HSPT Reading : Authorial Purpose in Natural Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Argumentative Science Passages

The world described by physics is a surprisingly strange world, somewhat distant from our regular experience. Many high school students likely suspect this fact, given the difficulty that they often experience when taking physics courses. However, they are rarely instructed in the explicit difference between the world expressed by their equations and the world that they experience. Many of the concepts used in physics are related to the figures, facts, and equations that are learned in mathematics. The world is recast into a form that looks more like a geometry problem than the world as experienced in day-to-day life. All of this at first seems strange to the budding young physics student. However, after performing a number of experiments, he or she soon sees that these mathematical formulas seem to “work.” That is, these equations really do predict the outcomes of experiments in the real world, not merely in mathematical equations on paper.

Still, it is interesting to notice some examples of how much is overlooked in these kinds of mathematical models. Most obviously, there are few (if any) objects in reality that perfectly match the form and shape of a pure geometric figure. Few physical triangles are exact triangles in the manner of the shapes used in geometric problems. Likewise, motion becomes merely something to be expressed in an equation that has time as a variable. Finally, all of the physical descriptions of light waves tell us about everything except for what it is like to experience color. This last reason is perhaps the most interesting reason of all. No matter how many equations and shapes are used to describe color, none of these will have anything to do with the experience of color itself. To speak of a “rectangular surface” or an “icosahedron-like body” does not tell us anything about colors. Rectangles and icosahedrons can be any color. That is, color does not enter into their definitions at all—a red rectangle is just as much a rectangle as is a green one.

What is the author’s purpose in the second paragraph? 

Possible Answers:

To contradict the naive positions stated in the first paragraph

To show how physics ultimately does not explain reality

To provide examples of the things that physics overlooks

To contrast the physical sciences with the world of poetry and the arts

To contrast the world of physics to the world of colors

Correct answer:

To provide examples of the things that physics overlooks

Explanation:

The tone of the opening sentence of the second paragraph should indicate to you the author's general attitude in this paragraph. Clearly, the author does not wish to overturn everything that has been stated. The first paragraph admits that physics does indeed "work"—even though it is strangely based on mathematical models. In this second paragraph, the author intends to show how physics does in fact overlook certain details about the world. This is not meant to call into question the whole of physics. The author never indicates that this is the intention of the second paragraph. It is merely concerned with providing several examples that show the things that are overlooked by physics' mathematical models.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Meaning, Purpose, And Effect Of Specified Text In Natural Science Passages

Adapted from “Birds in Retreat” in “Animal Defences—Active Defence” in Volume Four of The Natural History of Animals: The Animal Life of the World in Its Various Aspects and Relations by James Richard Ainsworth Davis (1903)

Among the large running birds are forms, like the African ostrich, in which the absence of powers of flight is largely compensated by the specialization of the legs for the purpose of rapid movement on the ground. For straightforward retreat in open country nothing could be more effective; but another kind of adaptation is required in birds like rails, which are deficient in powers of flight, and yet are able to run through thickly-growing vegetation with such rapidity as to commonly elude their enemies. This is rendered possible by the shape of their bodies, which are relatively narrow and flattened from side to side, so as to easily slip between the stems of grasses, rushes, and similar plants. Anyone who has pursued our native land-rail or corn-crake with intent to capture will have noted how extremely difficult it is even to get within sight of a bird of this sort.

Certain birds, unfortunately for themselves, have lost the power of flight without correspondingly increased powers of running, and have paid the penalty of extinction. Such an arrangement, as might be anticipated, was the result of evolution in islands devoid of any predatory ground-animals, and a classic example of it is afforded by the dodo and its allies, birds related to the pigeons. The dodo itself was a large and clumsy-looking species that at one time abounded in the island of Mauritius, which, like oceanic islands generally, possessed no native mammals, while its indigenous reptiles were only represented by lizards. The ubiquitous sailor, however, and the animals (especially swine) which he introduced, brought about the extinction of this helpless bird in less than a century after its first discovery in 1598. Its memory is now only kept green by a few contemporary drawings and descriptions, certain museum remains, and the proverb "as extinct as a dodo.” A similar fate must overtake any organism suddenly exposed to new and unfavorable conditions, if devoid of sufficient plasticity to rapidly accommodate itself to the altered environment.

