Appeals to authority; or, bad reasoning in the real world part 9

Here is a song which I’ve come across (yes from Bioshock infinite): Jane Russell – Give Me That Old Time Religion

I thought I’d share it with you because it’s a particularly good example of a fallacy known as an appeal to authority. Each verse centers on one of the singers identifying a powerful authority (the prophet Daniel, Paul and Cylus, Abraham Lincoln, President Eisenhower) who believes something called “the old time religion”*. Following the this the singer states she believes (or should) believe in this thing too, apparently because the authority figure does**. This fits nicely the fallacious form

authority figure, X, believes proposition, P, therefore P is true.

I take it as fairly obvious why this is a fallacy, namely that the truth of any idea is not determined by who believes it. To decide if something is true we need to look at the idea itself and the evidence/arguments for it. Just because someone has good knowledge in one area, say they know slavery is bad, or how to win the 2013 federal election, it doesn’t follow that they have good knowledge in another area, say about what faith is best, or the first f’n thing about climate science.

At any rate I just thought I’d share this with you as a nice example of the fallacy.

with love, DrNPC

*it really doesn’t matter what this means for my point this here

** YES! it is sexist that all the singers are women and all the authority figures are men


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