Unidentified Experts


The argument supports a position by claiming that it is endorsed by respected and authoritative persons, institutions or organizations, although no specific experts are actually named, nor is there any appeal to the arguments that such experts might give.



This fallacy is often expressed by referring to the experts generically as "experts," "scientists," "doctors," "leaders," "people in the know," etc. The alleged people in the know might even be referred to merely as "someone" or "they."



"Your view that the New Testament was written by people who knew Jesus is just naive. Scholars agree that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are not eyewitness accounts, but are based on perviously existing documents."


"You know what they say...once you kill a cow you gotta make a burger." - Lady Gaga, giving advice to Beyonce.


"I know that Alabama was in the original forecast. They thought it would get it as a piece of it. It was supposed to go — actually, we have a better map than that, which is going to be presented, where we had many lines going directly — many models — each line being a model.  And they were going directly through. And, in all cases, Alabama was hit — if not lightly, in some cases pretty hard. Georgia, Alabama — it was a different route. They actually gave that a 95% chance probability." - Donald Trump (Sept. 4, 2019 speaking to reporters about his earlier claim that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama. "They" cannot refer to the National Hurricane Center, which made no such predictions.)



There is nothing wrong with summarizing the consensus of opinion within a field of studies. There are, after all, certain opinions that are accepted by all, or nearly all, of the experts within a field. However, these experts agree because they find the arguments in favor of a position to be compelling. Again (as in the Invincible Authority fallacy) it is the arguments that matter, not the mere opinion of the researchers in a community.

Consider, for example, how the argument in the above example about the authorship of the Bible might have been developed differently:

"There are many passages in Matthew and Luke that are word-for-word identical, or nearly identical. This would not have happened if both authors were writing from independent personal experience. Hence, scholars agree that these two gospels were not eyewitness accounts, but are based on previously existing documents."

The "scholars" are still unnamed, but the argument turns on the evidence offered, not on the mere consensus of the unnamed experts. We are also told that the evidence cited (and the conclusion drawn from it) is common knowledge within that field of studies; so, it is impossible to attribute the argument to only one or two scholars. There is nothing wrong with leaving the experts unnamed when an argument under discussion really is considered convincing by most or all of the experts in a field.

However, the fallacy of Unidentified Experts mimics this situation. As with all Ad Verecundiam fallacies, it confuses the mere opinion with the arguments in support of that opinion. Using the mere consensus of agreement (or presumed consensus of agreement) as a reason for accepting a position is not the same thing as using an argument that is so widely accepted that all of the experts within a community acknowledge its soundness.


Source: The phrase "unidentified experts" is in common usage on the Internet. However, I am unable to identify a classical print source for the fallacy. My memory is getting worse, so I cannot even remember where I first saw the phrase used to identify this fallacy.


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