The purpose of the underlined sentence is __________.

Possible Answers:

to suggest that more people hunt land-rails and corn-crakes

to provide an example likely familiar to readers of how effective a running bird’s defenses can be

to introduce a discussion of the land-rail and corn-crake

to make himself feel better about having never been able to catch a land-rail or corn-crake

to explain how other types of running birds differ from the African ostrich

Correct answer:

to provide an example likely familiar to readers of how effective a running bird’s defenses can be

Explanation:

The underlined sentence appears at the end of the first paragraph and reads, “Anyone who has pursued our native land-rail or corn-crake with intent to capture will have noted how extremely difficult it is even to get within sight of a bird of this sort.”

This is the only sentence in the passage that mentions the land-rail and corn-crake, so “to introduce a discussion of the land-rail and corn-crake” cannot be the correct answer. The author doesn’t tell us that he himself has pursued a land-rail or corn-crake, and while one might infer this, he doesn’t say anything about having failed to catch one, so “to make himself feel better about having never been able to catch a land-rail or corn-crake” doesn’t seem to be the correct answer either. The answer choice “to suggest that more people hunt land-rails and corn-crakes “ cannot be correct, as the author isn’t urging the reader to do anything in this sentence; it is simply conveying information. 

This leaves us with two answer choices: “to explain how other types of running birds differ from the African ostrich” and “to provide an example likely familiar to readers of how effective a running bird’s defenses can be.” While the first of these answer choices may seem correct at first glance, the author isn’t actually mentioning the land-rail and corn-crake to explain how other types of running birds differ from the African ostrich. He does this in a previous sentence. It is more accurate to say that the underlined sentenceprovide[s] an example likely familiar to readers of how effective a running bird’s defenses can be.”

Example Question #1 : Authorial Purpose In Natural Science Passages

Adapted from “Birds in Retreat” in “Animal Defences—Active Defence” in Volume Four of The Natural History of Animals: The Animal Life of the World in Its Various Aspects and Relations by James Richard Ainsworth Davis (1903)

Among the large running birds are forms, like the African ostrich, in which the absence of powers of flight is largely compensated by the specialization of the legs for the purpose of rapid movement on the ground. For straightforward retreat in open country nothing could be more effective; but another kind of adaptation is required in birds like rails, which are deficient in powers of flight, and yet are able to run through thickly-growing vegetation with such rapidity as to commonly elude their enemies. This is rendered possible by the shape of their bodies, which are relatively narrow and flattened from side to side, so as to easily slip between the stems of grasses, rushes, and similar plants. Anyone who has pursued our native land-rail or corn-crake with intent to capture will have noted how extremely difficult it is even to get within sight of a bird of this sort. 

Certain birds, unfortunately for themselves, have lost the power of flight without correspondingly increased powers of running, and have paid the penalty of extinction. Such an arrangement, as might be anticipated, was the result of evolution in islands devoid of any predatory ground-animals, and a classic example of it is afforded by the dodo and its allies, birds related to the pigeons. The dodo itself was a large and clumsy-looking species that at one time abounded in the island of Mauritius, which, like oceanic islands generally, possessed no native mammals, while its indigenous reptiles were only represented by lizards. The ubiquitous sailor, however, and the animals (especially swine) which he introduced, brought about the extinction of this helpless bird in less than a century after its first discovery in 1598. Its memory is now only kept green by a few contemporary drawings and descriptions, certain museum remains, and the proverb "as extinct as a dodo.” A similar fate must overtake any organism suddenly exposed to new and unfavorable conditions, if devoid of sufficient plasticity to rapidly accommodate itself to the altered environment.

