It is clear from reading the threads in the debate forum that significant confusion exits as to what constitutes a "debate" and as to the proper use of logic.
I offer below two definitions, there are of course others.*
Definition 1 is referring to discussion, and as this site has a discussion forum, it belongs there. Definition 2 seems closer to the one we're looking for. As to how "formal" DC debates are supposed to be, that is up to the site operators.n 1: a discussion in which reasons are advanced for and against some proposition or proposal; "the argument over foreign aid goes on and on" [syn: argument, argumentation]
2: the formal presentation of and opposition to a stated proposition (usually followed by a vote) [syn: disputation, public debate]
*source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University
With regards to the use of logic, I quote The Athiesm Web
There's a lot of debate on the net. Unfortunately, much of it is of very low quality. The aim of this document is to explain the basics of logical reasoning, and hopefully improve the overall quality of debate.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines logic as "the science of reasoning, proof, thinking, or inference." Logic will let you analyze an argument or a piece of reasoning, and work out whether it is likely to be correct or not. You don't need to know logic to argue, of course; but if you know even a little, you'll find it easier to spot invalid arguments.
There are many kinds of logic, such as fuzzy logic and constructive logic; they have different rules, and different strengths and weaknesses. This document discusses simple Boolean logic, because it's commonplace and relatively easy to understand. When people talk about something being 'logical', they usually mean the type of logic described here.
What logic isn't
It's worth mentioning a couple of things which logic is not.
Firstly, logical reasoning is not an absolute law which governs the universe. Many times in the past, people have concluded that because something is logically impossible (given the science of the day), it must be impossible, period. It was also believed at one time that Euclidean geometry was a universal law; it is, after all, logically consistent. Again, we now know that the rules of Euclidean geometry are not universal.
Secondly, logic is not a set of rules which govern human behavior. Humans may have logically conflicting goals.
An argument is, to quote the Monty Python sketch, "a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition."
Many types of argument exist; we will discuss the deductive argument. Deductive arguments are generally viewed as the most precise and the most persuasive; they provide conclusive proof of their conclusion, and are either valid or invalid.
Deductive arguments have three stages: premises, inference, and conclusion. However, before we can consider those stages in detail, we must discuss the building blocks of a deductive argument: propositions.
A proposition is a statement which is either true or false. The proposition is the meaning of the statement, not the precise arrangement of words used to convey that meaning.
A deductive argument always requires a number of core assumptions. These are called premises, and are the assumptions the argument is built on; or to look at it another way, the reasons for accepting the argument. Premises are only premises in the context of a particular argument; they might be conclusions in other arguments, for example.
You should always state the premises of the argument explicitly; this is the principle of audiatur et altera pars. Failing to state your assumptions is often viewed as suspicious, and will likely reduce the acceptance of your argument.
Once the premises have been agreed, the argument proceeds via a step-by-step process called inference.
In inference, you start with one or more propositions which have been accepted; you then use those propositions to arrive at a new proposition. If the inference is valid, that proposition should also be accepted. You can use the new proposition for inference later on.
Hopefully you will arrive at a proposition which is the conclusion of the argument - the result you are trying to prove. The conclusion is the result of the final step of inference. It's only a conclusion in the context of a particular argument; it could be a premise or assumption in another argument.
The conclusion is said to be affirmed on the basis of the premises, and the inference from them. This is a subtle point which deserves further explanation.
Implication in detail
Clearly you can build a valid argument from true premises, and arrive at a true conclusion. You can also build a valid argument from false premises, and arrive at a false conclusion.
The tricky part is that you can start with false premises, proceed via valid inference, and reach a true conclusion.
There's one thing you can't do, though: start from true premises, proceed via valid deductive inference, and reach a false conclusion.
Also, the fact that an argument is valid doesn't necessarily mean that its conclusion holds -- it may have started from false premises.
If an argument is valid, and in addition it started from true premises, then it is called a sound argument. A sound argument must arrive at a true conclusion.
There are a number of common pitfalls to avoid when constructing a deductive argument; they're known as fallacies. In everyday English, we refer to many kinds of mistaken beliefs as fallacies; but in logic, the term has a more specific meaning: a fallacy is a technical flaw which makes an argument unsound or invalid.
Arguments which contain fallacies are described as fallacious. They often appear valid and convincing; sometimes only close inspection reveals the logical flaw."
This source goes on to list and explain most of the fallacies. My quote above is not complete. The source provides more examples. Click this link to a good funny example of a bad debate.
This post if for your information. Please, don't expect me to defend it.