Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Learning how to participate in on-line discussions
Published on September 3, 2004 By Draginol In Politics

Oye it gets old debating with people who are..well newbies to the on-line scene.

Here's a few brief tips:

A good debater will put an argument in the following form: <Assertion><Evidence>.

<It's hot outside today>, <my thermometer says it's 89 degrees.>

No one expects others to be robots. The assertion is almost always expected to be subjective (hence the debate).  Most things can't be proven. But if you ever hope to convince others of the validity of your point of view, your assertion, even if it is subjective, needs to be backed by evidence.

Evidence comes in many forms. Sometimes your own expertise is the evidence.  If a rocket scientists posts that faster than light travel is very unlikely in our life time, he doesn't need to link to anything. He's the expert as long as he can prove (or convince others) of his credentials.

Sometimes the evidence can be alluded to at which point the opponent can demand what we call "substantiation".  For example, if someone says "Statistically, boys are more likely than girls to succeed at suicide" the person is saying that he does have a source for this but doesn't have that source handy. If you really disagree with him, you can say "I don't believe that's true, do you have a source for that?"  But it's generally considered rude to make someone trot out every source if they are arguing that they had a source. Only if you are quite certain they're wrong should you demand sources -- after all, this is an on-line debate, we're not being paid.

Sometimes evidences comes in the form of third party analysis.  For example, if someone argues "Poverty is the leading cause of crime." they may include a link to some analysis.  You can't "prove" porverty is the leading cause of crime but you can link to a third party analsys that makes a good case of that.

Sometimes analysis isn't the way to go. You shouldn't use third party analsys on something that can be proven.  For intance, if you make an article asserting that Bush "lied" about WMD and your link is to a third party analsys that essentially just argues the same thing, that's worthless. Instead, you would link to quotes of Bush (well first you would have to argue that you're not saying that Bush wasn't just incorrect about his belief about WMD in Iraq but that he actually intentionally stated something he knew to be false which is the definition of lying) that would prove your contention.  Because someone else is likely to link back with a quote from the 9/11 Commission report that concludes Bush wasn't lying.

Often times you need to link to the actual goods. If you are arguing that the wealthiest 1% pay over a third of the federal taxes, you can assume you're going to be challenged on that. You should have a source handy. Or at the very least, have given this source in prior conversations (personal note: If I've linked to a source countless times I'm not going to keep linking to it every time I speak on the topic. If you're new to my blog don't start insisting on sources until you've read my other articles a bit, I'm not your personal researcher <g>).

Avoid name calling.  And avoid being thin skinned at the same time.  There is a big difference between someone attacking you and someone attacking your message. 

Keep an open mind.  My own opinions have dramatically changed over the years thank to on-line debating. People who put forth compelling arguments do make a difference. Make your arguments compelling, interesting, and reasonable. And have fun!

Comments (Page 2)
on Oct 24, 2004
I think little_whip had the right idea. Though one may claim to have evidence and present said evidence, the fact of the matter is there will always be the human element. We interpret said evidence in different ways, based on our own backgrounds and education. Taking the temperature example, someone from Texas, Arizona, or one of those southern states might laugh at the idea that 89 degrees was "hot." In fact, a person from this area might say to such a claim "when it gets to be about 100, then we'll talk." The point I'm making here is about credibility. Logically, P because of Q only follows if Q is true; indeed, whether or not I believe Q to be true is separate from whether or not you believe Q to be true. You may have scientific evidence that Q is true, but I may have conflicting evidence. This is especially true in politics, where people tend to believe what they want to believe and not make a concerted effort to view both sides of the equation. Whether voting for A or B in pretty much any given election, one puts oneself in a unique position and therefore exposes oneself to public opinion, whether it be support or ridicule. Still, I think that, overall, whomever wishes to be heard in this form should have a voice.
on Nov 13, 2004

Hey, can someone, Brad, erase these Blogads?  I mean they're really obnoxious.


on Nov 30, 2004

Reply #19 By: jeblackstar - 11/13/2004 2:01:43 PM
Hey, can someone, Brad, erase these Blogads? I mean they're really obnoxious.


Yes, Please. They're REALLY annoying