LSAT Reading : Parallel Reasoning in Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Social Science

Adapted from "The Moral Leadership of the Religious Press,” a speech given in May 1893 by Susan B. Anthony

People expect too much of the press and too much of the ministers. It is the pews that make the pulpit and decide what the pulpit shall be, and it is the constituents and subscribers for the religious papers that decide what the religious paper shall be, and therefore when you tell me that a minister is thus and so in opposing any great moral reform, or that the religious press and newspaper is thus and so, what do you tell me? You tell me that the majority of the people in the pews indorse that minister, that the majority of the church members who read that paper won't allow that editor to speak anything on the question. That is all. I am glad that the day is changing, and that the people are feeling that the press is a little laggard and want to whip it up a little.

Take the specific question of suffrage. It is but recently that the religious press has begun to speak in tolerably friendly terms in relation to us. Take the great Methodist Episcopal church; think of its having an editor chosen by the general conference, Mr. Buckley, denounce the suffrage movement as something born—not of heaven, and yet if the vast majority of the members of the Methodist church were in favor of the enfranchisement of women and felt that it was a religious duty of the church to take its position in that direction, and of the religious newspaper, the organ of the society, to take position, Mr. Buckley would either be born again or else he would be slipped out of that editorial chair. He would be born again. He would believe in suffrage before he would lose his position.

I am not irreverent. I look to the public press. I look to the president of an organization, to the exponents of any society, religious or otherwise, as to the hands of the clock. They tell the time of day. Representing the suffrage movement, I stand to express the idea how high the tide has risen with the majority of the suffrage men and women of the day, and that is what a leader can do and but little more. We do not get very much ahead. We call ourselves leaders, but generally there are some down in the ranks a good deal ahead of us if they only had power to speak. I wish we had a great woman's rights press that knew how to speak the deepest and holiest thought of the best women of this country on the question of religious liberty, of political liberty, and of all liberty. And next to having such a press of our own is of course having the press of all the different denominations, of all the different political parties, of all the different interests in the country, come as near as possible to expressing our idea; and therefore, when I take up the Western Methodist paper, I forget what its name is, when I take up the Advance, when I take up any of the Western religious newspapers I am made to feel that their editors have been born again into this recognition of the principle of equality of rights in the church for the women as well as for the men. I suppose the New York Observer and the New York Advocate and so on will have to lag behind until they are moved over on the ferry boat. However much they hold back, they have to go with the boat. I suppose these old papers will hang back just as long as they possibly can.

Which of the following scenarios would best support the author’s main point in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

A male minister will not tolerate talk of suffrage, but a female minister condones it.

The governing body of a church refuses to acknowledge its congregation’s viewpoint.

A political candidate changes his stance to reflect his or her constituents’ opinions.

A church opposes the power of the press and advances its own publishing company.

A newspaper wields its power unfavorably to reinforce the status quo.

Correct answer:

A political candidate changes his stance to reflect his or her constituents’ opinions.

Explanation:

The author’s main argument in the first paragraph is that ministers’ opinions are shaped by their congregations, and that these elected church officials cater to the demands of the people who elect them. The scenario that would best support this argument would be another example of an elected leader changing his or her policies to suit the electorate, and this example can most nearly be found in a political candidate who changes stance to reflect his or her constituents’ opinions.

Example Question #2 : Social Science

Adapted from The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Émile Durkheim (trans. Joseph Ward Swain) (1915)

For a long time it has been known that the first systems of representations with which men have pictured to themselves the world and themselves were of religious origin. There is no religion that is not a cosmology at the same time that it is a speculation — upon divine things. If philosophy and the sciences were born of religion, it is because religion began by taking the place of the sciences and philosophy. But it has been less frequently- noticed that religion has not confined itself to enriching the human intellect, formed beforehand, with a certain number of ideas; it has contributed to forming the intellect itself. Men owe to it not only a good part of the substance of their knowledge, but also the form in which this knowledge has been elaborated.

At the roots of all our judgments there are a certain number of essential ideas which dominate all our intellectual life; they are what philosophers since Aristotle have called the categories of the understanding: ideas of time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality, etc. They correspond to the most universal properties of things. They are like the solid frame which encloses all thought; this does not seem to be able to liberate itself from them without destroying itself, for it seems that we cannot think of objects that are not in time and space, which have no number, etc. Other ideas are contingent and unsteady; we can conceive of their being unknown to a man, a society or an epoch ; but these others appear to be nearly inseparable from the normal working of the intellect. They are like the frame-work of the intelligence. Now when primitive religious belief s are systematically analysed, the principal categories are naturally found. They are born in religion and of religion; they are a product of religious thought.

