IMAT 2018 Q12 [Argument | Public Health]

Recent research in the USA has found that areas with more dentists per person have much lower rates of obesity than neighbouring areas of similar population size. Clearly, public health authorities concerned with obesity rates should focus more resources on the provision of dental care. Dentists are a neglected asset in the struggle against the serious health problems associated with obesity.

Which one of the following is the best statement of the flaw in the above argument?

A. It assumes dental care in the USA is somewhat similar to that found elsewhere.

B. It assumes that obesity rates should be a priority concern for public health authorities.

C. It ignores factors that might prevent public health authorities from spending more on obesity and related conditions.

D. It ignores the fact that help and advice concerning obesity can be delivered in a variety of ways.

E. It assumes that a higher number of dentists causes lower obesity rates.

Reminder:

  • Read the question first
  • Read the passage
  • Find the conclusion, highlight keywords
  • Find assumptions that the argument lies on
  • Attack these assumptions with the answer options
  • Discard any invalid options and you’ll have your answer

This is a classic example of cause vs correlation. We can very clearly understand that obesity and dental care are not related, and the text has not provided any concrete evidence to prove this. It is important to not drag in background knowledge, but this does not require background knowledge to tell that this author is making an unfounded conclusion relating two things together with no evidence. First, let’s refresh what is the difference between correlation and causation:

Correlation is not causation

What is the difference?

Causation means that one thing directly causes another (this is good evidence).
Correlation is relating two things without much background or evidence, it is possible there is a coincidence or a common factor (ex. Shark attacks are more common on people who ate ice cream that day. But this is a correlation because there are common factors. Most people go to the beach on a hot day, and on a hot day, you are more likely to buy ice cream. It being a hot day relates to the urge to buy ice cream and go to the beach, where the shark attack will occur).

This is mind, let’s find an answer that exposes this:

A. It assumes dental care in the USA is somewhat similar to that found elsewhere.

This is irrelevant, the passage is specific to the USA as this is where the research was done. There is nothing generalizing this to other areas or saying it is different here than anywhere else. Therefore A is incorrect.

B. It assumes that obesity rates should be a priority concern for public health authorities.

It addresses the public health authorities specifically concerned with obesity: ‘Public health authorities concerned with obesity rates’. So clearly this is not a flaw because they are the people responsible for it, it does not say what priority it is in terms of all health officials because it only addresses those affected. Therefore B is incorrect.

C. It ignores factors that might prevent public health authorities from spending more on obesity and related conditions.

This is not the best statement of the flaw although it does seem logical. The fact that the author thinks that dental care is the magical cure to lowering obesity in certain areas shows that there is a large flaw in his logic. This is completely unfounded and he has no evidence. So this is what we need to attack.

D. It ignores the fact that help and advice concerning obesity can be delivered in a variety of ways.

This is an irrelevant answer and it is not the focus of our argument. Similar to C, we need to attack the relationship the author is making between obesity and dental care. Therefore D is incorrect.

E. It assumes that a higher number of dentists causes lower obesity rates.

This is the main flaw in the argument, there is no relationship between correlation and causation. We have no evidence that links dental care to the reduction in obesity in these regions. We have correlation, which is when two things are related but we do not really have evidence that shows one causes the other. This means we are missing causation. Therefore E is correct because it exposes the correlation not being linked to a cause.