The narrator mentions the proverb “as extinct as a dodo” in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

lament that the dodo was not eliminated sooner

encourage his readers to use more figurative language

transition to a discussion of the ways in which common sayings reference birds

provide an example of what little is left of the dodo in his era

support the idea that the dodo went extinct because of human influence

Correct answer:

provide an example of what little is left of the dodo in his era

Explanation:

The author mentions the proverb “as extinct as a dodo” in the second paragraph, when he states, “[The dodo’s] memory is now only kept green by a few contemporary drawings and descriptions, certain museum remains, and the proverb ‘as extinct as a dodo.’” The author is clearly not mentioning the proverb in order to “lament that the dodo was not eliminated sooner”; we can tell this from the rest of the paragraph as well, in that he is saddened that it went extinct at all. The author isn’t urging his readers to do anything, so he can’t be using the proverb to “encourage his readers to use more figurative language.” He doesn’t begin to discuss the ways in which common sayings reference birds after this point, so it doesn’t make any sense to say that he uses the proverb as a transition to such a discussion. This leaves us with two answer choices: that he mentions the proverb to “support the idea that the dodo went extinct because of human influence” and that he does so to “provide an example of what little is left of the dodo in his era.” While this may seem like a somewhat tricky choice, it is important to realize that at this point, the author has made the point that the dodo went extinct due to human influence in an earlier sentence, and this sentence doesn’t mention the reasons why the dodo went extinct at all—it’s talking about what is left over now that the dodo is extinct. This means that the correct answer is that the author mentions this proverb in order to “provide an example of what little is left of the dodo in his era.”

Example Question #13 : Authorial Purpose

Adapted from "The Treatment of Rattlesnake Bite by Permanganate of Potassium, Based on Nine Successful Cases" by Amos W. Barber, M.D. in Scientific American Supplement No. 841, Vol. XXXIII (February 13th 1892)

Poisoned wounds, inflicted by the fangs of the rattlesnake, are happily rarer each year, since, as the country is becoming more populated, the crotalus is rapidly being exterminated. Yet, considering the disregard that characterizes the cowboy in his treatment of this reptile, it is astonishing that this class of injury is not more common.

It is the invariable custom among the cattlemen to dismount and destroy these snakes whenever they are seen. This is readily accomplished, since a slight blow will break the back. This blow is, however, generally delivered by means of the quirt, a whip not over two and a half feet long, and hence a weapon which brings the one who wields it in unpleasant proximity to the fangs of the reptile. A still more dangerous practice, and one which I have frequently seen, is a method of playing with the rattlesnake for the humor of the cowboy at the expense of a "tenderfoot." It is well known that unless a snake is coiled or in other specific positions, it cannot strike. On this theory, a mounted cowboy first puts a rattler to flight, then seizes it by the tail, and, swinging it so rapidly around his head that it is impossible for it to strike, sets off in pursuit of whoever has exhibited the most terror at the sight of the reptile. When within fair distance, he hurls the snake at the unfortunate victim, in the full assurance that even should it hit him it cannot bury its fangs in his flesh, since it cannot coil until it reaches the ground. This is a jest of which I have frequently been the victim, nor have I yet learned to appreciate it with unalloyed mirth.

The first case of rattlesnake wound to which I was called occurred in 1885. A cowboy was bitten on the foot, the fang penetrating through the boot. I saw him about twenty-four hours after he was struck. There was enormous swelling, extending up to the knee. There was no special discoloration about the wound; in fact, the swelling disguised this to such an extent that it was impossible to determine exactly where the fangs had entered. The patient was suffering great pain. His mind was clear, but he was oppressed with a dreadful anxiety.

How does the author characterize the underlined “cowboy"?

Possible Answers:

Foolish and reckless

Resolute and brave

Disbelieving in God

Terrified of dying

Completely delirious

Correct answer:

Terrified of dying

Explanation:

We know the the underlined “cowboy” had been bitten by a rattlesnake, and from the author’s earlier descriptions, we can reasonably determine that in this time period a rattlesnake bite was close to a death sentence. The author goes on to say: “The patient was suffering great pain. His mind was clear, but he was oppressed with a dreadful anxiety." The fact that the cowboy was “oppressed with a dreadful anxiety” allows us to infer that that the cowboy believed he was going to die and was very scared.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from "Errors in Our Food Economy" in Scientific American Supplement No. 1082 Vol. XLII (September 26th, 1896)

Scientific research, interpreting the observations of practical life, implies that several errors are common in the use of food.

