When Appeals to Authority Fail

This advertisement from the 1970's is a fail on so many levels that it is just hilarious.  Using the Shah of Iran as you source of moral authority?  Cheer-leading the Iranian nuclear program?  Awesome.  Via How to be a Retronaut



  1. Jim Clay:

    They're not using him for moral authority, they're using him because he was, as they state, "sitting on top of one of the largest reservoirs of oil in the world." The point is, if HE thinks it's a good idea, then it's an even better idea for us.

  2. TJIC:

    I don't know that I see this as entirely an "appeal to authority" fallacy; I see it as - potentially - an asymmetric information question.

    Imagine an ad with a headline that read "no one in your neighborhood is buying flood insurance...except for these two guys, one works for the Weather Department, and the other for the Actuarial Department...what do they know?".

    I'd certainly read the body of that ad. I assume that most people are rationally ignorant, and for 99% of my decisions, I'm following the herd (maybe the kind of teapot I use is going to give me cancer, but I don't have time to research it, and everyone I know shops at Target and has the same brand, so it's PROBABLY not worth worrying about).

    If I assume that most people are ignorant, but a few experts are not...and they're placing bets with their own assets...then I want to know more.

    I note that in this example, the Shah was not building a nuke plant with his own wallet, and there are lots of reasons he might be building one (status, buying off the intelligentsia, WMD research, etc.)

  3. Dan:

    That's a very funny ad in retrospect. Especially in regards to "Iran running out of oil," which, 35 years later, is nowhere near happening. In fact, before the sanctions took hold this year, Iran's oil production was around 3 million barrels a day, and the country still has one of the world's top-five reserves, with potentially around 200 billion barrels in the ground. Goes to show you that the doomsayers back in the 70s were wrong about oil running out, and still are wrong today.

  4. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> If I assume that most people are ignorant, but a few experts are not…and they’re placing bets with their own assets…then I want to know more.

    Yeah, but this fails in that I'm sure Hanson and Mann are placing bets on more AGW attention.

    But hey, they're "experts".

    >>> I note that in this example, the Shah was not building a nuke plant with his own wallet,

    Ummm, back then the Bank of Iran WAS his own wallet. That was one of the problems.

  5. John Moore:

    In 1970, the Shah of Iran was pretty well regarded in the US. He was viewed as a modernizer and liberalizer (he was both). Part of the revolution against him was a revolution against western liberal ideas.

    These days, of course, he is remembered primarily as a brutal dictator, but that is a gross oversimplification.

    Your example betrays an acceptance of a post-revolution narrative, rather than an understanding of how he was viewed at the time of the ad.

  6. Dollar Skeptic:

    Howdy, Pilgrim.


    Multiple failures of the control room staff at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station last spring sparked the power plant’s first emergency shutdown in years, according to a report released yesterday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which found that the problems were likely serious enough to warrant a rigorous yearlong review of the plant’s safety procedures.


    She (Carol Wightman, a Pilgrim spokeswoman) could not recall the last time Pilgrim had such an automatic shutdown, which nuclear officials call a “scramming’’ incident, but she said, “It’s been years.’’


    Scramming is an accidental shutdown mode used when the reaction starts to get out of control.


  7. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    The relevance of a harmless shutdown is unclear.

  8. Jesse:

    I'd say this ad is more telling about US foreign policy and the general hysteria about Iranian nuclear intentions now. Apparently it's fine for Iran to have nuclear power capability as long as it's coupled with a puppet dictator installed by the US government.