Difficult Trait #3

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Difficult Trait #3: The correct answer choice is worded differently from the main conclusion in the stimulus, although the meaning is unchanged.

PT34 S2 Q18

Editorialist: The positions advanced by radical environmentalists often contain hypotheses that are false and proposals that are economically infeasible. But there is a positive role to be played even by extremists, for the social and political inertia that attends environmental issues is so stubborn that even small areas of progress can be made only if the populace fears environmental disaster, however untenable the reasons for those fears may be.

Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main conclusion of the editorialist’s argument?

A. The little progress that has been made in improving the environment is mainly due to the fear created by radical environmentalists

B. Radical environmentalists, by promoting their views, stimulate progress on environmental issues

C. Social and political inertia is most effectively overcome by an extremely fearful populace, regardless of whether its fears are well founded

D. Radical environmentalists often put forth untenable positions in order to produce the fear that is required to bring about moderate reforms

E. Radical environmentalists advocate positions without regard for factual support or economic feasibility

Let’s look at the stimulus in detail, remember to separate opinions from facts and constantly think about which statement is supporting which other statement.

The positions advanced by radical environmentalists often contain hypotheses that are false and proposals that are economically infeasible.

The stimulus begins by pointing out the shortcomings/faults espoused by radical environmentalists, but is this the author’s main point? Let’s read on:

But there is a positive role to be played even by extremists

The author is suggesting that even radical environmentalists have positive contributions to make. So the first statement is not the author’s main opinion after all, but rather, a concession.

For the social and political inertia that attends environmental issues is so stubborn that even small areas of progress can be made only if the populace fears environmental disaster, however untenable the reasons for those fears may be.

Quite a bit of information here, what the author is trying to say is this: in order to make any progress, we need the population to be afraid of environmental disaster, even though disaster may or may not happen.

How does this tie in with the positive contributions of the radical environmentalists? The assumption here is that the positions pushed by radical environmentalists are able to distill that sense of fear into the populace at large, which in turn makes progress easier. Even though the radical environmentalists’ positions may be flawed, they nonetheless help make it easier to bring about positive change.

So what’s the main conclusion of this stimulus? It is the first half of the second sentence, namely that even extremists play a positive role.

So if we were to simplify the stimulus, it would look something like this:

Radical environmentalists have many flaws. But they also make a positive contribution. Their warnings make the populace fearful of ecological disaster, and fear is necessary if progress is to be made.

In other words, the main conclusion should look something like “radical environmentalists make some positive contributions to environmental protection.

Answer choice B most closely echoes this:

Radical environmentalists, by promoting their views, stimulate progress on environmental issues

Can we equate “positive contributions to the environmental cause” with “stimulate progress on environmental issues?” I think so. They essentially mean the same thing: radicals benefit the environment.

So although it’s not an exact restatement of the words used in the stimulus argument, we’ll let it slide. Because as we saw in the previous question, our job is to select the answer choice that most closely expresses the argument’s main conclusion, even if it’s not exact.

Answer choice D is a tricky one here. It’s the most commonly selected wrong answer in this question. We must be extra careful when making answer selections and choose the answer that most closely matches the conclusion we found in the stimulus.

Answer choice D states that “radical environmentalists put forth untenable positions IN ORDER TO produce fear,” whereas the stimulus suggests that the fear produced by radical environmentalists can lead to progress. There is a significant difference here. If studying the LSAT has made me a more thorough reader, does it mean I’m studying the LSAT in order to be more thorough in my reading? No. I’m studying the LSAT to go to law school and be a lawyer.

The correct answer is B.