Thursday, June 11, 2009

Appeal to Tradition Fallacy

One common logical fallacy is called "Appeal to Tradition", the notion that an idea is thought to be correct because it is associated with an existing tradition. In short, the fallacy states, "it's always been this way."

Valerie Reiss,'s Holistic Living editor, commits this fallacy in an article offering advice to readers wanting to find a psychic:

Christianity sees divination as going against the Bible's mandate not to seek "soothsayers," because that would be expressing a lack of faith in God as omnipotent and all-knowing. Yet many other of the world's religions and cultures have woven it into their fiber--Hinduism uses Vedic astrology to match marriage partners; in Chinese culture, an expert is consulted on the most mundane to crucial life matters--from when to get married to where to live. Wanting to know what will happen is not just a result of our modern brains grasping for control and answers; it's been the human condition for millennia, people have been seeking propehcies since Greeks took often long journeys to consult the Oracle at Delphi.

If divination has been practiced for thousands of years in a variety of cultures, then it must be correct, reasons Reiss, even if Christianity forbids it. But Christianity is also a long-held and widespread belief, so how is one to choose? Another practice found in nearly all cultures past and present is child abuse, but I hope Reiss isn't advocating that for her readers.

Rather than appeal to tradition, Reiss's readers would be best served using reason, experience, and inductive knowledge to make decisions. Of course, if they did that, then the probably wouldn't be searching for psychics.

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