Appeal to Authority

Well, I have found Facebook is good for more than pictures of kittens and raising my blood pressure this week.  Got into an interesting debate on climate and got  accused of committing the logical Fallacy of Appeal to Authority

This accusation came about because in the previous post where I was given a link to a website created by a self professed  entrepreneur with no background in the study of climates that I preferred to base my position on listening to the debate on the subject of experts in the field.  This was held to be citing, appealing, to authority as a reason why my position on climate change was correct.  This has spurred me on to look up just what does constitute the informal logical fallacy of Appeal to Authority.

I went to just two sources, my textbook from my collage years (An Intorduction to Logic) an Wikipedia.  As they both agreed in form, if not detail, I did not bother with more research.

It should be noted that Appeal to Authority is no always an informal Fallicy, as is shown below

The argument is a defeasible argument and a statistical syllogism taking the form:

X is an expert on subject Y,
X claims A. (A is within subject Y.)
Therefore, A is probably true.

In actual fact the fallicy should be called Appeal to Unqualified Authority and/or Appeal to uncritical acceptance of Authority. An example of the former is

X is an expert on subject Y,
X claims A. (A is NOT within subject Y.)
Therefore, A is probably true.

In the later case

X is an expert on subject Y,
X claims A. (A Has not been study or researched by X)
Therefore, A is probably true.

As can clearly be seen these thre syllogisms are very simular but the second and third are fallacies.  The first because while A is an Expert A is not an Expert in the subject dealing with A.  The second is a bit more tricky in that X is and Expert in the Subject Y and A is found in Subject Y but X has no expertise in subset of Subject Y which A is a part.

This last is why listening to the Experts debate the subject is so important.  The two most important question a person who is being asked to accept the Appeal to Authority is

1) Is the person(s) really an expert in the subject

If so

2) Is the positions being put forward in the preview of the expertise.

So what does this all mean to the person(s) debating?  It is to as it is difficult do.  Listen carefully and the go check the credentials of the expert being cited.