Resolve the Paradox
In these questions you will have an argument with two statements that seem to be contradictory and you’ll be asked to explain this discrepancy, or resolve the paradox. Your job is to find the answer choice that demonstrates how the statements can be reconciled.
Resolve the paradox questions usually have the following forms:
Which of the following, if true, would best explain the discrepancy above?
Which of the following statements, if true, would best resolve the paradox…?
The paradox above would be resolved if which of the following were true?
Which of the following, if true, contributes most to an explanation of the facts presented in the argument?
Consider the following example:
A recent archeological expedition in Northern Asia revealed a great number of skeletons of animals that died about 1000 years ago. Further research indicated that all skeletons were subject to temperatures in excess of 300 degrees Celsius. This fact provided grounds for speculation that they were killed and cooked by tribes which lived in Northern Asia at that time. However, some of the skeletons belonged to animals which were considered sacred by those tribes and were never hunted or eaten.
Which of the following best explains the apparent discrepancy above?
(A) Some of the skeletons found during the expedition belong to animals that no longer inhabit the area.
(B) Skeletons of most animals did not have damages typical to skeletons of animals which were killed, cut, and cooked.
(C) Tribes which inhabited Northern Asia 1000 years ago used fire to cook food.
(D) Another study indicated that there was a great famine in Northern Asia at that period of time which forced local tribes to look for alternative sources of food.
(E) A further study indicated evidence of a large fire that had occurred in Northern Asia approximately 1000 years ago.
The best approach to Paradox Questions:
Identify the paradox. Be clear over what exactly you have to explain. Usually the two contradictory parts are separated by words such as however, surprisingly, on the other hand, etc. In the example above you can see that the speculation that the animals were killed by local tribes and the contradictory fact that some of those animals were considered to be sacred and therefore could not have been killed by those tribes is separated by the word “however”.
Simplify the argument to one simple question. To make evaluation of answer choices easier rephrase the argument into a simple question. For example, to answer the question above you have to determine How come the skeletons of those animals were subject to high temperatures if it is barely possible that they were cooked by local tribes?
Eliminate options that are irrelevant to the paradox. In the example above choice A provides information that relates past to the future but does not explain How come the skeletons of those animals were subject to high temperatures if it is barely possible that they were cooked by local tribes.
Eliminate choices that make the two facts even more contradictory. Consider choice B which adds even more contradiction by stating that most of those animals were unlikely to be killed or cooked and therefore it is even more surprising that skeletons of those animals were subject to high temperatures.
Eliminate answer choices which deal with only one part of a contradiction. Consider choice C, which states that indeed skeletons could be subject to high temperatures as a result of animals being cooked, but does not explain why the skeletons of animals which were considered sacred and were not eaten by local tribes were also subject to high temperatures.
Eliminate answer choices that require additional assumptions (answers that are not sufficient to explain the paradox without additional information). Consider choice D. This answer could explain the discrepancy if it were known that the famine forced local tribes to hunt and eat sacred animals. However, since we don’t know whether sacred animals were one of the alternative sources of food, this choice is not sufficient to explain the discrepancy.
The correct answer shows how the two seemingly contradictory facts can coexist. The correct answer does not always explain the contradiction perfectly, but it explains it to some extent at least. If there was a great fire in Northern Asia at that time, then those animals could have burnt, and this explains why the skeletons of animals which were not likely to be cooked were subject to high temperatures.
contributed by Himang Jain
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Try the following Sample Paradox Question, The unemployment rate, which is obtained from a separate household