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# Alternate Cause - A weakener or not

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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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30 Oct 2013, 02:08
Hi Chiranjeev,

Thank you for such a post to help us understand more about weakener questions.

I always have troubles with CR questions and I find it so difficult to completely understand what you mentioned here. What is the goal of figuring out X led/can lead/will lead/leads to Y? Is that the way for us to further recognize weaken question types, particular those with causal effect (which is heavily applied in CR part)?

1- If that's the case, later, whenever I see "led" I can automatically choose the alternate causes with the relevant information?; whenever I see "can/will lead" I have to be cautious to pick up the answer choice relating to alternate causes and rather, I should figure out how the context change might weaken the conclusion?
2- If understanding structure of conclusion can help to answer related questions, why should I follow the 3P that I am now trying to internalize as I am eGMAT customer?

1. Question 1:
Premise 1: Particle accelerators (at mj. research institutions) were out of service 2 years ago.
Premise 2: the number of articles (experiments - particle accelerators) reduced last year (compared to previous years)
Conclusion: (P1 + P2) decline of # of Particle accelerators (2yrs ago) --> decline of # of last year articles presenting result of those particle accelerators.
==> Assumption: all other factors affecting articles' publishing procedure remain the same last year as in the previous year
==> weaken: negate of assumption. --> answer for your question is: Yes!

2. Question 2:
Premise 1: Couples have mismatched sleeping and waking cycles --> share fewer activities + have more violent arguments THAN do couples with matched ones.
Conclusion: mismatched sleeping and waking cycles --> jeopardize a marriage
Assumption: sharing fewer activities btw couples and having more violent arguments are the two most important factors attributing to jeopardize a marriage.
Answer choice: Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage
Answer analysis: answer choice present again what mentioned in the premise --> wrong.

3. Question 3:

Premise 1: Pundra was weak twice in the past.
Premise 2: Pundra's weakness made (2 things): 1) DM products a bargain + 2) D exports an increase
Conclusion: Politician: pundra weakness will lead to similarly sized increase in exports.

Assumption: to assure similarly sized increase in exports, the condition at the time that the past two Pundra's weakness happened should be satisfied in the future.
Given answer: A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's product a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies.
Answer analysis: Sharp improvement in the efficiency might make D a bargain but even that D have a bargain might not lead to increase in exports (. There is no such a relationship mentioned in the argument) --> wrong answer.

I am sorry if you think those questions are stupid and I am annoying you. Thank you so much!

Best regards,
Lucy
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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31 Oct 2013, 18:50
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Hi Lucy,

LucyDang wrote:
Hi Chiranjeev,

Thank you for such a post to help us understand more about weakener questions.

I always have troubles with CR questions and I find it so difficult to completely understand what you mentioned here. What is the goal of figuring out X led/can lead/will lead/leads to Y? Is that the way for us to further recognize weaken question types, particular those with causal effect (which is heavily applied in CR part)?

The goal of the article was just to dispel a common misconception that alternate cause can be a weakener in "X will/can lead to Y". Since, alternate cause is indeed a weakener in "X led to Y" cases, so I combined both of these things in the article.

The purpose is not to further segment weaken type question, nor it is to use the takeaway of this article as tricks to be applied without understanding the question. We, at e-GMAT, never emphasize on using tricks in GMAT CR.

LucyDang wrote:
1- If that's the case, later, whenever I see "led" I can automatically choose the alternate causes with the relevant information?; whenever I see "can/will lead" I have to be cautious to pick up the answer choice relating to alternate causes and rather, I should figure out how the context change might weaken the conclusion?

As I explained above, the article should not be taken as providing a couple of tricks applicable in a particular scenario. Logic prevails over everything else in GMAT CR. The best way to make use of this article is to understand why an alternate cause is a weakener in some situations and why it is not in other situations. This way, you'll be building up your understanding and reasoning capability, which are tested in GMAT CR.

LucyDang wrote:
2- If understanding structure of conclusion can help to answer related questions, why should I follow the 3P that I am now trying to internalize as I am eGMAT customer?

As you can see, we are talking here about very specific conclusion structures and even in that case, we are not talking about a process to approach these questions. You need to follow the 3-step process as outlined in the e-GMAT CR course.

