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  1. #1
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    Exclamation A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    I plead to the members of TLR to allow reasoned thought to reign here. I see so much emotionally based debate and irrationality, that it's saddening how we often forget how to use facts, knowledge and most importantly, skepticism, to formulate our viewpoints. Step back from your political convictions, and step away from your emotion for just a second. Allow for one moment that maybe, just maybe, the leaders of your political party are fallible. Release the partisan beliefs you hold, and your conceived notions about persons, and weigh each man's words equally. Weigh them as if you do not know his beliefs. Let his words speak, rather than let your thoughts about his character obscure his word's meaning. I find that all too often, before someone has spoken, he has already been labeled as either "enemy or friend", and is summarily treated as so.

    TLR is in dire need of a recipe for reasoned thought. If not, then we will all turn into a bunch of raving fanatics, and sycophants.

    These are some basic rules for reasoned, educated and objective debate. This list is compiled from many different sources, but it's creation is inspired by Carl Sagan's own plea for reasoned thought: "Science as A Candle in the Dark", also called "A Demon Haunted World". A book I think everyone here should read.

    List of Improper Debating Tactics, AVOID THESE.

    - Ad hominem. Latin for "at the man". This is a debating tactic that attacks the arguer and not the argument. PLEASE, debate the words that people post, not your idea ABOUT the person that posts. e.g., "member x is a liberal so his objections to the Iraqi war will obviously be unfounded," or ,"member x is a conservative, so he is obviously a warmonger". More directly, "Mr. Smith is an imbecile, therefore all of his arguments are false."

    - Argument from Authority. This is the fallacy that states: If an authority says something, it is obviously true, and it does not need to be evaluated on it's merits. e.g. (Re-elect nixon because he has a secret plan to end the war in SE Asia.) Since there is no way to evaluate this plan, there is no way to debate this. Additionally, "because Einstein said it, and he's an expert, it must be true."

    - Argument from adverse consequences. "X must exist, because if it didn't then how could Y be possible!". Even though there is no hard evidence, a certain conclusion is thought to be true because the alternative seems unlikely. e.g. (God must exist, because the very fact that the world is here, means that someone must have created it). In this argument, there is no DRIECT evidence, so it is not provable, or debatable. The converse also falls under this fallacy, "God must not exist, because we've never seen evidence for him!"

    - Appeal to ignorance. The claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa. "There is no evidence against the existance of UFOs, so they probably exist."

    - Special pleading. Often rescues a proposition in rhetorical or circumstantial trouble. In other words, stating a fact is true, because no one understands exactly what is going on.

    - Begging the question. "We must institute the death penalty to lower the rate of violent crime!" But is there any evidence that instigating the death penalty will lower violent crime? Or, "The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors", but is there is any independent evidence to support such a claim?

    - Observational selection. Ignoring the bad in a situation, and only focusing on the good. This happens all to often in TLR, with the conservatives backing the "infallible Bush", and the liberals fighting against the "totally failed Bush". Objectivism...

    - Misunderstanding statistics, and "small statistics". Really try and see how polls and statistics can be skewed. Have they listed the population the statistics have come from? How were the statistics calculated. Are they meaningful based on the criteria used? Have they been bent in any way?

    - Inconsistency. When one viewpoint is accepted, but another viewpoint is dismissed simply because it counteracts the speaker's central perspective: Believing that the failing life expectancy of Russia is because of the failures of communism, but NOT believing that the increased infant mortality rate could be because of the failures of capitalism.

    - Non sequitur. Latin for "It doesn't follow". This happens when people have simply ignored alternative possibilities. Or, they have attributed something to an unconfirmed cause. Most commonly, a conclusion is stated that does not follow from the argument given to support it. "Because pollution is becoming more of a problem in cities, and the air quality is decreasing, people are becoming poorer."

    - Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Latin for, "It happened after, so it was caused by". This fallacy assumes that because something occured at the same time, or before, it was the cause of. e.g. "because she took contraceptive pills a few years ago, she now looks like she is 20 years older than her age. There is no proof of that, or even data to support the claim. Or, "before women could vote, there were no nuclear weapons." This second example, is also an example of a "non-sequitur".

    - Excluded middle, or false dichotomy. considering only the extremes of a situation, "Since you don't support the war on Iraq, you obviously hate America" or "Since you support the war on Iraq, you're obviously a racist."

    - Slippery slope. The idea that one action will lead to a secondary effect that is not a direct cause of the original action. "If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to stop abortions of full-term infants", or, "The state should allow abortion in even the ninth month because otherwise, they will be telling us what we can't do around the time of conception." Both suggested changes are effects of an effect. There is no reason to believe either conclusion.

    - Confusing correlation and casusation. The assumption that because variable A is present in the same situation as variable B, A MUST be the cause of A. Really, there is no mechanism for how A causes B, so it's not causative. "A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those that do not have degrees, therefore education makes you homosexual."

