LSAT Logical Reasoning: Asteroids, Dinosaurs, and Volcanoes

LSAT Blog Logical Reasoning AsteroidsA list of Common LSAT Logical Reasoning Topics I wrote back in March contained "Dinosaur extinction, ice ages, volcanoes, and asteroids."

If you've done a couple of LSAT Logical Reasoning sections, you've probably seen a question or two on this topic. If you didn't believe that scientists actually make logical fallacies like the ones you've seen on the LSAT, prepare to be blown away.

An LSAT student of mine, Nick, (he also found an article I used in "LSAT Logic In The Economist"), pointed me to a National Science Foundation press release entitled, "New blow for dinosaur-killing asteroid theory."

Unfortunately for the National Science Foundation, the "blow" was not the exposure of a logical fallacy underlying the dinosaur-killing asteroid theory.

Instead, the press release actually commits a few logical fallacies.

Take a look at the press release and see if you can spot them. I'll dissect relevant portions of the press release below.


Flaw #1
At one site at El Penon, the researchers found 52 species present in sediments below the impact spherule layer, and counted all 52 still present in layers above the spherules..."We found that not a single species went extinct as a result of the Chicxulub impact," says Keller."
There might have been species other than those 52 prior to impact that simply were not found in that layer. Those species could have died off after impact, and we simply have no record of them ever existing, period.

Flaw #2
This conclusion should not come as too great a surprise, she says. None of the other great mass extinctions are associated with an impact, and no other large craters are known to have caused a significant extinction event.

She's saying it's not a surprise because they haven't found other asteroids to cause extinctions. Maybe previous studies have made flaws similar to the first one I note above. She's taking a lack of evidence found thus far as confirmation that there is no evidence.

Flaw #3
"We found that not a single species went extinct as a result of the Chicxulub impact," says Keller...Keller suggests that the massive volcanic eruptions at the Deccan Traps in India may be responsible for the extinction, releasing huge amounts of dust and gases that could have blocked out sunlight and brought about a significant greenhouse effect.

The asteroid's effect on the extinction could have been indirect and delayed. The asteroid's impact could have caused the volcanic eruptions that potentially led to the extinction.

Note: This post meshes incredibly well with PrepTest 10, Section 1, Question 15.

(You can find PrepTest 10 in 10 Actual Official LSAT PrepTests, which I've reviewed in the Best LSAT Prep Books post.)

Photo by somebodysmom / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
(Didn't see a Creative Commons photo that included Asteroids, Dinosaurs, and Volcanoes all in one photo.)


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