Argument from false or misleading authority

by Tim Harding

Argument from false or misleading authority, is a logical fallacy which provides an argument from authority, but on a topic outside of the particular authority’s expertise. In such cases, the argument in question is not backed by the required degree of expertise and therefore the conclusion is unreliable.

Examples of this can often be found in the media, where lazy journalists obtain opinions on an issue from a willing and available ‘prominent person’, or worse still a show business or sporting celebrity; despite the prominent person or celebrity having no qualifications or expertise on the topic.

An instance of this fallacy was in the media coverage of the visit to Australia of the vociferous climate change denier, Viscount Monckton, an hereditary peer from the UK (but who is not a member of the House of Lords). Whilst Monckton may claim some knowledge of mathematics, he is not a climate scientist. (He has an MA in classics and a diploma in journalism studies). It is most unlikely that he would have received anywhere near as much media coverage if he was not a titled member of the British aristocracy.

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Filed under Logical fallacies

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