LucyDang wrote:
When I attempted to answer your first 3 questions, I tried my best to strictly follow the 3P method provided by eGMAT. I tried to understand the meaning of argument to find the solution. And I found that my analysis totally differs from what you mentioned here. I am not sure if it's a good approach in this type of question (especially when there is a shortcut with "X led to Y" presented in this article).

Even if we consider what is written in this article as an approach, this approach cannot produce different results from another approach which is also equally correct. Probably, you need to sit back and reflect where you went wrong. As far as the 3-step approach is concerned, this approach is applicable to every CR question. So, you shouldn't worry about the applicability of the process. Just pay attention to the gaps in your understanding.

LucyDang wrote:

1. Question 1:
Premise 1: Particle accelerators (at mj. research institutions) were out of service 2 years ago.
Premise 2: the number of articles (experiments - particle accelerators) reduced last year (compared to previous years)
Conclusion: (P1 + P2) decline of # of Particle accelerators (2yrs ago) --> decline of # of last year articles presenting result of those particle accelerators.
==> Assumption: all other factors affecting articles' publishing procedure remain the same last year as in the previous year
==> weaken: negate of assumption. --> answer for your question is: Yes!

Correct Analysis! Good job

LucyDang wrote:
2. Question 2:
Premise 1: Couples have mismatched sleeping and waking cycles --> share fewer activities + have more violent arguments THAN do couples with matched ones.
Conclusion: mismatched sleeping and waking cycles --> jeopardize a marriage
Assumption: sharing fewer activities btw couples and having more violent arguments are the two most important factors attributing to jeopardize a marriage.
Answer choice: Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage
Answer analysis: answer choice present again what mentioned in the premise --> wrong.

Why do you say that the answer choice provides the same information as in the premise?

LucyDang wrote:
3. Question 3:

Premise 1: Pundra was weak twice in the past.
Premise 2: Pundra's weakness made (2 things): 1) DM products a bargain + 2) D exports an increase
Conclusion: Politician: pundra weakness will lead to similarly sized increase in exports.

Assumption: to assure similarly sized increase in exports, the condition at the time that the past two Pundra's weakness happened should be satisfied in the future.
Given answer: A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's product a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies.
Answer analysis: Sharp improvement in the efficiency might make D a bargain but even that D have a bargain might not lead to increase in exports (. There is no such a relationship mentioned in the argument) --> wrong answer.

I am sorry if you think those questions are stupid and I am annoying you. Thank you so much!

Best regards,
Lucy

Your assumption is correct but your reason for rejecting given option statement is not. Even though it is not very explicitly stated, there is an intended causality in the passage between "Making a product a bargain on the world market" and "increase in exports". Think about it.

How would a weak Pundra will lead to increase in exports, as given in the passage?

By making Darfir's product cheaper compared to other countries; in other words, by "making Darfir's product a bargain on the world market".

This causality, even though not very explicit, is quite clear from the given line in the passage:

"Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially."

So, even though the option statement given with this passage is incorrect but it is not incorrect for the reason as explained in the article.

Hope this helps

Let me know if you have any doubts.

Thanks,
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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01 Dec 2013, 21:04
Another interesting official question:

A drug that is highly effective in treating many types of infection can, at present, be obtained only from the bark of the ibora, a tree that is quite rare in the wild. It takes the bark of 5,000 trees to make one kilogram of the drug. It follows, therefore, that continued production of the drug must inevitably lead to the iboraâ€™s extinction.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

(A) The drug made from ibora bark is dispensed to doctors from a central authority.
(B) The drug made from ibora bark is expensive to produce.
(C) The leaves of the ibora are used in a number of medical products.
(D) The ibora can be propagated from cuttings and grown under cultivation.
(E) The ibora generally grows in largely inaccessible places.

Let's see how many get this right

-Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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01 Dec 2013, 22:01
egmat wrote:
Another interesting official question:

A drug that is highly effective in treating many types of infection can, at present, be obtained only from the bark of the ibora, a tree that is quite rare in the wild. It takes the bark of 5,000 trees to make one kilogram of the drug. It follows, therefore, that continued production of the drug must inevitably lead to the iboraâ€™s extinction.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

(A) The drug made from ibora bark is dispensed to doctors from a central authority.
(B) The drug made from ibora bark is expensive to produce.
(C) The leaves of the ibora are used in a number of medical products.
(D) The ibora can be propagated from cuttings and grown under cultivation.
(E) The ibora generally grows in largely inaccessible places.

