Now that we're seeing rather a lot of activity here in the debating section, I thought of posting a guide that would help people to learn the proper course of debate when discussing any pertinent topic started in this section of the forums.


False Dilemma: Presenting an issue as black or white, when it isn't.

From Ignorance: Something isn't known to be true, therefore it's false. I notice this mostly with people who are losing an argument. The most obvious, and common is "You can't prove God exists, therefore he doesn't."

Popularity: Because most people believe it's true, it is.

Appeal To Authority: Obvious one, but complicated. To NOT be a fallacy, the authority must be an expert on the topic at hand, and it must be at least the popular opinion amongst his colleagues. Anytime it becomes 'Dr. A said this, so it's true." it's probably a fallacy.

Post Hoc: A happened after B, therefore B caused A.

Complex Cause: A caused B, but so did C, D and E.

Straw Man: VERY common. Basically creating a false weak point in your opponent's argument and attacking that instead.

Untestable Theory: Using something that can't be proved or disproved as an argument. "The Big Bang is incorrect because God created everything."

Ad Hominem: In Forumese: Flaming. Against the forum rules as well as the rules of gentlemanly conduct.

e.g., A poor plan of attack, you stupid noob.

Next, a few general points on conducting cleaner debates.

1. Don't bring up a point you aren't willing to debate. Any point you make is up for contention, be prepared to explain anything you type. Be prepared to provide references for statistics and the like.

2. Use semi-formal language. It's hard to take an argument seriously that starts with 'listun i no lotz bout teh Irak war'.

3. Don't patronize. Some of the people in the forum are children. That doesn't mean you need to speak to anyone that way. If your argument is stronger, it will speak for itself.

4. Never declare yourself the winner. See above.

5. Avoid "My Friends And I Syndrome". As much as you may like to think so, you and the people you know aren't a modern Renaissance. People you don't know are likely as smart, or smarter than you are, and have their own beliefs and morals. People don't hold beliefs contrary to yours or act in ways you don't approve of because they're brainwashed or evil. Never refer to the general populace as ignorant, because the only one who ends up sounding that way is you.

6. Study up. There's no time limit, and there's certainly no shame in using references to bolster your point. No one expects you to know the exact positions and armaments of every ship in the Battle Of Trafalgar, but they'll probably be impressed if you state them while explaining why Nelson was successful in crossing the T.

7. Avoid ganging up, or 'back-slapping'. An argument isn't any better or worse based on whether you agree with it or not. Don't defend someone's weak or false argument because they're on your side, don't be overly hasty to dismiss an opposing argument.

8. Finally, most importantly, BE WILLING TO CONCEDE.A point, an argument, or a debate. You don't lose a finger every time you lose an argument, although many people act like it. Losing graciously gains respect, clinging onto dear life and flying in the face of every fact certainly doesn't.

Corrections welcomed. Note that you don't really have to follow everything in this strictly, but they are good guidelines on the proper art of debating. And also, remember, practice makes perfect.

Peace out.