The Lost Art of Constructive Debate

It is a sad fact that Logic and Critical Thinking are no longer taught in many universities, much less high schools. This goes some of the way, I believe, in explaining what passes for debate and considered evaluation in the modern media; Katie Couric and her like are mistaken for people with working brains. And even though blogs offer the forum for reasoned discourse, all too often they also devolve into emotional rants, especially where the readers demonstrate a mob mentality which denies even the theoretical existence of a valid alternative to their opinion. The measured mind and balanced soul find themselves outcasts. It is my hope to revive that spirit of courteous debate and reasoned examination of the issues, through the discouragement of negative tactics and the encouragement of positive methods. To that end, I am proposing a simple yet difficult task.

Tomorrow, if there is interest in the endeavor, I will open a thread for debate on the subject of what, since 1967, the Republicans and Democrats (or Greens, Libertarians, Trekkers, Anarchists, whatever) have each added to America’s store of worth and ideals. That is, I invite the commentors to note, in specific, what their party has done which is good and right. This is not the place to attack the other side; if the claim cannot stand on its own logic and reason and evidence, this will be apparent to any considered thought. This thread is also not the place to make any sort of personal attack or insult. Accordingly, I will be editing any negative comments, and applying a “strike” against the side which tries such tricks. I will warn folks now, that because I can check IP addresses, anyone attempting to fake a negative comment against the other side will be caught, and a double “strike” charged to their own side for such a trick, so don’t even think about it. The objective, simple yet difficult, is to make your case for your party using only positive statements and definitive evidence. I like to think that some here are still capable of that level of effort, and it would be a good thing to see the practice revived.

I agree that sometimes it is useful, even necessary, to break down what you see as a false claim or argument on the other side. However, that tactic has been used overmuch, I think, and often leads to rants and insult-fests. Let’s see who can make their case while staying squeaky clean.

So, who’s got the guts to try? If there is interest, we can start this tomorrow morning. I am waiting until then, so that people interested can compile their information and prepare their brief but logical case.

UPDATE (11:50 AM) – Lee brought up that we should have clear rules and objectives established, so here they are:

First, Wednesday’s debate is for positive claims and support for the party of your choice. Attacking the other side’s claims, insults, and especially personal attacks will not be tolerated. I encourage the readers to contribute well-reasoned arguments with support for your claims. Because some claims may be unsupported with evidence or may be vague, it is fine for readers to ask the claimant for support or clarification, but challenges and denial should not be pursued on this occasion (it’s not as if you won’t have the chance somewhere else!). The objective is not to “win” in a scoreboard sense, but to prove you can make your case using classic Logic and the specific merits of your party.

The time-range is limited to the last 40 years, the common range of a generation of society. The idea is to address accomplishments with contemporary relevance.

STRIKES – As we have unfortunately seen even in this initial thread, some people are unwilling to comply with simple standards of courtesy. Therefore, even though this debate is not a competition, a record will be kept of untoward behavior. Whenever someone posts a comment which engages in negative behavior, such as attacking the other side’s claim, making insults, or impersonating another person, the offending passage will be removed and a STRIKE assigned with the following values:

1 STRIKE – Attempting to derail the thread, challenging a claim made by another party, or insulting a leader from another party

2 STRIKES – Personal insults of any kind, any profanity

3 STRIKES – Impersonating another person (I can check IP addresses) for the purpose of trying to make them look like they are breaking the rules

This does not apply to any other thread, or to any other situation. I am using it here as a tool to show a group’s ability or lack thereof to address the topic with decorum.

Any complaints about the rules in place for this debate will be deleted. You are not required to participate, but if you do the rules apply to everyone.

In conclusion, the objective here is to advance knowledge and try to demonstrate the virtue of the Blogosphere for constructive debate. It’s up to you whether this test fails or succeeds.

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A little late to the party