Let's see how many get this right

-Chiranjeev

I'll go for D.
Con: continued production of the drug must inevitably lead to the iboraâ€™s extinction.
continued production------>Ibora's extinction
if we show that continued production does not necessarily lead to ibora's extinction the conclusion will fall apart.
D does exactly the same. it says that Ibora can grown under cultivation therefore making the drug out of Ibora's bark does not lead to Ibor's extinction, since cultivated Ibora can be used instead of natural one.
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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08 Dec 2013, 18:17
Bibinaz wrote:
egmat wrote:
Another interesting official question:

A drug that is highly effective in treating many types of infection can, at present, be obtained only from the bark of the ibora, a tree that is quite rare in the wild. It takes the bark of 5,000 trees to make one kilogram of the drug. It follows, therefore, that continued production of the drug must inevitably lead to the iboraâ€™s extinction.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

(A) The drug made from ibora bark is dispensed to doctors from a central authority.
(B) The drug made from ibora bark is expensive to produce.
(C) The leaves of the ibora are used in a number of medical products.
(D) The ibora can be propagated from cuttings and grown under cultivation.
(E) The ibora generally grows in largely inaccessible places.

Let's see how many get this right

-Chiranjeev

I'll go for D.
Con: continued production of the drug must inevitably lead to the iboraâ€™s extinction.
continued production------>Ibora's extinction
if we show that continued production does not necessarily lead to ibora's extinction the conclusion will fall apart.
D does exactly the same. it says that Ibora can grown under cultivation therefore making the drug out of Ibora's bark does not lead to Ibor's extinction, since cultivated Ibora can be used instead of natural one.

Hi Bibinaz,

You are absolutely correct.

Thanks,
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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12 Jan 2014, 03:34
Hi Chiranjeev,

Just a short query on the alternative clause, What would be the weakener for X does not leads to Y ?

Thanks Nitin
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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14 Jan 2014, 21:11
Nitinaka19 wrote:
Hi Chiranjeev,

Just a short query on the alternative clause, What would be the weakener for X does not leads to Y ?

Thanks Nitin

Hi Nitin,

Think about it. Any statement that suggests "X leads to Y" would be a valid weakener for "X does not lead to Y". For example:

1. If a statement says that X leads to Z and Z leads to X. In such a case, indirectly though, X leads to Y. Hence, this statement will be a valid weakener.
2. Also, you can weaken this conclusion "X does not lead to Y" not by directly attacking the conclusion but by challenging the assumption or the logic of the argument. For example: If the argument relies on some study results, you can weaken the conclusion by saying that the study was actually biased.

We can think of even more ways to weaken "X does not lead to Y".

Thanks,
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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12 Feb 2014, 07:02
Hi,
I have read your article but was not able to understand following point:

alternate-cause-a-weakener-or-not-155034.html

The argument 2 is of the type X can lead to Y (X: Mismatched sleeping and waking cycles, Y: jeopardizing the marriage). So, this argument is talking about a generic case that X can lead to Y. Remember, in this argument, Y has not occurred in the past and the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence.

Here you are saying the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence, but in each of your example there is reason of occurrence.
Ex given by you :
12 years ago and again 5 years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.

Here conclusion is week pundra will lead to similar size increase in export.
According to me reason is: a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets. thus reason for occurance is already in the argument. similarly we can find reason in other arguments too.

I did not understand why you said the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence? Please highlight this.
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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20 Feb 2014, 03:02
Quote:
Hi,
I have read your article but was not able to understand following point:

alternate-cause-a-weakener-or-not-155034.html

The argument 2 is of the type X can lead to Y (X: Mismatched sleeping and waking cycles, Y: jeopardizing the marriage). So, this argument is talking about a generic case that X can lead to Y. Remember, in this argument, Y has not occurred in the past and the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence.

Here you are saying the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence, but in each of your example there is reason of occurrence.
Ex given by you :
12 years ago and again 5 years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.

Dear Karan,

Thank you for your post .
In order to productively respond to your query, I would like to request you to kindly fully address the point that you want to emphasize in argument 2. In your post, you point toward the second argument but then go on to talking about the third argument for reference. Unfortunately, the link between the two does not come out as clearly as you may have intended. In addition to this, could you also please share your understanding of the word reason with respect to causal arguments.

Look forward to your response .
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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04 Mar 2014, 01:00
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Hello Everyone,

Just wanted to share that we have posted solutions to 20 of the hardest official CR questions on our blog. We hope you learn from and enjoy them.

https://e-gmat.com/blogs/?cat=21

If you like them or have any feedback, please feel free to post on this thread

All the best for your preparations

Regards,
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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26 Sep 2015, 22:36
egmat wrote:
Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and most of us would also know the common weakener categories for such arguments. For example: one of the common weakeners is the one which suggests an alternate cause for the effect. Still, at times, we find that these common weakener categories don’t work.

EXERCISE

Before we begin, here is a small exercise for you consisting of three OG questions. Here, you have the question along with only one option statement and you need to find out if that option statement is a valid answer or not. A diligent attempt at the quiz will help you get the maximum out of this article.

1. Journalist: In physics journals, the number of articles reporting the results of experiments involving particle accelerators was lower last year than it had been in previous years. Several of the particle accelerators at major research institutions were out of service the year before last for repairs, so it is likely that the low number of articles was due to the decline in availability of particle accelerators.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously undermines the journalist’s argument?

Recent changes in the editorial policies of several physics journals have decreased the likelihood that articles concerning particle-accelerator research will be accepted for publication.

2. A study of marital relationships in which one partner's sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of other partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns . Thus, mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage.

3. 12 years ago and again 5 years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.

Which of the following, if true, provides the government with the strongest grounds to doubt that the politicians' recommendation, if followed, will achieve its aim?

A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's product a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies.

The answer for the quiz is that only in the first argument is the given option statement a valid answer. If you did all the three questions correctly, good job

If, in either question 2 or 3, you marked the option statement as a valid answer choice or found it very attractive, this article will help you understand where you went wrong and why.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONCLUSION

Let’s look back at three arguments and find out their conclusion statements.

Here, I’ll just reword each of the conclusion statements, without obviously changing their meaning, so that we can use them directly for our analysis.

The three conclusion statements can be rewritten as:

If we look at the conclusion statements carefully, we’ll observe that:

1. The first conclusion is of the type: X led to Y. In this conclusion type, we are trying to tell the reason which led to the occurrence of Y. So, obviously Y, an event or occurrence or process, has happened in the past and X, which we say led to Y, must also have happened in the past and before Y occurred.

2. The second and the third conclusions are of the type: X can/will lead to Y. Unlike the first type, here we are not explaining the reason for something that happened in the past. Y may or may not have happened in the past. In this conclusion, we are either presenting a generic case that X can lead to Y or a future prediction that X will lead to Y. The reason for clubbing these categories will become clear as we go through the article.

Now, let’s identify the elements X and Y for each of the conclusion statements:

In the first conclusion, we have

Let’s look at the option statements for these arguments:

As we look at each of these option statements, we see that what each of these is saying that there is an alternate cause/way, say Z, to achieve Y (the effect).

Now, when we look at these option statements and find that there is a Z which also leads to Y, we think that this existence of Z weakens both the conclusion types i.e. X led to Y and X can/will lead to Y. However, as the solutions to the OG questions tell us, that is not correct. Let’s understand this.

EXAMPLE

Let’s consider a simple example in which the argument says that

Can we weaken this statement by saying that

Why? Because the author is not saying that only eating sugar leads to obesity. The author is only saying that eating sugar is one of the ways to get obese. Even from common understanding, we all know that both of these things i.e. eating sugar and eating oil lead to obesity. The fact that eating oil makes you obese has no impact on the likelihood of the fact that eating sugar leads to obesity. In other words, saying that there are multiple ways to achieve the same objective does not weaken the conclusion which only states one of the ways to reach the objective.

MODIFIED EXAMPLE

Now, Let’s look at a modified version of our simple example:

If the argument says that

Can we weaken my statement by saying that

The answer here is Yes. In this argument, we are essentially talking about a specific case i.e. what made Jon obese. Here, it is given knowledge that Jon is obese, what the argument or the conclusion provides is a reason that made Jon obese.

