Debating for beginners (and others)

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Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #1

Post by Zzyzx »

All of us were beginners at some point. Some have gotten past the most obvious stumbling blocks; others have become frustrated and left; still others seem unable to learn how to be effective in debate – but keep slugging away anyway, being foolish (and entertaining others).

Here are a few things I have learned that might be useful to others.

1. BE HONEST. If your position is valid there is nothing to be gained by dishonesty or dishonor (or disreputable debate tactics). If your position is invalid you may think a con-job will help but it will not do so in the long run – and you will likely join the ranks of those who leave the forum in disgrace after being exposed.

2. Learn to use forum functions such as "quote" and "edit". A tutorial is available in "Members Only" sub-forum in a thread entitled " how to quote and refer to the text to which I am responding"

3. Use spell-check. Spelling errors, while not of major importance, convey an impression or attitude of sloppiness and indifference toward accuracy (which is often foretelling). I personally prefer to compose posts in a Word document rather than in forum reply boxes. That avoids the possibility of Internet or forum glitches "losing" my work, and it makes spell-check convenient (actually ongoing "as you type" as my machine is configured).

4. Learn the "rules of logic" and do NOT make obvious blunders such as "circular reasoning", non-sequiturs , false or faulty analogies, appealing to emotions, incomplete evidence, unsupported assertion, prejudices or stereotypes, argument of popularity, etc. An excellent source or starting point is

5. Do NOT use questionable debate tactics such as ad hominems, ducking questions, straw man arguments, feigned ignorance, feigned knowledge, special pleading, etc. Some of these are also errors in logic. They identify an argument as questionable, weak and/or defective.

6. DEBATE do not preach (this applies to any "ism"). In debate ideas are challenged, supported, defended, countered, and critiqued. Critical examination and comment is expected. No one has any right to claim absolute truth or understanding. Your point of view is NOT superior by virtue of your convictions.

7. Learn about the topic. Even if you feel rather competent in the area of discussion it pays to do some research. Internet search engines are a powerful tool for anyone who learns to use them effectively and efficiently. You might even accidentally learn something.

8. Learn about opposition debaters. A great deal of information is readily available about some members. Some are chosen by Admin as subjects for "Member Spotlight" in General Chat. Other information is available in the person's previous posts and ongoing debates. CHECK and ASK. What you don't know WILL hurt you.

9. Do NOT assume that you are right or that you are the better debater. You may discover that you are wrong on both counts. Overestimating yourself and your position while underestimating opposition people and positions is a recipe for disaster. People who make that mistake frequently are usually known as has-beens – no longer active.

10. If you are a Theist do not assume that your beliefs or worship practices make you superior in any way. That may seem true in church but it is decidedly not true in debate. You occupy no moral high ground. You are not "better" than others who worship different gods in different ways – or those who worship no gods – REGARDLESS of what your preacher may have told you.

11. If you are a Theist learn the meaning of the terms "Atheist", "Agnostic", "Anti-Theist", "Non-Christian", "Anti-Christian", "Non-Theist", and "Ignostic". Notice that some members positing here are not inclined to believe in gods but are not particularly opposed. Some oppose specific practices or policies of organized religion. Some are adamantly opposed to all forms of god worship. Learn the difference as applied to the people you attempt to debate. It DOES make a difference.

12. If you are a theist do NOT assume that you know more about religious literature and dogma than your opponents. Many Non-Theistic members are much better informed about the bible and Christianity than any Christians I have debated.

13. If you are a Non-Theist do not assume that Theists are "all alike" and "all stupid" (or variations thereof). There are some very intelligent and capable theistic members who are more than able to "hand you your head". Many of the most respected theistic members are NOT "traditionalists" who subscribe to mainline organized religious sects. Learn the interesting variations that are represented in "thinking theism".

14. If you are a Non-Theist do not assume that theism is represented by Fanatical Fundamentalists (or "Conservatives" or "Real Christians") who seem overly vocal in debate forums. It is suggested that liberal or moderate Christians are not motivated to attempt to promote or defend their beliefs in Internet debate while the more fanatical seem compelled to do so.

15. It is NOT wise to assume that you know an opponent's position. ASK. Unless you are quite well informed about your opponent, you have no idea who you are talking to. Several members are Ex-Christians, some are Ex-Christian Ministers, some are attorneys, teachers, and construction superintendents. At least one is a retired professor of Comparative Religion. Many are seasoned debaters.

