2 What is an argument from authority? We should believe P because an expert or We should believe P because an expert, or authority, believes P.
3 In our textbook, p. 96: This fallacy aacys is committed whenever e e we ague argue for some point, not because it is well grounded in fact or logic but because of the authority of the person who presented it. The standing or prestige of a recognised authority is said to guarantee the truth of the claim, and anyone who doubts it is made to feel presumptuous or egotistical. The thrust of the argument is, Who are you to challenge the judgment of this authority or the experience of that expert?
4 p. 97: In a sense, this seems reasonable because we do accept ideas on authority all the time. No one can check the evidence of everything that is claimed, so we must depend on the information provided by authorities. We accept the laws of gravity and of motion because Sir Isaac Newton formulated them. Really? (poor example)
5 However, an idea does not become true simply because an authority says so; the person must have a good reason to say so. When we cite an authority in an argument we must show why the person s opinion should be accepted, what definitive proof he or she has to offer....
6 ...If we accept people as authorities it is because we have confidence that they support their insights with good thinking and good evidence. Furthermore, the evidence should be publicly verifiable, whether in the form of reproducible experiments or rational reasons that anyone can consider. consider
7 What is Porter saying? When we cite an authority in an argument we must show why the person s opinion should be accepted, what definitive proof he or she has to offer. You can appeal to authority only if you check the original data and arguments? Then you re not appealing to authority at all, or only marginally.
8 Partial trust? Or perhaps you just check that they have some substantial argument? Or perhaps you take a quick look at their arguments, to see if they seem solid?
9 Secret Arguments, Secret Data It seems right that we should be very wary of experts who keep their arguments, or data/premises secret. Although h sometimes there might plausibly be a need for secrecy ( the data are proprietary, for reasons of national security, etc.) i it s still hard to trust experts in these cases.
10 FINDING REGARDING PUBLIC SAFETY INFORMATION Pursuant to Section 7(d) of the National Construction Safety Team Act, AtI hereby find that t the disclosure of the information described below, received by the National Institute of Standards and Technology ("NIST"), in connection with its investigation of the technical causes of the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers and World Trade Center Building 7 on September 11,2001, mightjeopardize publicsafety. Therefore, NIST shall not release the following information: [all input data from their computer model of WTC 7] Patrick Gallagher, Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology, JUL
11 What if the authorities disagree? Believe the highest authority? Maybe, as a general policy. How do you judge which authority is higher? Ph.D. beats M.A.? Number of publications? Professors beat those working in industry?
12 What if top authorities disagree? They cancel out, and you can t conclude anything? Or do you count how many there are on each side? Some scientists i are sceptical of global l warming, but the vast majority of experts, a strong international i consensus, bli believe that it is a fact.
13 Mammals and the Nature of Continents, by George Gaylord Simpson. American Journal of Science 241 (1943): on his particular subject [continental drift] the verdict of paleontologists is practically unanimous: almost all agree in opposing his views For instance in canvassing opinions at some length, Du Toit (1937, Chapter II) was able to cite no paleontologists as active protagonists of continental drift and only one as sympathetic with it this one, Seward, is a specialist on the anatomy of primitive plants and as regards the drift theory he disagrees with a clear consensus of the paleobotanists t more immediately concerned with phytogeography (e.g., Berry, 1928; Chaney, 1940).
14 The fact that almost allpaleontologists say that paleontological data oppose the various theories of continental drift should, perhaps, p obviate further discussion of this point and would do so were it not that the adherents of these theories all agree that paleontological data do support them. It must be almost unique in scientific history for a group of students admittedly without special competence in a given field thus to reject the all but unanimous verdict of those who do have such competence.
15 Authority and Peer Review One of the main symbols of authority in academic communities, including science, is thepeer reviewed reviewed journal article. Work that hasn t been published in a proper peer reviewed journal isn t worth taking seriously. But peer reviewed work has an aura of invincibility.
16 My work on the ecology of slime moulds has been published in the journal Nature. Read as: My work on the ecology of slime moulds has been published in the journal NATURE
17 Criticisms of Peer review "There seems to be no study too fragmented, no hypothesis too trivial, no literature too biased or too egotistical, no design too warped, no methodology too bungled, no presentation of results too inaccurate, too obscure, and too contradictory, no analysis too selfserving, no argument too circular, no conclusions too trifling or too unjustified, and no grammar and syntax too offensive for a paper to end up in print. Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of Journal of the American Medical Association (quoted from Wikipedia)
18 Richard Horton, editor of the British medical journal The Lancet: "The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability not the validity of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi sacred sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong."
19 This reminds me of a paper that was being reviewed by the boss of the lab I was in. He passed it around to see what people thought. I told him that I thought it was pretty poor. He said, Yeah I know. They cite us really well so I am going to accept it anyway. (a scientist writing on a private list)
20 Petitions of Experts If a few hundred experts in a certain field sign a petition about something in that field, what does that mean? Should it be taken seriously?
21 Dissent from Darwin petition (2001) "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." More than 700 scientists signed this (must either hold a Ph.D. in a scientific field such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, computer science, or one of the other natural sciences, or be a professor of medicine).
22 Project Steve petition Evolution is a vital, well supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence (More than 1100 scientists signed this. Need a Ph.D. in biology, geology, paleontology, or a related scientific field, and be called Steven, Stephanie, Esteban, Stefano, etc.)
