Tuesday, May 22, 2007

RE: THE INGREDIENTS TO CONSTRUCTIVE DEBATING...LISTEN UP!

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: *Galactic Consciousness*
Date: May 21, 2007 1:22 PM


From: LORD ABBA
Date: May 21, 2007 11:43 AM


----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: NINURTA999 Quantum Is Reality
Date: May 21, 2007 11:05 AM


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In the past, we Nuwaubians, use to find ourselves in debates with people of many religions. We would quote the bible or quran and "bust up" muslims and christians on various topics. Now time appeared to move on and we find ourselves in debates with each other. Nuwaubians debating Nuwaubians. The Master Teacher told us that this would happen and even the fact that Nuwaubians will be their own enemy.

Many people do not know how to have a constructive debate. Anyone can toss arguments around, however constructive debating is more than that. If we are to debate one another in a constructive progressive manner then we all should learn how to debate properly. Debate is important if we dont want to live in a dictatorship or loose our freedoms. The Master Teacher is doing a masterful job at helping us to preserve our freedoms by informing us of various issues and aquainting us with alternate points of view. This gives us the tools to be able to have rational and constructive debates to measure everything from our own point of view, that is, from where we can see it and overstand it. Here are some pointers on rational and constructive debating....

Clarity: Avoid use of terms which can be interpreted differently by different readers. When we are talking to people who substantially agree with us we can use such terms that are commonly & regularly used in small groups of people and feel reasonably sure that we will be understood. But in a debate, we are talking to people who substantially disagree and they are likely to put a different interpretation on such words.

Evidence: Quoting an authority is not evidence. Quoting a majority opinion is not evidence. Any argument that starts with, "According to Einstein..." is not based on objective evidence. Any argument that starts with, "Most biologists believe..." is not based on objective evidence. Saying, "The Bible says..." is not evidence. Authorities and majorities can be wrong and frequently have been.

Emotionalism: Avoid emotionally charged words--words that are likely to produce more heat than light. Certainly the racial, ethnic, or religious hate words have no place in rational debating. Likewise, avoid argumentum ad hominem. Personal attacks on your opponent are an admission of intellectual bankruptcy. Also, slurs directed at groups with whom your opponent is identified are usually nonproductive. Try to keep attention centered on the objective problem itself. There is a special problem when debating social, psychological, political, or religious ideas because a person's theories about these matters presumably have some effect on his own life style. It is unlikely that in an argument over the existence of quarks an opponent's sexual behavior would be brought up and it would be easier to keep attention centered on the problem itself than if the argument was about the importance of the family or whether a liberal or conservative position was preferrable in a political debate. A suggested solution is to make a general statement rather than one referring specifically to the opponent. In other words, rather than saying "and that's why you are such an undisciplined wreck" say, "a person adopting your position is, I believe, likely to become an undisciplined wreck because ..."

Causality: Avoid the blunder of asserting a causal relationship with the popular fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc which declares that because some event A happened and immediately afterward event B happened that event A was the cause of event B. (I knew someone whose car stalled on the way to work. She would get out and open the hood and slam it and then the car would start. Singing a song would have been just as effective to allow time for a vapor lock to dissipate!) Also avoid the popular fallacy that correlation proves causation. People who own Cadillacs, on average, have higher incomes than people who don't. This does not mean that if we provided people with Cadillacs that they would have higher incomes.

Innuendo: Innuendo is saying something pejorative about your opponent without coming right out and saying it but by making more or less veiled allusions to some circumstance, rumor, or popular belief. If you want to see some excellent examples of innuendo, watch Rush Limbaugh. Politicians are, unfortunately, frequently guilty of using innuendo. It is an easy way to capitalize on popular prejudices without having to make explicit statements which might be difficult or impossible to defend against rational attack.

Be sure of your facts. What is the source of your information? If it is a newspaper or a magazine, are you sure that the information hasn't been "slanted" to agree with that publication's political bias? Where crucial facts are concerned, it is best to check with more than one source. Often international publications will give you a different perspective than your hometown newspaper. Check to see whether the book you are using was published by a regular publishing company or whether it was published by some special interest group like the John Birch Society or a religious organization. These books cannot be trusted to present unbiased evidence since their motivation for publishing is not truth but rather the furtherance of some political or religious view.

