June 2013 LSAT, LR1, Q5, decaffeinated coffee and arthritis

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project Michael Bleicher got rejected by Berkeley one Friday afternoon and then, on the very same Friday, got the "you're in" call from Harvard. He's one of two of my LSAT students headed to Harvard this fall. If I wasn't an atheist, I'd probably say something banal like "every time God closes one door, He opens another." Instead, I'll say that Michael more than deserves that berth at Harvard. He's earned it, by busting his ass. He has great grades, a great LSAT score, a great personal statement, and I had a great time working with him. Harvard is lucky to have him.

Guest blogger: Michael Bleicher


So, the argument here depends upon the assumption that correlation equals causation. Before we look at any of the answer choices, let's think about this. The journalist assumes that the higher likelihood of decaffeinated coffee drinkers' developing arthritis results from something damaging in decaf coffee. That's one possibility, of course, but it's a huge leap to conclude that decaf must contain “something that damages connective tissue.” What are some other possibilities? Well, it could be that caffeine contains something that helps connective tissue. Decaf coffee drinkers wouldn't be getting that benefit, and so their likelihood of developing arthiritis increases. If we had some evidence that caffeine strengthens connective tissue, that would help us evaluate””and disprove””the journalist's assertion that decaf damages connective tissue, rather than being completely neutral. Now we're ready to look at the answer choices. This is a relatively rare type of question, where we're asked to identify an additional fact that would be helpful in evaluating the journalist's argument.

A. This isn't relevant. Exercise might help ward off arthritis, but that doesn't explain anything””and it doesn't even mention caffeinated beverages. Cross this off.

B. The question specifies that we're talking about people who drink three cups per day, regular or decaf. So the number of cups isn't relevant, either.

C. This looks good. If we knew that caffeine and other stimulants slow the degeneration of connective tissue, then we could call BS on the journalist's conclusion that the decaf coffee contains something damaging to connective tissue.

D. Again, we don't care if most coffee drinkers drink more than three cups per day. Cross this off.

E. This isn't about people who have arthritis; it's about people who are likely to develop arthritis. They could stop drinking coffee once they have it, but if they drank three cups a day for the previous twenty years... this doesn't help us evaluate the argument at all. Cross it off.

Just like that, we're left with only one answer choice, C, that would help us to evaluate the journalist's argument. Let's go with that.

From Michael: "I'm a San Francisco native and about-to-be 1L at Harvard Law. I love history, rhythm guitar, writing satirical articles, and drawing cartoons. I went from dreading the logic games to relying on them, with Nathan's help, but probably most enjoy getting into arguments with the characters who populate the Logical Reasoning section."

Please ask questions and/or suggest corrections to anything that seems confusing... we want to make this the best resource we can for LSAT students. We'll have all the June 2013 explanations up as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading. Tell your friends! --nathan

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project