Essay topics: The following appeared as part of a letter to the editor of a scientific journal.
"A recent study of eighteen rhesus monkeys provides clues as to the effects of birth order on an individual's levels of stimulation. The study showed that in stimulating situations (such as an encounter with an unfamiliar monkey), firstborn infant monkeys produce up to twice as much of the hormone cortisol, which primes the body for increased activity levels, as do their younger siblings. Firstborn humans also produce relatively high levels of cortisol in stimulating situations (such as the return of a parent after an absence). The study also found that during pregnancy, first-time mother monkeys had higher levels of cortisol than did those who had had several offspring."
Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.
The author of the argument has failed to convince us that the firstborn monkeys, and holistically studied monkeys, have a higher level of cortisol. The argument, as it stands, is based on questionable assumptions and a faulty line of reasoning, a fact which renders it over-simplistic and unconvincing.
Firstly, the author cites a study of eighteen monkeys which provides a clue to the effect of birth order on an individual’s level of stimulation. Since the study is based on eighteen monkeys, it is not sound to generalize the study to the whole population of monkey, or further compare it to human beings. To elucidate on, the author should have provided details about the monkeys. For instance, how was the sample picked? Or maybe the sample should have been habited in a region which it’s good weather can provide higher level of Cortisol in the firstborn infant. Furthermore, the monkey’s nutrition and health would play a significant role in a level of a hormone. To clarify, the author does not scrutinize the reasoning. Hence, so many other factors could account for such a phenomenon. If the author had provided other factors, as evidence, as listed above, the soundness of the argument would have been more convincing.
Secondly, the author uses a vague language in term of numbers and quantity. These terms are redundant in different parts of the argument. In addition, there are no clarifying about the extent of the stated quantities. For example, the author brings up the human example to make an analogy with monkeys. First of all, the term “also produce relatively high” is misleading. In other words, the author does not indicate the exact quantity and the extent to which the relatively high Cortisol means. Simply put, the repetition of these terms, as stated in the passage “higher” or “twice as much”, shows a faulty line of reasoning, based on vague language. For instance, higher could mean ten times the actual amount or even higher with a subtle difference. One could interpret the terms in many ways. The author should have clarified the terms above in order to make the conclusion and the argument tangible.
Finally, the author fails to convince the reader, due to numerous assumptions, that the monkeys, based on the study, either the mother or the firstborn infant, have higher level of Cortisol. Therefore, the author uses the analogy between the monkeys and the humans in order to convince the reader that the argument is plausible. There are many differences between monkeys and humans, just because a, untrusting, sample of monkey showed a feature in their pregnancy does not mean the analogy could work. In other words, the author uses this example to convince the reader, which is flawed. To scrutinize, there are numerous different aspects between humans and monkeys, which are not stated. The genetic difference between the two species, nutrition, habitat and so forth. The arguer should have strengthened the argument with the mentioned evidence.
To conclude, based on substantial assumptions and poor evidence, the arguer’s reasoning does not provide concrete support for his/her conclusion. If the argument had included the items discussed, it would have been more thorough and convincing.