First, many people purchase needlessly expensive kinds of food, doing this under the false impression that there is some peculiar virtue in the costlier materials, and that economy in our diet is somehow detrimental to our dignity or our welfare. And, unfortunately, those who are most extravagant in this respect are often the ones who can least afford it.

Secondly, the food which we eat does not always contain the proper proportions of the different kinds of nutritive ingredients. We consume relatively too much of the fuel ingredients of food, such as the fats of meat and butter, and the starch which makes up the larger part of the nutritive material of flour, potatoes, sugar, and sweetmeats. Conversely, we have relatively too little of the protein of flesh-forming substances, like the lean of meat and fish and the gluten of wheat, which make muscle and sinew and which are the basis of blood, bone and brain.

Thirdly, many people, not only the well-to-do, but those in moderate circumstances, use needless quantities of food. Part of the excess, however, is simply thrown away with the wastes of the table and the kitchen; so that the injury to health, great as it may be, is doubtless much less than if all were eaten. Probably the worst sufferers from this evil are well-to-do people of sedentary occupations.

Finally, we are guilty of serious errors in our cooking. We waste a great deal of fuel in the preparation of our food, and even then a great deal of the food is very badly cooked. A reform in these methods of cooking is one of the economic demands of our time.

In the first sentence of the passage, the author is primarily __________.

Possible Answers:

establishing that what follows is based on scientific observation

contesting a commonly held opinion about the scarcity of food resources

lamenting the lack of scientific research that has been done on people’s eating habits

highlighting the need for additional scientific inquiry into the topic under discussion

mourning the loss of scientific documents about the topic under discussion in recent years

Correct answer:

establishing that what follows is based on scientific observation

Explanation:

The first sentence of this passage reads as follows: “Scientific research, interpreting the observations of practical life, implies that several errors are common in the use of food.” The author wants his audience to understand that the argument he is making is based on “scientific observation.” He does this so as to lend extra credibility to his argument. There is no indication that he is “lamenting” or “mourning” anything, nor that he is arguing against a commonly held opinion or highlighting a need for additional research.

Example Question #3 : Authorial Purpose In Natural Science Passages

"Cacti" by Ami Dave (2013)

Cacti are plants suited to the desert, and we must always keep this factor in mind when growing ornamental cacti in our gardens, for it helps us provide cacti with conditions that allow them to survive and thrive. For example, a cactus should never be watered over its body, as it will start to rot. This is because it is covered with a waxy coating which prevents water loss through evaporation. When one waters the cactus over its body, the waxy coating is washed away and the plant begins to rot. The amount of water that one must supply to the cactus is very much dependent upon the season and upon the climate of the place. During the summer season one should water cacti every four days, whereas in the rainy season, once every fifteen days is quite enough.

Cacti need a minimum of two and a half hours of sunlight per day; however, they should not be kept in the sun all day because they may wrinkle when exposed to too much bright sunlight. Unlike other plants, cacti produce carbon dioxide during the day and oxygen during the night, so they are ideal plants to be kept in bedrooms to freshen up the air at night.

If a cactus is to thrive and prosper, the size of the pot in which it is grown needs to be monitored carefully. The pot should always be a little smaller than the plant itself because it is only when the plant has to struggle to survive that it will thrive. If the pot is too spacious and the plant does not need to struggle, chances are that the cactus will die. Similarly, if a cactus shows no signs of growth, stop watering it. Watering should be resumed only when the plant begins to grow again.

The substrata of a cactus pot is ideally composed of pieces of broken bricks at the bottom, followed by a layer of charcoal above the bricks, and then coarse sand and pebbles above the charcoal. Leaf mould is the best manure.

Grafting cacti is very simple. A very small piece of the cactus plant should be stuck with tape to the plant that needs grafting. The smaller the piece, the easier it is to graft. To reproduce cacti, one has to simply cut off a piece of the cactus, allow it to dry for a few days, and then place it over the cacti substrate. It will automatically develop roots.

It is very easy to differentiate between cacti and other plants that look like cacti. All cacti have fine hair at the base of each thorn. The so-called “thorns” are in fact highly modified leaves which prevent loss of water through transpiration. If one ever gets pricked by cacti thorns, one should take tape, place it over the area where the thorns have penetrated the skin, and then peel it off. All of the thorns will get stuck to the tape and will be removed.

The passage is most likely an excerpt from what type of document?

Possible Answers:

A manual about how to grow cacti at home

A science textbook

A personal anecdote about cacti 

A descriptive panel at a botanical garden

An informational brochure

Correct answer:

A manual about how to grow cacti at home

Explanation:

It most likely comes from a how-to manual, since it outlines the steps for planting and nurturing a cactus as it grows. A brochure would not contain quite as much information, and would not be detailed. A botanical garden would address the lineage of the plant and more about its genus and species, rather than how to grow it. A science textbook would explore the scientific analysis of the plant, such as how it obtains energy through photosynthesis and more facts along those lines. A personal anecdote about cacti would not need to give any information about how to grow one.

Example Question #324 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

"Cacti" by Ami Dave (2013)

Cacti are plants suited to the desert, and we must always keep this factor in mind when growing ornamental cacti in our gardens, for it helps us provide cacti with conditions that allow them to survive and thrive. For example, a cactus should never be watered over its body, as it will start to rot. This is because it is covered with a waxy coating which prevents water loss through evaporation. When one waters the cactus over its body, the waxy coating is washed away and the plant begins to rot. The amount of water that one must supply to the cactus is very much dependent upon the season and upon the climate of the place. During the summer season one should water cacti every four days, whereas in the rainy season, once every fifteen days is quite enough.

Cacti need a minimum of two and a half hours of sunlight per day; however, they should not be kept in the sun all day because they may wrinkle when exposed to too much bright sunlight. Unlike other plants, cacti produce carbon dioxide during the day and oxygen during the night, so they are ideal plants to be kept in bedrooms to freshen up the air at night.

If a cactus is to thrive and prosper, the size of the pot in which it is grown needs to be monitored carefully. The pot should always be a little smaller than the plant itself because it is only when the plant has to struggle to survive that it will thrive. If the pot is too spacious and the plant does not need to struggle, chances are that the cactus will die. Similarly, if a cactus shows no signs of growth, stop watering it. Watering should be resumed only when the plant begins to grow again.

The substrata of a cactus pot is ideally composed of pieces of broken bricks at the bottom, followed by a layer of charcoal above the bricks, and then coarse sand and pebbles above the charcoal. Leaf mould is the best manure.

Grafting cacti is very simple. A very small piece of the cactus plant should be stuck with tape to the plant that needs grafting. The smaller the piece, the easier it is to graft. To reproduce cacti, one has to simply cut off a piece of the cactus, allow it to dry for a few days, and then place it over the cacti substrate. It will automatically develop roots.

It is very easy to differentiate between cacti and other plants that look like cacti. All cacti have fine hair at the base of each thorn. The so-called “thorns” are in fact highly modified leaves which prevent loss of water through transpiration. If one ever gets pricked by cacti thorns, one should take tape, place it over the area where the thorns have penetrated the skin, and then peel it off. All of the thorns will get stuck to the tape and will be removed.

The purpose of this passage is to __________.

Possible Answers:

outline the differences between cacti and other plants

describe the physical characteristics of a cactus

explain the proper conditions and protocols for growing cacti

explain what to do if you prick yourself on cactus thorns

explain how to correctly graft cacti

Correct answer:

explain the proper conditions and protocols for growing cacti

Explanation:

Cacti grafts, physical characteristics of cacti, what to do if you prick yourself on cactus thorns, and differences between cacti and other plants are all ideas that are discussed in the passage; however, they are not the MAIN purpose of the passage. They are all details that comprise the paragraphs. The purpose of the passage is to explain the proper conditions and protocols for growing cacti.

