Fallacy Friday!

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Shifting the Burden of Proof!

(related to “appeal to ignorance”) This fallacy occurs when the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side of an argument. In a logical...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Appeal to Ancient Wisdom!

(Argument from Age, Wisdom of the Ancients, Appeal to Antiquity)

This fallacy is the misconception that ancient practices or beliefs are superior to modern ones (related to appeal to authority and appeal to tradition). Those that use this fallacy argue that the length of time that something has been practiced is a sign of its worthiness or truthfulness when more often it is a sign of wishful thinking, ingrained tradition, appeals to authority, and/or the perpetuation of anecdotes. Not every ancient practice is wise or valid (trepanation, flat earthism, geocentricism, human sacrifice, etc.), and just because science has confirmed the efficacy of some ancient practices (like some herbal medicines), that does not validate all ancient practices (like blood-letting). In fact, this fallacy is often used when scientific evidence is lacking, often by those pushing alternative medicines or religious practices.


This fallacy occurred in 2012 when many were predicting an apocalypse associated with the end of the Mayan Calendar (December 21, 2012). There is no reason to think that the end of their calendar was a mark of the end of the world, but those who fell for this fallacy were certain that the Mayans knew things that we didn’t.

Examples:

Swami Patooty wrote, back in the 6th century, “To know oneself, is to one day self know.” You don’t find pearls like that today!

My Grammy told me that to be healthy I should have bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast.

It's right because the Maya/Chinese/Hebrews said it thousands of years ago!

Astrology is a very ancient practice, and it wouldn’t have survived for so long if it didn’t have truth to it.

Christianity is thousands of years old, so it must be true. (One could say the same thing about many other religions.)

The theory that witches and demons cause disease is far older than the germ theory of disease. Therefore, the theory about witches and demons must be true.

Sure I believe in God. People have believed in God for thousands of years so it seems clear that God must exist. After all, why else would the belief last so long?

Clubbing seals in Northern Europe and Canada is acceptable because hunters have done so for thousands of years.

Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years, so it must work!

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