Getting ready for the LSAT? Use my day-by-day study plans and free LSAT videos to stay on track.

Save time by instantly downloading LSAT PrepTest PDFs and explanations.

December 2, 2010

LSAT Logic: The TSA's Body Scans and Pat-downs

LSAT Logic TSA Body ScansIf you traveled by plane for Thanksgiving, I hope you didn't get patted down too much (unless you wanted to be, of course).

I'm against the TSA's pat-downs at airports nationwide. Not because they're invasive, but because they deny lonely people their once-yearly groping as they travel during the holiday season.

There's been a lot of controversy over the pat-downs and body scans lately, and the holiday travel season's coming up. Let's take a quick look at a few flawed arguments on both sides of the debate from the LSAT perspective.

False Analogy

In favor of body scans:

"What's the big deal? If you don't complain when a doctor X-rays you, you shouldn't be complaining now."

The difference, of course, is that a doctor is someone you implicitly trust (I hope). A doctor is well-trained in operating X-ray equipment and usually X-rays only a specific portion of your body (placing a lead apron around other parts of your body to protect them from the radiation). Further, the X-ray is taken for the purpose of learning information that may help you.

In contrast, body scanners may expose your entire body to potentially-harmful doses of radiation and are operated by people who may be poorly-trained. Further, you've never met them and little reason to trust any of them over a random stranger. Additionally, you don't really stand to gain from having your own body screened in the first place. It's the screening of others screened that you stand to benefit from (since, dear reader, I presume you're not a terrorist).

In opposition to body scans:

"These scanners are like allowing strangers to see you completely naked."

Sadly, they don't seem to be quite that exciting, judging from the above photo supplied by the TSA.

In both examples above, the speakers are treating different situations as if they're similar.

In LSAT language:
"treats as similar two cases that are different in a critical respect."

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 29 (October 1999 LSAT), S4, Q25 (p43)
PrepTest 31 (June 2000 LSAT), S3, Q5 (p97)
PrepTest 33 (December 2000 LSAT), S3, Q15 (p172)

Ad Hominem Attack (Personal Attack)

In favor of body scans and pat-downs:

"These body scans and pat-downs can only make us more safe. All of you who are against it must just be ashamed of your own bodies."

There are plenty of reasons to be against the body scans and pat-downs aside from being shame of one's body.

Even if some opponents are ashamed of their own bodies, maybe they are also modest, have religious reasons for not having strangers touch them or look at them almost-naked, or simply don't want random people touching them or looking at them in intimate areas.

(Additionally, maybe the new security measures can make us less safe by directing attention and money away from more effective security measures.)

In opposition to body scans and pat-downs:

"I just saw a TSA employee leafing through Playboy, so there's no real security reason for these pat-downs and body scans. The TSA employees just want to grab our junk and see us all almost naked."

First of all, leafing through Playboy doesn't necessarily make one a pervert. After all, it has great articles.

Further, even if it makes that employee a pervert, that doesn't necessarily mean all TSA employees are perverts. (This is a different flaw - the fallacy of composition.)

The major flaw in the above argument that I want to address here is simply that even if the TSA is filled with perverts, that doesn't guarantee that there aren't sufficient reasons for the pat-downs and body scans. It probably just means that, if they are perverts, and there are sufficient reasons for the pat-downs and body scans, you probably want someone else conducting them.

In LSAT language:
"rejects a claim by attacking the proponents of the claim rather than addressing the claim itself"
"attack employers' motives instead of addressing their arguments"
"criticizing the source of a claim rather than examining the claim itself"

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 19 (June 1996 LSAT), S2, Q14 (p24)
PrepTest 26 (June 1998 LSAT), S4, Q4 (p241)
PrepTest 32 (October 2000 LSAT), S2, Q6 (p139)
PrepTest 34 (June 2001 LSAT), S2, Q1 (p194)

Appeal to Popular Opinion

In favor of body scans and pat-downs:

"The public has demonstrated its willingness to subject itself to these security measures. Therefore, it's fine to go ahead with them."

In opposition to body scans and pat-downs:

"Everyone hates these new TSA security measures. The TSA must stop them immediately."

Whether the public is in favor of, or in opposition to, the security measures has no bearing on whether they are effective or necessary for airport security.

In LSAT language:
"taking evidence that a claim is believed to be true to constitute evidence that the claim is in fact true"

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 28 (June 1999 LSAT), S1, Q9 (p324)
PrepTest 32 (October 2000 LSAT), S4, Q13 (p141)


  1. How about:

    "This is simply one of the sacrifices we must make if we want to keep our country safe."


    1. This sacrifice will, in fact, make us safer.

    A) previous attempts at terrorism have included many methods of smuggling that are not detected by enhanced patdowns (rectal insertions for example).
    B) Blanket approaches like this will trip up the dedicated and trained person attempting to smuggle bombs or other bad stuff.
    C) Installing these in only US airports (and not even a majority of those) will deter terrorists and make us safer.
    D) There are no less invasive sacrifices that may be more effective to use.

    Not to mention the groping/photos of children (aren't there child-porn laws?), the reactionary responses of the TSA, and the assurance that same-sex patdowns are somehow a mitigating factor.

  2. I suggest everyone opt for the manual scan as an act of protest - because if everyone opted for the manual scan there simply wouldn't be enough time (especially at large and busy airports) to get everyone through security in time to make their flights and if people started missing their flights because of this nonsense, TSA would have to find alternatives to their invasive security methods.