I am learning to hate debate.
Really hate debate. It’s everywhere, and it’s bad and wrong, and I think it’s contributing to our social ills — all of social media is soaking in this ridiculous debate culture, and it’s stunting and poisoning our interactions.
Sounds like hyperbole, I know, but I can’t help it — my eyes cross and steam trickles out of my ears at just the word “debate”. And I’m not alone: here’s an article from a scientist who won’t debate science.
In fact, as a general rule, I refuse to debate basic science in public. There are two reasons for this: first, I’m a terrible debater and would almost certainly lose. The skills necessary to be a good scientist (coding, caring about things like “moist static energy”, drinking massive amounts of coffee) aren’t necessarily the same skills that will convince an audience in a debate format. It is very fortunate that things like the atomic model of matter do not rest on my ability to be charming or persuasive.
But second, and maybe more importantly: once you put facts about the world up for debate, you’ve already lost. Science isn’t a popularity contest; if it were, I’d definitely vote to eliminate quantum mechanics, set π to 1, and put radium back in toothpaste. I really, really don’t want sea levels to rise, rainfall patterns to shift, and heat waves to intensify. Climate change is definitely not my first choice. But physics and chemistry don’t care what I, or anyone else, wants.
On the first point: I agree, debate is a very specific skill, and it takes practice to do well. It’s not something that is part of scientific training. Maybe it’s used more in law, but law ain’t reality. There are useful skills involved in debating, like logic and rhetoric, and maybe it’s good for kids to do some of it in high school…but after that, it’s not relevant to most real world interactions, which are an order of magnitude more complex than anything dealt with in debating.
On the second point: YES. This is the cardinal sin of the debate mentality, that you reduce the problems of the world to two sides, and you settle the issue with rhetoric and a popularity contest. That’s not how anything works. It’s a garbage strategy for simultaneously avoiding dealing with the real issues, elevating the two artificially simplified positions to an equal standing, and allowing the most golden-tongued babbler to come away with a sense of accomplishment. So you’ve got hacks like William Lane Craig acquiring a reputation as a great debater, when all he is is someone who recites horseshit with great confidence.
This attitude that debate, no matter how bogus the subject, is healthy has permeated everything. So the media, instead of explaining a subject with sufficient depth that the consumer comes away having learned something, instead takes the lazy approach of pitting experts against assholes, putting them on panels and letting them yell it out, and allowing the audience on both sides feel like they won. This is why Kellyanne Conway still gets invited on talk shows — she’s a lying crapnugget, but the media munerators who organize these spectacles just want the conflict. This applies to Jack Kingston, Corey Lewandowski, any of that mob of demented liars who do the talk show circuit. Why? It’s not as if you’re going to receive any insight from them…but the media just keeps on booking the same ol’ goofballs and wasting our time.
This is why people are playing games with that flat earth nonsense. Being a contrarian gets you a platform, automatically, and the wrongness gets amplified.
So lately I’ve said on my youtube hangouts that I’m not going to bother with the creationists who beg me to invite them on — they have nothing of value to contribute. They’ve been getting a bit irate, like this flaming nutcase who calls himself seeksmostprophecy, or something goofy like that.
You like to talk about creationists, slandering them, calling them names and you don’t allow them to participate. No honest discourse there. You disqualify yourself as a scientist.
Yes, I call myself a scientist, which means I understand and accept the evidence that says the earth is old, and organisms evolved. Arguing otherwise disqualifies them from rational discourse — there are more interesting things to discuss than their ignorance. What really annoys them is when you tell them they don’t get to freeload off your expertise, and they’re not going to get equal billing with even a mediocre, unknown scientist.
But still, it’s incessant: every time you point out some failure of reason or knowledge by some guy on the internet, his defenders will rush in with their ploy to salvage his reputation: debate! Debate him now!
My God, your a professor! LOL,
Your dimwitted almost child like analysis of doctor Jordans immense knowledge wisdom and expertise is almost comical to the degree of being woefully sad and pathetic.
Id love to see this brainwashed tepid clown debate the professor.
He would chew what little you have to offer up and spit it out like the diseased refuse it is..
You could have just shown that he was wrong about the sum of 2 + 2, and they’ll whine at you that you have to resolve this great conflict with a debate. No, I don’t. I’ve just explained why he’s wrong, given you the correct answer, and you don’t get to prolong your time in the spotlight with more clueless yammering.
So, no, fuck off. Sometimes that’s all you can say.
Or you can be more, umm, smooth about it, like Jay Smooth. He’s suggesting that you don’t give the trolls air to breathe.
Note that this does not mean you ignore the trolls, but that you use whatever platform you’ve got to express yourself and your disagreement, and you don’t let them commandeer your platform to promote nonsense. Discuss and disagree, but don’t enable further promotion of bad ideas. Dialectic, not debate.
You might also check out a pair of philosophers arguing about “Is Debate Useful?” over tea, or whatever stronger stuff ContraPoints is drinking. They’re not quite as dismissive as I am, but still, they think it’s a question worth pondering.
I’ve come to my conclusion.
No, you’re not going to change my mind by debating me. But maybe if you can put together a coherent, constructive argument otherwise, I might consider it.