19 September 2009

Rules of Debate 101 By: SB

Disclaimer: What you are about to read below is not the official rules of debate that you will learn in taking a debate class. (at least I don't think they are, I have never taken a debate class)

Yesterday I got into another debate (yeah I am a glutton for punishment I know). Luckily this debate wasn't between a screaming mob of people yelling "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve" or "Blind religious zealots like you caused the bloody crusades," *shudder*. This debate was caused by a friend of mine from high school, and so naturally, old classmates ended up debating the different points. It started out fairly friendly, but by the end of the day, all the rules I will state here were violated.

Rule #1 Use facts or evidence as Facts and Evidence.
You say Wha??? What the heck does that mean? What are you getting at here?
Ok, so I need to add some context here. During this debate the different parties just threw out some web links and said "Look, Facts, Debate is over, we are right." The point I want to make is that, Facts and Evidence are not a solve all. They do not end the debate. In fact, facts and evidence often time end up contradictory. Someone will say they have found facts that prove their point but the other person in most debates can come up with facts to back up their point of view as well. That is the world we live in, a world saturated with conclusive yet contradictory evidence from people with equivalent backing and education. So we can't rely on facts alone. We have to display the facts to our opponents in pretty boxes I would like to call context and reasoning.

If I have learned one thing in the last two years of getting stuck in situations where people want to hold a religious debate, it is this, Most of the populace doesn't gives a (insert some word here) about Facts because the origin of those facts, the quality of those facts, can be questioned, and probably will. So, you use evidence when you have an actually promising debate going, aka both parties are following the rules here.

Rule #2 Do Not under any circumstance insult the other person or try to label them or discredit their point of view by saying that their view is based on something or another. Bad feelings sour a debate and render it useless. You won't win anyone (that is worth winning) to your side with a sour debate. Breaking this rule seems to be a favorite of those nasty, cocky, internet warrior, debaters. They spout out things like, Well you are just a backwards conservative minded somethin or other, Well my view is grounded in fact obtained by some scholarly person who is an expert in this subject and your view is grounded in your racist and bigoted beliefs. Like wise, don't flash around any of your supposed achievements like that should give you some more credibility. There are at least a few morons in every field of study and labor, and those morons slipped through the cracks in the educational system somehow and have degrees and honors just like all their peers. The average person doesn't care that others consider you an expert. Many times you have to prove to each person you are an expert.

Rule #3 Keep in mind that the average person may not have a high level of education, and may not think "logically." In other words, don't use big, fancy, words, and be careful of the emotions of others. Those emotions can make the debate go one way or the other real quick. Learn to be emotionally neutral. It is perhaps best to not assume an extreme position for a while in a debate. For example, I had another small debate one on one with someone a few days ago. I chose not to take any previously established side on things yet I was explaining the views of the side that my friend was opposing. I had to quickly remind her that I was not supporting the views of either side but I was merely articulating why each side was doing what. My friend kept saying "you're" doing this and "you're" doing that and they were trying to indicate the opposing group when she was using "you're". However it felt like they were trying to direct that "you're" to indicate me and some group, she admitted that she thought I was part of the opposing group. This is why I had to remind her that I was not.

Rule #4 The world is not going to collapse if both sides are right. If both sides are right, all it means is that there is a bigger picture going on in the background. Look for the bigger picture first, before you try to determine wither or not one side is wrong and the other right. Too often a debate gets caught up in trying to disprove this little point or the other. It seems like a race to see who can discredit all the opponent's points first. The problem with that method is that often times both sides have indisputably valid points.

Rule #5 Find common ground, don't bomb battle ground. In my last two years teaching people the Gospel, I realized that while most people don't care about facts, there are still plenty of things they do care about. There are plenty of people who don't care about how their church has "flaws" but do care that they are having family troubles and do care that a church, wither it be their church or your church, can teach them to overcome those family troubles, or financial troubles, or social troubles, or emotional troubles etc... Find these common interests first, then work from there, don't start out on a position that they don't care about.

The Golden Rule of Debate. Be courteous, kind, and considerate, and don't get angry.

Well, I think that is all my Ideas for today, If I come up with more, I will post them as Rules of Debate 102 By: SB

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