Argument from authority – logical fallacies

Description

The argument from authority, or more formally, the argument from false or misleading authority, argumentum ad vericundiam, is a logical fallacy which provides an argument from an authority, but on a topic outside of the particular authority’s expertise or on a topic on which the authority is not disinterested (i.e., is biased).

Almost any subject has an authority on every side of the argument, even where there is generally agreed to be no argument. When correctly applied, it can be a valid and sometimes essential part of an argument that requests judgement or input from a qualified or expert source.

The works (almost always published and peer-reviewed) of authorities, no matter how eminent or influential, is always judged by the quality of their evidence and reasoning, not by their authority alone. Thus, if someone denies evolution and has a Ph.D. in biology from a respected institution, his words are not evidence, only their high quality published works which support their claims.

Example

Dr. Smith, an expert in computer engineering, does not believe in climate change, so his claims are valid and are evidence that climate change does not exist.

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  • Diddly doo

    Michael, I don’t think Septic Rantor understands much that he hasn’t cut and pasted from Mr Barrett and co. I mean using Medical peer reviewed science as ‘evidence’ is like asking Micky Mouse what he thinks of Donald. The ex editor of the BMJ said that most peer reviewed medical publications are nonsense.

    If the Septic Rantor wants to quote nonsense as evidence it’s going to be a very boring debate – bit like talking to an L Ron Hubbard graduate on engrams. I suppose memes are similar, bit like the survey on attitudes to vaccination – they tried to identify some ‘misunderstanding’ of course there is none.

    All the people I know have looked at the evidence and it all falls to bits – no real placebos, fiddled data, I mean Merck are up in court where 5 of their ex scientists are pushing to have them exposed for fiddling the MMR efficacy stats.

    When the EBM pack of cards falls down, what, are we going to get an apology from asses like Septic Raptor and the like for helping to support the law changes in California with regard to enforced vaccination or prison?

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  • You do not understand this fallacy. An appeal to authority is always a false or fallacious argument no matter who the authority is. It involves claiming something is true because an authority says it is true. You can rely on trusted authorities to make decisions but not determine truth. A great deal of BS will be cleared up when the “skeptic” community finally figures out this particular fallacy.

    • I’d ask you to not conflate evidence with the authority. If Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks about removing Pluto from the list of planets, he does so as both an authority and as one who has substantial evidence that supports it (or doesn’t, I guess with the new information). An authority may have tons of evidence. And if you’re going to compare authorities Tyson, if he’s speaking about cosmology, is far more of an expert than I. But if he suddenly said “black holes are really god’s farts”, I might want some substantial evidence, even if he is an authority.

      Yeah, I agree. Battling authorities is not a debate. All that matters is evidence.

      • I’m not conflating anything. You are not explaining this fallacy simply and how it was originally intended. Presumably because so many “skeptics” use this fallacy to dismiss evidence.

      • Diddly doo

        yes but it is the ‘evidence’ that is in disrepute Septic Rantor. Medical peer review isn’t evidence – its PR

  • George A

    So in order for you to use the “scientific consensus” Argument from Authority, you need to redefine that logical fallacy. What fallacy is that?

    • You’re confusing scientific consensus with authority. A scientific consensus absolutely is formed based on evidence, nothing else. It is not an argument from authority which may or may not have any evidence. Evidence matters. Logical fallacies try to trick you by making evidence less important.

      • George A

        A scientific consensus is a measure of the number of people who share an opinion. Opinions are not evidence, and evidence of opinions is not evidence either. Are you saying that using consensus is not a logical fallacy because those scientists really are authorities? An argument from authority is only a logical fallacy if the “authority” isn’t really an authority? It wouldn’t be called an Argument from “Authority,” would it?

        • Another name for the appeal to the masses fallacy is appeal to consensus. You are right that any argument claiming something is true because the majority of _any_ group says it’s true, is fallacious. Truth is determined by evidence not opinion. Any notion will be more likely depending solely on how much and how good the evidence is.

          A good example against consensus is Semmelweis who was driven insane for daring to suggest that doctors wash their hands between autopsies and surgery. He had evidence, his own experience that handwashing improved his patients’ outcome. This evidence was ignored because it went against the prevailing consensus belief.

          • Diddly doo

            It is like arguing with god brethren here. Septic Raptor believes in his medical peer review books and the authority, whatever that is, despite the reality evidence that for example flu vaccines and flu pandemics are not happening. It’s his honorable opinion, if it wasn’t so serious it is rather amusing that he has the same religious convictions in his paradigm that any Catholic has in theirs.

        • Diddly doo

          Scientific consensus is medical anecdote

      • Diddly doo

        No it isn’t, the consensus is based on pragmatism and market share. The consensus is a group of people who stand to benefit from the result