Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

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Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby laurenbehr2014 on March 3rd, 2014, 12:36 pm 

In your opinion, which fallacy is committed in the passage below, Begging
the question or Argumentum ad Verecundiam?

“The theory of evolution cannot be true. The Bible says the world was
created in seven days. And everything the Bible says is true, because it is
the word of God.”
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby Braininvat on March 3rd, 2014, 1:16 pm 

Seems like a bit of both? Offering up a religious scripture as authoritative and beyond any question. And it does beg the question of how we know the human authors to be direct conduits to some hypothetical sky-daddy. There's the ancillary question, from those who might believe God can be mischevious, as to how one might know the word of God is true. Could he be yanking our chain? Really your quote just reeks with unwarranted assumptions. Fun. And I'd never heard the Latin for argument from authority, so I thank you for enlarging my meager Latin vocabulary.

Welcome!
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby Watson on March 3rd, 2014, 1:33 pm 

Yes Lauren, welcome,
Post it once is good. Two lines is good if you're ice fishing. Not needed here.
I'm not sure what kind of a conversation we can have if you take such an absolute position. I hope you find other topics of interest here.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby laurenbehr2014 on March 3rd, 2014, 2:25 pm 

Thank you for the welcome! and thank you for responding.

It is a question in one of our course exercises, and has caused huge debate.I thought I'd ask those more in the know than us mere Critical Reasoning students.

How do you so easily identify fallacies? They seem to like giving us very tricky exercises.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby ComplexityofChaos on March 27th, 2014, 10:53 pm 

laurenbehr2014 » March 3rd, 2014, 11:36 am wrote:In your opinion, which fallacy is committed in the passage below, Begging
the question or Argumentum ad Verecundiam?

“The theory of evolution cannot be true. The Bible says the world was
created in seven days. And everything the Bible says is true, because it is
the word of God.”


Appeal to authority IF one is referring to god only. Begging the question also appears IF one is referring to the Bible, since one has to assume the issue of why the Bible is reliable, which leads to circular reasoning.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby Venus on March 27th, 2014, 11:02 pm 

laurenbehr2014 » March 3rd, 2014, 9:36 am wrote:In your opinion, which fallacy is committed in the passage below, Begging
the question or Argumentum ad Verecundiam?

“The theory of evolution cannot be true. The Bible says the world was
created in seven days. And everything the Bible says is true, because it is
the word of God.”

Reductio ad absurdum
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby AllShips on March 28th, 2014, 1:30 am 

A few thoughts. And I'm no expert, I hasten to add.

If the argument was guilty of begging the question, it would presuppose in the premise(s) that which it is attempting to establish: in this case that "The theory of evolution cannot be true".

I don't see that this is explicit or implicit in the premises.

If the argument was a reductio ad absurdum, it would begin by assuming the opposite of that which it seeks to establish: thus in this case it would assume that the theory of evolution is true and demonstrate that absurd consequences are thereby entailed.

I don't see this either.

Nor do I see that the problem is an appeal to authority which implies, I believe, an authority in a certain domain making judgments on matters which fall outside his area of expertise. If God exists and the Bible is his word then he/it is most definitely qualified to judge. There is no greater authority.

I think the argument should be construed as a case of defeasible reasoning, viz.,

Premise 1 : The theory of evolution (like all scientific theories) is defeasible
Premise 2 : We have information that defeats it
Conclusion : The theory of evolution is false

I assume Premise 1 will be conceded by all. If you don't like the conclusion, I'd suggest attacking Premise 2.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby owleye on March 28th, 2014, 10:28 am 

AllShips » March 27th, 2014, 9:30 pm wrote:I think the argument should be construed as a case of defeasible reasoning, viz.,

Premise 1 : The theory of evolution (like all scientific theories) is defeasible
Premise 2 : We have information that defeats it
Conclusion : The theory of evolution is false

I assume Premise 1 will be conceded by all. If you don't like the conclusion, I'd suggest attacking Premise 2.


