Fallacies – Argument from Silence (Argumentum Ex Silentio)

Assuming that because there is a lack of textual or spoken evidence from an authoritative source, a certain claim is true, or vice versa.

Example: “Few or no studies have demonstrated the long-term health effects of consuming GM foods. Therefore, GM foods are safe.”

(Actually, the basis for significant concerns regarding the safety of GM crops has been demonstrated. See resources page for more info. Still, similar arguments from silence are often made about GM crops or other public health concerns/hazards, when corporations wish to conceal damaging evidence or silence incriminating voices for the sake of profit.)

Just because no one has spoken against something doesn’t mean it’s automatically true, correct, or safe.

And in the same way, just because no one has spoken for the truth of something doesn’t necessarily mean that thing is untrue, incorrect, or unreal.

argumentum ex silentio fallacy illustration

Argumentum ex silentio is often seen at play in echo chambers, where people tend to be fed (via social media algorithms or other means) information which confirms their own biases/opinions/wishes. They don’t hear/read any (or much) information to the contrary. Therefore, they continue to assume that their opinions are well-informed ones, because opposing voices and viewpoints are seemingly silent.

In the dystopian novel 1984, people were “vaporized” and their memories completely blotted from media and records. This was all in an attempt to make it seem – via the silence of any contrary media – as if they had never existed.

Newspapers containing information which disgraced Big Brother (for example, publications from past dates containing predictions which were later found to be grossly mistaken or off the mark) were thoroughly destroyed, and publications with the same date were rewritten and republished in favor of the present “facts”.

The purpose of such painstaking efforts to rewrite history was to maintain the perception of Big Brother as a wise, strong, trustworthy, and necessary savior or hero. The purpose was to – through the silencing of contradictory information – “prove” the dependability of Big Brother, and make it seem as if “vaporized” people had never existed in the first place, rather than mysteriously disappeared.

However, the silence of truth does not prove its antithesis. Hence, an argument from silence is a logical fallacy.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

3 thoughts on “Fallacies – Argument from Silence (Argumentum Ex Silentio)

  1. Pingback: Vaccines: Safe or Not? – Reflection Cube

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