LSAT Reading : Strengthen or Weaken Argument in Social Science Passages

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Example Question #1 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

Adapted from the third volume of The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1782)

The spectator who casts a mournful view over the ruins of ancient Rome, is tempted to accuse the memory of the Goths and Vandals, for the mischief which they had neither leisure, nor power, nor perhaps inclination, to perpetrate. The tempest of war might strike some lofty turrets to the ground; but the destruction which undermined the foundations of those massy fabrics was prosecuted, slowly and silently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of interest, that afterwards operated without shame or control, were severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian. The decay of the city had gradually impaired the value of the public works. The circus and theaters might still excite, but they seldom gratified, the desires of the people: the temples, which had escaped the zeal of the Christians, were no longer inhabited, either by gods or men; the diminished crowds of the Romans were lost in the immense space of their baths and porticos; and the stately libraries and halls of justice became useless to an indolent generation, whose repose was seldom disturbed, either by study or business. The monuments of consular, or Imperial, greatness were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient than the distant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addressed to the easy magistrates of Rome, which stated the want of stones or bricks, for some necessary service: the fairest forms of architecture were rudely defaced, for the sake of some paltry, or pretended, repairs; and the degenerate Romans, who converted the spoil to their own emolument, demolished, with sacrilegious hands, the labors of their ancestors. Majorian, who had often sighed over the desolation of the city, applied a severe remedy to the growing evil.

He reserved to the prince and senate the sole cognizance of the extreme cases which might justify the destruction of an ancient edifice; imposed a fine of fifty pounds of gold (two thousand pounds sterling) on every magistrate who should presume to grant such illegal and scandalous license, and threatened to chastise the criminal obedience of their subordinate officers, by a severe whipping, and the amputation of both their hands. In the last instance, the legislator might seem to forget the proportion of guilt and punishment; but his zeal arose from a generous principle, and Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of those ages, in which he would have desired and deserved to live. The emperor conceived that it was his interest to increase the number of his subjects; and that it was his duty to guard the purity of the marriage-bed: but the means which he employed to accomplish these salutary purposes are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable, kind. The pious maids, who consecrated their virginity to Christ, were restrained from taking the veil till they had reached their fortieth year. Widows under that age were compelled to form a second alliance within the term of five years, by the forfeiture of half their wealth to their nearest relations, or to the state. Unequal marriages were condemned or annulled. The punishment of confiscation and exile was deemed so inadequate to the guilt of adultery, that, if the criminal returned to Italy, he might, by the express declaration of Majorian, be slain with impunity.

Which of the following statements, if shown to be true, would most detract from the author's conclusions about the destruction of buildings and monuments?

Possible Answers:

A poll of the city from the dates in question revealed the popular opinion to be that the most important buildings were in fact the temples, monuments, and consular buildings.

The city's plumbing was in some ways better than that of the modern world during the years in question.

During the period in question the quarries sold more stone than in the previous century. 

The amount of people visiting the temples at the time was actually quite high.

Several of the ministers for architecture had plans to reinvigorate the city.

Correct answer:

During the period in question the quarries sold more stone than in the previous century. 

Explanation:

The author states quite emphatically that “the monuments of consular, or Imperial, greatness were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient than the distant quarry.” Whilst some of the other statements would conflict with the author's argument, the one which would be most harmful to the author's conclusions would be that the quarries actually prospered during this time. If the quarries had prospered, then it would suggest that building occurred more often and demolishing to recycle cheap materials did not occur as much.

Example Question #2 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

Adapted from “Darwinism and History" by J. B. Bury in Evolution in Modern Thought by Haeckel, Thomson, Weisman, and Others (1917 ed.)

