IMAT 2014 Q1 [Conclusion | Viruses]

Over 30 years ago, the smallpox virus was eradicated (removed) from the natural environment, but examples of it are still preserved in two laboratories. It is planned, however, to destroy these remaining viruses. Given that this will be the first example of a deliberate destruction of an entire species, we should think again before destroying these viruses. Years ago we thought we had the right to kill as many creatures as we liked, but now we realise we have no such right. Furthermore, we cannot know the futureÍľ we cannot justify destroying something that could be of enormous value to us one day, valuable in ways we cannot even think of now. And anyway, what possible harm can captive viruses do to us?

Which one of the following best expresses the main conclusion of the above argument?

A. We cannot justify destroying something which may one day be valuable to us.

B. Captive smallpox viruses are not going to harm us.

C. The deliberate destruction of an entire species should never be allowed.

D. The planned destruction of the smallpox virus should be given more thought.

E. We do not have the right to destroy the smallpox virus.

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Key Steps

  • Read the question (do this for every question!)
  • Read the passage
  • In your own words, make a conclusion for the passage. What is the author’s main idea?
  • Find a sentence in the text that matches the conclusion you made, and underline it.
    • Keep an eye out for giveaway words and phrases
  • Find an answer that matches the underlined sentence.

This passage is centred around the destruction of smallpox, and why the author thinks it should be given more thought before being destroyed. This is the conclusion of the text: “we should think again before destroying these viruses”. The author does not say that we should not destroy them, instead, they say only that it needs to be given more thought. This is important to realize because it will rule out a few of the answer options. Let’s look at the options:

A We cannot justify destroying something which may one day be valuable to us:

This is a difficult choice to eliminate because it makes sense and is written in the text. The argument however is specific to the smallpox virus, and this answer choice is providing support to the main conclusion; that this planned destruction of smallpox should be given more thought. It helps reinforce this statement but alone, this answer choice is not a conclusion. Therefore A is incorrect.

B Captive smallpox viruses are not going to harm us:

This is another supporting piece of evidence for the actual conclusion. This is a reason why we should rethink the destruction of the virus because it could have scientific value but there is no harm in the captive conditions. On its own, this answer option is not reinforced in the text and this is indicative that it is a side piece of evidence to help another conclusion. Therefore B is incorrect.

C The deliberate destruction of an entire species should never be allowed:

This is a false conclusion. The author does not say that the deliberate destruction of an entire species should never be allowed, they just say that since it is the first time this will happen, it should be given more thought. If the verdict at the end is to destroy smallpox, so be it. Therefore C is incorrect.

D The planned destruction of the smallpox virus should be given more thought:

The author states this in the text and then provides supporting arguments to back it up. This is the conclusion because the author believes that there is little risk (does not believe captive viruses could cause us harm) and potential reward (could be of enormous value to us one day). These are the reasons the author concludes that we should rethink the destruction of this virus. Therefore D is correct.

E We do not have the right to destroy the smallpox virus:

This is another incorrect answer for the same reason as C. The author just wants the decision to be given more thought, but if it is destroyed in the end, the author gives the impression that he would be fine with it as well. The author says in the past we had killed as many creatures as we liked, but now we have no such right. This does not mean we do not have the right to kill creatures, just not as freely as before. This is why the author wants us to give the destruction of smallpox more thought. Therefore E is incorrect as well.