It can be inferred from the passage that the author would agree

Objectively, of course, the various ecosystems that sustain life on the planet proceed independently of human agency, just as they operated before the hectic ascendancy of Homo sapiens. But it is also true that it is difficult to think of a single such system that has not, for better or worse, been substantially modified by human culture. Nor is this simply the work of the industrial centuries. It has been happening since the days of ancient Mesopotamia. It is coeval with the origin of writing and has occurred throughout our social existence. And it is this irreversibly modified world, from the polar caps to the equatorial forests, that is all the nature we have.

It can be inferred from the passage that the author would agree with which of the following statements?

  1. Overtime the impact of human culture on the natural world has been largely benign.
  2. It is a mistake to think that the natural world contains many areas of pristine wilderness.
  3. The only substantial effects that human agency has had on ecosystems have been inadvertent.

An important thing to keep in mind about the Reading Comprehension section of the GRE as we use PowerPrep online to study is that it is just that—reading comprehension. In other words, as difficult as it may seem, and it can be pretty tricky, the test makers will always give us all the information we need in the passage to answer the question, even when the question asks us about the author’s point of view, like question 10 of the second Verbal section on practice test 1.

Since this is a select-all-that-apply question, we’ll need to consider each answer individually to determine if the author would or would not agree with it based on what we know from the passage. Also, since our question itself doesn’t give us many keywords, we’ll need to rely on keywords in our answers to know where to look for information in the passage. Of course, it will help if we do a quick reading of the passage first, since this question seems pretty broad. Once we’ve done that, we can start exploring each answer.

  • Overtime the impact of human culture on the natural world has been largely benign.

Hmm. The whole passage deals with human culture’s impact on the natural world, but is there a point in the passage where the author characterizes this effect? In other words, does he ever say it’s a good or a bad thing? The first sentence merely tells us that the world will go on without humans. The second sentence says that humans have still affected everything for better or for worse. That certainly doesn’t imply that the impact of humans has been “largely benign,” or mostly favorable; in fact, it seems to admit that some human impact is “worse” or bad. The rest of the passage continues to elaborate on how long this impact has been felt, but nowhere does the author actually say whether or not this impact has been good. We do not have support for A, so we should not select this answer.

  • It is a mistake to think that the natural world contains many areas of pristine wilderness.

Well, the phrase “pristine wilderness” was never used, so we can eliminate this right off, right? Actually, we should keep in mind that the GRE really loves to paraphrase, AND since this question asked what could be “inferred,” the correct answers may not be spelled out. Instead, we should asked what does “pristine wilderness” entail. Well, “pristine” means completely natural or untouched

. Well, the second sentence of the passage says that it is “difficult to think of a single [ecosystem] that has not… been modified by man.” And if something has been “modified by man” it no longer fits the definition of “pristine.” So, indeed, it seems like the author would probably agree that there are not many areas of pristine wilderness in the natural world and that it would be a mistake to think so. We should select B.

 

  • The only substantial effects that human agency has had on ecosystems have been inadvertent.

 

Is there anywhere in the passage where the author says whether or not these changes have been made by man on purpose? The first sentence does not mention changes. THe second sentence points out how widespread human impact is. The third, fourth, fifth sentences make points about how long man has been impacting the environment—since the advent of civilization. And the last sentence makes the point that this modified world is our only nature, while pointing to a couple of specific things that have been modified but WITHOUT elaborating on how or why. So, we actually cannot say whether the author would agree or disagree with this statement: we have no evidence regarding whether the author believes our impact on nature was intentional. We can eliminate C.

The only answer we can support from the passage is B, so this is the only answer we should select.

 

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