Bristol Palin, Causal Fallacy and LSAT Logic

Bristol Palin is still on Dancing with the Stars and not everyone is happy about it, as evinced by the 67-year-old Wisconsin man who shot his television with a rifle upon learning the news.

Billed as a “teen activist”, Bristol has survived despite scoring the fewest points for her dancing ability four weeks in a row.  This means that audience votes that are saving her.  But who’s voting for her, and why?  Some say it’s her supporters’ social networking savvy.  Bristol herself contends it’s because she’s “not Hollywood” and is relatable.

The controversy at this point more than passingly resembles an LSAT question.  Here’s how the argument (according to Bristol) breaks down.

I’m relatable to many voters.

____________________

Therefore, many people are voting for me.

Is this a valid argument?  As Whitney Houston would say “hell to the no”.  First, there’s an awfully large assumption here:  namely that because voters like an aspect of a candidate, that means they’ll vote for the candidate.  I might love everything about Obama’s stances on various issues, but that doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily get off the couch to vote for him in 2012.  (It depends on whether or not there’s a new episode of Glee that night).

In addition, the argument depends on a cause and effect relationship.  As we all know, causal arguments should always be viewed with skepticism on the LSAT.  This is because it’s easy to weaken them by introducing an alternative cause.  For instance, if I claim that I gained weight due to a slow metabolism, a possible (and far more likely) alternate cause might be undue doughnut consumption.  Or the chips and guacamole Chipotle makes that I swear have crack in them.

In the case of Bristol Palin, it’s not necessarily her relatability that’s causing people to vote for her.  Indeed, the obvious alternative cause sits in the front row during the show wearing rectangular glasses and singing the praises of Alaska.  Perhaps the votes are coming from people who are Sarah Palin supporters.

The moral?  Always look for an alternative cause when faced with a cause and effect relationship on the LSAT.  That, and it just may be better to have a famous mother than a good rhumba.

This article is provided by Jodi Triplett of Blueprint LSAT Prep.  Now with live LSAT prep courses in California, New York, Boston, DC, Philadelphia, and Phoenix!

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