This argument apparently contains a few short cuts, one of which is needed in premise 1 to connect it with premise 2 and filled in by connecting a theory's defeasibility with it's ability to be defeated. However, seeing as how second premise wishes to connect these terms with the conclusion, their meanings have to be intended so that the theory of evolution is considered false if it is defeated by information and defeasible if the theory can be falsified.

So, in advising the reader to take a closer look at premise 2, I'm getting the impression that Allships wishes us to look at a truth of the premise along the lines of how theories are defeated by being falsified, as opposed to questioning whether there is actually evidence to the contrary. But I can be wrong.

Note also that in the use of 'information', I've taken the liberty of transforming this into 'evidence', since that's the term science uses in this context. And, though it might be informative that the Bible says otherwise, this would be considered, as it is stated in the OP, an appeal to authority, not evidence. To count as evidence, one would need to provide all sorts of additional premises that link that authority to it being considered evidence.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby Athena on March 28th, 2014, 1:09 pm 

I will say knowledge is what we gain through experience, observation and experimentation, and that this needs to be checked by others before we consider this information as valuable knowledge, and those who have this information as authorities.

On the other hand, if something refers to what a god does and/or the characteristics of a god, this is mythology. That doesn't mean it is false or wrong, only that it is not science and we do not have empirical reasons for accepting mythology and theist as authority.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby Athena on March 28th, 2014, 1:16 pm 

Code: Select all
AllShips » March 27th, 2014, 9:30 pm wrote:I think the argument should be construed as a case of defeasible reasoning, viz.,

Premise 1 : The theory of evolution (like all scientific theories) is defeasible
Premise 2 : We have information that defeats it
Conclusion : The theory of evolution is false

I assume Premise 1 will be conceded by all. If you don't like the conclusion, I'd suggest attacking Premise 2.


I think something might be wrong with this logic, as Aristotle's logic is not perfect.

We must know the information that claims to defeat the arguments for evolution theory before we can judge the arguments. What you have said is like saying:

1. Our lives depend on water.
2. Polluted water can kill.
3. Drinking water is deadly.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 5:16 am 

No because your second premise contains 'can' - polluted water can kill but it doesn't always. So your conclusion is unfounded, as it declares drinking water 'is' (always) deadly based on a 'can' premise.

The second premise in the green wording is not of the 'can' variety. It is saying it 'has' information that defeats evolutionary theory.

If this is true than the theory of evolution is false.

But, logic aside, we would have to see that information before the truth of the conclusion can be ascertained.

Truth is based on logic and evidence.

Logic alone is not enough for knowledge.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 8:03 am 

laurenbehr2014 » March 3rd, 2014, 11:36 am wrote:In your opinion, which fallacy is committed in the passage below, Begging
the question or Argumentum ad Verecundiam?

“The theory of evolution cannot be true. The Bible says the world was
created in seven days. And everything the Bible says is true, because it is
the word of God.”


It's an appeal to authority.

The key phrase is here:

“The theory of evolution cannot be true. The Bible says the world was
created in seven days. And everything the Bible says is true, because it is
the word of God.”

It would be begging the question if the premise just said "The world was
created in seven days"
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby mtbturtle on April 4th, 2014, 8:07 am 

In order to be begging the question, circular reasoning, the conclusion, "The theory of evolution cannot be true" would also be a premise.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 8:08 am 

ComplexityofChaos » March 27th, 2014, 9:53 pm wrote:
laurenbehr2014 » March 3rd, 2014, 11:36 am wrote:In your opinion, which fallacy is committed in the passage below, Begging
the question or Argumentum ad Verecundiam?

“The theory of evolution cannot be true. The Bible says the world was
created in seven days. And everything the Bible says is true, because it is
the word of God.”


Appeal to authority IF one is referring to god only. Begging the question also appears IF one is referring to the Bible, since one has to assume the issue of why the Bible is reliable, which leads to circular reasoning.


I would consider God and the bible one in this argument.

In other words, the second premise is redundant.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 8:12 am 

mtbturtle » April 4th, 2014, 7:07 am wrote:In order to be begging the question, circular reasoning, the conclusion, "The theory of evolution cannot be true" would also be a premise.