The conception of the history of man as a causal development meant the elevation of historical inquiry to the dignity of a science. Just as the study of bees cannot become scientific so long as the student's interest in them is only to procure honey or to derive moral lessons from the labors of "the little busy bee," so the history of human societies cannot become the object of pure scientific investigation so long as man estimates its value in pragmatical scales. Nor can it become a science until it is conceived as lying entirely within a sphere in which the law of cause and effect has unreserved and unrestricted dominion. On the other hand, once history is envisaged as a causal process, which contains within itself the explanation of the development of humanity from its primitive state to the point that it has reached, such a process necessarily becomes the object of scientific investigation and the interest in it is scientific curiosity.

At the same time, the instruments were sharpened and refined. Here Wolf, a philologist with historical instinct, was a pioneer. His Prolegomena to Homer (1795) announced new modes of attack. Historical investigation was soon transformed by the elaboration of new methods.

"Progress" involves a judgment of value, which is not involved in the conception of history as a "genetic" process. It is also an idea distinct from that of evolution. Nevertheless, it is closely related to the ideas that revolutionized history at the beginning of the last century; it swam into people's ken simultaneously; and it helped effectively to establish the notion of history as a continuous process and to emphasize the significance of time. Passing over earlier anticipations, I may point to a Discours of Turgot (1750), where history is presented as a process in which "the total mass of the human race" "marches continually though sometimes slowly to an ever increasing perfection." That is a clear statement of the conception which Turgot's friend Condorcet elaborated in the famous work, published in 1795, Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain. This work first treated with explicit fullness the idea to which a leading role was to fall in the ideology of the nineteenth century. Condorcet's book reflects the triumphs of the Tiers état, whose growing importance had also inspired Turgot; it was the political changes in the eighteenth century that led to the doctrine, emphatically formulated by Condorcet, that the masses are the most important element in the historical process. I dwell on this because, though Condorcet had no idea of evolution, the predominant importance of the masses was the assumption that made it possible to apply evolutional principles to history. And it enabled Condorcet himself to maintain that the history of civilization, a progress still far from being complete, was a development conditioned by general laws.

The assimilation of society to an organism, which was a governing notion in the school of Savigny, and the conception of progress, combined to produce the idea of an organic development, in which the historian has to determine the central principle or leading character. This is illustrated by the apotheosis of democracy in Tocqueville's Démocratie en Amérique, where the theory is maintained that "the gradual and progressive development of equality is at once the past and the future of the history of men." The same two principles are combined in the doctrine of Spencer (who held that society is an organism, though he also contemplated its being what he calls a "super-organic aggregate"), that social evolution is a progressive change from militarism to industrialism.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most weaken the author's main argument?

Possible Answers:

The progressive view of the nature of history was first articulated in the seventeenth century.

The progressive view of the nature of history is not universally used by all historians.

Alexis de Tocqueville had many detractors when he originally wrote his works.

There are many influential historians who do not come from the French academic tradition.

The nature of history is not a concern of every single historian.

Correct answer:

The progressive view of the nature of history was first articulated in the seventeenth century.

Explanation:

The primary argument made by the author is that the perception of history has moved in the direction of favoring the progressive view of history. In particular, the author concludes that this was a development made only in the early nineteenth century, after about one hundred and fifty years of other kinds of writing. Placing the origin of this idea in the seventeenth century would seriously complicate his argument.

Example Question #3 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

Adapted from Crime: Its Cause and Treatment by Clarence Darrow (1922)

The growth of the big cities has produced the child criminal. He is clearly marked and well-defined. He is always poor. Generally he has lost one or both parents in youth and has lived in the crowded districts where the home was congested. He has no adequate playground and he runs the streets or vacant, waste places. He associates and combines with others of his kind. He cannot or does not go to school. If he goes to school, he dreads to go and cannot learn the lessons in the books. He likes to loaf, just as all children like to play. He is often set to work. He has no trade and little capacity for skilled work that brings good wages and steady employment. He works no more than he needs to work. Every night and all the days that he can get are spent in idleness on the street with his "gang."

