because i said so (the argument from authority)

If you are a child or used to be one, you’re familiar with the expression “because I said so.” When adults say this, they think they’re saying, “This discussion is over.” What they’re actually saying is, “There’s no good reason for you to listen to me, but since I’m the most powerful person here, you have to!”

Most adults* would never think of pulling “because I said so” on another adult. That would be rude. But sometimes we will tell you to do or believe something because some other, more powerful person said so. We’ll repeat the orders or opinions of the celebrity, teacher, boss, scientist, president, or ski instructor without bothering to find out if they’re true (“Guys, vitamin C makes your hair grow faster. It does! My political science professor told me”).

This is called an “argument from authority.” In some circles, it is also called “the kind of argument that does really well with people who never learned how to use Google.”

*Adults who use their authority (rather than their ideas) to get other adults to do what they say are the worst kind of adults.