[extropy-chat] Appeal to Authority.

John K Clark jonkc at att.net
Fri Mar 17 06:31:12 UTC 2006

"Ian Goddard" <iamgoddard at yahoo.com> Wrote:

> I can't find a good explanation of why "appeal to
> authority" is a fallacy

Probably because an appeal to authority is not a fallacy, or rather, it's
not ALWAYS a fallacy. You should never use an appeal to authority if you can
avoid it, but sometimes you can't. For example, suppose you read in the
newspaper that the authorities have discovered something new in particle
physics, should you accept what they say? In an ideal world you would check
what they say for yourself, but to do that you'd need a boiling water IQ, at
least 5 years of rigorous study, and 10 billion dollars to build a particle
accelerator. Call me stupid lazy and cheap if you want but I choose the easy
path; if 95% of authorities in the field of particle physics say something
is true then I think it probably is. In short, if somebody smarter than you
has a history of being honest it might be wise to listen very very closely
to what they have to say before you reject it.

On the other hand you should never accept an appeal to authority if you have
no reason to think the "authority" knows more about the subject than you do.
The most obvious example is ethics; Ethicist as is well known, are the
lowest form of human life.

  John K Clark

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