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CAT 2021 Reading Comprehension Solution 05

[PASSAGE]

Direction for Reading Comprehension: The passages given here are followed by some questions that have four answer choices; read the passage carefully and pick the option whose answer best aligns with the passage.

Many people believe that truth conveys power. . . . Hence sticking with the truth is the best strategy for gaining power. Unfortunately, this is just a comforting myth. In fact, truth and power have a far more complicated relationship, because in human society, power means two very different things.

On the one hand, power means having the ability to manipulate objective realities: to hunt animals, to construct bridges, to cure diseases, to build atom bombs. This kind of power is closely tied to truth. If you believe a false physical theory, you won't be able to build an atom bomb. On the other hand, power also means having the ability to manipulate human beliefs, thereby getting lots of people to cooperate effectively. Building atom bombs requires not just a good understanding of physics, but also the coordinated labor of millions of humans. Planet Earth was conquered by Homo sapiens rather than by chimpanzees or elephants, because we are the only mammals that can cooperate in very large numbers. And large-scale cooperation depends on believing common stories. But these stories need not be true. You can unite millions of people by making them believe in completely fictional stories about God, about race or about economics. The dual nature of power and truth results in the curious fact that we humans know many more truths than any other animal, but we also believe in much more nonsense. . . .

When it comes to uniting people around a common story, fiction actually enjoys three inherent advantages over the truth. First, whereas the truth is universal, fictions tend to be local. Consequently if we want to distinguish our tribe from foreigners, a fictional story will serve as a far better identity marker than a true story. . . . The second huge advantage of fiction over truth has to do with the handicap principle, which says that reliable signals must be costly to the signaler. Otherwise, they can easily be faked by cheaters. . . . If political loyalty is signalled by believing a true story, anyone can fake it. But believing ridiculous and outlandish stories exacts greater cost, and is therefore a better signal of loyalty. . . . Third, and most important, the truth is often painful and disturbing. Hence if you stick to unalloyed reality, few people will follow you. An American presidential candidate who tells the American public the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about American history has a 100 percent guarantee of losing the elections. . . . An uncompromising adherence to the truth is an admirable spiritual practice, but it is not a winning political strategy. . . .

Even if we need to pay some price for deactivating our rational faculties, the advantages of increased social cohesion are often so big that fictional stories routinely triumph over the truth in human history. Scholars have known this for thousands of years, which is why scholars often had to decide whether they served the truth or social harmony. Should they aim to unite people by making sure everyone believes in the same fiction, or should they let people know the truth even at the price of disunity?


Question: 1

The central theme of the passage is about the choice between:

  1. truth and power.

  2. leaders who unknowingly spread fictions and those who intentionally do so.

  3. stories that unite people and those that distinguish groups from each other.

  4. attaining social cohesion and propagating objective truth.

Option: 4
Solution:

This is a very simple passage to read. The passage primarily discussed power from two different perspectives, the first perspective is power as objective truth, and the second perspective is power as a tool of manipulation in order to get people together for a particular purpose. The question asks us to pick the central theme of the passage. Option 4 is the best choice. The scientist, the scholar, and the politician have to choose one between attaining social cohesion and propagating objective truth. Option 1 is close, but it is not truth alone, but truth in the objective sense that the passage is concerned with. 2 is nowhere the concern of the passage. 3 is not the central theme.


Question: 2

Regarding which one of the following quotes could we argue that the author overemphasises the importance of fiction?

  1. "In fact, truth and power have a far more complicated relationship, because in human society, power means two very different things."

  2. "Hence sticking with the truth is the best strategy for gaining power. Unfortunately, this is just a comforting myth."

  3. "On the one hand, power means having the ability to manipulate objective realities: to hunt animals, to construct bridges, to cure diseases, to build atom bombs."

  4. ". . . scholars often had to decide whether they served the truth or social harmony. Should they aim to unite people by making sure everyone believes in the same fiction, or should they let people know the truth . . ."

Option: 4
Solution:

To answer this question, we have to read the last paragraph in context. In the last paragraph, we read "even if we need to pay some price for deactivating our rational faculties, the advantages of increased social cohesion are so big that fictional stories triumph over the truth..." The author towards the end of last paragraph emphasizes on the importance of social cohesion and unity. Option 4 is the last sentence of the last paragraph. Thus 4 is the best choice. 1 only talks about the complicated relationship, without emphasising on fiction or truth. In 2, the author emphasizes truth, not fiction. 3 is correct, but it is the power of truth in the objective sense, not the fictional sense.


Question: 3

The author would support none of the following statements about political power EXCEPT that:

  1. manipulating people's beliefs is politically advantageous, but a leader who propagates only myths is likely to lose power.

  2. there are definite advantages to promoting fiction, but there needs to be some limit to a pervasive belief in myths.

  3. while unalloyed truth is not recommended, leaders should stay as close as possible to it.

  4. people cannot handle the unvarnished truth, so leaders retain power by deviating from it.

Option: 4
Solution:

Here we have to pick the option that the author would support, rejecting the ones that he would not. From second last paragraph, we can say that the author is in favour of propagating political myths. Thus, the author would not support 1. 2 has the same issues as 1, the author nowhere says that there has to be some limit to pervasive belief in myths. 3 again has the same flaw. 4 is the best choice and is amply illustrated by the author in the second last paragraph.


Question: 4

The author implies that, like scholars, successful leaders:

  1. know how to balance truth and social unity.

  2. use myths to attain the first type of power.

  3. today know how to create social cohesion better than in the past.

  4. need to leverage both types of power to remain in office.

Option: 1
Solution:

From the last paragraph we can easily derive option 1. The first type of power is about objective truth which falls in the domain of science, not politics. It is the second type of power that falls in the domain of politics, the power of manipulating people to achieve social cohesion. Option 1 talks about that second type of power which successful leaders try to seek. Option 2 goes out because it is meant for scientists and scholars, not politicians. Option 3 goes out because there is no such comparison between past and present. 4 looks good but the issue is that it is not applicable to scholars, because they don't hold on to office. The question asks us to pick a choice that is common to both "like scholars, successful leaders...". The point of similarity is 1, not 4.

           


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