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Thread: Debate Snobs

  1. #1
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    Debate Snobs

    I am new to ODN and certainly have zero authority to question the methods here. Yet as an interested debator I have valid concerns over the course debates sometimes take. Much too often I see a very interesting topic get bogged down in technicalities instead of content. Proofs, fallacies, and supported claims are the foundation of healthy valuable debate. But when the bulk of a thread descends into technicalities it equally kills the value of the debate.

    I joined ODN to find a venue more suitable than Facebook to have meaningful conversations about meaningful topics. Facebook most often gets into flaming, trolls, and ignorance with little opportunity for useful discussion. I thought this was a safe haven for the intellectual, but I have begun to find it a place where the same things happen just with intellectual words and methods.

    I propose that ODN is (should be) a place of healthy discourse and debate which sometimes requires proof and data, but at times may also require conjecture and speculation. In the instances of conjecture slinging fallacies, and accusations of unsupported claims, often fails to be useful.

    Am I Wrong? Have I come to the wrong place?
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mehkael View Post
    I am new to ODN and certainly have zero authority to question the methods here. Yet as an interested debator I have valid concerns over the course debates sometimes take. Much too often I see a very interesting topic get bogged down in technicalities instead of content. Proofs, fallacies, and supported claims are the foundation of healthy valuable debate. But when the bulk of a thread descends into technicalities it equally kills the value of the debate.

    I joined ODN to find a venue more suitable than Facebook to have meaningful conversations about meaningful topics. Facebook most often gets into flaming, trolls, and ignorance with little opportunity for useful discussion. I thought this was a safe haven for the intellectual, but I have begun to find it a place where the same things happen just with intellectual words and methods.

    I propose that ODN is (should be) a place of healthy discourse and debate which sometimes requires proof and data, but at times may also require conjecture and speculation. In the instances of conjecture slinging fallacies, and accusations of unsupported claims, often fails to be useful.

    Am I Wrong? Have I come to the wrong place?
    I don't know that you've come to the wrong place. I'm not sure what your vision is. What would an ODN without the "same things [that] happen [elsewhere] just with intellectual words and methods" look like to you? What sort of environment do you have in mind?

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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    I don't know that you've come to the wrong place. I'm not sure what your vision is. What would an ODN without the "same things [that] happen [elsewhere] just with intellectual words and methods" look like to you? What sort of environment do you have in mind?
    Exactly what I said following "I propose". Which is not a different structure only a SLIGHTLY different culture. One that is more concerned about useful discourse than the technicality of fallacies and conjecture. Certainly challenges should be made, data should be provided, but sometimes useful discussion does not rely solely on support, but rather on conjecture and hypothesis.

    There are a couple of instances I can cite if it would help, but I would prefer to avoid pointing fingers.
    All men SHOULD have equal opportunity to live their life to the fullest. Be as happy, productive, carefree, and content as possible. The trouble is we are NOT created equal.

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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mehkael View Post
    Certainly challenges should be made, data should be provided, but sometimes useful discussion does not rely solely on support, but rather on conjecture and hypothesis.
    As long that conjecture and hypothesis are clearly labeled as such, it should not be a problem and I doubt that heavy duty challenges will be brought to bear.

    You also need to realize that - discussions - as you say, rely on conjecture and hypothesis but debate relies on evidence and logic.

    I think that what needs to be considered is: how important the technicality is for the debate to be fruitful. This needs to be considered both by the challenger, and the challenged.
    Last edited by Vandaler; January 6th, 2011 at 11:51 AM.
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    I sympathise with the OP. I reckon ODN would be better if it got just a little bit less concerned with the debating rule book, and more interested in the actual content. Surely it would get more members, more posts, more dynamic?

    Have to admit I have started asking 'support' since I joined though!

  6. #6
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    What you seem to be interested in is not so much debate as "friendly discussion."

    Technicalities seem a bore to most people, but it is how one cuts through rhetorical flourish to the truth. Aristotle recognized 3 forms of persuasion. Ethos (appeal to the individuals character), Pathos (appeal to the audience emotion), and Logos (appeal to reason). Both Ethos and Pathos can be misleading. A person can have outstanding character and still be wrong. One can be moved by emotion and still be wrong. Only appealing to reason leads to the truth.

    But, if you want to honestly appeal to reason, you will have to deal with technicalities because the truth is in the details, not in sweeping rhetorical flourish.

    ODN used to have as its logo "The Battleground for Truth." That is a battleground that is fought trench warfare style, over inches of ground, not vast territories.

