Argument from Authority

This attempts to convince others that an idea or claim should be accepted because the person making the claim is presenting himself as an expert on the subject or has more knowledge on a topic that others because of his experience. This is a fallacy because whether or not the claim is true is not automatically dependent upon the personal characteristics of the speaker. Every idea should be judged upon its own merits and not the credentials of the claimant. Even experts can be wrong.



"I've been teaching physics for over forty years, and I can tell you expanding nuclear power to be a larger component of our alternative energy infrastructure is a bad idea. I didn't like the idea of nuclear power plants forty years ago, and I still don't. They are dangerous and we don't have the technology to control them. If we go that route, there is going to be a disaster. Mark my word !"

NB: There is a great difference between being a physics teacher and a nuclear engineer. While most people might be impressed with someone's credentials as a physics teacher, that area of experience alone doesn't carry the level of expertise needed to make credible statements on the safety and reliability of nuclear power. In some cases, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So rather than trusting this teacher's opinion as the final word, responsible individuals should do their own research and talk to real experts and working professionals before making a decision on what position to take. Of course that doesn't mean the working professionals will always tell you the whole truth, which is why there are independent groups collecting their own facts. How do you know what to believe ? That's where critical thinking comes in.

Contemporary Media Examples
Return to the Fallacy List