Thursday, May 04, 2006

When appeal to authority is misleading

Here is a very interesting argument for not presuming that an appeal to authority is always appropriate.

The argument is part of a website entirely devoted to the analysis of logical fallacies of all types. “Appeal to Misleading Authority”, the title of the above-linked web document, is one such kind of fallacy.

Of particular interest to us when opposing animal experimentation on medical grounds is the point n. 3: ”The authority is an expert, but is not disinterested. That is, the expert is biased towards one side of the issue, and his opinion is thereby untrustworthy.”

How many times animal research has been defended on the basis of its common acceptance among ‘experts’ in the bio-medical fields?

These ‘experts’ are exactly the kind of authority to which this fallacy relates, ie ‘not disinterested’ and ‘biased towards one side of the issue’.

It is not anything new, but it is useful and interesting to have a formal argument to which to resort.