In two early paragraphs from her book titled Silent Spring, Rachel Carson employs the rhetorical techniques of appeal to authority and use of statistics to strengthen her arguments. Thus, in the paragraph that begins “Another factor in the modern insect problem,” Carson is careful to mention “British ecologist Charles Elton in his recent book The Ecology of Invasions.”
The reference to Elton is an “appeal to authority” in a number of subtle ways and has a number of distinct effects. It is important, for instance, that Elton is mentioned by name. If Carson had simply cited “recent authorities,” her argument would seem far less persuasive. Carson’s decision to mention Elton by name gives any interested reader a chance to check Elton’s credentials, assess his expertise, and determine the likely value of his claims.
Elton, as it happens, was an important zoologist who taught for many years at Oxford University. His...
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