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# What it means to “explain” something in science often comes down to

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What it means to “explain” something in science often comes down to  [#permalink]

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03 Dec 2019, 09:42
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New Project RC Butler 2019 - Practice 2 RC Passages Everyday
Passage # 484, Date: 30-Nov-2019
This post is a part of New Project RC Butler 2019. Click here for Details

What it means to “explain” something in science
often comes down to the application of mathematics.
Some thinkers hold that mathematics is a kind of
language—a systematic contrivance of signs, the
(5) criteria for the authority of which are internal
coherence, elegance, and depth. The application of
such a highly artificial system to the physical world,
they claim, results in the creation of a kind of statement
about the world. Accordingly, what matters in the
(10) sciences is finding a mathematical concept that
attempts, as other language does, to accurately describe
the functioning of some aspect of the world.

At the center of the issue of scientific knowledge
can thus be found questions about the relationship
(15) between language and what it refers to. A discussion
about the role played by language in the pursuit of
knowledge has been going on among linguists for
several decades. The debate centers around whether
language corresponds in some essential way to objects
(20) and behaviors, making knowledge a solid and reliable
commodity; or, on the other hand, whether the
relationship between language and things is purely a
matter of agreed-upon conventions, making knowledge
tenuous, relative, and inexact.

(25) Lately the latter theory has been gaining wider
acceptance. According to linguists who support this
theory, the way language is used varies depending
upon changes in accepted practices and theories among
those who work in a particular discipline. These
(30) linguists argue that, in the pursuit of knowledge, a
statement is true only when there are no promising
alternatives that might lead one to question it. Certainly
this characterization would seem to be applicable to the
sciences. In science, a mathematical statement may be
(35) taken to account for every aspect of a phenomenon it is
applied to, but, some would argue, there is nothing
inherent in mathematical language that guarantees such
a correspondence. Under this view, acceptance of a
mathematical statement by the scientific community—
(40) by virtue of the statement’ s predictive power or
methodological efficiency—transforms what is
basically an analogy or metaphor into an explanation of
the physical process in question, to be held as true until
another, more compelling analogy takes its place.

(45) In pursuing the implications of this theory, linguists
have reached the point at which they must ask: If
words or sentences do not correspond in an essential
way to life or to our ideas about life, then just what are
they capable of telling us about the world? In science
(50) and mathematics, then, it would seem equally
necessary to ask: If models of electrolytes or E = mc2,
say, do not correspond essentially to the physical
world, then just what functions do they perform in the
acquisition of scientific knowledge? But this question
(55) has yet to be significantly addressed in the sciences.

Spoiler: :: OA
D

1. Which one of the following statements most accurately expresses the passage’s main point?

(A) Although scientists must rely on both language and mathematics in their pursuit of scientific knowledge, each is an imperfect tool for perceiving and interpreting aspects of the physical world.
(B) The acquisition of scientific knowledge depends on an agreement among scientists to accept some mathematical statements as more precise than others while acknowledging that all mathematics is inexact.
(C) If science is truly to progress, scientists must temporarily abandon the pursuit of new knowledge in favor of a systematic analysis of how the knowledge they already possess came to be accepted as true.
(D) In order to better understand the acquisition of scientific knowledge, scientists must investigate mathematical statements’ relationship to the world just as linguists study language’s relationship to the world.
(E) Without the debates among linguists that preceded them, it is unlikely that scientists would ever have begun to explore the essential role played by mathematics in the acquisition of scientific knowledge.

Spoiler: :: OA
A

2. Which one of the following statements, if true, lends the most support to the view that language has an essential correspondence to the things it describes?

(A) The categories of physical objects employed by one language correspond remarkably to the categories employed by another language that developed independently of the first.
(B) The categories of physical objects employed by one language correspond remarkably to the categories employed by another language that derives from the first.
(C) The categories of physical objects employed by speakers of a language correspond remarkably to the categories employed by other speakers of the same language.
(D) The sentence structures of languages in scientifically sophisticated societies vary little from language to language.
(E) Native speakers of many languages believe that the categories of physical objects employed by their language correspond to natural categories of objects in the world.

Spoiler: :: OA
B

3. According to the passage, mathematics can be considered a language because it

(A) conveys meaning in the same way that metaphors do
(B) constitutes a systematic collection of signs
(C) corresponds exactly to aspects of physical phenomena
(D) confers explanatory power on scientific theories
(E) relies on previously agreed-upon conventions

Spoiler: :: OA
B

4. The primary purpose of the third paragraph is to

(A) offer support for the view of linguists who believe that language has an essential correspondence to things
(B) elaborate the position of linguists who believe that truth is merely a matter of convention
(C) illustrate the differences between the essentialist and conventionalist positions in the linguists’ debate
(D) demonstrate the similarity of the linguists’ debate to a current debate among scientists about the nature of explanation
(E) explain the theory that mathematical statements are a kind of language

Spoiler: :: OA
A

5. Based on the passage, linguists who subscribe to the theory described in lines 21–24 would hold that the statement “The ball is red” is true because

(A) speakers of English have accepted that “The ball is red” applies to the particular physical relationship being described
(B) speakers of English do not accept that synonyms for “ball” and “red” express these concepts as elegantly
(C) “The ball is red” corresponds essentially to every aspect of the particular physical relationship being described
(D) “ball” and “red” actually refer to an entity and a property respectively
(E) “ball” and “red” are mathematical concepts that attempt to accurately describe some particular physical relationship in the world

• Source: LSAT Official PrepTest 22 (June 1997)
• Difficulty Level: 700

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Concentration: General Management
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Re: What it means to “explain” something in science often comes down to  [#permalink]

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21 Dec 2019, 01:32
2
Hi everyone,
Took 13:10 minutes and got 4/5 correct.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

P1

In paragraph one we are given that scientific concepts often are explained through mathematics. Some people even think of mathematics as a language and believe that mathematics can describe the physical word in statements. Lastly we are given that the objective of mathematics as a language is to attempt to describe the world in a way similar to the way other languages work.

