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A Lesson in Debate and Convincing People

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John James Posted: Sat, Apr 7 2012 11:11 AM

I think there's at least a few things to learn from this exchange.  I'm interested to get a few opinions on it before I go into it, though.

What is your reaction to this?:

 

Eric Hovind and Thunderf00t

 

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This is a rather long video, so I summarize what happens in the video (for the sake of others interested in replying to the OP, but don't have quite as much time on their hands as I do), with corresponding timeframes, below:

[00:00-12:00]



Thunderf00t seems to flip his mindset from rationalist to empiricist every other question. The interviewer, Eric, asks some questions which are just odd, as Thunderf00t points out, and Thunderf00t replies that our minds "work" based on models. Then when he's asked if reality exists, Thunderf00t states that it's conceivable that it doesn't. At this point, it seems that the failing has to do with a neglect of defining "reality."



[12:00- 19:00]

Thunderf00t finally starts to state what is assumed by the act of argument; essentially the argument revolves around Eric saying that there are things that we can't know by the existence of assumptions (although Eric seems to not understand the definition of assumption).

The three assumptions Thunderf00t points out are: the universe exists; we can learn, and; reality exists.

Eric then explains that there is a proof for these assumptions (implying either that he still doesn't understand what an assumption is, or that he doesn't see these assumptions as assumptions; he think he means the latter of the two possibilities) and that is the fact that God exists. Thunderf00t then states that Eric necessarily presupposed the assumptions that Thunderf00t pointed out earlier by stating his belief in God. Eric then asks Thunderf00t whether chemical reactions (in the context of what our brains do) are true or false. ...



[19:00- 24:00]


Thunderf00t states that chemical reactions are neither true nor false and states that models exist that can explain chemical reactions by citing chemistry. Expanding along the line of whether chemical reactions are true or false, Eric states that the chemical reactions in his brain are telling him that God exists. Thunderf00t double facepalms to the amusement of the audience that has formed around the two and states that Eric's reasoning is faulty. Through more argument, Eric seems to accept that chemical reactions are not subject to a "true/false" criterion. Thunderf00t talks more about the "true/false" criterion and Eric asks Thunderf00t whether one of Thunderf00t's statements (stating that models have predictive capabilities) is true, to which Thunderf00t replies yes (more of Thunderf00t's inconsistencies regarding the validity of empiricism vs. rationalism) and the audience laughs. Thunderf00t states that religion can't be a valid model of interpretation of reality because all the prayers in the world didn't reveal the GPS coordinates of bin Laden; Eric states that this is a false analogy.



[24:00-30:00]



Eric is again stating that information exists and that all knowledge that we have, or are capable of one day having, comes from God. Thunderf00t asks how people obtain knowledge from God and Eric replies that the Bible is the word of God. Thunderf00t then plays a clip on the video of Peter Griffin (Family Guy) calling on The Ghost Who Never Lies in court. Eric reverts back to telling Thunderf00t that, according to his worldview, the world may not exist. Thunderf00t then calls on Eric to prove that the world exists, whereby Eric then states that all of our knowledge comes from God. Thunderf00t states that Eric's proof, isn't. Thunderf00t states that all Eric has done, by stating that all knowledge comes from God, is assume that the universe exists and state that it exists because of this assumption. To wrap up this segment, both seem to offer summaries as to what the other believes to some members of the audience- this summary reverts back into argument.