16. Do not make statements that you cannot support. This is debate – not preaching. You WILL be challenged. Be prepared to cite evidence to support what you say. If you cannot defend a statement WITHDRAW it gracefully.

17. Read EXACTLY what a person says before trying to rebut or respond. Do not "read into" what they say and do not assume that they mean what you think at first glance. It is particularly important to read carefully anything that touches "tender places" in your psyche or your belief system.

18. Remember that ALL you have in Internet debate is CREDIBILITY which is based upon 1) Respect from fellow debaters, 2) Consistency of position, 3) Accuracy of statements, and 4) Skill in presenting ideas and answering challenges.

19. Your arguments, no matter how powerful, are unlikely to make instant changes in anyone's position (though that can happen with a frequency that approaches winning a lottery). Instead, presenting consistent ideas in reasoned and effective ways is likely to change attitudes (if not positions) over time.

20. Learn from fellow debaters. Learn techniques of debate as well as learning about ideas being discussed. You don't know it all (no matter what you may think).

21. Leave your emotions out of the debate. Becoming emotional reduces one's ability to accurately assess the "terrain" and to reply to "moves" by other parties to the discussion. Some debaters deliberately provoke emotional response by "pushing buttons" to encourage their opposition to become emotional or irrational. Keeping a foot out of that trap is just as important as avoiding one's own "trap" of "leading with your emotions" (and stumbling over hurdles placed by the opposition).

22. Answer legitimate questions. You WILL encounter questions and challenges that are uncomfortable or difficult to address. It may seem appealing to take the weak way out and simply duck and dodge or disappear from the discussion; however, doing so is transparent. Your credibility will suffer.

23. Acknowledge mistakes and withdraw incorrect or inappropriate statements. You are not infallible. Everyone else knows you are not – don't be the only one unaware.

24. Nothing goes unnoticed. This is true in life as well as in debate. What one might think they snuck by unobserved quite often "comes back around and slaps them in the head". Even if no one else mentions things YOU know, and the negative effects on self-image are not worth the gain.

25. Be aware that many people visit this forum every day and that threads are available indefinitely. Many threads are visited hundreds or thousands of times. Your words have the potential to reach those people – with either positive or negative effect (or none at all). It is not wise to assume that readers are stupid or easily influenced.

26. What you write may be far more important to people OTHER than the one(s) to whom you address comments. What is said in threads IS read and considered by readers / visitors – not just debaters. Many read without posting.

27. Don't whine or expect special treatment. Do not claim to be disfavored by moderators. This forum is extremely fairly moderated. It is owned and administered by a Christian and moderated by an even mix of theists and non-theists. The playing field is as level as one is likely to find. DO NOT ARGUE with moderators in threads. If you have any comments to them send a PM.

28. Don't make excuses. If your arguments don't hold water and if you are not respected by fellow debaters look for holes in your presentation and your attitude – not defects in fellow members (or planetary alignment).

29. This list is not intended to be exhaustive.

30. Feel free to ignore all of the above. We need a few examples of "Mr. Before".

ANY of the thousands of "gods" proposed, imagined, worshiped, loved, feared, and/or fought over by humans MAY exist -- awaiting verifiable evidence

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Post #51

Post by KennethM »

I would say for all practical purposes, truth is not universal. Truth relies on context, and in a debate truth can be exposed with regards to the context around which the debate centers.

This is a good set of guidelines, if not slightly long winded. Definitely a good intro to debate for anyone new to the idea. Basics of debate can be short. Don't assume anything (either about people, ideas, or your own knowledge/abilities). Refrain from logical fallacies and appeals to emotion. Only use appeals to authority when appropriate (such as citations). Be generally respectful and listen to what your opponent says. Be mindful of how you phrase your arguments, not only should your BS detector be working so should your opponent's.

