Fallacy: Appeal to Authority
#1
http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies...ority.html states that
Quote:This fallacy is committed when the person in question is not a legitimate authority on the subject. More formally, if person A is not qualified to make reliable claims in subject S, then the argument will be fallacious.
My questions is, why is it only committed when the person is not a legitimate authority? Just because a person is an expert in a field, does it mean, he can do NO wrong while making statements. Shouldnt the fallacy be
Quote:This fallacy is committed when the person emphasizes his expertness / authority in the field to prove the statement rather than giving hard facts and evidences to back it up.
Just a little confused.
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#2
(06-Sep-2010, 05:46 PM)mohankarthik Wrote: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies...ority.html states that
Quote:This fallacy is committed when the person in question is not a legitimate authority on the subject. More formally, if person A is not qualified to make reliable claims in subject S, then the argument will be fallacious.

That is new to me as well, but the article further explains the fallacy in detail and it kind of makes sense. As much as I like to say that I trust only evidence, what it means is that I trust the people who conducted the experiments to have reported the data correctly. They are experts in generating evidence and they are an authority in that aspect. Now if somebody who can't generate evidence makes a claim that their argument is correct, then they are committing the argument from authority fallacy.
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#3
Agree with what Lije has written above - the evidence is key. When authority is invoked in lieu of reason and/or evidence, that's when the argument is fallacious. If authority is invoked along with reason and evidence, I don't think that's a fallacy. (A bit similar to the difference between an ad hominem and an insult thrown into an argument.)

Additionally, I think it's important to trust the consensus of authorities rather than one, to avoid falling for "lone wolf" types. E.g. Linus Pauling's vitamin-C treatment is quite unsupported by the evidence, but has support simply because he was a famous chemist.
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#4
Yup, that makes more sense. When you "know" a person to have sufficient authority, then maybe when you have no evidence for or against the statement, you can temporarily go with the person, till you get more evidence. That makes sense. Its the way it was worded that made me uncomfortable.
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#5
Lije and unsorted have done a good job explaining this, but I'd like to state categorically that the argument from authority can be a fallacy even if the person quoted is indeed an authority on the subject. If someone asks why something is true, the answer cannot be "because so and so says so". That is not really an answer. That could be the answer for why you think it is true, but that is not why it is true. Even if we are talking about a real expert in a scientific discipline, the actual answer must refer to a rational and/or empirical argument. If experts are referred to, they must be mentioned along with specific experiments, studies or arguments put forth by said expert, so that there is an actual answer to the question.

Religious people use the argument from authority all the time. For example, a "biblical scholar" may indeed be the authority on the book of Genesis in the bible. But his "expertise" on the book is certainly not sufficient proof that any of it is factually true. In P.Z. Myers' famous response to The Courtier's Reply, he cleverly points out that 'expert' accounts cannot be the sole criteria for judging if something is true or false, especially if the entire area of his/her expertise is nonsense.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#6
Exactly Ajita! That is why I raised the point! That is why I did not like the wording of the fallacy.

Appeal to authority, as I see it is the opposite of a ad-homieum. You say something is true because the person saying it is an "expert" in that field, so similarly, you can say something is false because the person is a idiot in that field right?

But appeal to authority can be evoked temporarily without evidence when said evidence is missing, I suppose! For example if you are trying to explain something very complicated, and the evidence for such a thing is not at hand, then you can temporarily say that you have researched the topic for quite a while, and the debate can proceed under the assumption that what you are saying is true. And that you can provide evidence / proof later. But to do this, you really have to be an expert, hence appeal to authority as worded in that website.
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#7
(06-Sep-2010, 05:46 PM)mohankarthik Wrote: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies...ority.html states that
Quote:This fallacy is committed when the person in question is not a legitimate authority on the subject. More formally, if person A is not qualified to make reliable claims in subject S, then the argument will be fallacious.
My questions is, why is it only committed when the person is not a legitimate authority? Just because a person is an expert in a field, does it mean, he can do NO wrong while making statements. Shouldnt the fallacy be
Quote:This fallacy is committed when the person emphasizes his expertness / authority in the field to prove the statement rather than giving hard facts and evidences to back it up.
Just a little confused.

Fallacy can happen with experts also; these are due to heuristics and biases.   In 2008 milt down, all financial experts fall flat. Moreover, had there been no fallacy in statements of experts, there would not have been contradiction among them.
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