[30:00-39:00]



The argument is regarding the validity of Thunderf00t's assumptions and the question as to whether they are even assumptions, as opposed to provable statements, is debated. After some debate, Thunderf00t changes his mind and states that there are things that can be known with certainty  (earlier he stated that he could be wrong about everything); Eric sees this as a partial victory, he states that Thunderf00t, an atheist, as repented and changed his mind. Eric takes this statement made by Thunderf00t, that he states that God doesn't exist, that Thunderf00t must then give up his atheism because, according to Eric, atheists don't know whether God exists rather than the atheist contention that God doesn't exist; Thunderf00t double facepalms. Thunderf00t then asks Eric if he knows what it means to be an atheist (in other words, Eric may not understand the difference between atheism [there is no God] and agnosticism [we can't know if God exists]). Eric elaborates that what he was pointing out was that any use of the word "know" implies the existence of God because all knowledge comes from God because a part of the Bible states as much; therefore, according to Eric, Thunderf00t is not an atheist. Thunderf00t appears to start leaving by picking up his bag, but puts it down indicating that the argument is not yet finished. Eric asks whether everyone's reasoning is valid, to which Thunderf00t replies that everyone has the same genome and the brains are more or less functionally the same.

[39:00- 45:00]



Continuing along the line of thought as to whether everyone's reasoning is the same, Eric brings up the example of a schizophrenic ward and asks how one can know that the reasoning of the people within are, or are not, valid. Thunderf00t asks Eric how he can know that his reasoning is valid to which Eric replies that he has revelations from God. Thunderf00t states that Eric's reasoning is based on assertions and uses this to claim the validity of his atheist position, his methodology as well, which he sees as honest; Thunderf00t supplements his points by stating that his worldview (science) is what builds civilizations, not Eric's (religion). Thunderf00t reiterates his three assumptions one of which is that he believes that models with predictive capability are better than those without [this is not one of the assumptions he mentioned above in the second segment]. This segment ends with Eric thanking Thunderf00t for the arguments; Thunderf00t says it isn't over yet. Thunderf00t will now ask Eric some questions [Eric has the microphone and has, up to this point, been controlling the path of the argument as such].



[45:00- 52:00]

Eric responds to questions with questions of his own. Eric begins to states his position that everything that is [lists examples of objects nearby] is-
Thunderf00t interrupts Eric's point by asking him if God behaves according to the laws of scientific naturalism, eliciting applause from some members of the crowd around them. Eric elaborates that without God there would be no such construct recognized as science. Thunderf00t sets up the hypothetical construct that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists and asks Eric to provide why God, as recognized in the Bible is valid and why the God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is invalid; Eric takes this as an admission of defeat on the part of Thunderf00t. Eric claims that the problem with Thunderf00t's argument is that Thunderf00t relies on absolutes yet is unable to prove them or accept them as absolutely valid; the argument goes back to what Thunderf00t's basic assumptions are when one argues.



[52:00-56:56; END OF VIDEO]



The argument revolves around what assumptions are. Eric claims that the necessity of assumptions demonstrates that there is no such thing as an absolute truth; from here he tells the crowd that Thunderf00t has given up his atheism. Thunderf00t replies that Eric has given up his belief in God. Eric thanks Thunderf00t for the civil argument and notes that there are probably several such arguments that aren't civil going on at the rally.

------------------------------

As a response to the conduct of the argument, I thought it was relatively civil. There was some profanity exchanged during the argument and there were more than a few times where: one engaged the audience as a means of supporting one's argument, or; one claimed that he has won the argument. These latter two observations don't necessarily discredit the civility of the argument, but there were instances where the two could have stuck to the argument but chose not to do so. The argument being very long, just under an hour in length, it was impressive to see both sides remain as patient and persistent in their arguments as they were. The argument between the two was engaging and conducted with sincerity by both sides in using this argument as an attempt to arrive at the truth (whether there is a truth, also being a matter of argument in the argument conducted). As the argument ended, both sides were in good spirits and had a laugh. I'd agree with John James that there are a few things to be learned from the exchange: patience, sincerity, honesty, politeness, answering questions (not responding with another question; this is something that Eric could work on) and engagement of the arguments made by the opposition. Above all, know what the definition of "assumption."

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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There's random time wasting debates by random people all over YouTube - what do you expect from you tube?  If nothing else it shows that people who want to "discuss" things all the time are probably going to waste a lot of people's time, and probably have a bit too much of an infatuation with themselves that I am a bit too uncomfortable being around.  And if some young yuppie college kids get attracted to cameras and microphones, really watch out.

