An Appeal to Authority is a type of logical fallacy that occurs when someone claims their argument is correct because an authority or expert on the subject says so, without any further evidence or justification. While it’s not necessarily fallacious to refer to authorities, this appeal becomes fallacious when the authority is not truly an expert, when the reference to the authority constitutes the entire argument, or when the authority is biased or not independent.
Here’s an example of an Appeal to Authority fallacy:
Person A: “Climate change isn’t real.”
Person B: “How do you know that?”
Person A: “Well, a famous celebrity said so in an interview.”
In this scenario, Person A is basing their argument on the authority of a celebrity. However, unless the celebrity is also a climate scientist or an expert in a relevant field, their opinion does not constitute a valid argument against the scientific consensus on climate change. In fact, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and primarily caused by human activities. The opinion of a celebrity, regardless of how popular they might be, is not sufficient to refute this scientific consensus.
Therefore, Person A’s argument is a fallacious Appeal to Authority. The argument relies solely on the authority of someone who is not actually an expert in the relevant field, without providing any additional evidence or reasoning. It’s a common fallacy, often found in advertising (for example, when a famous actor endorses a skincare product) and other contexts where the actual expertise or relevancy of the authority figure might not be critically examined.