GMAT Verbal : Analyzing Cause and Effect in Natural Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Narrative Science Passages

"Darwinism's Effect on Science" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

For much of the history of human thought, the sciences have studied subjects that seemed to be eternal and unchanging. Even the basic laws of the Nile’s flooding were investigated in the hopes of finding never-altering laws. Similarly, the scientific investigations of the ancient Near East and Greece into the regular laws of the stars ultimately looked for constant patterns. This overall pattern of scientific reasoning has left deep marks on the minds of almost all thinkers and found its apotheosis in modern physics. From the time of the early renaissance to the nineteenth century, physics represented the ultimate expression of scientific investigation for almost all thinkers. Its static laws appeared to be the unchanging principles of all motion and life on earth. By the nineteenth century, it had appeared that only a few details had to be “cleared up” before all science was basically known.

In many ways, this situation changed dramatically with the arrival of Darwinism. It would change even more dramatically in early twentieth-century physics as well. Darwin’s theories of evolution challenged many aspects of the “static” worldview. Even those who did not believe that a divine being created an unchanging world were shaken by the new vistas opened up to science by his studies. It had been a long-accepted inheritance of Western culture to believe that the species of living organisms were unchanging in nature. Though there might be many different kinds of creatures, the kinds themselves were not believed to change. The thesis of a universal morphing of types shattered this cosmology, replacing the old world-view with a totally new one. Among the things that had to change in light of Darwin’s work was the very view of science held by most people.

Consider the underlined sentence. What was the new “cosmology” that arose after Darwin’s day?

Possible Answers:

The view of the world as a changing reality with its own historical nature.

A completely areligious outlook on life.

None of the other answers

The belief that history was an important but secondary aspect of scientific studies.

The view of the world as an unchanging whole to be investigated by science.

Correct answer:

The view of the world as a changing reality with its own historical nature.


Throughout the second paragraph, the passage discusses again the "static" nature of the former scientific outlook. The new worldview was quite different. You can guess at the meaning of "cosmology" by noticing the contrast between it and "universal morphing of types." A "cosmology" is a particular outlook on the world or reality as a whole. The passage implies that Darwin's work made it necessary to see the world as a changing whole with its own history.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors