Appeal to fiction
|Cogito ergo sum|
Logic and rhetoric
An appeal to fiction (also generalizing from fictional evidence) is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone makes claims about reality based on evidence drawn from works of fiction.
Fiction is not reality — it is driven in large part by considerations of being interesting to the audience rather than reflecting reality with 100% accuracy. Furthermore, fiction shows systemic bias in its distortion of reality; common deviations for the audience's benefit are catalogued and studied as tropes. Using fiction to argue about reality can therefore systematically skew your beliefs and expectations.
- This tactic was deployed by Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia when he justified the use of torture on terrorism suspects by citing the television show 24 as evidence, stating "Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so."
- Just about anything to do with 1984.
- Atheist professor dropping a piece of chalk and it not breaking, after telling God to have it land intact, or variants.
- In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, an Objectivist society (Galt’s Gulch) is depicted as creating a utopia. Needless to say, just because an economic system works in a fictional book does not prove that it would work in real life.
- In the 2007 film I Am Legend, based on the story by Richardson Matheson, an attempt to cure cancer backfires and causes people to mutate into ghoulish creatures. Anti-vaccination activists tried to cite the film to justify their wariness and skepticism about vaccinations, prompting the film’s screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to point out, “Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made it up. It’s. Not. Real.” (And what’s more, the film doesn’t even depict vaccines as the cause of the apocalypse but rather a genetically engineered measles virus.)
- Things to keep in mind before starting a conspiracy, mostly informed by fictional examples
- Cognitive biases potentially affecting judgment of global risks, p. 9, Nick Bostrom
- The Logical Fallacy of Generalization from Fictional Evidence, on LessWrong
- 24 IMDb.
- Scalia and Torture (Jun 19, 2007) by Andrew Sullivan The Atlantic.
- I Am Legend screenwriter dismisses anti-vax claims based on film's plot, BBC.com (10 August 2021)
- 'I Am Legend' screenwriter reacts to vaccine conspiracy theories, pointing out the plot is fiction, CNN.com (10 August 2021)
- Yes, ‘I Am Legend,’ the 2007 movie about zombie vampires, is now a part of the vaccine conversation, Washington Post (11 August 2021)
- Fact check: A vaccine did not turn characters in the movie ‘I Am Legend’ into zombies , Reuters (18 December 2020)
- Was ‘I Am Legend’ Set in 2021? And was the "zombie outbreak" caused by a vaccine?, Snopes (12 January 2021)