Welcome to Fallacy Watch! This is where we look at some common fallacies (i.e., bad arguments), what they involve, and how to avoid them in your own writing. This time, for example, we\u2019re looking at two fallacies that focus on the person making an argument rather than the argument itself: ad hominem attacks and arguments from authority. Read on to find out more.\r\nAd Hominem Arguments\r\nAd hominem is a Latin term meaning \u201cagainst the person.\u201d An ad hominem argument is therefore an attack on person making an argument rather than a case against what they say. For instance:\r\nSocrates\u2019 ideas on beauty must be wrong because he was so ugly.\r\nThis is obviously wrong, because someone\u2019s appearance does not have an impact on their ideas. But the same would be true if we had attacked Socrates for being stupid, selfish, or smelly. The fallacy here is focusing on Socrates the person, not the arguments he makes.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_5723" align="aligncenter" width="252"] Socrates sneers at your fallacious arguments.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nSuch arguments are common in real life (e.g., political attack ads). But in academic writing, it\u2019s vital to focus on arguments and evidence, not the personality of the person we\u2019re arguing against.\r\nArguments from Authority\r\nAn argument from authority, also known as an appeal to authority, relies on the status of the person cited instead of their ideas. For example:\r\nIsaac Newton was a great scientist and an alchemist, so we should take alchemy seriously.\r\nWe would never deny that Newton was a great scientist. His work on gravity and optics? The boy done good. But Newton\u2019s belief in alchemy doesn\u2019t mean we can change lead into gold. If we wanted to argue that this were possible, we would need evidence. And there is none.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_5724" align="aligncenter" width="326"] But is Isaac more or less attractive than Socrates?[\/caption]\r\n\r\nIt is worth comparing arguments from authority with scientific consensus. There are some scientists, for example, who deny that climate change exists or say it has nothing to do with humans. However,\u00a0 97% percent of climate scientists agree that human activity contributes to climate change.\r\n\r\nIf we were to take a study by one of the 3% who disagree, we could say \u201cThis expert scientist says there is no such thing as climate change, so we don\u2019t need to worry about it.\u201d This would be an argument from authority, as it relies entirely on the scientist being an\u00a0\u201cexpert.\u201d However, it would also involve ignoring the 97% of scientists who say climate change is real.\r\n\r\nThis is not to say that scientific consensus can\u2019t be proven wrong. But if we want to prove it wrong, we need to look at the evidence, not just appeal to someone who disagrees with the consensus.\r\n\r\nAs with ad hominem arguments, then, the key to avoiding this fallacy is to always focus on evidence. If someone is known as an \u201cauthority\u201d in a certain subject area, that\u2019s a great starting point. But you need to follow up on this by looking at what they argue in detail, not just who they are.