Flaw of The Week

There is a limited number of ways in which an argument can go wrong, and an even more limited number of flaws which the LSAT examiners love to test time after time.  I’m going to take a look at a few of them over the next several weeks.  The more you’re aware of a pattern the LSAT has exhibited in the past, the better you’ll be able to recognize it when it comes up again.

This one is pretty straightforward – the idea is this: Just because they didn’t prove something is true, that doesn’t make it false.  Here’s an example:

Smith’s research team has claimed that carrots cause cancer.  This claim was based on his team’s studies conducted last year.  However, later reviews of the team’s research has uncovered mathematical errors on their calculations, and Smith himself has said that those studies are not scientifically valid.  Therefore, we can be confident that carrots do not cause cancer.

The right answer might be something like:

“It repudiates a claim merely on the grounds that inadequate support has been presented for it.” (slightly paraphrased from Preptest 64, Section 3, Q14 – a question that exhibits the same flaw I’m describing here).  The claim is that carrots cause cancer; the fact that we have inadequate evidence for that claim (the study can be thrown out, essentially) doesn’t mean that it’s false; it just means that it hasn’t been proven.  It all comes down to something like this:

Atheist: Can you prove that God exists?

Theist: No; it’s a matter of faith.

Atheist: So you admit that it’s impossible to prove that God exists!  Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

The atheist’s second line demonstrates the same flaw.  


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