What 'Dancing With the Stars' Can Teach Us About the LSAT

In an upset of moderately epic proportions, Bristol Palin was voted into the finale of Dancing with the Stars on Tuesday.  In her wake she leaves behind a slew of better dancers including Rick Fox, Kurt Warner, and Brandy.

Not everyone has taken the results calmly.  Indeed, a 67-year-old Wisconsinite shot his television with a rifle upon hearing the news.

Billed as a "teen activist," Bristol has continued on the show despite scoring the lowest points for her dances four weeks in a row.  In the DWTS point system, this means that audience votes are keeping her on the show. 

So who is voting for her?  From a GOP right wing conspiracy to social networking savvy, the causes have been hotly debated.  Bristol herself contends it's because she's "not typical Hollywood" and is relatable.

I was struck by how much the whole thing resembles an argument on the LSAT.  Here's how the question (according to Bristol) would break down.

 

I'm relatable to many voters.

____________________

Therefore, many people are voting for me.

 

Alright, LSATers:  Is this a valid argument?  As Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Ochocinco would say, "Child, please."  Let's first take a look at the assumption in the argument—that because voters identify with Bristol, this means they'll vote for her.  A person can like something about a candidate, but that doesn't necessarily translate into actually picking up the phone and voting. I might love everything about Barack Obama, but that doesn't mean I'll necessarily get off the couch to vote for him in 2012.  (A lot depends on whether or not there's a new episode of Glee that night).

In addition, the argument relies on a cause and effect relationship.  As you hopefully know by now, causal arguments should always be viewed skeptically on the LSAT.  This is because it's easy to weaken them through the introduction of an alternative cause.  For instance, if I claim that I gained weight due to a slow metabolism, a possible (and far more likely) alternate cause might be undue churro consumption.  Or the chips and guacamole Chipotle makes that I could swear are laced with crack.

In the case of Bristol Palin, it's not necessarily her relatability that's causing people to vote for her.  Indeed, the obvious alternative cause sits in the front row during the show wearing signature rectangular glasses.  In other words, perhaps the votes are coming from Sarah Palin supporters.

So what should we take away from Bristol's rise to DWTS fame?  The first is to always keep an eye out for an alternative cause when faced with a cause and effect relationship on the LSAT.  That, and it just may be better to have a famous mother than a good Cha-cha-cha.

 

Jodi Triplett is a co-founder of Blueprint LSAT Prep.  Now with live LSAT prep courses in California, New York, Boston, DC, Philadelphia, and Phoenix!