QUESTION TYPE: Flaw
CONCLUSION: It is impossible for there to be real evidence that lax radiation standards at nuclear reactors caused cancer.
REASONING: Who can say what causes a particular case of cancer?
ANALYSIS: This argument makes a common error. It’s very hard to say what causes an individual case of cancer. But if I see very high rates of cancer in the population around a nuclear power plant then maybe I could find some evidence that radiation was the cause.
We can have evidence that radiation increases the likelihood of cancer in a population even if it’s impossible to pinpoint causes in an individual.
- CORRECT. Statistical evidence refers to cancer rates in the whole population. That could let us blame radiation standards.
- Actually the argument is assuming that what follows (cancer) was not caused by what came before (radiation). Or at least it’s assuming we can never find evidence.
- The argument hasn’t specified what caused a particular case. It actually said we can never specify the cause of a particular case.
- This would be a criticism of someone who thought that the radiation did cause cancer. This columnist says he has no clue what causes it.
- The columnist did not say that radiation did not cause cancer. He said we could never have real evidence to prove it.
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