Friday, 5 June 2015

Argumentum ad populum

Argumentum ad populum or The Argument from popularity is the logical fallacy that concludes a proposition is true because most, or many, people believe it.

The problem with this argument is not that it's fallacious. Actually, that's not right. The problem with this argument is that it's fallacious. The *other* problem with this logical fallacy is that it works. Often.

Picture yourself on the 20th floor of an office building. One of your colleagues, a known joker perhaps, stands at the window, looking out. They turn to you smiling, and say 'there's something you need to see out here...' You're probably not going to look. You'll probably think they're having you on.

Now imagine you look up from your seat and there are 25 colleagues looking out the window. One of them notices you, says to come and look. You might not. But this causes everyone else to notice you, and they *all* tell you there's something you've got to see out the window. Do you go? Of course you do.

If all your friends tell you to watch a movie, listen to a band, or watch a TV show because it's're more likely to.

If you're born into a community where a high percentage of the population believes in a god or gods or goddesses, good chance you will to. Especially if they raise you as though you believe, without ever letting you question it. I know, because happened to me.

When I started my twitter account there was a meme that went around about the similarities between Jesus and Horus. Both born of a virgin, both born on December 25th, both raised someone from the dead. The list goes on citing more than 10 similarities.

Here's one version of it:

I remember thinking it seemed suspect. I tried to find someone who had verified the claims but couldn't. I could only find people repeating them. So whenever I saw atheists using this comparison (and there were plenty) I'd tell them I wasn't sure it was true. Another look today shows only people repeating it, or the odd person questioning it or asking for confirmation. I can't find anyone giving good evidence to confirm these claims.

It got to the point where so many atheists were sending it out that people assumed it was true. The popularity was the problem. Not enough people bothered to check.

So beware of the argument from popularity. Not just from the other side, but also from those who agree with you.

No comments:

Post a Comment