Knowing how to spot logical fallacies in an argument can be the key to victory. One of the most common fallacies is the argument from authority, also known as the appeal to authority.

This fallacy uses the citation of a perceived expert or authority on a subject, instead of factual evidence. This fallacy is also generally used when real evidence for a claim is sparse or non-existent. This is not to say that experts in a field of study don’t have particular insight into their specialties, however skepticism still needs to be given to claims that don’t match the evidence. For example, Jeff says:

“The advice in The Secret has brought wealth and happiness to tons of people, Oprah even had the author on her show.”

The fallacy here is easy to recognize, Jeff is trying to use the perceived credibility of the author being asked to appear on Oprah to add veracity to the claims of the book. Obviously the fact that Oprah, or any other celebrity for that matter, thinks something is true has no bearing on the claims made whatsoever.

It is also worth noting that an expert speaking on a topic outside of his field should not be given a free pass to credibility. Someone who holds an advanced degree in astronomy doesn’t necessarily have anything worthwhile to offer on the subject of finance.

Remember, while considering information given in a discussion of a topic, the information must stand on its own merits. The source of the information, while potentially  informing the quality of the information, may be only a red herring.

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