Many writers have classified the crimes that the boy commits. It is scarcely worth the while. He learns to steal or becomes a burglar largely for the love of adventure; he robs because it is exciting and may bring large returns. In his excursions to pilfer property he may kill, and then for the first time the State discovers that there is such a boy and sets in action the machinery to take his life. The city quite probably has given him a casual notice by arresting him a number of times and sending him to a juvenile prison, but it has rarely extended a hand to help him. Any man or woman who has fairly normal faculties, and can reason from cause to effect, knows that the crimes of children are really the crimes of the State and society which by neglect and active participation have made him what he is. When it is remembered that the man is the child grown up, it is equally easy to understand the adult prisoner.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most weaken the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

A majority of juvenile crimes are committed by children from rich homes.

Society has no interest in solving the root problems of juvenile crime.

Juvenile crime is a serious threat to both rural and urban areas.

The worst juvenile offenders often become the most serious adult criminal offenders.

Adult criminals have varying juvenile criminal records.

Correct answer:

A majority of juvenile crimes are committed by children from rich homes.

Explanation:

The author's main point is that juvenile crime is produced overwhelmingly in cities because juvenile crime stems from ills particular to cities. Chief among these is poverty and a lack of education that stems from poverty. If the evidence said that rich children were more likely to commit juvenile crime, then most of the author's argument would fall apart.

Example Question #4 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

Adapted from “The Hypocrisy of Puritanism” in Anarchism and Other Essays by Emma Goldman (1910)

Puritanism celebrated its reign of terror in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, destroying and crushing every manifestation of art and culture. It was the spirit of Puritanism which robbed Shelley of his children, because he would not bow to the dicta of religion. It was the same narrow spirit which alienated Byron from his native land, because that great genius rebelled against the monotony, dullness, and pettiness of his country. It was Puritanism, too, that forced some of England's freest women into the conventional lie of marriage: Mary Wollstonecraft and, later, George Eliot. And recently Puritanism has demanded another toll—the life of Oscar Wilde. In fact, Puritanism has never ceased to be the most pernicious factor in the domain of John Bull, acting as censor of the artistic expression of his people, and stamping its approval only on the dullness of middle-class respectability.

It is therefore sheer British jingoism that points to America as the country of Puritanic provincialism. It is quite true that our life is stunted by Puritanism, and that the latter is killing what is natural and healthy in our impulses. But it is equally true that it is to England that we are indebted for transplanting this spirit on American soil. It was bequeathed to us by the Pilgrim fathers. Fleeing from persecution and oppression, the Pilgrims of Mayflower fame established in the New World a reign of Puritanic tyranny and crime. The history of New England, and especially of Massachusetts, is full of the horrors that have turned life into gloom, joy into despair, naturalness into disease, honesty and truth into hideous lies and hypocrisies. The ducking-stool and whipping post, as well as numerous other devices of torture, were the favorite English methods for American purification.

Boston, the city of culture, has gone down in the annals of Puritanism as the "Bloody Town." It rivaled Salem, even, in her cruel persecution of unauthorized religious opinions. On the now famous Common a half-naked woman, with a baby in her arms, was publicly whipped for the crime of free speech; and on the same spot Mary Dyer, another Quaker woman, was hanged in 1659. In fact, Boston has been the scene of more than one wanton crime committed by Puritanism. Salem, in the summer of 1692, killed eighteen people for witchcraft. Nor was Massachusetts alone in driving out the devil by fire and brimstone. As Canning justly said: "The Pilgrim fathers infested the New World to redress the balance of the Old." The horrors of that period have found their most supreme expression in the American classic, The Scarlet Letter.

Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

Many other religious traditions have also banished art from societies and punished individuals who stepped past limits.

Puritanism placed strict limits on its adherents' behavior regarding drinking, socializing, and dating.

A large number of Puritan groups have been the patrons of excellent examples of fine art.

"Puritanism" is not a term that can apply to a single religious group, but rather a collective group of different religious groups.

