangered large mammals.
That PROVES that answer A must be true if the argument is to be accepted. It means the assumption is necessary, for without it the argument falls completely apart.

It is not, however, a Sufficient Assumption, because even if answer A is true it is still not necessarily true that publicity campaigns are unlikely to have much impact. It may be difficult to elicit sympathy for microorganisms, but a good campaign still might do the job!

Try a "supporter" approach to this question - the conclusion is about the most important environmental problems, but the premises never talk about the relative importance of anything. The premises, on the other hand, say that the reason has something to do with large mammals and microorganisms, which are not mentioned in the conclusion at all. The correct answer, therefore, must close the gap between those two disconnected ideas. Only answer A bridges the gap between them! None of the other answers ever talks about what is important, let alone what is more important or most important.

Look for the rogue elements in the premises and the conclusion, and connect them. That works for both Sufficient and Necessary Assumptions and for many Strengthen questions, too. If an answer fails to connect to the new information in the conclusion, it's not much of a help, is it? I hope that clears it up for you!
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In this argument, the conclusion is supported by only one premise. Specifically, publicity campaigns are unlikely to have much impact on the most important environmental problems, because it is more difficult to sympathize with other kinds of organisms than with large mammals. So I pre-phrased the assumption as: The most important environmental problems involve endangered species (in conclusion)/organisms (in premise)/creatures (in D) that are more difficult to sympathize with than large mammals.

Thus, (D) looks pretty attractive to me. Basically, it states "if people can't sympathize with the creature, then they would ignore it." If people ignore it, then it's not much of a jump to say it's unlikely to have much impact on it, since "ignoring," by definition, means not doing anything about it - no impact.

The issues I have with (A) are: (1) I mistakenly interpreted "endangered species other than large mammals" as "non-large mammals," but the premise clearly talks about non-mammals, e.g., soil microorganisms; and (2) it does not include the essence of the premise, which is the element of "sympathy." Any thoughts? Thanks!
 Adam Tyson
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Think about how strong answer D is, blade. Does the author have to assume that people will ignore those problems? That is a very powerful statement. Might the argument still be okay if people did not ignore those problems? Sure, so long as they don't do much about them based on public relations campaigns. The negation of answer D - people might not ignore some problems even though they don't feel sympathy - doesn't destroy the argument, and barely weakens it, because it tells us nothing to contradict the claim that public relations campaigns won't impact the most important problems. Nothing about answer D tells us what problems are the most important!

I certainly expected the right answer to include some element of "sympathy," such as "the most important environmental problems involve those animals for whom humans feel sympathy" or "to solve the most important environmental problems, people must sympathize with the affected creatures." But while neither of those, nor answer A, will prove the conclusion, they are still required by the argument. This is, after all, an Assumption question and not a Justify the Conclusion question, and arguments can and often do require multiple assumptions. Answer A had nothing directly to do with sympathy, but it did have an indirect connection through the mention of large mammals (for which it is easy to elicit sympathy) and others (for which it may not be so easy).

And I am sure you see now that "species other than large mammals" is much more far-reaching than you at first thought, as it includes ALL other species, including microorganisms. I hope that part of the issue you had with A is now resolved to your satisfaction!

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