Which of the following statements most clearly follows a parallel line of reasoning to the author's argument about religion?

Possible Answers:

As scientific research makes new discoveries, old beliefs must slowly fade away from public consciousness.

As a political ideology provides many answers, an ardent partisan will have a worldview largely shaped by his or her political party's beliefs.

As a difficult and complicated field of inquiry, any popular influence that philosophy has is limited.

As many children grow up to have different views from their parents, a parent's belief does little to shape a child's worldview.

As congregants disagree strongly in many churches, a religion does not have an especially strong pull over its adherents ideology.

Correct answer:

As a political ideology provides many answers, an ardent partisan will have a worldview largely shaped by his or her political party's beliefs.

Explanation:

The author argues that religion's framework of understanding is so strong and pervasive that a religious believer will be influenced by religion in every aspect of belief and thought. This pervasiveness, especially as it is not seen by the individual very clearly, is most similar to a political party providing a complete worldview for its members. Another way to think about this would be the more modern example of auto-tuners. Auto-tuners will take in any note and synthesize that note to fit into a musical key, therefore no note can interact with the auto-tuner without being altered by the key in which the auto-tuner is operating. Durkeim holds that the depth of religious thinking actually alters the interactions and ideas that come into contact with a person whose world view has been "tuned" to a certain kind of religious thinking.

Example Question #3 : Social Science

Passage adapted from Theodore Roosevelt's “Fourth Annual Message to Congress” (1904).

In dealing with the questions of immigration and naturalization it is indispensable to keep certain facts ever before the minds of those who share in enacting the laws. First and foremost, let us remember that the question of being a good American has nothing whatever to do with a man's birthplace any more than it has to do with his creed. In every generation from the time this Government was founded men of foreign birth have stood in the very foremost rank of good citizenship, and that not merely in one but in every field of American activity; while to try to draw a distinction between the man whose parents came to this country and the man whose ancestors came to it several generations back is a mere absurdity. Good Americanism is a matter of heart, of conscience, of lofty aspiration, of sound common sense, but not of birthplace or of creed. The medal of honor, the highest prize to be won by those who serve in the Army and the Navy of the United States decorates men born here, and it also decorates men born in Great Britain and Ireland, in Germany, in Scandinavia, in France, and doubtless in other countries also. In the field of statesmanship, in the field of business, in the field of philanthropic endeavor, it is equally true that among the men of whom we are most proud as Americans no distinction whatever can be drawn between those who themselves or whose parents came over in sailing ship or steamer from across the water and those whose ancestors stepped ashore into the wooded wilderness at Plymouth or at the mouth of the Hudson, the Delaware, or the James nearly three centuries ago. No fellow-citizen of ours is entitled to any peculiar regard because of the way in which he worships his Maker, or because of the birthplace of himself or his parents, nor should he be in any way discriminated against therefor. Each must stand on his worth as a man and each is entitled to be judged solely thereby.

There is no danger of having too many immigrants of the right kind. It makes no difference from what country they come. If they are sound in body and in mind, and, above all, if they are of good character, so that we can rest assured that their children and grandchildren will be worthy fellow-citizens of our children and grandchildren, then we should welcome them with cordial hospitality.

Based on the statement above, if Theodore Roosevelt were President of the United States today, which of the following policies would he be most likely to enact?

Possible Answers:

Unlimited immigration for people that pass a background check

Strict laws that allow only a limited number of immigrants from democratic countries

Strict immigration laws that allow only a few thousand immigrants into the United States each year

Immigration rights for people that have had at least one immediate family member in the United States for at least 20 years

Unlimited immigration regardless of a person's background or country of origin

Correct answer:

Unlimited immigration for people that pass a background check

Explanation:

Roosevelt's main point in this portion of his speech is that good American citizens can come from any country and have any set of beliefs as long as they are of good character. The two answers that most closely follow this point are, "Unlimited immigration for people that pass a background check," and "Unlimited immigration regardless of a person's background or country of origin." The three other answers directly oppose Roosevelt's theory as outlined. The key is in his repeated sentiment that "good character" is required to make a good American citizen. It can be inferred from this belief that Roosevelt would approve of a background check before granting citizenship instead of just allowing anyone to enter the US regardless of potential past crimes.

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