Brief summary: mathematics is a language and its goal is to describe the physical world

P2

If we look into the pursuit of scientific knowledge we will find important questions about the role between language and what language refers to. A debate about how significantly language impacts the pursuit of knowledge has been going on for years among people who study languages. There might be 2 main scenarios: in the first one, language is significantly connected to objects and behaviors; on the other hand, in the second scenario, language is just made up of conventions, making knowledge quite inexact.

Brief summary: Language and what it refers to

P3

Recently, the view according to which language is made up of conventions is gaining wide currency. We are given that the way a language is used depends upon changes in accepted practice and the theory used in the discipline at hand. Furthermore, the people supporting this view also think that a mathematical statement is true until is disproved. Opponents object that there is no guarantee that such mathematics statement is 100% accurate.

Brief summary: Language is viewed as an ensemble of conventions

P4

Last paragraph works on the implications of the theory mentioned in P3. Linguists and scientists must ask themselves the following question: if language is just a matter of conventions, then how the words that we used will help us in acquiring knowledge?

Brief summary:A important question is yet to be addressed

Main point

The main point of the passage is to investigate the role of language in relation to the acquisition of knowledge.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. Which one of the following statements most accurately expresses the passage’s main point?

Pre-thinking

Main point question

Refer to main point and summaries above

(A) Although scientists must rely on both language and mathematics in their pursuit of scientific knowledge, each is an imperfect tool for perceiving and interpreting aspects of the physical world.
This statement is too extreme

(B) The acquisition of scientific knowledge depends on an agreement among scientists to accept some mathematical statements as more precise than others while acknowledging that all mathematics is inexact.
In the passage nowhere it is said that scientists acknowledge that all mathematics is inexact

(C) If science is truly to progress, scientists must temporarily abandon the pursuit of new knowledge in favor of a systematic analysis of how the knowledge they already possess came to be accepted as true.
Such abandonment is never mentioned

(D) In order to better understand the acquisition of scientific knowledge, scientists must investigate mathematical statements’ relationship to the world just as linguists study language’s relationship to the world.
This statement is in line with the last sentences of the passage

(E) Without the debates among linguists that preceded them, it is unlikely that scientists would ever have begun to explore the essential role played by mathematics in the acquisition of scientific knowledge.
No such scenario is presented in the passage

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Which one of the following statements, if true, lends the most support to the view that language has an essential correspondence to the things it describes?

Pre-thinking

Strengthen question

From P2: "The debate centers around whether
language corresponds in some essential way to objects
(20) and behaviors, making knowledge a solid and reliable
commodity;
"

(A) The categories of physical objects employed by one language correspond remarkably to the categories employed by another language that developed independently of the first.
This option suggests that 2 languages that evolved independently and still have correspondences between the words used and the objects such words refer to. Correct

(B) The categories of physical objects employed by one language correspond remarkably to the categories employed by another language that derives from the first.
If one language derives from the other then of course words that describe objects are similar. Out

(C) The categories of physical objects employed by speakers of a language correspond remarkably to the categories employed by other speakers of the same language.
Similar reasoning used in choice B

(D) The sentence structures of languages in scientifically sophisticated societies vary little from language to language.
The sentence structure is irrelevant

(E) Native speakers of many languages believe that the categories of physical objects employed by their language correspond to natural categories of objects in the world.
What native speakers believe is irrelevant

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3. According to the passage, mathematics can be considered a language because it

Pre-thinking

Detail question

From P1: "Some thinkers hold that mathematics is a kind of
language—a systematic contrivance of signs,
"

(A) conveys meaning in the same way that metaphors do
Not mentioned

(B) constitutes a systematic collection of signs
In line with pre-thinking

(C) corresponds exactly to aspects of physical phenomena
Not mentioned

(D) confers explanatory power on scientific theories
Not mentioned

(E) relies on previously agreed-upon conventions
Not mentioned

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

4. The primary purpose of the third paragraph is to

Pre-thinking

Purpose question

The third paragraph describes the view of those who think that language is made of conventions

(A) offer support for the view of linguists who believe that language has an essential correspondence to things
Opposite

(B) elaborate the position of linguists who believe that truth is merely a matter of convention
In line with pre-thinking

(C) illustrate the differences between the essentialist and conventionalist positions in the linguists’ debate
The conventionalist theory only is presented

(D) demonstrate the similarity of the linguists’ debate to a current debate among scientists about the nature of explanation
Out of scope

(E) explain the theory that mathematical statements are a kind of language
Not the intended purpose

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

5. Based on the passage, linguists who subscribe to the theory described in lines 21–24 would hold that the statement “The ball is red” is true because

Pre-thinking

Inference question

[b]Because a convention according to which such object is red is established

[/b]

(A) speakers of English have accepted that “The ball is red” applies to the particular physical relationship being described
In line with pre-thinking

(B) speakers of English do not accept that synonyms for “ball” and “red” express these concepts as elegantly
Not in line with pre-thinking

(C) “The ball is red” corresponds essentially to every aspect of the particular physical relationship being described
Not in line with pre-thinking

(D) “ball” and “red” actually refer to an entity and a property respectively
Not in line with pre-thinking

(E) “ball” and “red” are mathematical concepts that attempt to accurately describe some particular physical relationship in the world
Not in line with pre-thinking

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It is a good day to be alive!
Re: What it means to “explain” something in science often comes down to   [#permalink] 21 Dec 2019, 01:32
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