Early in this century, Alfred Wegener developed the concept of continental drift. His ideas were rejected vehemently because he postulated no identifiable force strong enough to make the continents move. We have come to accept Wegener’s theory, not because we have pinpointed such a force, but because new instruments have finally allowed continental movement to be confirmed by observation.

The passage best illustrates which one of the following statements about science?

[A]. The aim of science is to define the manifold of nature within the terms of a single harmonious theory.
[B]. In a accepting a mathematical description of nature, science has become far more accurate at identifying underlying forces.
[C]. The paradox of science is that every improvement in its measuring instruments seems to make adequate theories harder to work out.
[D]. Science, employing statistics and the laws of probability, is concerned not with the single event but with mass behaviour.
[E]. When the events a theory postulates are detected, the theory is accepted even without an explanation of how those events are brought about.
Answer: E

Wegener’s continental drift theory is widely accepted, we’re told, despite the fact that we don’t know why the continents move. We do however know that they move—the motion has been confirmed—and that is evidently good enough for the scientific community. Each element of (E) matches up to the passage: The “theory” is Wegener’s; the events postulated are continental movements; and the explanation for same is what the author has told us is missing.

(A) illustrates why science might accept a single theory that defines all of nature, but such a theory is not Wegener’s. (A) fails to explain why this one particular theory has caught on despite the absence of some key evidence.

(B) The “mathematical nature” stuff has no counterpart in the passage, nor does the issue of science’s overall accuracy.

(C) Well, the one measuring improvement we hear about—the one that allows science to confirm the movement of continents—has made it easier, not harder, for Wegener’s theory to take hold.

(D) evokes an irrelevant distinction between single events vs. mass behaviour, one that has nothing to do with the topic and scope of the stimulus discussion.

With such questions, you must pay careful attention to topic and scope—you need to match up each key element of the situation to the statements in the choices.

Previous QuestionNext Question