Fallacy: Appeal to Novelty
Also Known as: Appeal to the New, Newer is Better, Novelty.
Appeal to Novelty is a fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that something is better or correct simply because it is new. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:
- X is new.
- Therefore X is correct or better.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because the novelty or newness of something does not automatically make it correct or better than something older. This is made quite obvious by the following example:
Joe has proposed that 1+1 should now be equal to 3. When asked why people should accept this, he says that he just came up with the idea. Since it is newer than the idea that 1+1=2, it must be better.
This sort of "reasoning" is appealing for many reasons. First, "western culture" includes a very powerful committment to the notion that new things must be better than old things. Second, the notion of progress (which seems to have come, in part, from the notion of evolution) implies that newer things will be superior to older things. Third, media advertising often sends the message that newer must be better. Because of these three factors (and others) people often accept that a new thing (idea, product, concept, etc.) must be better because it is new. Hence, Novelty is a somewhat common fallacy, escpecially in advertising.
It should not be assumed that old things must be better than new things (see the fallacy Appeal to Tradition) anymore than it should be assumed that new things are better than old things. The age of thing does not, in general, have any bearing on its quality or correctness (in this context).
Obviously, age does have a bearing in some contexts. For example, if a person concluded that his day old milk was better than his two-month old milk, he would not be committing an Appeal to Novelty. This is because, in such cases the newness of the thing is relevant to its quality. Thus, the fallacy is committed only when the newness is not, in and of itself, relevant to the claim.
- A made up advertisement.
The Sadisike 900 pump-up glow shoe. It’s better because it’s new.
- Two business people are having a discussion.
James: "So, what is this new plan?"
Biff: "Well, the latest thing in marketing techniques is the GK method. It is the latest thing out of the think tank. It is so new that the ink on the reports is still drying."
James: "Well, our old marketing method has been quite effective. I don’t like the idea of jumping to a new method without a good reason."
Biff: "Well, we know that we have to stay on the cutting edge. That means new ideas and new techniques have to be used. The GK method is new, so it will do better than that old, dusty method."
- A professor is lecturing to his class.
Prof: "So you can see that a new and better morality is sweeping the nation. No longer are people with alternative lifestyles ashamed. No longer are people caught up in the outmoded moralities of the past."
Student: "Well, what about the ideas of the the great thinkers of the past? Don’t they have some valid points?"
Prof: "A good question. The answer is that they had some valid points in their own, barbaric times. But those are old, mouldy moralities from a time long gone. Now is a time for new moralities. Progress and all that, you know."
Student: "So would you say that the new moralities are better because they are newer?"
Prof: "Exactly. Just as the dinosaurs died off to make way for new animals, the old ideas have to give way for the new ones. And just as humans are better than dinosaurs, the new ideas are better than the old. So newer is literally better."
Student: "I see."