Or a phrase that amounts to that.

"The world was created in seven days" would suffice because it automatically precludes evolutionary theory. That evolutionary theory is wrong is a clear implication from that premise.

But the main point of the first premise is that "The Bible says (something different)" not "The world was created in seven days".
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby mtbturtle on April 4th, 2014, 8:37 am 

571- » Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:12 am wrote:
mtbturtle » April 4th, 2014, 7:07 am wrote:In order to be begging the question, circular reasoning, the conclusion, "The theory of evolution cannot be true" would also be a premise.


Or a phrase that amounts to that.

"The world was created in seven days" would suffice because it automatically precludes evolutionary theory. That evolutionary theory is wrong is a clear implication from that premise.

But the main point of the first premise is that "The Bible says (something different)" not "The world was created in seven days".


If the world was created in seven days, then evolution theory is false is circular? hmmm I don't think so.

I agree that it is an Appeal to Authority however as the truth of the premises relies solely on the irrelevant authority of the Bible.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 9:15 am 

If the world was created in seven days, then evolution theory is false is circular? hmmm I don't think so.


Containing the conclusion in the premises is often not directly done in begging the question. While it's indirect, I believe this would constitute begging the question because a clear implication of "The world was created in seven days" is that evolutionary theory is wrong. The clear implication of the premise is identical to the conclusion and hence it is in a way circular.

...[S]eldom is anyone going to simply place the conclusion word-for-word into the premises ... Rather, an arguer might use phraseology that conceals the fact that the conclusion is masquerading as a premise. The conclusion is rephrased to look different and is then placed in the premises.
—Paul Herrick


Although admittedly this case would be a stretch, because rather than a rephrasing per se, it is more that the conclusion is contained in the premise by clear implication.

I agree that it is an Appeal to Authority however as the truth of the premises relies solely on the irrelevant authority of the Bible.


An appeal to authority is a fallacy because authority, rather than direct support/evidence, is called upon.

The relevancy of the authority in one's opinion is irrelevant in this fallacy.

Appealing to "Science" without presenting and explaining the findings of studies and how they support one's argument would equally be an appeal to authority.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby mtbturtle on April 4th, 2014, 9:24 am 

571- » Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:15 am wrote:
If the world was created in seven days, then evolution theory is false is circular? hmmm I don't think so.


Containing the conclusion in the premises is often not directly done in begging the question. While it's indirect, I believe this would constitute begging the question because a clear implication of "The world was created in seven days" is that evolutionary theory is wrong. The clear implication of the premise is an identical conclusion and thus circularity.

...[S]eldom is anyone going to simply place the conclusion word-for-word into the premises ... Rather, an arguer might use phraseology that conceals the fact that the conclusion is masquerading as a premise. The conclusion is rephrased to look different and is then placed in the premises.
—Paul Herrick


Although admittedly this case would be a stretch, because rather than a rephrasing per se, it is more that the conclusion is contained in the premise by clear implication.

I agree that it is an Appeal to Authority however as the truth of the premises relies solely on the irrelevant authority of the Bible.


An appeal to authority is a fallacy because authority, rather than direct support/evidence, is called upon.

The relevancy of the authority in one's opinion is irrelevant in this fallacy.

Appealing to "Science" without presenting and explaining the findings of studies and how they support one's argument would equally be an appeal to authority.


We will have to disagree on what is the clear implication of the premises. There are many things if they were true that would falsify evolution. The world created in seven days would be one of them. However, evolution being false (not true) does not imply the world was created in seven days. Thus it is not circular.

As for your suggestion that the relevance of the authority is irrelevant in appeals to authority we will also have to disagree.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 9:38 am 

I agree it's a stretch, which is much more apparent now that I've revisited it to the point that I am somewhat inclined to retract my statement just for the sake of precision.

Strictly speaking, an identical implication does not = identical statement.

BUT, the effect is the same, especially in the context of this debate where everyone knows the implications of statements.

I consider it a very clever form of the fallacy that exploits context.


I will have to insist on my point regarding appeal to authority, however.