The only  difference is; the dude with the camera, mic, and motivation gets to call the other dude an idiot at the end and insert a few humorous clips.  That guy sets context and perspective before and after everything is said and done - in such a situation, I'd much rather be in his position than his "opposition".

So some random amature college debate video showing "activists" covering some tertiary topic (at best) to mises.org is a bit of a confusing starting point for me to grasp any worthwhile reaction in "debating" and convincing.  

If you're trying to point out that being a radom activist going up to random college activists in some demonstration with a camera is usually an intellectually vapid tactic and isn't good for debating or convincing- that is a good point .

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I think what the Christian was basically trying to get accross the whole time was that in order for the atheist to say that he KNOWS God doesn't exist, he would need to be all-knowing, which would make him God. If the atheist would have just come out and said that in reality it is possible for God to exist but he just doesn't think it is likely, then that would have probably stopped a lot of the questioning by the Christian. It was like he didn't want to even allow for the possiblility, which is absurd. At one point the atheist asks whether the Christian understands what atheists believe. He says that atheists "say there is no God." But the atheist didn't clarify whether he says there is no God because he knows it or because he thinks that is most likely.

The theist doesn't need to be all-knowing in order for him to say that God does exist though. He doesn't need the ability to peek into every crack and crevice of the universe. If God in reality were to communicate to him or visit him then he could be completely ignorant about everything but still know that God exists. Of course in one sense it is impossible for him to know that what he saw/heard/felt was indeed God because he could just be plugged into the Matrix or something, so he has to make some assumptions like the universe actually existing. The atheist would need to make the same assumptions too, because it is possible that he is plugged into a Matrix that is run by God.

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MMMark replied on Sat, Apr 7 2012 7:25 PM

 

Sat. 12/04/07 20:25 EDT
.post #124

What is your reaction to this?
Some random thoughts and opinions:

Before a message can be convincing, it must be agreed with.
Before it is agreed with, it must be understood.
Before it is understood, it must be understandable.
To determine if it is understandable, it must be carefully considered.
Before it is carefully considered, it must be listened to.
Before it is listened to, the listener must seek to gain or learn something by the listening, and believe that the messenger has something to offer.
Before he seeks to gain or learn, he must feel somewhat dissatisfied with his present state of awareness or understanding.

Edit: After I posted this, I realized that "convinced," "agreed," "understood," "considered," "listened to," and "gain" are somewhat, if not entirely, subjective.


I think a significant source of disagreement during debate is language itself, specifically, certain words, such as "god" and "reality," which aren't (it seems to me) defined very well. Using such words can result in the appearance of a single discussion while in truth two separate discussions are taking place.

I can think of at least three ways in which a word can be poorly defined and hence cause problems:
1. It has no definition;
2. Its definition is unclear;
3. It has too many definitions.

The above-mentioned problems can be somewhat reduced by attempting to establish mutually-agreeable definitions for such words.

Here is another problem: The very use of a word (such as "god" or "reality," for example) implies the existence of some "thing" to which the word refers. This may not be case. Metaphors (sometimes) fall into this category, but when people forget the metaphorical nature of the word or expression and start using it literally, they fool themselves into thinking they are talking about something that actually exists, when it doesn't.

For example, the word "god" might just be a metaphor for "the beauty and wonder of it all," but forgetting this leads to using the word as though "god" is an actual concrete being or thing, and then finally believing it. I think this is similar to what is called "reification" (i.e. regarding an abstraction as a concrete).

If you have a "dirty mind," do you need a good "brainwashing"? Should you use "psychic psoap"?



I think what the Christian was basically trying to get accross the whole time was that in order for the atheist to say that he KNOWS God doesn't exist, he would need to be all-knowing, which would make him God.
And if being omniscient made the atheist God, then he would also be omnipotent, which means he could create a rock so heavy he couldn't lift it...which would mean there was something he couldn't do (i.e. lift the rock)...which would mean he wasn't omnipotent.

