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False Attribution

Description: Appealing to an irrelevant, unqualified, unidentified, biased, or fabricated source in support of an argument (modern usage). Historical use of this fallacy was in the attribution of "religious" or "spiritual" experiences to outside "higher" sources rather than internal, psychological processes (see fantasy projection).

Logical Form:

Claim X is made.

Source Y, a fake or unverifiable source, is used to verify claim X.

Therefore, claim X is true.

Example #1:

But professor, I got all these facts from a program I saw on TV once... I don’t remember the name of it though.

Explanation: Without a credible, verifiable source, the argument or claim being made is very weak.

Example #2:

I had this book that proved that leprechauns are real and have been empirically verified by scientists, but I lost it.  I forgot the name of it as well -- and who the author was.

Explanation: A story of “this book” hardly can serve as proof of an event as potentially significant as the discovery of leprechauns that have been empirically verified by scientists.  While it might be the case that the person telling this story really does remember reading a convincing argument, it very well could be the case that this person is fabricating this book -- it sure sounds like it.  In either case, it is fallacious to accept the claim that leprechauns are real and have been empirically verified by scientists based on this argument.

Tip: Don't falsify facts.  If you get caught lying, you will almost certainly lose the argument, even if you are right.

References:

The Journal of Philosophy. (1918). Journal of Philosophy, Incorporated.



Registered User Comments

Russell Touchstone
Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 08:56:23 AM
Love the Book! In reference to the following statement...

"Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

If the person making the statement believes that the "they" in the statement are doing something that is wrong (baptizing the dead) and that their belief system is wrong or false with exception of the one common thing they agree on (people will rise from the dead) would that fall under false attribution or some other fallacy if any?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 09:10:46 AM
Hi Russell, I don't quite understand this, but it does not look like a false attribution fallacy. It seems to be that nobody is making a claim, but rather just expressing a belief.

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Russell Touchstone
Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 10:35:16 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Ok. How about this then. I am trying to convince someone that Global Warming is real. I also say that not using hairspray is wrong yet to support my argument for global warming i put forth the statement...."Global warming must be real, else why would "they" not use hairspray?" Is there a fallacy there or just bad argument?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 03:05:32 PM
@Russell Touchstone: Bad argument and false cause. Europe banned GMOs. This was a legal move fueled by political pressure; it has nothing to do with GMOs actually being harmful. So why woul Europe ban GMOs I’d they aren’t harmful? We know the answer.

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Jacob
Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 10:25:32 PM
What if person X is accused of robbery. The evidence offered is that three anonymous people witnessed the robbery. Do three anonymous people count as "verifiable sources". The witnesses say they do not want to reveal their identity for fear of retribution by person X.

I bought your book, in case you were wondering. I love it! It is the only book which even comes close to listing every fallacy.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, February 16, 2018 - 07:58:43 AM
Someone of authority would need to know the identities of the witnesses for this to be credible. In that case, one would have to trust the authority figure (can't be a crooked cop, etc.). This might be more of a legal situation than logical one.

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David Elliott
Sunday, March 19, 2017 - 08:31:34 PM
When a critic constantly refers to the first edition of my book (1995), instead of the vaslty different second edition (2015), is he committing the false attribution fallacy?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, March 20, 2017 - 06:48:06 AM
Not really. It might be cherry-picking, however, if the critic is aware of the information in the latest edition but chooses only to focus on the information in the first.

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