"X is so because Science says so"

and

"Y is so because God says so"

are both appeals to authority if no actual evidence/support is presented.

Here's an example from an article on the fallacy:

"The appeal to authority relies on an argument of the form

The consensus of experts on a particular topic is usually correct
The consensus of experts support P
P is probably correct"

Appealing to just Science would be even moreso, because there is not even mention of consensus.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 9:41 am 

However, evolution being false (not true) does not imply the world was created in seven days. Thus it is not circular.


It would in a religious debate context, don't you think?

There is only one alternative.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby mtbturtle on April 4th, 2014, 9:51 am 

571- » Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:38 am wrote:I agree it's a stretch, which is much more apparent now that I've revisited it to the point that I am somewhat inclined to retract my statement just for the sake of precision.

Strictly speaking, an identical implication does not = identical statement.

BUT, the effect is the same, especially in the context of this debate where everyone knows the implications of statements.

I consider it a very clever form of the fallacy that exploits context.


I will have to insist on my point regarding appeal to authority, however.

"X is so because Science says so"

and

"Y is so because God says so"

are both appeals to authority if no actual evidence/support is presented.

Here's an example from an article on the fallacy:

"The appeal to authority relies on an argument of the form

The consensus of experts on a particular topic is usually correct
The consensus of experts support P
P is probably correct"

Appealing to just Science would be even moreso, because there is not even mention of consensus.


Well if you want to get picky, Science never says anything only scientists say and we do take them as relevant experts, authorities within their respective fields.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 10:07 am 

But without actual evidence you are relying on an appeal to authority.

Precisely/strictly speaking.

Experts can be wrong too. They are not omniscient or infallible.

Although yes, I would sooner accept a scientific claim over a religious claim without evidence regarding this matter in particular, because of my ontological/epistemological beliefs (they fall more in line with those of science).

(However, there are some geologists that are also religious and try to make scientific-religious claims, ironically - so this, by your reasoning, would be a cause for concern regarding accepting scientific claims in the absence of presented evidence would it not?)

But that doesn't change the fact that both are appeals to authority; they may vary in credibility on certain issues, but they are both appeals to authority still.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby mtbturtle on April 4th, 2014, 11:05 am 

571- » Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:38 am wrote:
Here's an example from an article on the fallacy:

"The appeal to authority relies on an argument of the form

The consensus of experts on a particular topic is usually correct
The consensus of experts support P
P is probably correct"

Appealing to just Science would be even moreso, because there is not even mention of consensus.


If you have a link to the article or would like to source it you can add the explanation to our summary references for Appeal to Authority.

As for the issue of consensus and appeals to authority I don't see the fallacious reasoning in the above given the qualifier of "probably" correct.

The Fallacy Files gives the following guideline when it comes to consensus and acceptance of authority.

While the authority is an expert, his opinion is unrepresentative of expert opinion on the subject. The fact is that if one looks hard enough, it is possible to find an expert who supports virtually any position that one wishes to take. "Such is human perversity", to quote Lewis Carroll. This is a great boon for debaters, who can easily find expert opinion on their side of a question, whatever that side is, but it is confusing for those of us listening to debates and trying to form an opinion.

Experts are human beings, after all, and human beings err, even in their area of expertise. This is one reason why it is a good idea to get a second opinion about major medical matters, and even a third if the first two disagree. While most people understand the sense behind seeking a second opinion when their life or health is at stake, they are frequently willing to accept a single, unrepresentative opinion on other matters, especially when that opinion agrees with their own bias.

Bias (problem 3) is one source of unrepresentativeness. For instance, the opinions of cigarette company scientists tend to be unrepresentative of expert opinion on the health consequences of smoking because they are biased to minimize such consequences. For the general problem of judging the opinion of a population based upon a sample, see the Fallacy of Unrepresentative Sample.

To sum up these points in a positive manner, before relying upon expert opinion, go through the following checklist:

Is this a matter which I can decide without appeal to expert opinion? If the answer is "yes", then do so. If "no", go to the next question:
Is this a matter upon which expert opinion is available? If not, then your opinion will be as good as anyone else's. If so, proceed to the next question:
Is the authority an expert on the matter? If not, then why listen? If so, go on:
Is the authority biased towards one side? If so, the authority may be untrustworthy. At the very least, before accepting the authority's word seek a second, unbiased opinion. That is, go to the last question:
Is the authority's opinion representative of expert opinion? If not, then find out what the expert consensus is and rely on that. If so, then you may rationally rely upon the authority's opinion.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby mtbturtle on April 4th, 2014, 11:14 am 

571- » Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:07 am wrote:
But that doesn't change the fact that both are appeals to authority; they may vary in credibility on certain issues, but they are both appeals to authority still.


Well that may very well be but not all arguments from experts opinions are fallacious which is why many of the experts (heh) in this area now qualify whether it is an appropriate, inappropriate, misleading, relevant/irrelevant etc. appeal.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby CanadysPeak on April 4th, 2014, 12:52 pm 

Venus » Thu Mar 27, 2014 11:02 pm wrote:
laurenbehr2014 » March 3rd, 2014, 9:36 am wrote:In your opinion, which fallacy is committed in the passage below, Begging
the question or Argumentum ad Verecundiam?

“The theory of evolution cannot be true. The Bible says the world was
created in seven days. And everything the Bible says is true, because it is
the word of God.”

Reductio ad absurdum


That's bad. Funny, but bad. Wish I had said it.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 1:09 pm 

I find it interesting the amount of consideration this site gives to this particular fallacy - as if it were defending the community of experts.

Anyway, when it comes to an honest practice of philosophy and science there is no justification for an Appeal to authority, especially on important points.

An Appeal to authority will always be less convincing because the person doesn't even know why they are right.

That said, I am aware we cannot be experts in all fields and I am aware of the interdisciplinary nature of the practice of philosophy and science in this day and age which means the above ideal will not always be met professionally.

But that does not change the fact that an argument based on an Appeal to authority will always be weaker than the same argument that shows evidence and explains how it supports the point/premise.

Of course, we trust doctors in our lives to take care of our health to some extent, and we will quote them without corroborating their statements with our own independent research when giving medical advice to friends, but that is not how an honest practice of philosophy and science works.

Anyone who takes truth seriously must never rely on an Appeal to authority to back up their major points or make a compelling argument.

In many cases, especially in the social sciences, for every study that supports a point there is another to refute it. There are many reasons for this (sometimes it's just academic politics) but the point is if experts were trustworthy, among other things, there would be no disagreement among the same experts on the same issues.

How can you trust inconsistent evidence? which evidence is correct and which is not?

Unless you can personally show which is correct and why, an Appeal to authority will severely weaken your argument for this reason.

So, by all means, use an Appeal to authority where and when you cannot fully explain why your premises are right based on the evidence, but your argument will never be as strong as the same or different argument made by someone who truly knows why they are right, and thus why people should accept their viewpoint.

People should not support positions that they do not understand. It's irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

If you find your world too complex to understand then maybe you should go about making it simpler. Complexity is no excuse for blindly supporting positions on important matters.

(Note, we are all guilty of Appeals to authority; I am not putting myself on a pedestal by any means, just stating its significant limitations)
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby 571- on April 4th, 2014, 1:27 pm 

qualify whether it is an appropriate, inappropriate, misleading, relevant/irrelevant etc. appeal.


How can they make this call if they do not understand the evidence/study they cite?

If they do understand it, then there is no reason for the Appeal to authority in the first place.
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Re: Begging the question or Appeal to Authority?

Postby mtbturtle on April 4th, 2014, 1:39 pm 

571- » Fri Apr 04, 2014 12:27 pm wrote:
qualify whether it is an appropriate, inappropriate, misleading, relevant/irrelevant etc. appeal.


How can they make this call if they do not understand the evidence/study they cite?

If they do understand it, then there is no reason for the Appeal to authority in the first place.


I meant they qualify the name of the fallacy. So something like misleading appeal to authority or irrelevant appeal to authority as opposed to the more traditional appeal to authority.
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