Difficult Trait #2

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Difficult Trait #2: The main conclusion isn’t explicitly stated in the stimulus, we need to derive it ourselves

PT19 S2 Q17

People cannot devote themselves to the study of natural processes unless they have leisure, and people have leisure when resources are plentiful, not when resources are scarce. Although some anthropologists claim that agriculture, the cultivation of crops, actually began under conditions of drought and hunger, the early societies that domesticated plants must first have discovered how the plants they cultivated reproduced themselves and grew to maturity. These complex discoveries were the result of the active study of natural processes.

The argument is structured to lead to the conclusion that

A. Whenever a society has plentiful resources, some members of that society devote themselves to the study of natural processes

B. Plants cannot be cultivated by someone lacking theoretical knowledge of the principles of plant generation and growth

C. Agriculture first began in societies that at some time in their history had plentiful resources

D. Early agricultural societies knew more about the natural sciences than did early non-agricultural societies

E. Early societies could have discovered by accident how the plants they cultivated reproduced and grew

A notoriously difficult LR stimulus, complete with conditional reasoning chains to diagram and inferences that we must make by ourselves, let’s break it down:

People cannot devote themselves to the study of natural processes unless they have leisure, and people have leisure when resources are plentiful, not when resources are scarce.

Conditional 1: People cannot devote themselves to the study of natural processes unless they have leisure

  • Study natural process → Leisure

Conditional 2: People have leisure when resources are plentiful

  • Plentiful resources → Leisure

Conditional 3: (People have leisure) not when resources are scarce

What does this even mean? Let’s illustrate it with an analogy:

People go to T14 law schools when they get 170+ on the LSAT, not when they get a 140.

It’s essentially saying that if you get a 140, you are not going to a T14 law school. Simple enough, right?

So the third conditional is basically saying that if resources are scarce, you don’t have leisure.

  • Resources scarce → NO leisure

The contrapositive of this would be Leisure → Resources not scarce

So now we combine Conditional 2 and Conditional 3 and get this:

  • Leisure ↔ Resources not scarce

Let’s diagram the entirety of the first statement:

Study natural process → Leisure ↔ Resources not scarce

Although some anthropologists claim that agriculture, the cultivation of crops, actually began under conditions of drought and hunger, the early societies that domesticated plants must first have discovered how the plants they cultivated reproduced themselves and grew to maturity.

Here we see an opposing viewpoint (something we talked about earlier in this chapter) that the author presents and argues against. I get the impression that the author disagrees with the anthropologists.

These complex discoveries were the result of the active study of natural processes.

This final statement can be linked to the first statement, let’s simplify it a little bit:

Agricultural discovery is the result of the study of the natural processes, which requires leisure, which in turn occurs if and only if resources are not scarce.

Let’s simplify that even further:

Agricultural discovery occurred when resources were not scarce.

This is a direct refutation of the anthropologists’ view, and backed by supporting premises, is the author’s main point.

Let’s look at the answer choices in detail:

A. Whenever a society has plentiful resources, some members of that society devote themselves to the study of natural processes

This is the most commonly selected wrong answer, besides being based on information from our first sentence (premise), it has another problem with it: this statement, if diagrammed in the conditional form, is thus:

  • Plentiful resources → Members devote to study of natural processes

Remember the conditional statement that can be inferred from the stimulus? It’s

  • People devote themselves to the study of natural process → Resources not scarce

Answer A mistakenly converses the sufficient and the necessary.

B. Plants cannot be cultivated by someone lacking theoretical knowledge of the principles of plant generation and growth

Here is another conditional relationship, it can be diagrammed as

  • Cultivation → Theoretical principles of plant generation and growth

Is this a conditional relationship that can be deduced from our stimulus? No. The passage does talk about the cultivation of crops, as a part of the agricultural process; but nowhere does the author mention the theoretical principles of plant generation and growth. We must watch carefully for answers that partially echo the passage’s concepts.

The distinction here is subtle. The people who discovered agriculture may have been scientists or temple priests. But those who cultivate may be farmers who were taught by others. The farmers don’t really need theoretical knowledge.

C. Agriculture first began in societies that at some time in their history had plentiful resources

This is an almost word for word restatement of our summarized conclusion above,

There is one caveat with this answer though. Can we equate “not scarce” with “plentiful?” In the most strict sense, no.

But although the LSAT is a test of logic, sometimes the correct answer choices will contain imperfections. We will look at this in greater detail in the Strengthen/Weaken chapters. But for now, let’s look at the rest of the answer choices.

D. Early agricultural societies knew more about the natural sciences than did early non-agricultural societies

This answer is essentially a comparison of agricultural and non-agricultural societies. Do we know anything about non-agricultural societies from the information presented in the stimulus? No, we do not. The stimulus provides a tiny bit of tangential information in that we know early agricultural societies did actively study natural processes. But that’s it.

E. Early societies could have discovered by accident how the plants they cultivated reproduced and grew

This answer choice contradicts the stimulus’s final sentence: “These complex discoveries were the result of the active study of the natural process.” So the discoveries were not an accident at all.

The correct answer is C.

While it’s not perfect, it’s the closest answer we have to the actual main conclusion of the stimulus. We pick the best answer available, even if it contains imperfections. This is a point that we will visit again and again.

So in the hardest questions, it’s not as straightforward as finding the statement that is the main conclusion in the stimulus and matching it up with an answer choice. As we saw in this question, we had to link up the information given to us and derive the main conclusion ourselves. But sometimes even when we do actually find the main conclusion in the stimulus, the correct answer won’t be a verbatim restatement either. We still have to synthesize or rephrase the information given to us in the stimulus to find the right answer. We will look at such an example now.

Newly introduced and out-of-scope ideas are always wrong in Find the Conclusion answers.