Logical thinking not really taught in schools. As a lawyer, arguments and persuasion are my bread and butter. “Arguments” have come to mean a fight or yelling. Actually, lawyers do precious little of that. An Argument, properly understood, is a point of view with evidence or reasoning supporting it. And I remind you that “Fallacies” are errors in logical reasoning.
(The first three articles in this series can be found on my blog at PeelLawFirm.com).
“4 out of 5 dentists agree that brushing with X brand is the best.” This is a logical argument. But what about “Science says that the globe is cooling due to the USA’s pollution.” First of all, “science” does not “say” anything. Scientists say things. Further, they all do not agree on where to eat lunch, yet alone the other issues they wrestle with. But, in this fallacy, they are held up as united and authoritative without clarification.
This “Appeal to Authority” (argumentum ad verecundiam) is a fallacy involving misuse of an authority. If you only cite authorities one side. Or irrelevant authorities, poor authorities, biased authorities or false authorities.
If your opponent wants you to just “take someone’s word for it” without any other evidence to show that those authorities are correct or fair, is how you spot it.
Irrelevant authorities can be a problem, like an NBA star talking politics, is just an opinion. It is not authoritative. His opinion on zone defense may well be.
This is why endorsements work though. Michael Jordan isn’t a relevant authority when it comes to underwear, but still sells it. Tiger Woods cannot build a watch, but advertises them.
But even if you are correctly using authorities, they can be wrong sometimes. The science experts in the 16th century thought the earth was the center of the solar system (Geocentrism). Turns out they were wrong.
Consider the following examples. Are authorities presented correctly?
Example 1: “There are UFOs abducting people all the time. My older brother, who went to college some, says so.”
Example 2: “It’s true because it’s on the internet.”
Example 3: “Scientists do what they do out of duty, not because they have to chase funding. My teacher teaches science, so he would know.”
Fallacies are easier to spot when you “question the question.”
Mr. Peel seeks justice for those injured in motorcycle, truck and car accidents, disability and medical malpractice. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Mr. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.