Extending Ben Goldacre’s Appeal To Authority to real life

Bishop Hill has a post quoting Ben Goldacre’s “appeal to authority”:

“you have only two choices: you can either learn to interpret data yourself and come to your own informed conclusions; or you decide who to trust”

That statement misses a crucial point. It should be extended as:

“you have only two choices: you can either learn to interpret data yourself and come to your own informed conclusions; or you decide who to trust” AS LONG AS THEY APPEAR TRUSTWORTHY.

Because the Authority has to regain its authority every single time.

Otherwise it’s just a sell-out of the brain, sheepishly sticking eg to the opinion of the Royal Society no matter how stupid that opinion might become in the future.

2 Replies to “Extending Ben Goldacre’s Appeal To Authority to real life”

  1. I describe such rhetorical devices as the “generic bullshit defence”. It can be used to:

    * Defend exaggerated global warming claims
    * Defend drug companies when they somtimes bring to market a bad drug
    * Defend priests accused of paedophilia
    * Defend disastrous economic policies

    Anyway, you get the idea. Due to the generic nature of the ‘defence’ it can seemingly be applied to any situation where there is an unequal balance of power.

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