The ‘appeal to antiquity’ fallacy

I have already written on a number of other fallacies that often get used. The ‘appeal to antiquity‘ is another commonly used logical fallacy that is often used when the assumption is that something is better because it is older, is traditional, or has “always has been done.”

An often cited example is: “Homeopathy has been around 300 years, so it must obviously work“¹.

According to Logical Fallacies.info:

Appeals to antiquity assume that older ideas are better, that the fact that an idea has been around for a while implies that it is true. This, of course, is not the case; old ideas can be bad ideas, and new ideas can be good ideas. We therefore can’t learn anything about the truth of an idea just by considering how old it is.

This fallacy is also refered to as the ‘appeal to tradition’ and argumentum ad antiquitatem. As RationalWiki notes:

Individuals may believe that “time tested” means “factual” and that “better people than I” were the ones who originally decided a thing, and “if it were wrong, it would have been challenged by now”.

The classic example of the ‘appeal to antiquity’ in the context of the topic of this blog is the use of the idea of evolutionary concepts or historical use to support the argument that barefoot running is better. Barefoot running may or may not be better, but to claim it better based on the ‘appeal to antiquity’ is a flawed fallacy that is easy to deconstruct as there are plenty of old ideas that turned out to be wrong. To throw the ‘evolutionary’ perspective or ’1000′s of years’ into the mix does not automatically mean it is right. If you want to argue from that perspective, you need to accept other ‘old’ ideas that have been clearly shown to be wrong.

This is similar to the flawed appeal to nature fallacy. As always, I go where the evidence takes me and do not rely on a clichés or rhetoric based  junk science based on the appeal to antiquity fallacy.

¹Homeopathy is actually scam and does not work. All the research and scientific evidence shows that.

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About Craig Payne

University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger, dad. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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