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Inappropriate appeal to authority

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DefinitionEdit

The arguer bases her argument on the authority of someone who does not in fact have authority in the issue at hand.
Pattern:
B is improperly positioned as an authority figure on subject S.
B makes a claim C on subject S.
Therefore, C is true.

ExampleEdit

This ad against Prop. 8, "Religious leaders against Prop. 8," commits the fallacy of inappropriate appeal to authority.

still shot from ad

This ad features religious figures -- priests, ministers, rabbis, monks -- who all oppose Proposition 8. They explain that it is their "deep faith commitment" that pushes them to fight against Proposition 8. There is no reason, however, to believe that people of faith are any more qualified to decide the questions than are any other people. The producers seem to say, "These people are the kindest people you'll ever meet, and they're voting NO on Prop 8, so that is the best choice." Having faith and being kind, however, do not make a person an expert on public law.

Other ExamplesEdit

Has the authority been identified? In June 2008 Billy Booth wrote:

...scientists from the US and Europe have announced that genetic material that originated from outer space might prove that we originated from some other life form... Scientists, they say, have actually proven that two bits of coding, called nucleobases, are extraterrestrial.”

Failure to mention the names of the scientists, or the organizations they belong to undermines the ability to know whether they are genuine experts or not.


Video ExamplesEdit

This ad against Prop. 8, Moms across California say NO to Prop. 8," is another example of inappropriate appeal to authority. It is also an example of a bandwagon (ad populum) fallacy.

Momprop8


The ad presents "kindhearted" mothers as authorities on Prop 8. This ad shows multiple mothers who live in California. They all say that they are voting NO on Proposition 8 because they want their children to know about the "American dream," "dignity," "compassion," and "kindness." They also say that they "refuse to be scared about what will be taught in schools." The problem with this ad is that they try to tell the viewer to vote NO on Proposition 8, but they don't give any reason why - they don't even say what Proposition 8 does. They try to sway the viewer's decision by showing these mothers all unanimously voting NO on Proposition 8. However smart or well-meaning these women might be, the fact that they are mothers does not give them any special knowledge about Prop 8. Instead of giving us an argument on why Proposition 8 should not pass, the creators of the ad simply rely on the old adage, "Mother knows best."



This ad, People of Faith for Health Reform, also commits the "inappropriate appeal to authority" fallacy as well as the bandwagon (ad populum) fallacy.

Faithhealthcare


This ad shows people from different Christian churches, all of whom want Congress to support health care reform. Linda Filippini says, "My husband and I keep praying, but our premiums keep rising." Rev. John Hay adds, "Millions of people of faith are supporting health insurance reform." Person after persons implores the viewer to help support health insurance reform, but they do not provide any substantial reason to do so. The ad tries to appeal to its viewers by using the fact that these people are devout Christians, as if to say, "These altruistic people who have devoted their entire lives to their faith and to mankind believe that health care reform is the best course of action. Therefore it is." Being a devout Christian, however, doesn't give any one "insider knowledge" on health care reform.


This interview, Jameson for the Chicks (Anti-KFC) PETA, also invoves an inappropriate appeal to authority. It presents porn star Jenna Jameson as an authority on animal rights.


Jamesonpeta


This ad shows world-famous porn star Jenna Jameson supporting PETA by speaking out against the treatment of animals by KFC. She says that she "saw some videos" and that they "kinda changed" her because of how "hideous" the videos were, so she urges the viewer to also give PETA their support. KFC's practices may indeed be unethical, but Jameson is no more of an authority on the matter than anyone else. As a porn star, Jameson does not have the authority required to make an expert opinion on the matter. The ad seems to target is the porn-watching audience. This audience might not care about KFC's inhumane practices, and if the ad instead featured a political or religious figure, they would just change the channel. Jameson is more likely to capture their attention. However, Jameson is extremely vague in the ad, not even defining what these "hideous" practices are. The ad seeks to just use Jameson herself, not her words, to rally support for their cause. Yet no matter how well they present her or even what they make her say, she is not an expert on ethical animal treatment.

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