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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Single-Source Debating Tactics

From time to time, on the BBS or Forum or Email, I find myself debating something (unrelated to the company or its products) with somebody who is vastly more interested/passionate than I am. These people seem to think that if I do not drop everything I am doing to go do research and refut their arguments, that they have "won" something. Maybe it makes them feel better about themselves. Go figure. I have a business to run and really don't care if they believe something that isn't true (although I get cranky when they spew such nonsense on my BBS and drive my customers away).

One of the most annoying tactics of these debating types is "I found one source that supports my view and therefore the argument is over and all other sources are invalid." This could be about Field Marshal Montgommery (British and US sources don't agree on much of anything), the bird-dinosaur theory (95% of scientists think birds are dinosaur descendants, but those who find the question fun to argue delight in quoting the tiny minority who say otherwise), Holocaust denial, global warming, or even the question about whether the Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 did so voluntarily, out of reasonable or unreasonable fear, or were forced out at gunpoint. (Almost 60 years later, every Palestinian great-grandfather "remembers" that he was one of the few forced to leave at gunpoint, not one of the vast majority who left because the Mufti of Jerusalem said to get out of the way of the invading armies; one recent book says what no other book ever said, based on "new research" which boils down to asking said grandfathers what they "remember"). It's hard to convince Biblical Paleontology people that they actually have to read some science books, not take the word of some web site that "every paleontologist has abandoned the bird-dino theory" (a statement that is an outright lie; I know because I read the mailing list where real Paleontologists discuss dinosaurs every day and they think the theory is stronger than ever).

If you really want to know the truth rather than just win some imaginary debating game, you really have to read all sides of the story, not just accept verbatim the claims of some web site that is pushing their agenda. (Didn't your mother tell you that there are at least two sides to every story?) I can tell when the guy pestering me about whatever subject is getting 100% of his info from one of these one-sided web sites that ignore any data they don't agree with (and then lie and say no such data exists). Global warming sites are like that, along with the Bible Literalist sites. I think the climate is going crazy but I am not convinced I have to live on a commune and grow sweat potatoes to stop it, and I have read the Bible (the greatest collection of moral and ethical teachings ever written) without believing that the world is only six thousand years old.