QUESTION TEXT: The northern cardinal, a nonmigratory songbird…
QUESTION TYPE: Weaken
CONCLUSION: Warmer winters probably caused the increase in Nova Scotia’s northern cardinal.
REASONING: The northern cardinal’s range didn’t extend to Nova Scotia – they used to be rare in that province. Now they are common in Nova Scotia, and winters are warmer.
ANALYSIS: This argument has merely established a correlation between warmer temperatures and songbird populations. Whenever there is a correlation, there are four possibilities:
- Warmer temperatures caused more songbirds.
- More songbirds caused warmer temperatures. (unlikely!)
- Some third factor caused both warmer temperatures and songbirds.
- It’s a coincidence. Another factor caused the increase in songbirds.
The argument is arguing #1. To weaken the argument, point out one of the alternatives. Numbers 2 and 3 are very unlikely in this case, so the answer will probably just give another reason the northern cardinal became common (#4).
- CORRECT. This shows that northern cardinals have more food during Nova Scotia’s winters.
(A wintering bird is a bird that stays in a place for the winter. Such as Northern Cardinals.)
- This has always been true. We need a change in a factor in order to explain the change in northern cardinal populations.
- This might indicate that there was a common cause to the population increase. But the common cause could be a warmer winter! This doesn’t weaken the argument.
- Why would we care about such a comparison? This type of answer is almost never right. Also, this answer just tells us about the overall category “nonmigratory birds”. It doesn’t necessarily tell us about Northern Cardinals.
- This tells us nothing. Despite the increase in predators, we know that the Northern Cardinal population did increase.
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