Example Question #51 : Natural Science Passages

Adapted from The Evolutionist at Large by Grant Allen (1881)

I am engaged in watching a brigade of ants out on foraging duty, and intent on securing for the nest three whole segments of a deceased earthworm. They look for all the world like those busy companies one sees in the Egyptian wall paintings, dragging home a huge granite colossus by sheer force of bone and sinew. Every muscle in their tiny bodies is strained to the utmost as they pry themselves laboriously against the great boulders that strew the path, and that are known to our Brobdingnagian intelligence as grains of sand. Besides the workers themselves, a whole battalion of stragglers runs to and fro upon the broad line that leads to the headquarters of the community. The province of these stragglers, who seem so busy doing nothing, probably consists in keeping communications open, and encouraging the sturdy pullers by occasional relays of fresh workmen. I often wish that I could for a while get inside those tiny brains, and see, or rather smell, the world as ants do. For there can be little doubt that to these brave little carnivores here the universe is chiefly known as a collective bundle of odors, simultaneous or consecutive. As our world is mainly a world of visible objects, theirs, I believe, is mainly a world of olfactible things.

In the head of every one of these little creatures is something that we may fairly call a brain. Of course most insects have no real brains; the nerve-substance in their heads is a mere collection of ill-arranged ganglia, directly connected with their organs of sense. Whatever man may be, an earwig at least is a conscious, or rather a semi-conscious, automaton. He has just a few knots of nerve cells in his little pate, each of which leads straight from his dim eye or his vague ear or his indefinite organs of taste; and his muscles obey the promptings of external sensations without possibility of hesitation or consideration, as mechanically as the valve of a steam engine obeys the governor balls. The poor soul's intellect is wholly deficient, and the senses alone make up all that there is of him, subjectively considered. But it is not so with the highest insects. They have something that truly answers to the real brain of men, apes, and dogs, to the cerebral hemispheres and the cerebellum that are superadded in us mammals upon the simple sense-centers of lower creatures. Besides the eye, with its optic nerve and optic perceptive organs—besides the ear, with its similar mechanism—we mammalian lords of creation have a higher and more genuine brain, that collects and compares the information given to the senses, and sends down the appropriate messages to the muscles accordingly. Now, bees and flies and ants have got much the same sort of arrangement, on a smaller scale, within their tiny heads. On top of the little knots that do duty as nerve centers for their eyes and mouths, stand two stalked bits of nervous matter, whose duty is analogous to that of our own brains. And that is why these three sorts of insects think and reason so much more intellectually than beetles or butterflies, and why the larger part of them have organized their domestic arrangements on such an excellent cooperative plan.

We know well enough what forms the main material of thought with bees and flies, and that is visible objects. For you must think about something if you think at all; and you can hardly imagine a contemplative blow-fly setting itself down to reflect, like a Hindu devotee, on the syllable Om, or on the oneness of existence. Abstract ideas are not likely to play a large part in apian consciousness. A bee has a very perfect eye, and with this eye it can see not only form, but also color, as Sir John Lubbock's experiments have shown us. The information that it gets through its eye, coupled with other ideas derived from touch, smell, and taste, no doubt makes up the main thinkable and knowable universe as it reveals itself to the apian intelligence. To ourselves and to bees alike the world is, on the whole, a colored picture, with the notions of distance and solidity thrown in by touch and muscular effort; but sight undoubtedly plays the first part in forming our total conception of things generally.

In the first paragraph, the information about Egyptian wall paintings serves to __________.

Possible Answers:

show that the ants are like slaves

show that the ants are undertaking a proportionally great task

show that ants have been around for aeons

show the reader that the author is in a desert environment

show the reader the author's superior historical knowledge

Correct answer:

show that the ants are undertaking a proportionally great task

Explanation:

The author is comparing the ants' struggle with the earthworm to the movement of monuments, by slaves, in Egyptian wall paintings. The purpose of this is to emphasise how the ants are undertaking a great task proportionally. “Every muscle in their tiny bodies is strained to the utmost as they pry themselves laboriously.”

