Appeal to fiction

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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[1] as evidence, stating "Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so."[2]
  • 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.”[3][4][5] (And what’s more, the film doesn’t even depict vaccines as the cause of the apocalypse but rather a genetically engineered measles virus.[6][7])

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