Puritanism evolved into a religious tradition that stays out of the public sphere.

Correct answer:

A large number of Puritan groups have been the patrons of excellent examples of fine art.

Explanation:

The argument of the passage, stated forcefully by the author multiple times, is that Puritanism is a terrible force on art, culture, and society. In order to weaken the argument by the author, the statement needs to make Puritanism appear as an active positive force on art, culture, and society, which would be demonstrated if they had patronized a number of artists.

Example Question #5 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from Moral Principles in Education (1909) by John Dewey.

There cannot be two sets of ethical principles, one for life in the school, and the other for life outside of the school. As conduct is one, so also the principles of conduct are one. The tendency to discuss the morals of the school as if the school were an institution by itself is highly unfortunate. The moral responsibility of the school, and of those who conduct it, is to society. The school is fundamentally an institution erected by society to do a certain specific work,—to exercise a certain specific function in maintaining the life and advancing the welfare of society. The educational system which does not recognize that this fact entails upon it an ethical responsibility is derelict and a defaulter. It is not doing what it was called into existence to do, and what it pretends to do. Hence the entire structure of the school in general and its concrete workings in particular need to be considered from time to time with reference to the social position and function of the school.

The idea that the moral work and worth of the public school system as a whole are to be measured by its social value is, indeed, a familiar notion. However, it is frequently taken in too limited and rigid a way. The social work of the school is often limited to training for citizenship, and citizenship is then interpreted in a narrow sense as meaning capacity to vote intelligently, disposition to obey laws, etc. But it is futile to contract and cramp the ethical responsibility of the school in this way. The child is one, and he must either live his social life as an integral unified being, or suffer loss and create friction. To pick out one of the many social relations which the child bears, and to define the work of the school by that alone, is like instituting a vast and complicated system of physical exercise which would have for its object simply the development of the lungs and the power of breathing, independent of other organs and functions. The child is an organic whole, intellectually, socially, and morally, as well as physically. We must take the child as a member of society in the broadest sense, and demand for and from the schools whatever is necessary to enable the child intelligently to recognize all his social relations and take his part in sustaining them.

Which of the following statements would most strengthen the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

Educational leaders believe that citizenship is being taught in a completely appropriate manner in schools.

Approaches to moral and ethical instruction varies widely between different schools.

Educational reformers seek to transform modes of education in a variety of ways.

Surveys show that students do not feel they are well prepared to play a role in society.

Most schools include a course on government, civics, or ethics as part of a required curriculum.

Correct answer:

Surveys show that students do not feel they are well prepared to play a role in society.

Explanation:

The author's argument is that despite the widespread presence of moral and ethical instruction in schools, most of this education is done improperly and should be changed. The argument is most strengthened by anything that shows the widespread moral and ethical instruction in schools is greatly flawed. Thus, a survey of students that demonstrates they do not feel they are prepared to join society from their schooling would greatly strengthen the argument.

Example Question #6 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

"Luchador!" by William Floyd (2015)

In the United States, the form is usually referred to as “professional wrestling” or even “sports entertainment,” but in Mexico it goes by the simple moniker of “lucha libre,” Spanish for “free fighting.” The term is fitting, as the Mexican brand of wrestling features more high-flying maneuvers, more outrageous characters, and more over the top match stipulations than its US based counterpart. For the uninitiated, seeing a variety of masked men in spandex, referred to as luchadors, flying around a small arena would seem obviously entertaining, if only on a superficial or visceral level. Yet lucha libre is not merely a spectacle, but is instead woven into the very fabric of Mexican culture.

Take the biggest star of wrestling in the history of Mexico, El Santo. While officially born as a man named Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, he is known as “el enmascarado de plata, “the man in the silver mask.” El Santo was the biggest star of the squared circle across Mexico during the 1950s, but his star was based on more than his ring work. While the mask, common to many other luchadors, helped make Santo a different kind of wrestler, his appeal was broader than the entertainment of a regular wrestling show. His most famous rivalry was with a fellow masked luchador with a less sacred moniker, Blue Demon, adding a supernatural good vs. evil tone to the proceedings. Then he began appearing as a superhero in a series of comic books and films. These cheap, often over-the-top, films became some of the most popular in all of Mexican cinema. By 1960, Santo had gone from being the biggest wrestler in Mexico to the most significant cultural icon in the nation.

El Santo’s cultural relevance made his entire being sacrosanct, as he never removed his mask outside his home. When he had to travel internationally, he would not allow anyone in his private circle to come with him, for fear that they would see him when he had to take off his mask for customs officials. In 1984, El Santo went on the talk show Contrapunto and for the first time in his life, lifted up his mask to show his face to his adoring public. While only for a few seconds, the Mexican public finally saw the man behind the superhero. One week later he was dead from a heart attack. Without the mask, he was no longer able to fight off everyday human causes of death. In burial, however, he still wore his silver mask.

A Mexican luchador is more than a fighter, he is the representative of the themes which flow through the larger culture. El Santo was something more than a grappler, becoming Mexico’s version of Elvis, Superman, and Muhammad Ali, all rolled into one. For any resident of the United States, Hulk Hogan is a minor celebrity. For any Mexican, El Santo is a part of everyday life.

Which of the following arguments, if true, would most seriously weaken the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

A number of Mexican luchadors also never revealed their faces by taking off their masks.

Luchador films became a recognized genre in Mexican cinema after the success of El Santo's films.

The success of a luchador is highly dependent on the context of the athlete's career.

Lucha libre is not the most popular form of entertainment in Mexican culture today.

Many Mexican luchadors were even more popular than El Santo.

Correct answer:

Many Mexican luchadors were even more popular than El Santo.

Explanation:

The author's argument is that El Santo transcended the normal boundaries of professional wrestling stardom and became a significant cultural icon in Mexico. Anything that would cast doubt on El Santo's significance would be the statement which would most seriously weaken the author's argument. Therefore, the best answer choice is "Many Mexican luchadors were even more popular than El Santo."

Example Question #7 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

"Fandom" by William Floyd (2015)

The denizen of the bleacher seats is not a normal creature, separated from the regulations and expectations of polite society by a variety of factors, some of which are the fault of the person in the bleachers and some of which are a result of society’s own arm’s length stance to the regular sports fan. A person who decides that a Saturday or Sunday, or even sometimes both, is not reserved for family, friends, or regular errands, but is purposely saved for attending the extremely advanced version of a childhood game performed in a massive stadium by astonishingly well paid athletes.

The avid sports fan is easily spotted away from the stadium thanks to the peculiar form of dress preferred by the person who wishes to obsess over strangers playing a game. A crazed sports devotee will wear largely one color, sometimes two distinct colors, which are the same as those worn by the favored team. The avoidance of any other color is largely due to the wish to avoid looking like the fan of another team, especially a team’s chief rival. The cut of the clothing is largely plain, simple t-shirts and sweat shirts, which are made to emphasize the chosen color and the notably oversized logo.

The conversation of the sports obsessive is also unique, although to an uninformed ear it might sound like the usual chit-chat made by people in polite company. In actuality, there is an insider patois which obliterates any ability for a non-fan to comprehend this speech. Additionally, even the most basic facts have sharp opinions which need to be fiercely defended as though it is a matter of life and death.

The wildly devoted sports fan is also identifiable when the poor soul has had to be taken to some gathering where their preferred clothing is beyond the pale, such as a wedding or charity gala. Detached from their true obsession for a matter of hours, the sports obsessive will possess a forlorn look, trying to find some method by which they can extract themselves from the conversation of regular people to perhaps find a television that will show them their true desire. When they notice someone else with a similar look, they might ask a benign question about athletic pursuits. If the answer is the desired response, then their face will light up at having found their fellow traveler outside the universe they usually inhabit.