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Post #52

Post by czechwizard »

God bless, I´m exactly all the 29 "commandments" but the 30th, yet I ponder the hard truth of it as well. I think it´s much easier to debate Christianity and religion in general once you are the dubbed Czech Hollywood Warrior Priest from Serious Entertainment aboard the Sixth Gospel ark like me. I´m definitely a beginner, an amateur, though I´ve been in the (ir) religious "business" for almost two decades and cashed in on it like no one else. Even the late Black Pope, Anton La Vey, from the First Church of Satan, could not believe or even endorse my impact upon many people worldwide at an unprecedented level, which makes me a bit of a pro, an advanced Sixth Gospel franchise internet marketing guru. Yet I´m extremely humble down here in the tropics, wearing a $ 3 sandals (used to be $ 1) and rags, driving a bulletproof San Yong-Mercedes Benz. I will see how bashed I will get here, scything hard arguments. Amen.

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Post #53

Post by Awediot »

The group I'm used to (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) seems to be in the habit of having some good opening salvos, followed by a few well reasoned, back and forth counter points, until one or the other either breaks one of those 'rules", or accuses the other of doing so...and they then debate the art of debating...

Good list I'll no doubt find logical reasons to claim extenuating circumstances for interpreting in my favor occasionally... But it looks like I'll get called on it here...and retreat into discussing the evils of Family Guy or goodness of feeding the hungry... I'll keep my amateur tactics and arguments about the validity of emotions to a minimum...

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Post #54

Post by sickles »

Ii dont know if anyone has posted this here yet, but it is amazing lol. It can really help with debate skills.
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Post #55

Post by Dantalion »

sickles wrote: Ii dont know if anyone has posted this here yet, but it is amazing lol. It can really help with debate skills.

Late bump!

Why isn't that video obliged material before posting on this site ?

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Post #56

Post by Zzyzx »

I haven't visited this thread for years -- perhaps five years?

It is amusing to see the twists and turns it has taken -- and to see some regard my suggestions as RULES (when they were clearly offered as some of my thoughts). Others seemed intent on debating (in a discussion forum) the merits of individual items and their lack of perfection.

Many of the folks seem to have disappeared.

The video suggested is excellent.

ANY of the thousands of "gods" proposed, imagined, worshiped, loved, feared, and/or fought over by humans MAY exist -- awaiting verifiable evidence

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Excellent topic!

Post #57

Post by Fourbit »

Thanks for this. It is very impressive. I do however find one in your list that I would remark on.

29. This list is not intended to be exhaustive.

It may not have been the intent, but it sure wore me out! ;)

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Re: Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #58

Post by xpxpert »

[Replying to post 1 by Zzyzx]

I received a message that you were the best debate man on this site.

Do you agree that the rules for debating Christian matters should start with "The Bible is the word of God" Then would any debate only be what is He saying?

I would start with these verses for any debates offered

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

If God would have dropped a Scientist on the Earth day 7 and asked the Scientist to do his best to figure the age of the rocks and trees what do you suppose he would come up with?

My point includes when Adam was created as far as we are told he was a mature speaking man, why would we assume that all creation was not created as mature and functioning with stars that appeared newer and stars that were burning out? Light that was visible day one and light that is still on its way? In other words no possible way to put a date on the beginning of it.

Carbon dating, Physical evidence, Ideas of how it all fits together is based on a non belief in creation and the Bible. These things also seem to be man trying to prove the Bible wrong but the problem is man doesn't truly know the rules of creation. Without knowing the true beginning and true order of things we either take it as given in scripture or we use our limited knowledge to twist out our version to suite our understanding or our needs good or bad.

I imagine that the debates found on this website either have no value or the debate that has value would clearly be answered by basic understanding and belief of the Bible.

The debate comes down to what your foundation of truth is based on.

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Re: Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #59

Post by Divine Insight »

xpxpert wrote: The debate comes down to what your foundation of truth is based on.
If you are going to start as your foundation that every word of the Bible is true, then what's left to debate? :-k

You've already mandated your conclusion.
xpxpert wrote: I imagine that the debates found on this website either have no value or the debate that has value would clearly be answered by basic understanding and belief of the Bible.
Actually the Bible contains countless self-contradictions within its own stories. No science is required to demonstrate that the Bible cannot be true. I'll debate the Bible with you anytime without bringing science into the discussion at all. :D

Of course, when scientific knowledge is permitted in that's just all the more evidence against these ancient God myths. So scientific knowledge only serves to confirm what can already be seen to be true from the Bible itself. The stories are necessarily false and have no merit.
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.

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