ARG-169

The following appeared in the Health section of the Greenhorne Gazette.


"Motilac is a substance that occurs naturally in the human digestive tract. Many consumers of dietary supplements containing motilac report significant easing of digestive discomfort after just a few weeks of use. Among Greenhorne residents, the consumption of motilac supplements has increased 80% over the last seven years. Last year, Greenhorne’s five hospitals reported fewer cases of serious gastrointestinal disorders than any year on record. Meanwhile, sales of motilac supplements are declining in the neighboring town of Etolin. Notably, hospitals in Etolin report a steady increase in the last two years in patients experiencing a wide range of distressing gastrointestinal symptoms. The clear explanation of these trends is that motilac is effective in preventing many serious gastrointestinal disorders."


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.


According to the Health section of the Greenhorne Gazette, Greenhorne (G) residents have seen an 80% increase in consumption of Motilac (M) substances over the past seven years, while local hospitals have reported fewer gastrointestinal illnesses. Meanwhile, the sales of substance M in Etolin (E) have declined while the number of gastrointestinal patients in the hospital has increased. The explanation given by the author for these facts is that Substance M is beneficial in solving many gastrointestinal problems. Although this explanation is plausible, it is not the only one.


First, the author mentions that the consumption of M by G residents has risen a lot in the past seven years, while last year G hospitals admitted the lowest number of patients with gastrointestinal disorders ever recorded in previous years. It seems that this phenomenon can be attributed to the efficacy of M for gastrointestinal disorders. However, we should also consider more reasons for this phenomenon. It is very likely that if patients with gastrointestinal disorders have been on the rise in the five hospitals in G for the past seven years, it is only last year that was an exception, when the number of admissions was the lowest in previous years. If this is true, despite the fact that the number of G's residents consuming M has been rising over the past seven years, the efficacy of M has not worked, and this is what has led to the growth in admissions of patients with gastrointestinal disorders to G's hospitals over these past years. It is also because so many people have been cured of their gastrointestinal disorders in the hospital in the past years, so naturally, there were few patients in this part of G in the last year, which led to the lowest number of admissions in previous years.


Second, the author mentions that M sales in E have been declining, but patients with gastrointestinal disorders in the hospital have been rising. The author attributes this phenomenon to the fact that these patients are not taking M. This explanation has some merit, but there are other explanations I can offer. For example, the population of E has been growing for the past two years, which would eventually lead to an increase in the number of hospital visits for gastrointestinal patients in E, regardless of the efficacy of M.


Third, the number of gastrointestinal patients is strongly related to the local diet, so the changes in the number of gastrointestinal patients in G and E may also be largely attributable to changes in food quality. Specifically, G has seen a record low number of gastroenterology visits to the hospitals in the last year, likely due to the local government's efforts to strengthen hygiene and quality standards in restaurants and food, and to recommend a healthier diet, which has led to a steady decline in the number of gastroenterology patients in G over the past few years. In contrast, residents in E do not prioritize food safety, which has led to an increase in gastrointestinal patients in the past two years.


Finally, in the article, the author speculates the reasons behind the change in the number of gastrointestinal patients only through hospital reports, so it is possible that hospital reporting criteria may also explain the difference in patients. Specifically, hospitals in G and E have different standards regarding the reporting of gastrointestinal diseases. In the past, hospitals in G would report any degree of gastrointestinal disease. But since last year, G's hospitals changed their reporting criteria to report only severe diseases. Because the incidence of severe disease itself is much lower, this led to the lowest number of gastrointestinal patients in G's hospitals in previous years last year. In contrast, hospitals in E have been reporting less severe gastrointestinal illnesses, so some minor illnesses were included, which led to a higher number of patients being reported.


In summary, while the effectiveness of M may plausibly account for the trends mentioned by the author, I remain open to different explanations that also help illustrate the facts presented in this argument. Unless the author offers clarification, I remain doubtful that his/her explanation is the only possibility.



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