Argumentum ad populum:

Definition Example
When a conclusion is claimed to be true because many people believe it to be true. Nearly everyone believes chicken soup cures a cold, so how can you say it’s not true?
Also known as: appeal to belief / appeal to the majority / appeal to the people
This fallacy is usually committed by those who start with the assumption that belief in something is evidence for the existence of that thing. In other words, an epistemic commitment is indicative of ontological fact. they place much confidence in the reliability of the human mind to arrive at true beliefs. This assumption, however, must be tested. An easy test of this assumption would be to consider the large groups of humans with contradictory beliefs. Given the many incompatible religious and political beliefs, it seems quite clear that the basic ability of a general population to formulate true beliefs is not very reliable, and therefore convention is not a very good measure of correctness. This unreliability becomes even more salient when we consider the many erroneous beliefs our own ancestors held but a few decades ago.

Case Study One

For thousands of year, many humans believed the intuitive notion that the Sun revolves around the Earth. When this was scientifically overturned, it took a long time to convince people that their intuitions were wrong, in part due to the large number of others in the community who were also fervently holding to their intuitions.

Case Study Two

In the U.S. it is believe that cut flowers survive the trip home if held upright, while in Japan it is believed they will survive best if held upside-down. In each country, their culturally-enforced belief is seldom questioned.

Keep in mind that a fallacious argument does not entail an erroneous position.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: