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# Cargo cults are religious movements that have appeared in tribal socie

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Cargo cults are religious movements that have appeared in tribal socie  [#permalink]

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Updated on: 30 Aug 2019, 04:59
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Cargo cults are religious movements that have appeared in tribal societies following interaction with technologically advanced cultures whose representatives have arrived bearing manufactured goods, or "cargo." These cults were known in the late nineteenth century, but arose in earnest in the years following World War II, as members of tribal societies came into contact with radios, televisions, guns, airplanes, and other goods brought to New Guinea and other Micronesian and Melanesian countries as part of the Allied war effort. Members of native societies, having little knowledge of Western manufacturing, found soldiers' explanations of the cargo's provenance unconvincing and drew the conclusion that the "cargo" had come about through spiritual means. Some concluded that the cargo had been created by the deities and ancestors of the native people, and that the foreigners had attracted the cargo to themselves through trickery, or through an error made by the deities and ancestors. Cargo cults arose for the purpose of attracting material wealth back to its "rightful owners" via religious rituals that sought to mimic the actions of the foreigners in order to attract cargo. The most famous of the cargo cults still exists on the island of Tanna in Vanautu, where cult members have constructed elaborate airstrips and control towers intended to attract airplanes, and where an annual celebration features barefoot soldiers in re-created U.S. Army uniforms conducting military exercises. Cult members wearing "headphones" made of wood can be observed speaking into "radios" made of coconuts and straw, mimicking actions observed by Allied troops during the war.

Members of cargo cults commit the fallacy of confusing a necessary condition with a sufficient one. It is true, of course, that an airstrip and a control tower are necessary for executing a safe landing of a military airplane; they are not, of course, sufficient to attract an airplane in the first place. Communicating with a radio tower may bring new supplies; speaking gibberish into a straw replica of a radio, of course, will not bring the desired cargo. Thus, the term "cargo cult" has arisen as an idiom in English to describe those who mimic the superficial appearance of a procedure without understanding the underlying purpose, meaning, or functioning of that procedure.

In the book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, physicist Richard Feynman dedicates a chapter to "cargo cult science," the product of researchers who create the appearance of real science— even with the fastidiousness of those who create a full-size Jeep from bamboo and straw— but without an understanding of the underlying workings of real science. Feynman gives the example of experiments involving running rats through a maze. In 1937, a researcher named Young discovered that rats who had run a maze previously were using some hidden cue on subsequent runs that invalidated the results of those trials. Through meticulous experimentation, Young discovered that the rats could use the sounds made by the maze's floorboards to memorize positions within the maze; when the maze was put on a floor of sand, this cue was removed, and future experiments could be conducted untainted by the "floorboard problem." However, Young's research made no impact whatsoever; other scientists— cargo cult scientists— went on running rats through the maze just as they had before, publishing their results and going about the motions of science without, as Feynman argues, actually doing science.

1. The primary purpose of the passage is to

(A) offer a suggestion for improving the results of scientific experiments.
(B) suggest that two disparate groups of people share similar logical errors.
(C) explain that cargo cults mistakenly confuse preceding events with causal events.
(D) argue that it is important for scientists to take into account the research of other scientists in their fields.
(E) imply that the cargo cult members' mistakes in logic could be remedied through the scientific method.

2. The passage suggests that resident of Tanna concluded that they were the "rightful owners" of the "cargo" because

(A) they found stories of the goods' actual origins to be incredible
(B) they believed all possessions were created by deities
(C) they believed they were owed a debt by their ancestors
(D) Allied forces had given them the cargo
(E) guns and airplanes were unknown to them prior to World War II

3. According to the information provided by the passage, which of the following would critics such as Feynman most likely describe as practitioners of "cargo cult science"?

(A) Scientists who create a sufficient cause for an event rather than a necessary one.
(B) Residents of Tanna who attempt a scientific experiment with only primitive equipment.
(C) Researchers who are unsuccessful in causing a desired phenomenon to occur.
(D) Westerners who believe in supernatural phenomena despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
(E) Scientists who receive recognition for their work without disclosing possible flaws in the design of their experiments.

4. According to the passage, the similarity between cargo cult members and practitioners of "cargo cult science" can most appropriately be described in which of the following ways?

(A) Both use inappropriate equipment in trying to cause a phenomenon.
(B) Both refuse to accept the principles of the scientific method.
(C) Both adhere to processes that lack scientific rigor.
(D) Both have no logical basis for their actions.
(E) Both would benefit from enhanced scientific education.

Difficulty Level: 750 (268)

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Last edited by SajjadAhmad on 30 Aug 2019, 04:59, edited 1 time in total.
Updated - Complete topic (349).
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Re: Cargo cults are religious movements that have appeared in tribal socie  [#permalink]

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11 Dec 2018, 10:46
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Hi workout srnaga aviejay ParthSanghavi

Official Explanation

1. The primary purpose of the passage is to

Explanation

A quick scan of the opening verbs or phrases— or a suggestion., suggest, explain, argue, imply— should eliminate choice (D), since the passage does not argue anything, but merely reports about cargo cults, the use of the term “cargo cult,” and the views of Richard Feynman.

Choice (A) can be eliminated because the author does not “offer a suggestion” anywhere (if you are going to pick an answer that says the author offered a suggestion, you need to be able to actually put your finger on the suggestion written down in the passage).

Choice (C) is too narrow and only references the first paragraph. This is the trick answer! The passage is not really about the islanders; the islanders are being used as a metaphor to talk about the scientists.

