The authority in question is not named, or in written arguments, their is an absence of citation. When an authority is not named, it is impossible to confirm that the authority is in fact authoritative, or even whether the claim is backed by an authority at all. As “they” say, 62% of statistics are made up on the spot. (Wink. Wink.) Furthermore, if the claim is rooted in an authoritative source, one cannot check to see whether the unnamed authority’s argument should be disputed. A special case of this fallacy is the appeal to rumor or hearsay. Because the source of a rumor is typically not known, it is not possible to determine whether to believe the rumor. And this is especially important because often false and harmful rumors are deliberately started in order to discredit an opponent. » Also see Appeal to Authority for additional pitfalls.
- Nutritionists are unanimous: aspartame is responsible for an epidemic of multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus*, microwaving food in plastic containers releases cancer-causing agents in food, and Mountain Dew will shrink testicles and lower sperm count. By allowing these products to persist, the F.D.A. is failing in its responsibility. These ingredients should be avoided like the plague.
- "Did you know that Winston Churchill was born in the ladies' room during a dance?" » "The claim... has been circulated on Internet-based trivia lists for as long as we can remember. Given that Churchill was one of the most important figures of the 20th Century... this would seem like a fairly easy item to verify, but once again things were deceptively less simple than they appeared at first blush." (Mikkelson, Snopes.com, 2008.) The Mikkelsons at Snopes.com make a living of investigating questionable claims, but as a rule, the burden of proof is on the claim and should not be accepted without citation. This is a classic case of a factoid, in the original sense of the term: "something fictitious or unsubstantiated that is presented as fact... and accepted because of constant repetition." (Random House Dictionary) What is especially tricky about factoids is that they have a prima facie plausibility because they seem harmless enough, with no apparent idealogical motive to raise our skepticism. Ironically, the definition of the term "factoid" has evolved in precisely this way. It has been used increasingly to refer to "trivia" and thereby lost its meaning in common parlance as something that resembles a fact, but is not in fact true. T'is a shame. It was a word we needed in its original sense.
- "All the economists have factored in the Bush tax cuts and said that it leads to an increase in the deficit of four trillion dollars." (Eliot Spitzer on Parker Spitzer, CNN, December 7, 2010) » Mary Matalin calls him on it, "I love the way you quote all these ecomonists. The president said today that economists have told him, do not raise taxes now." We have here a classic case of dueling authorities, but the viewer is ill-equipped by such an exchange to investigate the matter because the economists are unnamed.
- "Many scientists dissent from prevailing 'big bang cosmology', the view that the universe — time and space, matter and energy — exploded from an infinitely dense point a finite time in the past. So arguments for the existence of God like the Kalam Argument that are premised upon a finite past fail." » The point is relevant, but since the scientists are not named, we are prevented from appraising their arguments against a Big Bang singularity and therefore whether they are potential defeaters to this line of reasoning in the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
- "If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts... Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, 'He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school.' Obama's political handlers are attempting to make it appear that he is not a radical... The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the U.S. from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level — through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!!" » Apart from the egregious scare tactics employed in this email chain letter, the writer insists that the reader disbelieve Obama's own testimony about himself without providing any authority to justify such suspicions. This is a classic case of rumor-mongering, the writer urging the reader to perpetuate the rumor by passing it along to everyone they know.
- "Distinguished authorities point out: that medical research of recent ears indicates may possible causes of lung cancer; that there is no agreement among the authorities regarding what the cause is; that there is no proof that cigarette smoking is one of the causes; that statistics purporting to link smoking with the disease could apply with equal force to any of many other aspect of modern life. Indeed the validity of the statistics themselves are questioned by numerous scientists." (UK Tobacco Institute, "A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers", 1954.)