23 Yet, the book s contention that natural selection s importance for evolution has been hugely overstated represents a point of view that has a growing set of adherents. (A few months ago, I was amazed to hear it expressed, in the strongest terms, from another highly eminent microbiologist.) My impression is that evolutionary biology is increasingly separating into two camps, divided id d over just tthis question. On the one hand are the population geneticists and evolutionary biologists who continue to believe that selection has a creative and crucial role in evolution and, on the other, there is a growing body of scientists (largely those who have come into evolution from molecularbiology, developmental biologyordevelopmental or genetics, and microbiology) who reject it. Adam S. Wilkins, Genome Biology and Evolution, January 2012.
24 1600 Architects and Engineers We believe there is sufficient doubt about the official story to justify re opening the 9/11 investigation. Thenew investigation must include a full inquiry into the possible use of explosives that might have been theactual cause of the destruction of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and Building 7. (Th t b t l t illi li d i (There must be at least a million licensed engineers in the US alone. Do we pay attention to 1600?)
25 Universally though has theforegoing explanation of collapse [due to aircraft impacts and fire] been accepted by the communities of structural engineers and structural mechanics researchers, some outside critics have nevertheless exploited various unexplained observations to disseminate allegations of controlled demolition. (Zdenek Bazant et al, Journal of Engineering Mechanics, October 2008.)
26 Bias Regardless of academic credentials, it seems that authority can be destroyed by bias. Bias isn t the same as having an opinion. It all depends on why one has an opinion. A bias is dfi defined das a non epistemic i source of belief. In other words, one s belief is caused by something other than the proper reasons for belief, such as evidence and argument.
27 Bias and conflict of interest Let s say a public official is supposed to decide which of 3 bids for a construction project to accept. She s supposed to choose the one that will best serve the public interest. But what if her brother works for one of the bidding companies, and badly needs the work? (Also, that company s bid isn t the strongest.) What will she do?
28 Bias and conflict of interest A bias is a kind of conflict of interest, where one s proper interest (to believe the truth) conflicts with some non epistemic interest, such as keeping one s job, making money, etc. It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends d upon his not understanding it! (Upton Sinclair)
29 Examples of Biased Beliefs A mother cannot believe that her son, her baby boy, has committed the crime he is accused of. A professor is sure that his pet theory, the one his entire career is based on, is true. A tobacco industry executive is sure that smoking cannot be harmful.
30 Bias in medicine The United States Preventive Services Task Force, appointed by the Dept. of Health and Human Services, has released (Oct. 2011) an update for the invasive and fear provoking male screening test, theps P.S.A. blood test and manual exam for prostate cancer.
31 Bias in medicine (T)he test does not save lives over all and often leads to more tests and treatments that needlessly cause pain, impotence and incontinence in many, Treating men with high P.S.A. levels has become a lucrative business.
32 From 1986 through 2005, one million men received surgery, radiation therapy or both who would not have been treated without a P.S.A. test... Among them, at least 5,000 died soon after surgery and 10, to 70, suffered serious complications. Half had persistent blood in their semen, and 200, to 300,000 suffered impotence, incontinence or both.
33 Doctors also acknowledged that financial incentives from the fee for service payment model encouraged them to do moreratherrather than less. Thirty nine percent said other primary care doctors would order fewer diagnostic tests if those tests didn t generate extra revenue for them, and 62% said medical subspecialists would cut back if the tests didn t come with financial incentives.
35 Cases of bias Pharmaceutical companies hire ghost writers to place product friendly articles in prestigious scientific journals, under the name of a recognised scientist. Oil companies have supported the research of scientists who cast doubt on the view that global warming is caused by use of fossil fuels. Have scientists exaggerated the risk of gloom and doom global lwarming scenarios, in order to get continued (government) research funding?
36 Dr. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, a former United States Senator, astronaut and geologist Policy makers at the head of government in the United States and elsewhere apparently want to believe, and to have others believe, that human use of fossil fuels accelerates global warming. They pursue this quest in order to impose ever greater and clearly unconstitutional control on the economy and personal liberty in the name of a hypothetically omnipotent government. a poorly concealed, ideologically driven attempt to use conjured up threats of catastrophic consequences as a lever to gain authoritarian control of society.
37 Ad hominem An ad hominem argument, one that attacks a person, is usually improper. But it can be ok when used against an argument from authority.
42 7. Read thefollowing passage, and then list three factors that possibly weaken the authority of Grant Fredericks in this testimony. (N.B. Do not criticize Fredericks argument.)
43 VANCOUVER An inquiry probing the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport in 2007 watched a three second video clip just before he was Tasered. An expert forensic video analyst, Grant Fredericks, testified the video showed Dziekanski took three steps toward four RCMP officers before he was hit with the first of five Taser shots. He appeared to be moving away from the camera, Fredericks told inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood, a retired judge.
44 Fredericks is a former TV reporter who became a Vancouver police officer in 1988, lft left policing i in 2000 to become a video analysis consultant and teacher. He said he used an amateur video taken of the incident at the airport and measured the computer pixels between Dziekanski and fixed objects such as an overhead sign and an airport counter during the criticalthree three seconds. The video shows Dziekanski methodically moving toward police before he was shot with the Taser, he said. Cross examined by Don Rosenbloom, the lawyer representing the Polish government at the inquiry, Fredericks couldn t give an exact estimateof the distance Dziekanski movedtoward the four Mounties whether it was one inch or one foot.
45 The witness also admitted he was no expert in biomechanics or the study of human motion. Two other experts Duane MacInnis, a Vancouver professional engineer, and Mark Hird Rutter, a certified photogammetrist who teaches at BCIT produced reports that found Fredericks used flawed methodology. Hird Rutter concluded that, using Fredericks measurements, it is not possible to determine if Mr. Dziekanski moved forwards or backwards.
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