From the editor: In search of logical faults | Chroniclers
The “Call to Authority” fault involves invoking the name of a famous or knowledgeable person as a substitute for concrete evidence to back up your position. “As Thomas Jefferson said …”
On the other hand, there is the “call to ignorance”, which consists in questioning an argument because we do not know everything about the subject, or in using the very absence of concrete evidence as proof. to support your own position. “We don’t know how the Egyptians managed to build the pyramids; we cannot ignore the possibility that aliens have helped them … “
As you can probably see, these flaws sometimes get confused. It is perfectly possible to have multiple logical faults wrapped in a single argument, or even a single sentence.
None of these are new – in fact, many of them were well known and described by Greek philosophers. They have been part of argument, debate, political conversation, bar jokes, and just about every form of human communication for as long as humans talk to each other.
But logical faults seem to have a kind of golden age lately. Why? Because we are in a golden age of mass media. From talk radio to congressional debates on C-SPAN to talking heads on cable news, you can get a 24-hour regime of slippery arguments and spurious rhetoric.
Now social media has brought this to the masses. Spurious arguments that were once conducted among a handful of people in coffee shops or on bar stools can now spread to hundreds, thousands, or even millions with a single keystroke on Facebook and Twitter. Almost every person on Earth has the opportunity to broadcast their own logical faults to the masses.