GMAT : Analysis of An Argument
59. The following appeared as part of an article on government funding of environmental regulatory agencies.
When scientists finally learn how to create large amounts of copper from other chemical elements, the regulation of copper mining will become unnecessary. For one thing, since the amount of potentially available copper will no longer be limited by the quantity of actual copper deposits, the problem of over-mining will quickly be eliminated altogether. For another, manufacturers will not need to use synthetic copper substitutes, the production of which creates pollutants. Thus, since two problems will be settled – over-mining and pollution - it makes good sense to reduce funding for mining regulation and either save the money or reallocate it where it is needed more.
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.
The author contends that it makes good sense to reduce funding for mining regulation, because regulatory problems with over-mining and pollution will be solved when scientists learn how to create large amounts of copper from other chemical elements.
One reason the author gives for this conclusion is that the problem of over-mining will be quickly eliminated when the amount of potentially available copper is no longer limited by the quantity of actual copper deposits.
Another reason given is that pollution problems created by production of synthetic copper substitutes will be eliminated when manufacturers no longer depend on substitutes.
This argument is weak because the conclusion goes beyond the scope of the premises and because the argument relies on questionable assumptions.
To begin with, the wording of the conclusion suggests that funding for mining regulation generally should be reduced, yet the premises are about copper mining only. There are many mined resources other than copper. Advances in copper synthesis technology will in all likelihood have no bearing on whether regulation of other kinds of mining should be changed.
Furthermore, the argument depends on the assumption that copper mining will slow down once copper can be chemically synthesized. However, the author provides no evidence to substantiate this assumption. It is entirely possible that copper mining will remain less expensive than copper synthesis. If so, there will be no incentives, outside of regulatory ones, to slow down copper mining. In a word, the problem of over-mining will remain.
Finally, the argument relies on the assumption that synthesizing copper will not create the same kind of pollution problems as those resulting from the synthesis of copper substitutes. However, the author provides no evidence to substantiate this assumption. Without such evidence, we cannot accept the premise that pollution problems will be eliminated by switching from producing copper substitutes to producing copper itself.
In conclusion, I am not convinced on the basis of this argument that the time has come to cut funding for the regulation of mining in general or even for the regulation of copper mining in particular. To strengthen the argument, the author must restrict the scope of the conclusion to copper mining rather than to mining in general. The author must also provide support for the two assumptions underlying the argument.