Citation Fallacies

A few under-discussed fallacies and BS tactics related to citations.

Fake citation

Claiming that a source had said something without providing any reason for your opponent to believe you. Example: two catholics are having an argument about abortion, and one of them says "Yeah well the church says it's a sin", without saying where or in what document the church has said that. No, the burden is not on your opponent to go digging through source material looking for it, unless it's something that comes up easily in a web search. If you're going to make an argument that depends on external sources, at least give your opponent an easy way to look it up.

Vague fake citation

Doing this with an alleged source so vague that it doesn't even give the opponent a clue where to start even if they wanted to go looking for it. Example: starting with "science has proven..." or "it is known..."

Appeal to authority

A lot of places on the internet actually do discuss this, but they always cherry-pick an example that doesn't actually involve the fallacy. For example in the Your Logical Fallacy Is article Bob is not only giving a fake citation but also pitting his referred authority against a severe majority of other authorities. Those are the real mistakes Bob is making. Of course he shouldn't be expected to himself defend his beliefs about evolution if he isn't a scientist. They're steering far around the problem of overriding clearly sound reasoning with authority.

Your Logical Fallacy Is: Appeal to Authority

Here's how I would explain appeal to authority: the word of someone with greater expertise in the relevant field than you or your opponent is a great tiebreaker in the absence of compelling evidence either way. But when you take this to the point of using a mere citation to dismiss strong independent evidence or even a logical *proof*, it's a fallacy. Even the smartest and best educated humans are not infallible (or unquestionably honest) and should not be followed to absurd or self-contradicting conclusions. Example: the citation to Libet's studies on Wikipedia's article on free will that says it's been proven scientifically that our decisions are made by our brains about ten seconds before we become aware of them. This outright precludes the existence of free will (although Wikipedia claims it doesn't because they have to stick to their token neutrality policy) which is not only directly experienced by all of us but a necessary foundation for the very concept of morality.

Outsource to ally

Citing a source politically allied with your side of the argument. For example, citing the CSGV to prove that civilian gun ownership is harmful, or citing the NRA to prove that it's helpful. Sources with an obvious political interest in a particular argument shouldn't be considered reliable, but sometimes people act like "Prove It" is only for your direct opponent in an argument, and not for external (allied) sources.

Even when you get a claim from someone who doesn't agree with the positions it seems to support, they may have got it from someone who does, so that should also be checked.

The Invincible Lie


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