carcass wrote:
More and more computer programs that provide solutions to mathematical problems in engineering are being produced, and it is thus increasingly unnecessary for practicing engineers to have a thorough understanding of fundamental mathematical principles. Consequently, in training engineers who will work in industry, less emphasis should be placed on mathematical principles so that space in the engineering curriculum will be available for other important subjects.
Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument given for the recommendation above?
(A) The effective use of computer programs that provide solutions to mathematical problems in engineering requires an understanding of fundamental mathematical principles.
(B) Many of the computer programs that provide solutions to mathematical problems in engineering are already in routine use.
(C) Development of composites and other such new materials has meant that the curriculum for engineers who will work in industry must allow time for teaching the properties of these materials.
(D) Most of the computer programs that provide solutions to mathematical problems in engineering can be run on the types of computers available to most engineering firms.
(E) The engineering curriculum already requires that engineering students be familiar with and able to use a variety of computer programs.
OFFICIAL EXPLANATION
Solution: A
This is a
Weaken question, due to the phrase, “
most seriously weakens the argument.” As we read through the problem, two potential holes in the logic quickly appear: first, the final conclusion assumes that other important subjects are being crowded out of the engineering curriculum, but there is no such evidence to be found in the premises. Second, there is a gap between the premise, “computer programs that provide solutions to mathematical problems in engineering are being produced,” and the intermediate conclusion “it is thus increasingly unnecessary for practicing engineers to have a thorough understanding of fundamental mathematical principles.” Even though programs may exist that take care of some mathematical solutions, it is possible that an understanding of mathematical principles is still necessary to use the programs (
computers “
providing mathematical solutions” and
engineering “
understanding mathematical principles” are
two different things).
Of the five answer choices, three of them strengthen the argument (
REMEMBER:
a trick of the Testmaker is to include Strengthen options in a Weaken question), and one choice is irrelevant. Only one answer actually weakens the argument.
Answer choice “A” points out the logical gap between using the computer programs and somehow not needing to understand how they work. “A” tells us that understanding math is still a prerequisite for using the programs, thereby correctly undermining the argument.
Answer choice “B” points out another potential gap (do engineers even use the programs?), but then bridges the gap by telling us that not only are the computer programs being produced, they are being widely used – thus strengthening the argument.
Answer choice “C” also strengthens the argument: remember one of the logical gaps in the argument deals with the unstated assumption that important subjects might be crowded out of the engineering curriculum. Since “C” gives us one of those subjects, it strengthens the argument, and therefore can’t be the right answer.
“D” is very similar in function to “B”. It also points out a gap in the argument and then bridges that gap (can engineers even use the programs?). Since it shows that engineers’ computers can run the programs, it actually strengthens the argument.
Answer choice “E” is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether the curriculum requires the students to be familiar with certain computer programs. This does not affect whether the programs supplant the need for engineering students to understand math fundamentals. “E” could still be true and not have it affect the argument.
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