Which of the following pieces of evidence would most strengthen the author's argument in the passage?

Possible Answers:

A sociological study of the day in the life of an average sports fan.

A scientific study of sports fans' brains that shows they have different brain wave patterns.

An anecdote of a sports fan acting awkwardly and seeming out of step in a public place.

A survey of sports fans that shows they have a myriad of interests outside of sports.

A poll showing most people are enthusiastic sports fans.

Correct answer:

An anecdote of a sports fan acting awkwardly and seeming out of step in a public place.

Explanation:

The author's argument is essentially that sports fans have serious trouble fitting into regular society, and any piece of evidence that strengthens the argument needs to reflect this central idea. The only answer choice which does this is the "anecdote acting awkwardly and seeming out of step in a public place."

Example Question #3 : Effects Of New Information In Social Science Passages

Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone Speech” given in Savannah, Georgia, 3/21/1861.

Passage adapted from Henry Cleveland and Alexander H. Stephens', in Public and Private: With Letters and Speeches, Before, During, and Since the War (1886).

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.

Which of the following evidence, if true, would most weaken the author's main argument?

Possible Answers:

A diary entry from one of the founding fathers of the United States while writing the Constitution explaining an inherent assumption of equality for all men.

A passage from the Bible that states people of all races are equal in the eyes of God.

Scientific studies that declare African Americans to be the equal of whites in all aspects.

An encyclopedia documenting the scientific, artistic, historical and literary accomplishments of African Americans.

Correct answer:

A passage from the Bible that states people of all races are equal in the eyes of God.

Explanation:

At the end of the second paragraph, Stephens describes a disagreement over the principle of slavery he had with a Representative of the US Congress. In the disagreement, the Representative claimed that the South would ultimately have to admit the equality of African Americans because the equality of mankind was a principle of nature. Stephens' response was that "it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal." Clearly, Stephens believes that God decreed the inequality of African Americans. A passage from the Bible stating that men of all colors are equal in the eyes of God would shake this argument. Scientific studies and the opinions of other men, even someone like Thomas Jefferson, would not sway Stephens or those that agreed with him.

Example Question #8 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from The Untroubled Mind (1915) by Herbert J. Hall.

When I go about among my patients, most of them, as it happens, “nervously” sick, I sometimes stop to consider why it is they are ill. I know that some are so because of physical weakness over which they have no control, that some are suffering from the effects of carelessness, some from willfulness, and more from simple ignorance of the rules of the game. There are so many rules that no one will ever know them‌ all, but it seems that we live in a world of laws, and that if we transgress those laws by ever so little, we must suffer equally, whether our transgression is a mistake or not, and whether we happen to be saints or sinners. There are laws also which have to do with the recovery of poise and balance when these have been lost. These laws are less well observed and understood than those which determine our downfall.

The more gross illnesses, from accident, contagion, and malignancy, we need not consider here, but only those intangible injuries that disable people who are relatively sound in the physical sense. It is true that nervous troubles may cause physical complications and that physical disease very often coexists with nervous illness, but it is better for us now to make an artificial separation. Just what happens in the human economy when a “nervous breakdown” comes, nobody seems to know, but mind and body cooperate to make the‌ patient miserable and helpless. It may be nature’s way of holding us up and preventing further injury. The hold-up is severe, usually, and becomes in itself a thing to be managed.

The rules we have wittingly or unwittingly broken are often unknown to us, but they exist in the All-Wise Providence, and we may guess by our own suffering how far we have overstepped them. If a man runs into a door in the dark, we know all about that,—the case is simple,—but if he runs overtime at his office and hastens to be rich with the result of a nervous dyspepsia—that is a mystery. Here is a girl who “came out” last year. She was apparently strong and her mother was ambitious for her social progress. That meant four nights a week for several months at dances and dinners, getting home at 3 a.m. or later. It was gay and delightful while it lasted, but it could not last, and the girl went to pieces suddenly; her back gave out because it was not strong enough to stand the dancing and the long-continued physical strain. The nerves gave out because she did not give her faculties time to rest, and perhaps because of a love affair that supervened. The result was a year of invalidism, and then, because the rules of recovery were not understood, several years more of convalescence. Such common rules should be well enough understood, but they are broken everywhere by the wisest people.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most strengthen the author's overall argument?