  7. #7
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mehkael View Post
    Exactly what I said following "I propose".
    Wow. Okie dokie.

    ...speaking of snobbery...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mehkael View Post
    Which is not a different structure only a SLIGHTLY different culture. One that is more concerned about useful discourse than the technicality of fallacies and conjecture. Certainly challenges should be made, data should be provided, but sometimes useful discussion does not rely solely on support, but rather on conjecture and hypothesis.
    I think that's what I'm getting at. You're asking in a debate thread whether or not you've come to the right site. I can't know if you have or haven't. I can only speak to what I do know, and do know is that we have a rule set that requires people to support claims they make, which I would argue facilitates productive discourse, and we have language in the rules that also speaks to things like respect, open-mindedness, and so on. We have rules that carry with them penalties for attacking the person rather than the argument.

    We have a diverse staff in order to ensure different cultural, religious, and political leanings are represented. Our staff is comprised of theists and non-theists and agnostics, Republicans and Dems and Libs, and people who hail from places as near as California to as far as South Africa and Australia. The current focus of the entire staff as we speak is actively discouraging combative behaviors, encouraging cooperative behaviors, and deliberating on each and every post that gets reported.

    Having said that, none of us are perfect. We do this because we all have at least some pride in our opinions, how we came about getting them, and the level of our convictions. Sometimes this pride gets the best of any of us. Just last night I had to eat some crow over my own behavior because it was precisely the sort of thing we actively work to mitigate. Moreover, the person I was talking to didn't deserve the sort of tone I took with him, and I was plain wrong. So I apologized exactly for those reasons, and to foment a more positive and productive conversation.

    So when I ask you what your vision would look like, I'm asking for some specific examples. Moreover, I'm asking what ideas you have for fomenting culture change. Goodness knows we're working hard on that very thing.

    So what would you do differently? What would you have the staff do differently?

  8. #8
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Didn't we try this approach one time with a special forum for "lite debate" or something?

    Never really took off.

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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by Vandaler View Post
    As long that conjecture and hypothesis are clearly labeled as such, it should not be a problem and I doubt that heavy duty challenges will be brought to bear.

    You also need to realize that discussions - as you say, rely on conjecture and hypothesis but debate relies on evidence and logic.

    I think that what needs to be considered is: how important the technicality is for the debate to be fruitful. This needs to be considered both by the challenger, and the challenged.
    Perhaps that is the element that I have failed to understand. I definitely see that distinction now and it could resolve many of the "problems". To some extent it actually supports what I am trying to say in the OP. Often to have a productive debate challenges MUST be made, while other times it is more of a discussion that requires a little more leniency to speculation.

    The "problem" is that I often find that distinction is not being made or recognized. What was intended as a "discussion" using speculation becomes a debate over technicalities and lack of data. While on the flip side I see many "debates" that utilize fallacies (strawmen mostly), and while they are rightly challenged why were they there to be challenged? To take part in that conversation was clearly a more strict debate, not a loose discussion, please leave such silliness out, for a more productive conversation.

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    What you seem to be interested in is not so much debate as "friendly discussion."
    Probably true.

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    Technicalities seem a bore to most people, but it is how one cuts through rhetorical flourish to the truth. ...(snip)... Only appealing to reason leads to the truth.
    I agree... kind of. Reason can also be applied to the point of Solipsism, which does little to further most conversations (although is useful in its way).

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    But, if you want to honestly appeal to reason, you will have to deal with technicalities because the truth is in the details, not in sweeping rhetorical flourish.
    Again I agree... kind of. Rhetorical flourish needs parsing, it cannot and should not stand on its own. Conjecture and speculation however, may SOMETIMES be useful, and the technicalities that cut them into pieces disregard that function.

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    ODN used to have as its logo "The Battleground for Truth." That is a battleground that is fought trench warfare style, over inches of ground, not vast territories.
    While it is frustrating I DEFINITELY agree

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    Wow. Okie dokie.

    ...speaking of snobbery...
    Sorry, I thought it was clear. A bad assumption apparently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    I think that's what I'm getting at. You're asking in a debate thread whether or not you've come to the right site. I can't know if you have or haven't. I can only speak to what I do know...
    THAT is IT. RIGHT THERE. While there is a valid point to be made that you cannot read my mind, you CAN read my OP which says what it should, to give insight into what I am looking for, and what I am asking.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    ... we have a rule set that requires people to support claims they make, which I would argue facilitates productive discourse, and we have language in the rules that also speaks to things like respect, open-mindedness, and so on. We have rules that carry with them penalties for attacking the person rather than the argument.
    Rules that I have read and find encouraging. This is much more about the debate/discussion distinction that I needed help to clarify than the system.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    So when I ask you what your vision would look like, I'm asking for some specific examples. Moreover, I'm asking what ideas you have for fomenting culture change. Goodness knows we're working hard on that very thing.

