Appeal to Experts Example
Here is an illustration of how you might go about doing the “appeal to
experts” assignment given in class. A couple of things to note here:
(1) You need not adopt any particular method of bibliographic
reference, but make it very easy for me to find the original source,
and cite it after every sentence in which you refer to it. (2) It need
not be pretty. It’s not an essay. Just present the information as
clearly as you can.
Did creatures evolve from other forms of life?
Construct an appeal to experts argument answering this question that
meets all of the three criteria given in class. Document your findings
1. Present at least three sources to support your claim. Use at least
two of the three methods given in class (i.e., an article in a
professional journal, a textbook, a professional organization). For
each source, document how it meets the criteria given in class. For
example, for a professional journal, explain how you know it is a
professional journal using the criteria given in class; for a
professional organization, describe its membership; etc. Be sure to
specify where you got each piece of information, including URL and/or a
photocopy of the relevant page with the relevant information
2. Present a source that reaches the opposite conclusion. Explain why
it fails to meet one or more of the criteria for an appeal to experts.
The conclusion of this argument is that creatures evolved from other forms of life. Three sources in support of this claim are:
1. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
(FASEB). FASEB represents 22 professional societies and 84,000
scientists (as stated on their web page at
http://www.fasebj.org/content/20/3/408.full). FASEB published an
official statement that reads, in part, “While there may be some
disagreement about the details of evolution, it is not a controversial
theory among scientists. Rather, there is overwhelming scientific
consensus that evolution is a valid explanation for the development of
species” (http://www.fasebj.org/content/20/3/408.full). This
statement is recent (having been published in 2006).
2. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has
over 120,000 members, and is the world’s largest scientific
association, according to their website
(http://membercentral.aaas.org/about). AAAS issued a statement on Feb.
16, 2006 stating that, “Evolution is one of the most robust and widely
accepted principles of modern science. It is the foundation for
research in a wide array of scientific fields and, accordingly, a core
element in science education” and “… there is no significant
controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the
theory of evolution. The current controversy surrounding the teaching
of evolution is not a scientific one” (Statement on the Teaching of
Evolution, Board of Directors, AAAS, Feb. 16, 2006, linked from
3. Charles A. Bleckmann, “Evolution and Creationism in Science:
1880-2000,” Bioscience, vol. 56, no. 2, Feb. 2006, p. 151-158.
Bleckmann is a biologist at the Air Force Institute of Technology.
Bleckmann states that, “A 1996 survey of people who were listed in
American Men and Women of Science showed that only 5 percent of the
scientists agreed with a statement that humans were created in their
present form 10,000 years ago, whereas in a 1997 survey of the American
public, 47 percent agreed with such a statements. Similar questions
about evolution showed that an overwhelming majority of US scientists
accepted evolution, while less than half of the US general public did—
among the lowest rates of acceptance for evolution in the developed
countries” (p. 158).
According to its web site, Bioscience is “A peer-reviewed, heavily
cited, monthly journal with content written and edited for
accessibility to researchers, educators, and students alike…” and is
published by The American Institute of Biological Sciences
How the above meets the three criteria for an appeal to experts:
The first criterion was that the persons appealed to must be experts in
the field(s) in question. The experts will include biologists,
anthropologists, botanists, and many others in the life sciences. FASEB
is an organization of such individuals. While AAAS and the survey
reported by Bleckmann are aimed more generally at scientists, the fact
that evolution is foundational for a wide array of scientific fields
(as noted in the statement from AAAS) suggests that these sources will
also be relevant.
The second criterion was that there be a consensus of experts in the
field. All three sources indicate that the consensus of experts in the
field is that evolution occurred.
The third criterion was that the experts be reliable and credible.
While a few of those polled in the larger surveys might lack such
credibility, it would be unreasonable to believe that such large
numbers of experts are all lying for the sake of some ulterior motive.
Such conspiracy theories are unlikely to be true.
I conclude that the above appeal to experts is a good argument, and thus that it is likely true that evolution occurred.
A source that reaches the opposite conclusion is Creation Ministries
International (CMI) (creation.com). CMI’s official position is
that evolution cannot occur among kinds of creatures, that the universe
was recently created, that the Bible is inerrant, and that no claim can
be correct if it contradicts the Bible
(http://creation.com/about-us#what_we_believe). Its list of public
speakers and scientists numbers 35 people, of whom only 7 have
credentials relevant to evolutionary biology (e.g., degrees in botany
or biology). The rest have degrees in things like engineering, physics
and theology (http://creation.com/about-us#who_we_are).
An appeal to experts relying solely on CMI would fail the three
criteria for appeal to experts. It would fail the criterion that the
people appealed to be experts in the field in question because, as
noted above, most of them are not experts in biology or a related
field. It would fail the second criterion because the consensus of
experts is that evolution occurred. It would likely fail the third
criterion regarding reliability and credibility because any scientific
inquiry undertaken by CMI members is apparently restricted by the prior
assumption that their interpretation of the Bible is inerrant. Such a
restriction would apparently force the automatic rejection of some
scientific evidence, thereby preventing a complete scientific
evaluation of the issue on the basis of all the relevant scientific
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