Fallacy Friday

Argument from Authority

This is a fallacy that I was guilty of for many years.  An appeal to authority is when you take the word of an authority figure as truth because they are an authority.  For example; 9 out of 10 doctors prefer trident gum, so trident gum is the best.  Can you spot the issue?  The key issue here is doctor.  There isn’t anything in there that states what kinds of doctors are.  It doesn’t say anything about what they prefer it against (maybe it’s trident vs rusty nails).  What you see here is that these doctors prefer trident.  Because they are doctors it appears to add weight to the claim.

It’s also important to note as to what this fallacy is not.  So if you have someone who is an authority in the field in which they are argument, they’re claims do carry more weight.  Still, the most important part is that they show their work and how they arrived at whatever conclusion or claim they are qualifying as truth.  People are fallible, and can misinterpret things.  However, data doesn’t lie.  If the work is shown and we can see the data we as a collective can point out possible problems in it.  This is why there is a peer review system in the scientific community.  I remember hating to have to show my work.  It thought it was a pointless exercise that wasted time.  If I can do this in my head why do I need to show that I know it?  Now, I understand that showing my work displays my understanding in a way that can be verified.

As a christian I spent a lot of time allowing this fallacy to permeate my life.  I took those who were older than me and more read on the subject at face value.  I thought what they said was true because of their position.  I didn’t bother to think on the matter any further.  Essentially the Bible was true because they said so.  This passage in the Bible means this because they said so.  Looking back I really should have turned on the critical thinking.

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