Understand your opponents' arguments. It is good practice to argue with a friend and take a position with which you do not agree. In this way you may discover some of the assumptions your opponents are making which will help you in the debate. Remember that everybody thinks that his position is the right one, and everybody has his reasons for thinking so.

Do not impute ridiculous or malevolent ideas to your opponent. An example of this is the rhetorical statement, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" This imputes or presupposes that your opponent has beaten his wife. One frequently sees references by conservative speakers and writers to the idea that gay activists want "special privileges." This would be ridiculous if it were true. It isn't true, but speaking as if it were true and well known to all is egregiously unfair to listeners or readers who may not be well informed. It is probably always wise to treat your opponent with respect, even if he doesn't deserve it. If he doesn't deserve respect, this will probably soon become obvious enough. There are all sorts of subtle ways to express hostility toward your opponent and it is almost always unwise to give in to them. That doesn't mean that you can't vividly and saliently present your criticisms of your opponent's beliefs or behavior. But beware of phraseology which simply makes him look ridiculous.

Regression to the mean: Another source of error which occurs very frequently is the failure to take into account regression to the mean. This is a bit technical, but it is very important, especially in any kind of social or psychological research which depends upon statistical surveys or even experiments which involve statistical sampling. Rather than a general statement of the principle (which becomes more and more unintelligible as the statement becomes more and more rigorous) an example will be used. Let's consider intelligence testing. Perhaps we have a drug that is supposed to raise the IQ of mentally retarded kids. So we give a thousand intelligence tests and select the 30 lowest scoring individuals. We then give these low scoring kids our drug and test them again. We find that there has been an increase in the average of their IQ scores. Is this evidence that the drug increased the IQ? Not necessarily! Suppose we want to show that smoking marijuana lowers the IQ. Well, we take the 30 highest scoring kids in our sample and give them THC and test them again. We find a lower average IQ. Is this evidence that marijuana lowers the IQ? Not necessarily! Any statistician knows that if you make some kind of a measurement of some attribute of a large sample of people and then select the highest and lowest scoring individuals and make the same measurement again, the high scoring group will have a lower average score and the low scoring group will have a higher average score than they did the first time. This is called "regression to the mean" and it is a perfectly universal statistical principle. It has nothing to do with what is being measured. It works with molecules and atoms just as it does with juvenile delinquents and schizophrenics.

More pointers on debating....
# Apply the scientific method.
# Cite relevant personal experience.
# Be polite.
# Organize your response. (Beginning, middle, end.)
# Treat people as individuals. (Not everyone who is pro-choice is also anti-gun.)
# Cite sources for statistics and studies used.
# Literacy works. Break posts into sentences and paragraphs.
# Read the post you are responding to.
# Stay open to learning.
# Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts
# Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
# Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").
# Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
# Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.
# Quantify, wherever possible.
# If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.
# "Occam's razor" - if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.
# Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, is it testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?
# Conduct control experiments - especially "double blind" experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.
# Check for confounding factors - separate the variables.


Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric:

* Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument.
* Argument from "authority".
* Argument from adverse consequences (putting pressure on the decision maker by pointing out dire consequences of an "unfavourable" decision).
* Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).
* Special pleading (typically referring to god's will).
* Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).
* Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses).
* Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).
* Misunderstanding the nature of statistics (President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!)
* Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers thriftily ignored because they are not "proved").
* Non sequitur - "it does not follow" - the logic falls down.
* Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - "it happened after so it was caused by" - confusion of cause and effect.
* Meaningless question ("what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).
* Excluded middle -considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the "other side" look worse than it really is).
* Short-term v. long-term - a subset of excluded middle ("why pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?").
* Slippery slope - a subset of excluded middle -unwarranted extrapolation of the effects (give an inch and they will take a mile).
* Confusion of correlation and causation.
* Straw man - caricaturing (or stereotyping) a position to make it easier to attack.
* Suppressed evidence or half-truths.
* Weasel words - for example, use of euphemisms for war such as "police action" to get around limitations on Presidential powers. "An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public" .

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Right Knowledge without use and expression is a vain thing, bringing no good to its possesor, or to the Nuwaubian. - The Master Teacher Rev. Dr. Malachi Z. York

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