Getting on the debate "scene"
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20-08-2014, 06:32 PM
Getting on the debate "scene"
As a young, confident atheist I have been watching many philosophical debates on youtube. Recently I have made a little bit of noise by arguing with evangelicals who were street preaching, of which is fun but I guess sometimes inconsequential, as this kind of small-scale and inconsequential.
I have recently joined the debating society at my school, which joins with another school to have debates, but I am unsure if religion is going to be brought up very often. Our schools are highly non religious, and because of this I am unsure if I will ever have a theistic opponent (I live in the UK so religion is almost dead over here).
So I guess my question is how does one get into the crowd of formal debates? I enjoy ripping apart fallacious philosophical arguments (to the extent that my friends joke that everything they say is a fallacy) and want to help educate people.

If somebody points out a fallacy, and you call fallacy fallacy, that doesn't mean you are right. That just means you committed the very fallacy you accused your opponent of.
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21-08-2014, 11:26 AM
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
(20-08-2014 06:32 PM)spinosauruskin Wrote:  So I guess my question is how does one get into the crowd of formal debates? I enjoy ripping apart fallacious philosophical arguments (to the extent that my friends joke that everything they say is a fallacy) and want to help educate people.

Not to rain on your parade... but...

It seems you like to stroke your own vanity rather than educate.

Just sayin'

That's what I inferred from reading the above. I suggest reevaluating your approach and your intentions before continuing with any form of debate. Make sure it's about enlightenment and progression and not about stroking your own ego with your "ability".

That's a backhanded compliment from your friends, by the way. They're basically saying, "I'm going to stop talking/discussing anything with you because you try to turn everything into an argument."

Just food for thought.

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21-08-2014, 12:40 PM (This post was last modified: 21-08-2014 01:25 PM by goodwithoutgod.)
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
May I suggest purchasing "A manual for creating atheists", by Boghossian.

Your approach will have little affect on the believers. I know, I am an overly assertive debater who likes to get into the thick of it, and while I enjoy the test of intellect, the matching of knowledge, it has very little chance in actually enlightening anyone. When I really want to try to get through to someone, you have to use a bit more finesse, for example...

I debate daily, have for years, and have a lot of experience with different types of debaters. If it is a literal word of god as per the bible theist, just pat them on the head and walk away. I have spent hours systematically dismantling this belief basis (bible) all just to get the GODDIDIT escapism excuse. (for a recent example: jeremy walker, hbl etc)

I have however had a lot of success using this book's epistemology approach. You dont criticize the individual as that just makes them go defensive, you dont attack the religion itself as that just gets you dogged down with hours of discussion on how this and that proves or disproves the bible..which I enjoy doing, but it is a time suck. You focus on the faith..."why do you believe"....if they answer the bible says so, it is the true word of god....I play to their ego..."okay, well surely as an intelligent human being, you have put more thought into it than just basing your faith, which is the belief in something without evidence, on a book right? So think about it for a minute, why do you believe?"

If they say something like "well the complexity of the world, you know, it is impossible this all happened by accident"...then you go with "okay, well just for the sake of discussion, because a close minded person has stopped learning, and I know you are willing to learn right?...lets say that if tomorrow science could answer all of your complexity questions...would you still believe? If they say yes, then you reply "great! so we have established that you don't believe based solely on complexity, just because science has not advanced enough yet to answer all the questions, so we can just take that off the table for the moment......so again, why do you believe..."

then you start whittling down the basis of faith more, gently discuss how using faith as a methodology for learning has been proven to be a failed epistemology. If a belief is based on insufficient evidence, than any further conclusion drawn from the belief will at best be of questionable value. This can not point one to the path of truth. The only thing faith can teach you, is the myth itself.

If they say no, then it is a done deal. "So you believe in a supernatural answer to the questions that science cannot answer ONLY because they havent been answered yet. I am confident you see that isn't a solid position on such an important question right? Surely you see this is not a valid way to learn knowledge? There are far better methods of logic and reason that are backed up with empirical evidence that we can utilize to answer these important questions." Lets look at the basis of faith together...where we as humans got the idea of god in the first place, lets discuss the creation of jesus the son of god story, what greek myths it was based on, how Luke took creative licence on his portrayal of jesus, the Census of Quirinius , Emperor Constantine, the life of constantine, the nicene council etc (this is when you start dismantling the belief system piece by piece without being overly helpful, lay the questioning attitude on them, bring up the subjects, let them take themselves down the path to the truth...then you plant seeds that grow into disbelief.

etcetc

If the theist sticks to quoting scripture, I try not to even get engaged with that anymore, it is senseless (truly I have failed at this theory lately, I find myself getting more combative about engaging believers, something I need to reign back in...again). One cannot quote scriptures (argument from authority) as a proof of anything. If it is someone I think I can reach, I might spend time slinging scriptures back and forth a few times, then lean hard on the formation and creation of the bible, ( http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm ) is a great source, etc. If it is someone who is just a closed minded fundamentalist who believes in the literal word of the bible, I may as a small backhand to prove a point match their scriptures with some of the following I created:

Goldilocks 1:14 - Thou shalt not sleep in someone else's bed.

Little Red Riding Hood 3:37 - Thou shalt not make fun of grandma's big mouth.

Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe 2:22 - Thou shalt not have more children then one can feed.

Hanzel and Gretel 5:17 - Thou shalt not eat an old witch's house.

The point being, quoting myth and controversy as a validation of ANYTHING is a moot point.

Good luck on your enlightenment of others......read, watch debaters on you tube like christopher hitchens, notice how he stays calm, and just presents the evidence, doesn't get engaged with the rhetorical name calling...as they say, if you climb into the pit and wrestle the pig, you just get dirty, and the pig likes it..

Advice I need to remind myself DAILY as I am a stubborn overly assertive person who refuses to back away from a challenge, even to my own detriment.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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21-08-2014, 03:42 PM
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
(21-08-2014 11:26 AM)kingschosen Wrote:  Not to rain on your parade... but...

It seems you like to stroke your own vanity rather than educate.

Just sayin'

That's what I inferred from reading the above. I suggest reevaluating your approach and your intentions before continuing with any form of debate. Make sure it's about enlightenment and progression and not about stroking your own ego with your "ability".

That's a backhanded compliment from your friends, by the way. They're basically saying, "I'm going to stop talking/discussing anything with you because you try to turn everything into an argument."

Just food for thought.

I guess I do come across that way, but I really do want to do this purely for helping people. I'm really not a person for having my ego stroked, as I actually need a level of detox after being around lots of people (I have asperger syndrome so lots of noise and things can be very tiring). If I were to choose either a church full of fundies or a room full of atheists to debate in, it would be the church every time. I thought this whole atheist movement thing was to help believers and atheists and fence sitters make up their minds on the issue, and to help with logic and scepticism.

Honestly, I can understand why one would assume that though.

As for my friends, what I meant by that was they hate me always being right and not being able to prove me wrong or argue against me anymore. We have philosophical discussions all of the time, but a few weeks ago one of them said "it's so unfair that you understand all of this logic and stuff, but because you know all of that doesn't it mean there is a bias in your favour?" True story.

If somebody points out a fallacy, and you call fallacy fallacy, that doesn't mean you are right. That just means you committed the very fallacy you accused your opponent of.
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21-08-2014, 03:57 PM
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
(21-08-2014 12:40 PM)goodwithoutgod Wrote:  May I suggest purchasing "A manual for creating atheists", by Boghossian.

Your approach will have little affect on the believers. I know, I am an overly assertive debater who likes to get into the thick of it, and while I enjoy the test of intellect, the matching of knowledge, it has very little chance in actually enlightening anyone. When I really want to try to get through to someone, you have to use a bit more finesse, for example...

I debate daily, have for years, and have a lot of experience with different types of debaters. If it is a literal word of god as per the bible theist, just pat them on the head and walk away. I have spent hours systematically dismantling this belief basis (bible) all just to get the GODDIDIT escapism excuse. (for a recent example: jeremy walker, hbl etc)

I have however had a lot of success using this book's epistemology approach. You dont criticize the individual as that just makes them go defensive, you dont attack the religion itself as that just gets you dogged down with hours of discussion on how this and that proves or disproves the bible..which I enjoy doing, but it is a time suck. You focus on the faith..."why do you believe"....if they answer the bible says so, it is the true word of god....I play to their ego..."okay, well surely as an intelligent human being, you have put more thought into it than just basing your faith, which is the belief in something without evidence, on a book right? So think about it for a minute, why do you believe?"

If they say something like "well the complexity of the world, you know, it is impossible this all happened by accident"...then you go with "okay, well just for the sake of discussion, because a close minded person has stopped learning, and I know you are willing to learn right?...lets say that if tomorrow science could answer all of your complexity questions...would you still believe? If they say yes, then you reply "great! so we have established that you don't believe based solely on complexity, just because science has not advanced enough yet to answer all the questions, so we can just take that off the table for the moment......so again, why do you believe..."

then you start whittling down the basis of faith more, gently discuss how using faith as a methodology for learning has been proven to be a failed epistemology. If a belief is based on insufficient evidence, than any further conclusion drawn from the belief will at best be of questionable value. This can not point one to the path of truth. The only thing faith can teach you, is the myth itself.

If they say no, then it is a done deal. "So you believe in a supernatural answer to the questions that science cannot answer ONLY because they havent been answered yet. I am confident you see that isn't a solid position on such an important question right? Surely you see this is not a valid way to learn knowledge? There are far better methods of logic and reason that are backed up with empirical evidence that we can utilize to answer these important questions." Lets look at the basis of faith together...where we as humans got the idea of god in the first place, lets discuss the creation of jesus the son of god story, what greek myths it was based on, how Luke took creative licence on his portrayal of jesus, the Census of Quirinius , Emperor Constantine, the life of constantine, the nicene council etc (this is when you start dismantling the belief system piece by piece without being overly helpful, lay the questioning attitude on them, bring up the subjects, let them take themselves down the path to the truth...then you plant seeds that grow into disbelief.

etcetc

If the theist sticks to quoting scripture, I try not to even get engaged with that anymore, it is senseless (truly I have failed at this theory lately, I find myself getting more combative about engaging believers, something I need to reign back in...again). One cannot quote scriptures (argument from authority) as a proof of anything. If it is someone I think I can reach, I might spend time slinging scriptures back and forth a few times, then lean hard on the formation and creation of the bible, ( http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm ) is a great source, etc. If it is someone who is just a closed minded fundamentalist who believes in the literal word of the bible, I may as a small backhand to prove a point match their scriptures with some of the following I created:

Goldilocks 1:14 - Thou shalt not sleep in someone else's bed.

Little Red Riding Hood 3:37 - Thou shalt not make fun of grandma's big mouth.

Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe 2:22 - Thou shalt not have more children then one can feed.

Hanzel and Gretel 5:17 - Thou shalt not eat an old witch's house.

The point being, quoting myth and controversy as a validation of ANYTHING is a moot point.

Good luck on your enlightenment of others......read, watch debaters on you tube like christopher hitchens, notice how he stays calm, and just presents the evidence, doesn't get engaged with the rhetorical name calling...as they say, if you climb into the pit and wrestle the pig, you just get dirty, and the pig likes it..

Advice I need to remind myself DAILY as I am a stubborn overly assertive person who refuses to back away from a challenge, even to my own detriment.

Actually I am less assertive when I am one-on-one with the side guys (the preachers have people helping them and I have spoken to them as well) in which I do a lot of the things that you have asaid already, and thanks for the extra tactics. Goldilocks 1:14 will be useful as a tongue-in-cheek retort.
But I am unsure if you have understood what I was asking as a question, I was more talking about logistics, setting up debates, joining any possible groups etc.
Should I just stick with informal conversations with passing preachers? I mean, I would like to reach more people than the small congregation of (mostly atheist) passers-by that stick around for me to try as hard as I can to explain to a preacher why attacking a strawman is never useful and won't help.
I think I have the hang of poking holes in arguments, and instill some mild doubt. But extra ideas are always welcome.

If somebody points out a fallacy, and you call fallacy fallacy, that doesn't mean you are right. That just means you committed the very fallacy you accused your opponent of.
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21-08-2014, 05:31 PM
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
(21-08-2014 03:57 PM)spinosauruskin Wrote:  
(21-08-2014 12:40 PM)goodwithoutgod Wrote:  May I suggest purchasing "A manual for creating atheists", by Boghossian.

Your approach will have little affect on the believers. I know, I am an overly assertive debater who likes to get into the thick of it, and while I enjoy the test of intellect, the matching of knowledge, it has very little chance in actually enlightening anyone. When I really want to try to get through to someone, you have to use a bit more finesse, for example...

I debate daily, have for years, and have a lot of experience with different types of debaters. If it is a literal word of god as per the bible theist, just pat them on the head and walk away. I have spent hours systematically dismantling this belief basis (bible) all just to get the GODDIDIT escapism excuse. (for a recent example: jeremy walker, hbl etc)

I have however had a lot of success using this book's epistemology approach. You dont criticize the individual as that just makes them go defensive, you dont attack the religion itself as that just gets you dogged down with hours of discussion on how this and that proves or disproves the bible..which I enjoy doing, but it is a time suck. You focus on the faith..."why do you believe"....if they answer the bible says so, it is the true word of god....I play to their ego..."okay, well surely as an intelligent human being, you have put more thought into it than just basing your faith, which is the belief in something without evidence, on a book right? So think about it for a minute, why do you believe?"

If they say something like "well the complexity of the world, you know, it is impossible this all happened by accident"...then you go with "okay, well just for the sake of discussion, because a close minded person has stopped learning, and I know you are willing to learn right?...lets say that if tomorrow science could answer all of your complexity questions...would you still believe? If they say yes, then you reply "great! so we have established that you don't believe based solely on complexity, just because science has not advanced enough yet to answer all the questions, so we can just take that off the table for the moment......so again, why do you believe..."

then you start whittling down the basis of faith more, gently discuss how using faith as a methodology for learning has been proven to be a failed epistemology. If a belief is based on insufficient evidence, than any further conclusion drawn from the belief will at best be of questionable value. This can not point one to the path of truth. The only thing faith can teach you, is the myth itself.

If they say no, then it is a done deal. "So you believe in a supernatural answer to the questions that science cannot answer ONLY because they havent been answered yet. I am confident you see that isn't a solid position on such an important question right? Surely you see this is not a valid way to learn knowledge? There are far better methods of logic and reason that are backed up with empirical evidence that we can utilize to answer these important questions." Lets look at the basis of faith together...where we as humans got the idea of god in the first place, lets discuss the creation of jesus the son of god story, what greek myths it was based on, how Luke took creative licence on his portrayal of jesus, the Census of Quirinius , Emperor Constantine, the life of constantine, the nicene council etc (this is when you start dismantling the belief system piece by piece without being overly helpful, lay the questioning attitude on them, bring up the subjects, let them take themselves down the path to the truth...then you plant seeds that grow into disbelief.

etcetc

If the theist sticks to quoting scripture, I try not to even get engaged with that anymore, it is senseless (truly I have failed at this theory lately, I find myself getting more combative about engaging believers, something I need to reign back in...again). One cannot quote scriptures (argument from authority) as a proof of anything. If it is someone I think I can reach, I might spend time slinging scriptures back and forth a few times, then lean hard on the formation and creation of the bible, ( http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm ) is a great source, etc. If it is someone who is just a closed minded fundamentalist who believes in the literal word of the bible, I may as a small backhand to prove a point match their scriptures with some of the following I created:

Goldilocks 1:14 - Thou shalt not sleep in someone else's bed.

Little Red Riding Hood 3:37 - Thou shalt not make fun of grandma's big mouth.

Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe 2:22 - Thou shalt not have more children then one can feed.

Hanzel and Gretel 5:17 - Thou shalt not eat an old witch's house.

The point being, quoting myth and controversy as a validation of ANYTHING is a moot point.

Good luck on your enlightenment of others......read, watch debaters on you tube like christopher hitchens, notice how he stays calm, and just presents the evidence, doesn't get engaged with the rhetorical name calling...as they say, if you climb into the pit and wrestle the pig, you just get dirty, and the pig likes it..

Advice I need to remind myself DAILY as I am a stubborn overly assertive person who refuses to back away from a challenge, even to my own detriment.

Actually I am less assertive when I am one-on-one with the side guys (the preachers have people helping them and I have spoken to them as well) in which I do a lot of the things that you have asaid already, and thanks for the extra tactics. Goldilocks 1:14 will be useful as a tongue-in-cheek retort.
But I am unsure if you have understood what I was asking as a question, I was more talking about logistics, setting up debates, joining any possible groups etc.
Should I just stick with informal conversations with passing preachers? I mean, I would like to reach more people than the small congregation of (mostly atheist) passers-by that stick around for me to try as hard as I can to explain to a preacher why attacking a strawman is never useful and won't help.
I think I have the hang of poking holes in arguments, and instill some mild doubt. But extra ideas are always welcome.

Oh I understood the question, I just chose not to answer Big Grin

I have successfully deconverted, or helped them come to a point where they deconverted themselves, multiple people over the years. Most recently a 18 year minister I met in a theology class, by the end of the 8 week semester we were emailing back and forth, I carefully dismantled his faith, and he ended up coming around, a very rare occurrence, which means he already had the inner doubts. It would be a rare occasion to have a fully convicted believer and "deconvert him". They have to already be kind of wavering, because faith is exceptionally well at training the believers to close their minds to inconvenient things like evidence against their faith, "that's the devil creating doubt in your mind, quick pray for god to help you and close your ears and eyes" Laughat

But seriously, if you really wish to get your debating skills started, there are multiple forums for such. We don't have a lot of theists here, this is "the devil's stomping ground" Rolleyes I am kidding obviously.

I have found one of the best place to make an impact is on yahoo forums for example, on religious threads. You got to look past the nuts and crazies to find the occasional educated theist who is willing to enter a debate. I like that format because the audience is able to watch the debate, and you impact more people that way. The chance of you getting the guy you are debating to "change teams" is slight, however the chance you can plant seeds of doubt in the audience is high. Something you say may make someone go research that, and the path to the truth begins...On religious/anti religious forums it is much harder. regardless of which team has the majority in the forum, neither is going to change their views and the same parting shots go back and forth, usually anyway.

Good luck in your endeavors, I highly recommend that book.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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21-08-2014, 06:10 PM
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
(21-08-2014 05:31 PM)goodwithoutgod Wrote:  Oh I understood the question, I just chose not to answer Big Grin

I have successfully deconverted, or helped them come to a point where they deconverted themselves, multiple people over the years. Most recently a 18 year minister I met in a theology class, by the end of the 8 week semester we were emailing back and forth, I carefully dismantled his faith, and he ended up coming around, a very rare occurrence, which means he already had the inner doubts. It would be a rare occasion to have a fully convicted believer and "deconvert him". They have to already be kind of wavering, because faith is exceptionally well at training the believers to close their minds to inconvenient things like evidence against their faith, "that's the devil creating doubt in your mind, quick pray for god to help you and close your ears and eyes" Laughat

But seriously, if you really wish to get your debating skills started, there are multiple forums for such. We don't have a lot of theists here, this is "the devil's stomping ground" Rolleyes I am kidding obviously.

I have found one of the best place to make an impact is on yahoo forums for example, on religious threads. You got to look past the nuts and crazies to find the occasional educated theist who is willing to enter a debate. I like that format because the audience is able to watch the debate, and you impact more people that way. The chance of you getting the guy you are debating to "change teams" is slight, however the chance you can plant seeds of doubt in the audience is high. Something you say may make someone go research that, and the path to the truth begins...On religious/anti religious forums it is much harder. regardless of which team has the majority in the forum, neither is going to change their views and the same parting shots go back and forth, usually anyway.

Good luck in your endeavors, I highly recommend that book.

So I should stick to the internet to hone my debating tactics? Fair enough, as much as I like conversational debates I guess it is easier when we each have google to fact check. I was unsure of where to go, so thanks for the reference to yahoo forums. I will also check out that book.

If somebody points out a fallacy, and you call fallacy fallacy, that doesn't mean you are right. That just means you committed the very fallacy you accused your opponent of.
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21-08-2014, 06:16 PM
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
There are plenty of debates here; you can join in. They're not formal - no black tie required.

You could suggest topics in your debate group, couldn't you?

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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21-08-2014, 06:35 PM
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
Like Chas said, start a thread, practice if you like, then move to online debates in a general type forum where you may learn some skills, then once you have built up your confidence and knowledge, you can enter a discussion live with someone as the subject presents itself. Good luck

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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22-08-2014, 02:15 AM
RE: Getting on the debate "scene"
Nobody is ever convinced by staged debates. People watch it in the same way they watch sport, to cheer on their own side. The only intention in a live debate is to create an overall impression about who is more likely to be correct.

On a forum you have time to properly craft a response, check facts, check for loopholes etc. This means that tactics that can be used on stage utterly fail in a forum. Tactics such as an appeal to emotion, an appeal to authority or a gish gallop. Tactics that sound convincing when you first hear them but which the audience don't have time to fully think through because the conversation moves on too quickly.

You could fight fire with fire and use these tactics yourself but then you risk losing your own side by compromising your sincerity because they will see what you are doing.

If you go on stage unprepared for these fallacious arguments and intellectually dishonest tactics then you may actually do more harm than good. Churches sometimes set up live debates, pick an unprepared atheist and use them to strengthen the faith of their flock.

Debating on this forum is good practice though because all the dishonest tactics get pointed out by at least one person. It's also not just about spotting fallacious arguments. It will also familiarise you with all the pre-packaged arguments that a theist will come up with (they only ever re-use ones they have heard before). No matter how crap their argument, if you can't immediately and convincingly tear it apart it gives the audience the impression that you lost.
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