    So what would you do differently? What would you have the staff do differently?
    In general I would rather not directly point out specific debates or authors.

    What I am looking for (I think) is the recognition of the debate/discussion distinction, where responders ask themselves if their response is productive to the conversation. I don't think it is something that the moderators can change or enforce, it seems to me to be an individual thing. However, I can say as a new user I notice the users that post most often, I often notice who are moderators and that greatly affects my view of the culture and DOES lead me by example. I have seen the moderators contribute to the "problem", which is the main source of my question. Have I assumed incorrectly, in that ODN is what I WANT to find rather, than what it is in reality?

    I suppose identifying the distinctions in the guidelines (or rules) might be helpful. It was that realization that really helped me understand where the borders are. If more responders were directly aware of that distinction it may help. Or I may simply be in the wrong place.

    ---------- Post added at 04:09 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:00 PM ----------

    I just reread my own OP from a more invested direction and see it can easily be read as that I find ODN full of SMART flaming, and trolling. While it can happen, I see that is rarely the case and apologize for not being more clear.

    At risk of digging deeper...
    What I meant was that even well intentioned and often useful technicalities can be as unproductive as flaming when they are over used.
    Hopefully that is better
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  10. #10
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Conjecture and speculation however, may SOMETIMES be useful, and the technicalities that cut them into pieces disregard that function.
    Again, it sounds like to me what you are talking about is not debate, but a "discussion."

    What do you expect debate to be? Debate is a contest between opposing ideas. When one enters into a debate, it should be a given that the other side will attempt to discredit your argument.

    I'm not telling you to go away, what I'm saying is that I think you have a notion of something different than actual debate.

  11. #11
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    wrt 'support', the sort of thing that gets on my nerves is when I post a ton of support, and someone just says 'you have not supported', without any support to the statement that I have not supported, if you get my drift.

    oh yeah, and 'this is whats known as as appeal to true Scotsmen'.

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    Re: Debate Snobs

    There are varying levels of support. Some "evidence" is circumstantial or anecdotal, which makes it very weak, while other evidence is grounded in fact, observation, and logic, which makes it very strong. Often when someone challenges you manc, it is often on circumstantial support.

    Don't get me wrong, this isn't an attack post, but in the spirit of this particular thread I think it's important to lay out this distinction. There is a difference between saying:

    "You say you were home at 5pm, with no witnesses, and this is when the murder took place. You have a motive, therefore, you are guilty."

    ...and...

    "We have your fingerprints on the knife."

    As for the No True Scotsman fallacy, do you understand how it works? All bitter feelings aside, my goal is to become a better debater, and help those around me do the same. I truly want to know if you understand why you get accused of using it. Whether or not you actually are, do you understand why some people think you are?
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by manc View Post
    I sympathise with the OP. I reckon ODN would be better if it got just a little bit less concerned with the debating rule book, and more interested in the actual content. Surely it would get more members, more posts, more dynamic?

    Have to admit I have started asking 'support' since I joined though!
    I think there are a few who overdo the whole support thing. They, in turn, sort of force others to play the same petty game. And it really does become petty. When someone states something which is generally common knowledge and you are called out for not offering support, there gets a point where you just say screw it because I don't have the time to search for links to every bloody thing I say. On the other hand, when you wish to use specific information to support your argument, then it should be information you can source. Additionally, there are just bad habits people engage in which require some of the more technical sorts of responses. For example, telling someone that they are guilty of an ad hom is better than calling them an arsehole. There's a balance, but ODN does an unbelievable job of maintaining that balance. Perfect? Probably not. The site is only as imperfect as those who are members. So, to the original poster, stop whining. Either do what you do and do it your best or don't do it at all. If you find some discussion gettting out of hand or topic either call it out or just enter a new discussion. Complaining about some perceived lack of argumentation style over too much tenchicality is just bitchy. Your man-card is about to get torn in two. So, nut up man and come correct. We'll all be waiting. Nahhh. Not really. Prove yourself worth some ****, then maybe you'll get that kind of respect. Peace out!
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Gonzo View Post
    There are varying levels of support. Some "evidence" is circumstantial or anecdotal, which makes it very weak, while other evidence is grounded in fact, observation, and logic, which makes it very strong. Often when someone challenges you manc, it is often on circumstantial support.

    Don't get me wrong, this isn't an attack post, but in the spirit of this particular thread I think it's important to lay out this distinction. There is a difference between saying:

    "You say you were home at 5pm, with no witnesses, and this is when the murder took place. You have a motive, therefore, you are guilty."

    ...and...

    "We have your fingerprints on the knife."

    As for the No True Scotsman fallacy, do you understand how it works? All bitter feelings aside, my goal is to become a better debater, and help those around me do the same. I truly want to know if you understand why you get accused of using it. Whether or not you actually are, do you understand why some people think you are?
    Yeah, but its so much easier to chuck in a flying Scotsman than to argue the debate. I prefer to deal in actual facts.

    Yeah, and the fingerprints do no necessarily prove guilt either. In life you have to weigh up whatever evidence exists as best you can and see how it fits in will all the other stuff you are aware of. You then formulate a theory and test that theory. Circumstantial but strong evidence might be the best you are gonna get, almost certainly correct, and way better than nothing, and to dismiss it as worthless is wrong also.

    My background is geology and metallurgy. In metallurgy most stuff is easily verifiable but geology is much more piecing together circumstantial evidence. There are no smoking guns as such.
    Last edited by manc; January 7th, 2011 at 12:20 AM.

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    Re: Debate Snobs

    You know, at one point I almost felt like you do now. Through the years I have learned to pick my battles carefully.

    Sometimes you need to be selective of what you want to debate. I would love to debate many things but sometimes simply do not take it up unless I know I have the time, energy and will power to actually see it to the end.

    It is also important to identify your reasons for debating specific issues in the first place. If you simply want to chat about a specific topic in a less formal way, there are forums like the STB and Member Contributed News where you can pose it and have a very simplistic discussion about any subject. There no strict debate rules apply i.e. spam.

    Also, what do you wish to achieve when you debate? Is it actually to learn more about the specific topic, or do you actually want to prove your point with applying strict debating rules? I once took on debates simply to learn more about certain fallacies. Sometimes applying fallacies can even make your debate much more interesting.

    I do not think that makes me a snob, nor does it make anybody else a debating snob. I rather see it as an art, and definitely one I have not mastered yet.
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    So, there was no difference between Hitler and the French President Mitterrand (1981-86 and 1988-93) because they both led parties which had the word 'socialist' in the name?

    In that case I say there is no difference between the Pope and Osama bin Laden because they are both into religion.

    There is no difference between George Bush and an IRA terrorist because they are both in an organisation called Republican.

    Oh, hang on, I think I'm defeating my own point now.

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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibelsd View Post
    Your man-card is about to get torn in two.
    :(

    We'll all be waiting. Nahhh. Not really.
    LOL

    Prove yourself worth some ****, then maybe you'll get that kind of respect.
    Sounds fair.
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  18. #18
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mehkael View Post
    I am new to ODN and certainly have zero authority to question the methods here. Yet as an interested debator I have valid concerns over the course debates sometimes take. Much too often I see a very interesting topic get bogged down in technicalities instead of content. Proofs, fallacies, and supported claims are the foundation of healthy valuable debate. But when the bulk of a thread descends into technicalities it equally kills the value of the debate.

    I joined ODN to find a venue more suitable than Facebook to have meaningful conversations about meaningful topics. Facebook most often gets into flaming, trolls, and ignorance with little opportunity for useful discussion. I thought this was a safe haven for the intellectual, but I have begun to find it a place where the same things happen just with intellectual words and methods.

    I propose that ODN is (should be) a place of healthy discourse and debate which sometimes requires proof and data, but at times may also require conjecture and speculation. In the instances of conjecture slinging fallacies, and accusations of unsupported claims, often fails to be useful.

    Am I Wrong? Have I come to the wrong place?
    You might try focusing on threads in the Shootin' The Breeze forum, or start some of your own there.
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  19. #19
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    Re: Debate Snobs

    The only one that annoys me is people always whining 'appeal to ridicule'. Debates are just more fun with a bit of rhetorical flourish. I don't outright insult people on here, but if I think something is ridiculous, I say it, sometimes in a sarcastic way.

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    Re: Debate Snobs

    I would also put forward that discussions of logical fallacies are all about content and move dialogue forward. We are exploring the clarity of one's position and the assumptions that they hold. If we were rather to simply accept the tacit assumptions and perhaps flawed logic of our opponents' positions the debate becomes simply a monologue.
    What is there to discuss if we ignore the content and the thought process of a position?
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