Basic Rules of Intelligent Debate

jackassThis is decidedly non-comprehensive. It’s not a set of rules for formal debate. It’s more of a frustrated rant.

Religion is not science.
Religion is a metaphysical relationship with that which we cannot understand. It is how the vast majority of the world comes to terms with questions of morality and belief.

Religion is not a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Religion does not answer why a compass points north or how best to grow crops.

If you attempt to derail a scientific discussion with talks of invisible spiritual forces, do not be surprised when you are ignored or reprimanded.

Science is not religion.
One of the problems with arguing with a strict fundamentalist is that they ignore the former rule. They debate science with religion, and that just doesn’t work.

One of the problems with arguing with many strict atheists is that they make the inverse but equally absurd assertion that religion should be argued in a systematic and testable way. Religion is not science, and treating it like it is will only make you look more foolish.

Arguing that religion is stupid because it doesn’t hold up to scientific principals is stupid, because science is not religion. Intelligent people understand the difference.

An opinion that is different than yours isn’t necessarily invalid.
You know how people always say they change? Guess what? That’s because they draw new conclusions based on new information.

Claiming that a differing opinion is invalid simply because you disagree with the end result means that you don’t have any desire to critically analyze your own position. If you’re not willing to critically analyze your own position, entering into a debate on the topic will just mean you’re a jackass.

Don’t be a dick.
It’s called Wheaton’s Law, but it’s been a rule forever. Before Wheaton, The Kingdom of Loathing had a firm “Don’t be a jackass” rule in place.

This one seems simple but some people just don’t seem to get it. How do you know if you’re being a jackass? Here’s a good way to think about it:

If one person says you’re a jackass, ignore them.
If two people say you’re a jackass, fight back.
If three people say you’re a jackass, start shopping for a saddle.

Agree to disagree.
Another secret too many people aren’t privy to – there’s over 7 billion opinions floating around on this planet, each one uniquely different. Most people disagree on something, even if it’s just Coke or Pepsi, Beatles or Stones.

That’s good. Without that, we would be stuck with either the Beatles or the Stones and I happen to like the fact both were influential to world music. I like Pepsi. If you like Coke, no fucking worries. I’ll buy you a Coke.

You just return the favor and buy me a Pepsi when it’s your turn to treat.

It’s okay to not like things.

Photo: mueritz

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