Example Question #51 : Inferential Comprehension

Adapted from “The Influence of the Conception of Evolution on Modern Philosophy” by H. Höffding (1909) in Evolution in Modern Thought (1917 ed.)

When The Origin of Species appeared fifty years ago, Romantic speculation, Schelling's and Hegel's philosophy, still reigned on the continent, while in England, Positivism, the philosophy of Comte and Stuart Mill, represented the most important trend of thought. German speculation had much to say on evolution; it even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution. But then the word "evolution" was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense. To speculative thought, the forms and types of nature formed a system of ideas, within which any form could lead us by continuous transitions to any other. It was a classificatory system which was regarded as a divine world of thought or images, within which metamorphoses could go on—a condition comparable with that in the mind of the poet when one image follows another with imperceptible changes.

Goethe's ideas of evolution, as expressed in his Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der Thiere, belong to this category; it is, therefore, incorrect to call him a forerunner of Darwin. Schelling and Hegel held the same idea; Hegel expressly rejected the conception of a real evolution in time as coarse and materialistic. "Nature," he says, "is to be considered as a system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other; on the contrary [their connection lies] in the inner idea which is the ground of nature. The metamorphosis can be ascribed only to the notion as such, because it alone is evolution.... It has been a clumsy idea in the older as well as in the newer philosophy of nature, to regard the transformation and the transition from one natural form and sphere to a higher as an outward and actual production."

Which of the following best describes the author’s presentation of Hegel’s thought about evolution?

Possible Answers:

It is not comprised of progressive stages, each being the natural cause of the next.

It is a murky matter without much real reasoning at all.

It is purely a matter for our casual reflection.

It is a natural process, at least of sorts.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

It is not comprised of progressive stages, each being the natural cause of the next.

Explanation:

Among philosophers, Hegel is perhaps one of the hardest to read. Stay very close to this text and use context clues from within the passage. Clearly, Hegel is not being presented as an exponent of scientific evolution in the fashion of Darwin. The key portion of the passage is, "A system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other." Each stage is the "nearest truth" for the one following it. However, it is not the natural cause of it. Yes, Hegel is strange—and far more cryptic than this small selection. However, we have enough details to get our answer!

Example Question #52 : Inferential Comprehension

Adapted from On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)

How will the struggle for existence, discussed too briefly in the last chapter, act in regard to variation? Can the principle of selection, which we have seen is so potent in the hands of man, apply in nature? I think we shall see that it can act most effectually. Let it be borne in mind in what an endless number of strange peculiarities our domestic productions, and, in a lesser degree, those under nature, vary; and how strong the hereditary tendency is. Under domestication, it may be truly said that the whole organization becomes in some degree plastic. Let it be borne in mind how infinitely complex and close-fitting are the mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life. Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favorable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in the species called polymorphic.

We shall best understand the probable course of natural selection by taking the case of a country undergoing some physical change, for instance, of climate. The proportional numbers of its inhabitants would almost immediately undergo a change, and some species might become extinct. We may conclude, from what we have seen of the intimate and complex manner in which the inhabitants of each country are bound together, that any change in the numerical proportions of some of the inhabitants, independently of the change of climate itself, would most seriously affect many of the others. If the country were open on its borders, new forms would certainly immigrate, and this also would seriously disturb the relations of some of the former inhabitants. Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be. But in the case of an island, or of a country partly surrounded by barriers, into which new and better adapted forms could not freely enter, we should then have places in the economy of nature which would assuredly be better filled up, if some of the original inhabitants were in some manner modified; for, had the area been open to immigration, these same places would have been seized on by intruders. In such case, every slight modification, which in the course of ages chanced to arise, and which in any way favoured the individuals of any of the species, by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved; and natural selection would thus have free scope for the work of improvement.

The intended effect of this passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

to argue for the evolution of animals and plants

some excitement over animals in general

an understanding of the insignificance of humans

none of these answers

a realization that humans dislike other animals

Correct answer:

to argue for the evolution of animals and plants

Explanation:

The author is clearly attempting to make a case for evolution and the scientific basis for change over time. His goal seems to be to get others to believe in that idea.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: