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Dobson: Some historians claim that the people who built a [#permalink]
19 Apr 2009, 06:03
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Dobson: Some historians claim that the people who built a ring of stones thousands of years ago in Britain were knowledgeable about celestial events. The ground for this claim is that two of the stones determine a line pointing directly to the position of the sun at sunrise at the spring equinox. There are many stones in the ring, however, so the chance that one pair will point in a celestially significant direction is large. Therefore, the people who built the ring were not knowledgeable about celestial events.
Which one of the following is an error of reasoning in Dobson's argument?
A) The failure of cited evidence to establish a statement is taken as evidence that that statement is false.
B) Dobson's conclusion logically contradicts some of the evidence presented in support of it.
C) Statements that absolutely establish Dobson's conclusion are treated as if they merely give some support to that conclusion.
D) Something that is merely a matter of opinion is treated as if it were subject to verification as a matter of fact.
18. (A) The claim that Dobson tries to rebut—that the ancient builders of this ring of stones must have known about celestial events—is based on the provocative fact that a line drawn between two of the stones points to a significant phenomenon in the sky. Phooey, says Dobson—there are many stones in the ring, so many that the odds of any two pointing in a provocative way are huge. But not content to leave well enough alone, Dobson announces that he has proved that the ancients didn’t know about celestial events. Whoa! Maybe the evidence for the original claim is skimpy, but Dobson goes too far in claiming that that skimpiness proves the claim false. That’s what (A) is getting at. Let’s try an analogy—a parallel argument, as it were. Suppose you argue that the players on the Columbus Kings football team must be churchgoers, because every Sunday I see some of them walking toward a church. Well, in response, I could argue that that evidence is insufficient, that it doesn’t prove your point, that any of them could be seen walking towards some house of worship; but I cannot say that I have therefore proved that the players aren’t churchgoers! This is essentially the same error that the stimulus author commits. (B) Dobson’s evidence contradicts the original claim. That’s what a rebuttal does. But he doesn’t contradict himself. (C) As described above, the evidence falls far short of “absolutely establishing” Dobson’s conclusion. (D) Whether the ancients knew about celestial events is a question subject to factual verification and not a matter of opinion. Of course, the right kind of evidence must be assembled, which is why (A) is correct. But it is a fact-based dispute. (E) Dobson equivocates on no term, key or otherwise (“equivocation” means using the same word in two different meanings or senses). He changes no meanings en route. • Pre-phrase an answer to each Logical Flaw question, and try hard to find a choice that matches your pre-phrasing. Without pre-phrasing, you can waste an awful lot of time browsing among the choices.