    - Straw man tactics. Making a caricature out of a position in order to make it easier to attack. This is when people Assume they know someone's point of view, and begin arguing a made-up construction about their opponent, rather than just debate the words of their opponent. In short, you assume that your opponent believes something that he or she did not explicitly state.

    - Suppressed evidence, and half-truths. This is pretty self-explanatory. Don't post half-truths and propaganda and expect us to believe them.

    - Weasal words. The re-labeling of a certain tactic or fact, in order to make it seem tacit, or uninteresting. "The president may not declare war without the consent of congress, but as long as it's called a "police action" and not a war then it's fine."

    I hope that people will use this list when they debate here. Let's try and actually learn something through discussion rather than just arguing pointlessly. Hopefully these tools will help us to cut through the garbage.

    A Recipe For Reasoned Thought. DO THIS!

    - Wherever possible, there should be independent confirmation of "Facts". Look for conflicting data, and accept such data at face value. All the data should be used to formulate your viewpoint, not just the data that suits your viewpoint.

    - Encourage debate on the information from all points of view, neither pre-judging, or belittling any view you don't agree with.

    - Arguments from "Authorities" carry little weight. Listen to only the facts presented by them and evaluate their logic yourself. Authorities are useful, though, as a starting point to begin to explore a certain field of study.

    - Always forge more than one hypothesis. If there is something to be explained, think of all the different ways it could be explained. Then, find ways to disprove those hypotheses. Generally, you will always end up with multiple working hypothesis, even if you don't agree with all of them.

    - Try not to get attached to a hypothesis because it's yours, or because you feel strongly about it. Compare it fairly, and objectively with the alternative hypotheses. Always try and finds reasons why your hypothesis could be wrong. Build as much evidence against it before you trust it.

    - Quantify. If you can find quantitative measurements for what you are trying to prove, then use that information to weigh competing points of view and to support/modify your own viewpoint. Qualitative data is up for interpretation, but be steadfast and weigh each interpretation carefully.

    - If there is a chain of logic that forms an argument, every chain in the argument must be rigorous, with no weak links.

    - See if your hypothesis can be falsified. Viewpoints which are unverifiable are less meaningful than those that are. If your hypothesis can be falsified, grant that it may not be true pending more information.
    Last edited by Vihsadas; 07-14-2008 at 11:46 PM. Reason: Touched up the logic, and corrected grammatical errors!

  2. #2
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    Excellent work there.

  3. #3
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEAS

    Thank-you, sir, for this effort. Unfortunately, your post has been praised by our esteemed moderator and he now runs the risk of being classified as a liberal by those whose only tactics are the ones decried in your post.
    What the genteel demand is something of themselves. What the vulgar demand is something of others.
    The true church is one's own heart.
    It has been my experience that those who proclaim the world is going to hell in a handbasket are the same ones who are leading the way there with their grip fixed firmly on the handle.
    Why can't you find god? Everyone knows he lives in a little black box.
    A carp who deals in red herrings is a traitor to his species.


  4. #4
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    ^^^ wiseguy

  5. #5
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    Very well thought out post, Vihsadas. My compliments.

    I never really noticed, the time I've been in these forums, that there is an off topic section, where politics is discussed...
    Since I come from a different country, it is very interesting for me to read the arguments put forth by people who live in the US or elsewhere on the topics debated...

    I see that people's mental stances and the arguments constructed on its grounds are similar in many different societies...
    DFI LP UBitch, AthlonXP 1800+ DLT3C, 2x256 twinmos PC3200 (twinmos chips) <252x9.5> 2,399.45Mhz @1.9vcore @3.3vdimm @1.9vdd, slk900a + Smart fanII 2800rpm, Swiftech MCX159a, Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 60Gb, Club3D 9600 Pro 128MB, Asus E616, Teac 540E, Nec 2500a, Antec TruePower 480, Antec PlusView 1000AMG - 5 fans.

  6. #6
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEAS

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert3
    Thank-you, sir, for this effort. Unfortunately, your post has been praised by our esteemed moderator and he now runs the risk of being classified as a liberal by those whose only tactics are the ones decried in your post.
    i haven't even had my first coffee yet and i've already had a hardy laugh. that'll work. tks.

    ud

  7. #7
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEAS

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert3
    Thank-you, sir, for this effort. Unfortunately, your post has been praised by our esteemed moderator and he now runs the risk of being classified as a liberal by those whose only tactics are the ones decried in your post.
    haha. I used some conservative examples as well in my list. I wanted this document to be as nonpartisan as possible. Hopefully people would be content disregarding my "more liberal" (I'm a centrist, I'll stick to that till I die) tendencies in debating, and actually give this post a good read. I think it'd be better for all, including myself. I'm not immune to making these mistakes just the same as anyone else!
    Last edited by Vihsadas; 07-14-2008 at 11:47 PM.