Choice (E) is offensive! Also, GMAT authors rarely try to tell anybody what to do. This author certainly does not.

The correct answer is (B), which is a very good match with paragraph 2, which contains the “twist,” and also nicely ties together the content of the entire passage. Note also that correct main idea answers often lack keywords (“cargo cults,” “science,” etc.) and therefore look “boring.” This can sometimes be used as a hint.

2. The passage suggests that resident of Tanna concluded that they were the "rightful owners" of the "cargo" because

Explanation

The correct answer here hinges on knowing that “incredible” means “not believable.” (In casual speech, it is used to mean “awesome,” but just as a credible story is a believable one, an incredible story is an unbelievable one, probably a lie.) The extreme word “all” completely eliminates choice (B). Sure, the cargo cult members thought that the cargo was created by deities, but all possessions? Even the stuff the islanders owned before the Westerners arrived? You don’t know that.

(C) is a twisting of language in the passage. If someone (ancestors and deities) means to give you a gift and someone else (Westerners) “steals” it, that does not mean that the gift-giver “owes you a debt.” This is a trap answer not indicated by the passage.

(D) and (E) may be true, but do not answer the question: Why did the islanders think the stuff came from deities and ancestors? Do not fallfor true or possibly true answers that do not answer the question!

Correct choice (A) is simply a sentence from the passage rewritten using synonymsl Paragraph 1 says that the members of native societies “found soldiers’ explanations of the cargo’s provenance unconvincing.” In other words, they “found stories of the goods’ actual origins to be incredible” (provenance = origin and unconvincing = incredible).

3. According to the information provided by the passage, which of the following would critics such as Feynman most likely describe as practitioners of "cargo cult science"?

Explanation

If you did not read all of paragraph 3 early on, you would have to go back and dig into it now. That’s fine— why waste the time earlier when you already had the main idea and you might not have gotten asked about that part anyway?

It will also be helpful here to say the answer in your own words before attacking the choices. The passage says Feynman thinks cargo cult scientists are “researchers who create the appearance of real science— even with the fastidiousness of those who create a full-size Jeep from bamboo and straw— but without an understanding of the underlying workings of real science.” You need an answer that gives an example of scientists who “create the appearance of science” but without really doing science.

Start by killing (B) and (D)— keep in mind that to be a practitioner of “cargo cult science,” you have to first be a scientist! (Feynman’s book is specifically about scientists.) (B) and (D) are not even about scientists.

Choice (A) is a twisting around of wording from elsewhere in the passage. Also, what’s wrong with creating a sufficient cause for an event? It’s not clear that this is even describing something bad.

(C) is much too broad. What is the desired phenomenon? You don’t know. A researcher who fails at creating a desired phenomenon isn’t necessarily practicing bad science— trial and error, and failure, are a normal part of science. (This is why we haven’t yet cured cancer).

(E) is correct. Someone who takes recognition for their work even though he or she knows the work is based on a flawed design is putting on a show of science without really doing science.

4. According to the passage, the similarity between cargo cult members and practitioners of "cargo cult science" can most appropriately be described in which of the following ways?

Explanation

This question is asking for the best description of what the islanders and the scientists from the passage have in common. Watch out for answers that are true, but don’t answer the question. (For instance, both the islanders and the scientists have arms and legs, presumably, but that is obviously not a good description of why the author wrote about both of them in the same passage.)

Choice (A) is true — the islanders do things like talk into a coconut as though it were a radio; the scientists are using rat mazes that are flawed. But this is the trap answer. Using inappropriate equipment is not the main similarity the two groups have. Paragraph 2 contains the main idea of the passage, which is exactly the similarity you are being asked about— two seemingly different groups of people share the same logical flaw, that of engaging in the superficial performance of something without the real, meaningful, underlying functionality.

Correct choice (C) doesn’t say exactly that, but “Both adhere to processes that lack scientific rigor” is a more general description of the two groups’ problems. Note that this is a rather mild and polite (not extreme) way to discuss the two groups’ flaws— rather than saying, “What you are doing is superficial and meaningless,” it says, “What you are doing is not strictly scientific.” This is a mild restatement of the main idea in paragraph 2.

Choices (B) and (D) are too extreme (it is doubtful that the scientists, at least, “refuse to accept” the scientific method, and the islanders may never have even heard of the scientific method). (D) is offensive and much too extreme.

(E) is a policy prescription not indicated by the passage, which offers no such prescriptions. GMAT authors rarely tell anybody what to do.

Hope it Helps
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Re: Cargo cults are religious movements that have appeared in tribal socie  [#permalink]

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08 Apr 2019, 10:15
Quote:

I mean is there any method to know which passages are posted along with OEs and which are not. So that I attend only those passages which have the OEs in its thread. Just like this Cargo cult passage as it has OE provided by you.

I am talking for all RC passages available on GC. Can we filter out passages with OEs?

Hope I made my self clear.
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Re: Cargo cults are religious movements that have appeared in tribal socie  [#permalink]

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08 Apr 2019, 10:56
Thanks for the clarity, currently there is no such filter available if i am right, bb can verify it.

AkshdeepS wrote:
Quote:

I mean is there any method to know which passages are posted along with OEs and which are not. So that I attend only those passages which have the OEs in its thread. Just like this Cargo cult passage as it has OE provided by you.

I am talking for all RC passages available on GC. Can we filter out passages with OEs?

Hope I made my self clear.

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Re: Cargo cults are religious movements that have appeared in tribal socie   [#permalink] 08 Apr 2019, 10:56
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