CAT Critical Reasoning Practice question with Solution 25

There is no reason why the work of scientists has to be officially confirmed before being published. There is a system in place for the confirmation or disconfirmation of scientific finding, namely, the replication of results by other scientists. Poor scientific work on the part of any one scientist, which can include anything from careless reporting practices to fraud, is not harmful. It will be exposed and rendered harmless when other scientists conduct the experiments and obtain disconfirmatory results.

Which one of the following, if true, would weaken the argument?

[A]. Scientific experiments can go unchallenged for many years before they are replicated.
[B]. Most scientists work in universities, where their work is submitted to peer review before publication.
[C]. Most scientists are under pressure to make their work accessible to the scrutiny of replication.
[D]. In scientific experiments, careless reporting is more common than fraud.
[E]. Most scientists work as part of a team rather than alone.
Answer: A

The author boldly announces her conclusion in the first sentence, which claims that requiring official confirmation of scientific work serves no purpose at all. For evidence, the author notes that poor scientific work will be exposed if other scientists conduct the same experiments. That’s great, but how long will it take to expose shoddy work? If scientific experiments can go unchallenged for years before they are replicated (choice (A)), then bad scientific work could be in circulation causing damage for quite a while before it is eventually retracted. This, contrary to the author’s contention, would give us a reason to prefer official confirmation of scientific findings. (A) weakens the argument.

(B), if anything, could only strengthen the argument. If most scientific work is subject to peer review, then “official confirmation” would seem less necessary, and the author’s conclusion would seem more reasonable.

(C) is perfectly in line with the author’s ideas—the author believes that replication is the way to expose bad science. However, this leaves open the time-frame problem identified in

(A) how long will it take to discover potentially harmful mistakes?

(D) offers an irrelevant distinction which has no bearing on the argument. It matters not in the least which one of the stated causes of poor scientific work, careless reporting or fraud, is more prevalent.

(E) is mostly irrelevant, but like (B), would, if anything, strengthen the argument. If most scientists work as part of a team, then their work would probably be reviewed by other scientists in that team, which would make official confirmation seem less necessary. A convoluted argument, but in any case, (E) is certainly no weakener.

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