Thursday, June 18, 2015

Considering the two species of debate.

          This was inspired by another comment over at Emily Blegvad's global warming documentary "The Science Behind Global Warming" a very nice effort by a high school student to explain our understanding of manmade global warming. 

Unfortunately the YouTube comments thread has been haunted by a few nasty characters who aren't at all interested in the video, or climate science, they just want to throw insults at us the "brainwashed", "=ucking gullible", and such lovely stuff.  As you can image, it's been a lively and weird comments thread and all sadly distracting from what Emily's documentary was all about.  

But, it does offer learning opportunities, here's a comment that makes for a perfect introduction into describing the anatomy of the two types of public debate.
  Emily, the ingredients to a good debate includes not joining in with herd mentality and siding with bullies that see it ok to attack people personally, that is actually "hate mongering", or are you still in kindergarten?  
And you never thought it was worth defending yourself from my original comments...which are now gone.*  
You see, in this world if you buy into things like this you have to be prepared to defend what you are promoting and not put your fingers in your ears and sing lalalalalala, you belong more to a cult than anything else sweetheart

As it happens I've given 'debate' lots of thought so let me share what I've learned.  (* Incidentally, I don't think anything was deleted.)

A debate is supposed to be about the information each side presents, it's examination and rebuttal - it has nothing to do herds or anything like that.  Also very important to understand is that there are two distinct kinds of debate.  

There's the Political/Lawyerly Debate where winning is everything.  Truth and understanding play second fiddle to winning.  In fact, quite often understanding is the enemy and much effort goes into confusing issues, rather than clarifying.

Then there's the Scientific/Learning Debate where each side argues their understanding using the evidence they have amassed.  You listen to your opponent,  you weigh their evidence according to your own understanding - then the 'other side' has their go at it.  There is an expectation to honestly relay ones evidence and yes, egos and good rhetoric play their part, but in the end it's all about the evidence and understanding the question as well as possible that matters.  

What that means is that if I am shown to be mistaken by the strength of the evidence, I accept it, bruised ego and all.  Because, learning from my mistakes give depth to my understanding of why things are as they are.    

The scientific community is all about a learning experience and always striving for better understanding our reality.  That's where the victory is.

It's not about ruthless defense of ego and ideology, it's about learning!

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