Argumentum ad numerum

Appealing to the Gallery, Appealing to Numbers

Argumentum ad numeram and argumentum ad populam are closely related fallacies of logic. Fallacious ad numeram arguments take the position that the veracity of an argument can be determined by the number of people who support or believe the proposition. Fallacious ad populam arguments attempt to win acceptance of an argument by making an emotional appeal to as large an audience as possible.

Giorgio Dubaya Borgia and his administration used ad nauseam emotional appeals (fear of terrorism, Saddam Hussein has murdered Iraqi civilians) to attempt to justify an invasion of extremely dubious merit. Most people are not so foolish as to remain conned forever, and Borgia's approval ratings have plummeted.

However, politicians succeed because large numbers of people are conned by propagandistic appeals to emotion, realizing their errors only too late. (This is the chief problem with democracies – the populace is far too easily duped into voting for candidates who later prove, as did Bush, to have absolutely no merit.) As a result of the gullibility of USians who voted for Bush, al Queda is now operating in Iraq when it did not operate under Hussein. Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been needlessly killed or maimed, and Iraq faces years of civil war before yet another strong man dictator takes over. The only upside of all this stupidity is that the share value of Haliburton has probably increased, and that is not an upside except to greedy Americans.

Religious dogmatists argue that because most people in the US believe that God was their personal creator, then God must exist and must be their creator. This, of course, demonstrates only that most people have been told, from an early age, that there is a God who is their creator and they have believed the tale in the absence of any confirmatory evidence. Unlike the case for Bush's lamentable record, only death could confirm or deny the existence of this purported creator, and the dead cannot inform the still-living that they were duped. If the dead could speak, then I am quite confident that God's approval rating would plummet almost to zero.

Fallacious argumentam ad numeram or argumentam ad populam is particularly damaging in the hands of dishonest politicians, but it is also a general problem amongst those who refuse to believe in the valid, empirical-based knowledge of credible authorities.

Because it is easy and cheap to form and hold an opinion, no matter how ill-informed or illogical that opinion, people with virtually no knowledge of a field will dogmatically insist upon ridiculous notions that run counter to received wisdom from those who are authorities in their fact-based field.

Thus, people who know nothing of meteorology or atmospherics will decide incorrectly that global warming is a myth simply because they do not wish to believe that they must alter their behaviour. People who know nothing of medicine, biomedical sciences, or epidemiology will erroneously decide, for example, that smoking is not harmful, or that vaccination causes autism.
Such errors would merely result in the holding of unfounded opinions by peope not sufficiently informed to host any opinion, but because politicians pander to public opinion, public ignorance becomes translated into harmful political action or inaction.

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