Creating Debate Threads
Threads in the Debate Forum are going to be placed under moderation. In this context, moderation means a potential new thread will not appear when you post it. Instead, it will be sent to a queue (a line, like at the check-out counter of a grocery store) where it will be read in full by one of the Debate Forum mods. If a mod approves the thread, it will be posted in the Debate Forum. If a mod does not approve the thread, it will be deleted without ever showing up. If you want your thread to make it into Debates, here are some style guidelines you must observe:
- Content - Keep in mind that this section is more about thorough, pointed conversation than Misc general or its other subsections. Threads up for debating must have a topic that is important to many people and has strong effects on daily life. This is not the place to discuss whether books are better than their movie versions, to use one recent example. A thread about something that would be better suited to the casual sections of Misc will not be approved for Debates.
- Structure - A result of the requirements of content and support, threads in the Debate Forum can't have lazy, empty opening posts. I'll give you some clear but simple things to put into your OP if you want it approved. First, clearly state what is being debated. Your readers need to know what the question/problem/issue is. Second, tell us a little bit about the topic. If you need to define some terms or link to an article or website that explains the topic, do that. Third, tell us what your own thoughts are about the topic. Say which side you agree with, or which side you think is wrong. This will be a starting point and gives other people something to reply to. All in all, there should be at least one paragraph in a submitted thread - less than a paragraph is just too lazy. So there you go. 1, 2, and 3. Just check that your topic has those three things in it and you'll get approved.
- Delivery - Because the threads here are going to be divisive and controversial, they must be written as inoffensively as possible. Flaming is still flaming here in the Debate Forum, and will not be tolerated. Repeat this to yourself every time you come to this section, because some people will have arguments that you will be unable to help finding horribly backwards and laughable. The important thing to remember is that, no matter how plainly wrong a concept or practice might be, no matter how detestable you find the topic of your debate, all forms of inflammatory language and Ad Hominem argument (one of the logical fallacies!) do not make the counterargument any stronger. In fact, in most cases such venomous posting makes your counterargument weaker. A thread that relies on hateful invective to make its point will not be approved for Debates.
Debates and You: A Guide to Style
Since this section is the home for controversial and emotionally charged discussions, we have to set up some extra standards for the way the discussions are carried out. In Polls, you can just post your opinion and ask other people their opinions. Here, opinions aren't good enough. Your opinion is likely to be so wildly contrary to someone else's that you and the other person are going to offend each other just by having your respective opinions. Repeating those opinions over and over again won't make them any more convincing, though. Instead of conducting the discussions as shouting matches, you may be required to provide justification for your opinion with one or more of the following:
- Scholarly Sources - A quick measure of "scholarly" is to make sure your source's URL doesn't have ".com" in it. More reliably than that, a good source for showing us why your opinion is valid is one that comes from a professional journal, either of science, literature, politics, or philosophy. Be careful about which sources you use, though, since many sources that advocate a particular viewpoint will be strongly biased in its favor.
- Logical Structure - The "Straw Man" is a fallacy where the debater refutes a mistakenly or purposely 'dumbed-down' version of an argument, which tends to make the refutation irrelevant and pointless. If you're accused of "Begging the Question," it means you're trying to prove a point using an argument that assumes the point is true to begin with, a fallacy also commonly called "Circular Reasoning." A quick search of Wikipedia provides more of the various logical fallacies that plague common arguments. If you want to support your opinion, try not to express your argument in a way that falls into one of these logical traps.
- Clear and Organized Reasoning - When sharing your thoughts on a subject, make sure your conclusion (what you think) is clearly explained by the reasons you gave (why you think it). Sometimes, it may be necessary for you to walk your argument through the connection between your reasons and your conclusion; in other words, to show how your reasons lead to your conclusion. If you can't express your opinions clearly, and connect good reasons to a sound conclusion, other people will not be able to understand you and your argument will become easier to defeat.
- Anecdotal Evidence - Eyes open, folks! This one's a little different. Try NOT to support your argument with a story about your experience in the world. You may think smoking is awful, and every single smoker you've ever met may have been an utter cowpie of a human being, but that does not make a valid argument. Any experience you have is susceptible to being equally and inversely proportional to the experience of some other individual. Personal experience, once again, is frequently useless as support for your side of a debate. If you get caught basing your argument on anecdotal evidence, you will be laughed out of the Debate Forum.
Rules of the Game: Act Like a Professional
Professional philosophers and theoreticians practice the art of critique by giving the argument under inspection the most sympathetic reading feasible. We're clearly worlds away from such composure as things stand right now, but we have the power to improve! To that end, here are some rules about how to treat your opponents and their arguments.
- Don't reply to your opponent's argument by laughing at him or her.
- Don't make insulting accusations based on poorly-informed or poorly-expressed arguments.
- Don't characterize your opponent with a sarcastic quote or image.
- Don't put unflattering words in your opponents' mouths.
- Don't use technicalities to get out of explaining your arguments when criticisms are leveled or implications questioned.
Let me be perfectly clear, because I want everyone to understand what to expect and how to behave. If I catch any more of these rude, disrespectful, or underhanded tactics in the debates here, I'm going to infract for them. Specifically, I'm going to skip the "flaming" infraction and use the "posting with the intent to annoy others" infraction, because the kind of things we see here aren't always exactly flaming as much as they are chimeras of derision, antagonism and weaseliness. If I catch you twice or more, you'll get the 6-point "continuing to disobey the rules of a specific subforum" infraction.
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