Debating for beginners (and others)

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Zzyzx
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Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #1

Post by Zzyzx »

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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 http://www.tektonics.org/guest/fallacies.html

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".
.
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JoeyKnothead
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Post #2

Post by JoeyKnothead »

Let's make this a perpetual bump...

1st bump in 3, 2, ...
Discovery is finding things that exist.
Invention is using things discovered.

Create that path and engineer a metamorphosis.

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cnorman18

Re: Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #3

Post by cnorman18 »

I'll bump this too. I've posted on at least a dozen different forums, and thus is the best set of guidelines I've ever read.

It ought to be required reading. I mean, literally required at registration. Some of our new members need this instruction reeeal bad.

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Post #4

Post by McCulloch »

OK, I'll save you all the effort. This topic is now sticky.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Post #5

Post by OnceConvinced »

Great. I was saying to Zz is should be a sticky (and required reading for all new members!)

Society and its morals evolve and will continue to evolve. The bible however remains the same and just requires more and more apologetics and claims of "metaphors" and "symbolism" to justify it.

Prayer is like rubbing an old bottle and hoping that a genie will pop out and grant you three wishes.

There is much about this world that is mind boggling and impressive, but I see no need whatsoever to put it down to magical super powered beings.


Check out my website: Recker's World of Fantasy

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Skyler
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Re: Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #6

Post by Skyler »

It's an excellent set of rules, but there are a few points I think should be modified.
Zzyzx wrote:.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.
This point is actually self-refuting if one examines it closely. You state that no one has any right to claim absolute truth or understanding; does that also apply to the next sentence that one's point of view isn't superior by virtue of one's convictions?

I recommend modification or exclusion.

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Re: Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #7

Post by JoeyKnothead »

Skyler wrote:It's an excellent set of rules, but there are a few points I think should be modified.
Zzyzx wrote:.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.
This point is actually self-refuting if one examines it closely. You state that no one has any right to claim absolute truth or understanding; does that also apply to the next sentence that one's point of view isn't superior by virtue of one's convictions?

I recommend modification or exclusion.
What he's getting at is no matter how deeply held a given point, that fact alone is not proof. Just cause you might believe something with every fiber of your being does not make it true.
Discovery is finding things that exist.
Invention is using things discovered.

Create that path and engineer a metamorphosis.

- William

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Skyler
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Re: Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #8

Post by Skyler »

joeyknuccione wrote:
Skyler wrote:It's an excellent set of rules, but there are a few points I think should be modified.
Zzyzx wrote:.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.
This point is actually self-refuting if one examines it closely. You state that no one has any right to claim absolute truth or understanding; does that also apply to the next sentence that one's point of view isn't superior by virtue of one's convictions?

I recommend modification or exclusion.
What he's getting at is no matter how deeply held a given point, that fact alone is not proof. Just cause you might believe something with every fiber of your being does not make it true.
That's a good way to rephrase the point. Zzyzx, could you change that, please?

Thanks.

Skyler

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Re: Debating for beginners (and others)

Post #9

Post by Zzyzx »

.
Skyler wrote:That's a good way to rephrase the point. Zzyzx, could you change that, please?
What part of this quotation, the third sentence in the OP, do you fail to understand?
Zzyzx in the OP wrote:Here are a few things I have learned that might be useful to others.
.
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Post #10

Post by Skyler »

Zzyzx, I'm not sure I understand. I assumed from the title of the post that the intent was to present some guidelines for new/inexperienced debaters. As such I'm simply suggesting a revision so as to not set a bad example of faulty reasoning.

Are you suggesting that it may be useful for others to engage in such argumentation? ;)

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