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The following appeared in the summary of a study on headaches suffered by the residents of Mentia.
"Salicylates are members of the same chemical family as aspirin, a medicine used to treat headaches. Although many foods are naturally rich in salicylates, for the past several decades, food-processing companies have also been adding salicylates to foods as preservatives. This rise in the commercial use of salicylates has been found to correlate with a steady decline in the average number of headaches reported by participants in our twenty-year study. Recently, food-processing companies have found that salicylates can also be used as flavor additives for foods. With this new use for salicylates, we can expect a continued steady decline in the number of headaches suffered by the average citizen of Mentia."
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
The argument assumes that using salicylates as a flavor additive for foods, the number of headaches suffered by residents of Mentia will decline. However the argument is based on numerous assumptions that if proven unwarranted, invalidate the argument.
One assumption that the argument depends on is the twenty-year study cited. The study cites a steady decline in the average number of headaches of participants. However steady and average are vague words. The average number of headaches could mean 5, 20, 100 or even 1,000 headaches! Thus a decline in headaches from 5 to 4 isn’t as significant as a decline from 1,000 to 300. Because the study uses such vague and obscure language for its conclusions, we don’t really know much about the study and its findings, and therefore, cannot use it to support the argument.
Furthermore the study also brings up further issues such as the responses by the participants and its validity. It is unknown what types of questions the study asked the participants. For example, the study may have only asked have participants if they had a headache in the past year or it may have asked over 10 pages of questions relating to the medical history of the participant. Furthermorer we don’t know what was in the study, how the study was conducted, or if all participants participated in the total twenty years. Thus this further supports the study as undermining the argument.
Finally the argument speaks of the average citizen in Mentia when it draws its conclusion. However what is the average citizen? Average is a vague word to use when describing someone as a representative of an entire town’s residents and tells us almost nothing about the citizens. If salicylates cause a decline in headaches for the average citizen, we need to know more about the citizens. Information such as quality of health and age would strengthen the argument.
The argument assumes that the study and its conclusions provide sufficient evidence to support the view that further use of salicylates will cause a steady decrease in headaches for the average citizen of Mentia. However the validity of the study and its methods as well as the use of vague language to describe the study’s outcomes and Mentia’s citizens undermines the argument. Thus it cannot be said that further use of salicylates as a food additive will cause headaches to decrease. For this to be true, the authors of the study must use specific language when describing the outcomes as well as provide more information about the study such as the number of participants, detailed information about participants as well as use of specific numbers and language to describe the findings.
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