Possible Answers:

Mental health patients frequently refuse to discuss their personal lives with their doctors.

Mental health diagnoses are usually seen as straightforward by well-trained medical professionals.

Very few medical professionals care about the personal lives of their patients.

Cases of nervous breakdowns frequently follow a consistent pattern across different times and locations.

Medical professionals often note that no two mental health cases present with the exact same symptoms.

Correct answer:

Medical professionals often note that no two mental health cases present with the exact same symptoms.

Explanation:

The author's main claim is that the diagnosis of mental breakdowns is quite complex and difficult to fully explain. If no two mental health cases present similarly, then this would strengthen the overall argument that mental health issues present for a variety of reasons and unfold in a number of different manners.

Example Question #9 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Social Science Passages

The desire for a good meal is a near universal fact of human existence. Yet precisely what makes a meal “good” is highly dependent on personal preferences, cultural traditions, and the particular circumstances surrounding the search for a satisfying dining experience. The quality of the food being eaten might not even be the number one criteria in making a diner find a meal enjoyable, although it would be the main driving force in choosing what to eat and why. Certainly, the environment plays a large part in creating feelings of satisfaction during a meal, as no one has ever enjoyed a meal in a mood of anxiety and stress or in a setting which was uncomfortable. Even the most basic meals are enhanced when they are served by beloved family members in a festive setting. Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners are always well remembered, even when the turkey and dressing are premade, reheated items. The principle of dining environment also extends to eating out, as a restaurant can serve mediocre food in a pleasant environment with tremendous service and do quite well for itself. Of course, the restaurant with remarkable service in an enjoyable setting that also has high quality food will beat everything. Well flavored and perfectly cooked food hits the basic pleasure centers of the brain in a straightforward way, and any good tasting food will make a person much happier and satisfied. If it comes from a roadside shack, a family diner, or a three star Michelin restaurant can make no difference to the tastebuds. The overall atmosphere and experience is what makes good food into a great meal, and what causes this transformation depends on the background of the individual doing the eating. A person born and raised in Alabama who grew up regularly going to a shack serving excellent barbecue in its back yard will consider this the ideal dining experience. A native Osakan who once a week went to a ramen shop will find slurping noodles to be impossible to surpass as a meal. Meanwhile, a native Lyonnais will desire the finest gastronomic creations served in the fanciest restaurants to be the only acceptable good dining experience. The beauty of human interaction with food is that it is both one of the most elementary and universal experiences of the human condition, while also being absolutely particular to an individual’s culture, experience, and desires.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most strengthen the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

People describe fond dining experiences at home very differently than well regarded experiences at restaurants.

Most restaurants fail as businesses within a year due to the difficult task of pleasing customers.

Classic steakhouses do the best business on special holidays, indicating a particular preference among diners for this style of restaurant.

Surveys show people do not have a consistent prefence in desired dining experiences regarding the type of food or kind of restaurant.

Restaurants keep those menu items which are diners' favorites in order to entice those diners to return for another meal.

Correct answer:

Surveys show people do not have a consistent prefence in desired dining experiences regarding the type of food or kind of restaurant.

Explanation:

The author's argument is best stated as being that a wide range of factors goes into making an enjoyable dining experience, and that there is not one kind of experience which will be enjoyed by every person. A statement which strengthens this argument must concur and add on to it, something which is only true of the answer choice "Surveys show people do not have a consistent prefence in desired dining experiences regarding the type of food or kind of restaurant."

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