Now, when we make the above statement that Eating oil made Jon obese, we are essentially countering what the argument said. We are essentially saying that eating sugar is not the reason, rather eating oil is. We are creating significant doubt on the truth value of the argument.

At this point, can you understand how our statement did not weaken the original argument but how our statement weakens the modified argument?

The reason is that in the original argument i.e. Eating Sugar leads to obesity is a generic statement that X leads to Y. In such case, saying Z leads to Y does not impact the validity of the argument.
However, in the modified argument, we are talking about a very specific event (Y: obesity of Jon) and trying to explain the reason for the same (X: Eating Sugar). In this case, saying that there is some Z (eating oil) that led to Y weakens the argument because it creates significant doubts on whether eating sugar was the reason or not.

EXAMPLE 2

Let’s take one more example to understand this:

If the argument says that Pollution can cause cancer, then we cannot weaken this statement by saying that UV rays can cause cancer. The fact that UV rays can cause cancer has no impact on the statement that pollution can cause cancer.

However, if the argument says that Joe got cancer because of pollution, then we can definitely weaken the argument by suggesting that Joe got cancer because of exposure to UV rays. This is so because here, we are trying to explain the reason for a specific event i.e. Joe getting cancer. The argument says that the reason is pollution and when we say that the reason is UV rays, we are countering and thus, weakening the argument.

REVISITING EXERCISE ARGUMENTS

With the above understanding in mind, let’s bring back the exercise arguments and see if our understanding works there or not.

ARGUMENT 1
We can see that the first argument is of the type: X led to Y (X: Decline in availability of particle accelerators, Y: low number of articles). So, the argument is trying to explain the reason which led to the occurrence of Y. The argument is talking about a specific case in the past. It says that decline in availability of particle accelerators led to the low number of particles.

The option statement for this argument says that:

Recent changes in the editorial policies of several physics journals have decreased the likelihood that articles concerning particle-accelerator research will be accepted for publication.

This statement presents an alternate cause, Z, which could have led to the low number of articles. So, what this option statement is suggesting is that probably the actual reason for low number of articles is recent changes in the editorial policies of physics journals. By suggesting this, this creates doubt and hence weakens the argument which attributed the reason to decline in availability of particle accelerators.

ARGUMENT 2
The argument 2 is of the type X can lead to Y (X: Mismatched sleeping and waking cycles, Y: jeopardizing the marriage). So, this argument is talking about a generic case that X can lead to Y. Remember, in this argument, Y has not occurred in the past and the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence. The argument is making a generic statement that X can lead to Y.

The option statement for this argument says that:

Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage.

The statement presents an alternate route, Z, to reach the same end Y (Z: arguments, Y: jeopardizing the marriage). But just the presence of one more way to reach the end does not weaken the original argument that X can lead to Y. The argument does not say that X (mismatched sleeping and waking cycles) is the only way to Y (jeopardize the marriage). If there are other ways to do so, it does not impact the argument.

ARGUMENT 3
The argument 3 is of the type: X will lead to Y (X: Weak pundra, Y: similarly sized increase in exports) So, this argument is talking about a future case that X will lead to Y. Remember, in this argument, Y has not occurred in the past and the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence. The argument is making a futuristic statement that X will lead to Y.

The option statement for this argument says that:

A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's product a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies

The statement presents an alternate route, Z, to reach the same end Y ( Z: A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants, Y: similar sized increase in exports). Here again, just the presence of one more way to reach the end does not weaken the argument that X will lead to Y. The argument does not say that only X will lead to Y. If there are other ways to reach Y, it does not impact the argument.

TAKE AWAYS

1. “X leads/can lead/will lead to Y” allows the possibility of an alternate route, Z, to reach the effect, Y. Therefore, an option statement presenting an alternate route does not weaken this conclusion type.
2. “X led to Y” is presenting a reason (X) for a specific occurrence in the past (Y). An option statement suggesting an alternate cause, Z, which led to Y, creates doubts on the conclusion and thus, weakens the argument.

Thank you
Chiranjeev Singh

Hi

Your article was very useful. Was wondering if the same principle helps for strengthening questions too? If yes, can you please detail
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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02 Oct 2016, 00:45
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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23 Dec 2016, 22:03
to be simply wowwww thanks for the article mr. chirnajeev
Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not   [#permalink] 23 Dec 2016, 22:03

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