  8. #8
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    An excellent piece of work. Good advice for all.

    There is one thing I would like to expand on:

    Give some serious thought to what you want to say before posting it.

    As human beings we sometimes react out of emotion. That is not condusive to a good debate. Don't just react to what someone has said. Going with an initial gut reaction can often lead to personal attacks and, if you're not careful, can be interpreted by others as being contradictory to your own previous posts. In a public forum like this it's too easy for others to simply scroll up/down the pages and quote something that you have said before. If you make comments that even so much as smell of being contradictory someone is going to call you on it. Then you find that you're in the position of defending yourself instead of debating the topic. And sooner or later our esteemed moderators have to step in and remind us why we are here (oops, did I say that like it's a bad thing?)
    Last edited by [Tarkus]; 05-31-2004 at 11:48 AM.

  9. #9
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    How dare you, Vihs!
    Omg, that's the biggest crock of bullshirt I've ever read! You're just a brainwashed commy liberal zombie!
    These kinds of tactics are NOT rampant! You're just to brainwashed to see that.
    In an independant poll, only 0.1% of all TLR posts were shown to include at least one of these tactics! and only 0.001% of polls are skewed.
    How can you even post this kind of crap?




    HAHAHA
    Just joking here... good work vihs.
    Quote Originally Posted by Radun
    Quote Originally Posted by Radun
    ,.-'`\/]|[\/`'-.,,.-'`\/]|[\/`'-.,,.-'`\/]|[\/`'-.,
    Quote Originally Posted by Radun
    Quote Originally Posted by Radun



  10. #10
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    Goodjob man. Looks like you brought out fallacies straight out of my ethics book. I think there may be some more but alas I sold my ethics book back already.

    edit: Found some of my notes... Here goes all the fallacies I had written down. If you dont know the definition just ask and ill post it up. I wont go through the time to figure out which ones you might have missed and which ones you havent, so heres all of em that I had:
    ad hominem abusive, ad hominem circumstantial, equivocation, amphiboly, post hoc, slippery slope, statistical correlation, false appeal to authority, false appeal to popularity, appeal to emotion, invincible ignorance, ignorance, incosistency, straw man, red herring, either/or, hasty generalization, two wrongs make a right, provincialism, is/ought confusion, questionable claim.
    Last edited by DazDillinger; 05-31-2004 at 02:28 PM.

  11. #11
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    While I can see the merit in all of these rules, there is one question I need to ask about the "non sequitur", and "slippery slope" situation.

    Aren't these always in some extent unavoidable? I mean, one needs to make the odd assumption here and there without knowing all the facts. In fact, it's impossible to know all the facts, especially in global politics.

    Oh and btw, happy birthday, Vihsadas. Hope the time zones don't make me too late
    Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae - J. Caesar, De Bello Gallico

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  12. #12
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wardibald
    Oh and btw, happy birthday, Vihsadas. Hope the time zones don't make me too late
    Happy 21st, young man. Hope it's a good one for you (Wow. 21st bday. Wish I could remember that far back. )

  13. #13
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wardibald
    While I can see the merit in all of these rules, there is one question I need to ask about the "non sequitur", and "slippery slope" situation.

    Aren't these always in some extent unavoidable? I mean, one needs to make the odd assumption here and there without knowing all the facts. In fact, it's impossible to know all the facts, especially in global politics.

    Oh and btw, happy birthday, Vihsadas. Hope the time zones don't make me too late
    Yes. They are unavoidable some of the time. The goal isn't to eliminate the use of these things, it's to reduce it. It's kinda that same as "never being able to be sure of a cause and effect relationship". In politics and discussion, since cause and effect is almost impossible to find, we look for highly correlational relationships, and compound enough correlational data to make an argument. The same thing can be said about the debating tactics you posted. If there is enough data to make a decent assumption, then it's usually an arguable point.
    Hope this helps.

    Oh yeah, thanks for the Happy Birthday
    Last edited by Vihsadas; 07-14-2008 at 11:48 PM.

  14. #14
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    Nice! I have had a fallacy site bookmarked for about 4-5 years now (yes, I sometimes still ignore logic, as does everyone). Since I am at work though I only noticed one that hasn't been mentioned yet and that is Appeal to Belief.
    ___________
    "It can only be attributed to human error." - HAL9000

  15. #15
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    Re: A List of Bad Debating Tactics, and a Recipe for Reasoned Thought. ALL READ PLEASE!

    Quote Originally Posted by godfoot
    Nice! I have had a fallacy site bookmarked for about 4-5 years now (yes, I sometimes still ignore logic, as does everyone). Since I am at work though I only noticed one that hasn't been mentioned yet and that is Appeal to Belief.
    Yeah, there are couple of them I didn't list. I will probably add them eventually. "Appeal to belief" is one, and "Sophistry" is another.

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