A fallacious appeal to authority

Our esteemed James Randi is said to always answer when someone introduces himself as an skeptic "I doubt that". I was reminded of that answer a couple of days ago when Facebook indicated the birthday of a new skeptic friend, who writes an interesting blog, in spanish. I wrote on his wall saying "Although I doubt it is your birthday, given the lack of evidence (I haven't seen your birth certificate) congratulations are not wasted so happy birthday!".

I didn't really expect a direct reply but he wrote back thanking me and asking me to forgo evidence and accept his falacious authority.

It was good and clean fun between skeptics but it illustrates what critical thinking is. Why should I believe it was Antonio's birthday? Because he says so? Granted, you might say that the biggest authority on all things Antonio is himself. However, people have been known to lie about their birthday and it really does not prove that such and such a day is my birthday just because I say so. (Especially if I am proven to celebrate my birthday more than once a year or on different dates every year).

This is the "appeal to authority" fallacy - just because someone says it, it does not mean it is true. There most be independent proof or corroboration.Especially when the person stating the fact is talking about something outside of their normal field of expertise - being an authority in comedy or nudism (Jenny McCarthy?) does not make you an expert on public health (vaccination and autism?)

So, don't believe everything you hear and say. Even if it is in the Bible, it does not mean it is true because it is written in the Bible. (Hear that Corny?) There must be a way to independently prove the point or we will be no better than those who believe vaccination is bad because Jenny McCarthy says so.

And everyone is always trying to have us believe claims basis an appeal to authority - just watch informmercials or Larry King Live and have fun debunking all those claims!

Happy new year to all!

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