Which only shows, I guess, that the assumption of God's omnipotence leads to a system in which everything, even contradiction, is possible. So, with omnipotent God, everything is possible.

Even the possibility that omnipotent God can't possibly exist.

So, the assumption of omnipotent God means that both atheist AND believer are correct! The believer, at least, should be happy, since the atheist's denial of omnipotent God is as fully and legitimately a part of the believer's system as the believer's affirmation of omnipotent God. The fact that the believer believes himself to be "right" implies that the atheist is, or can also be, "right."

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MMMark:

And if being omniscient made the atheist God, then he would also be omnipotent, which means he could create a rock so heavy he couldn't lift it...which would mean there was something he couldn't do (i.e. lift the rock)...which would mean he wasn't omnipotent.

 

C. S. Lewis and Walter Block (who is an atheist) have explained how this question is sophistry, meaning it makes grammatical sense, but has no intelligible meaning.  When talking about omnipotence, referencing "a rock so heavy that God cannot lift it" is nonsense just as much as referencing "a square circle"; it is not logically coherent in terms of power to think that omnipotence includes the power to do the logically impossible. So asking "Can God create a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it?" is just as much nonsense as asking "Can God draw a square circle?"

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MMMark replied on Sat, Apr 7 2012 9:07 PM

Sat. 12/04/07 22:07 EDT
.post #125


C. S. Lewis and Walter Block (who is an atheist) have explained how this question is sophistry, meaning it makes grammatical sense, but has no intelligible meaning.
Thanks! I did not know this. After a quick search, I found the following wikipedia article on the subject:

Omnipotence paradox

According to this article, the C.S. Lewis answer is but one of several. My "answer" seems closer to that proposed by Descartes (emphasis mine):

Some philosophers maintain that the paradox can be resolved if the definition of omnipotence includes Descartes' view that an omnipotent being can do the logically impossible. In this scenario, the omnipotent being could create a stone which it cannot lift, but could also then lift the stone anyway. Presumably, such a being could also make the sum 2 + 2 = 5 become mathematically possible or create a square triangle. This attempt to resolve the paradox is problematic in that the definition itself forgoes logical consistency....

It would seem that, as with so many other things, there is not universal agreement!

Try seeing things from the Cartesian point of view, then see if what I said sounds any better.

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hashem replied on Sat, Apr 7 2012 11:54 PM

My opinion ad interim—because my computer froze midway through—is that this was an unexpected gem.

This is the kind of stuff that excites the brain, despite what millions of hours of Hollywood propaganda would want you to believe. I can only imagine the types of entertainment a more intelligent civilization will prefer in the future, but I do imagine it will be something like this.

I don't know whom either of those gentlemen are, and I'm only listening not watching, but I get the impression thunderfoot is a much cooler guy.

On to finish it....

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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ThatOldGuy:
I summarize what happens in the video

That's awesome.  Thanks for doing that.  I can only hope you got something for yourself out of typing all that out.

However, couple of things:

1) I know it's long, I didn't expect everyone to watch the whole thing...in fact I started to post it after just the first few minutes.  While a summary is nice, the actual conversation itself is what is important for this thread.  It's not so much the gist of what is being said that is relevant...here I'm more concerned with how they are conversing and the dynamics of how they are putting forth their arguments and how they are responding to one another.  It is here I think a few lessons can be drawn.

2) There were some things about the summary that don't quite capture the real picture of what happened...for example, the three assumptions Thunderf00t puts forward from the very beginning (the first time he brings them up 11:24) are: the universe exists; we can learn something about reality, and models with predictive capability are better than those without.  I never heard him say anything about "reality exists" being one of the three basic assumptions.  (I think that's implied in assumption 1).

Another example: "Eric begins to states his position that everything that is [lists examples of objects nearby] is-
Thunderf00t interrupts Eric's point by asking him if God behaves according to the laws of scientific naturalism"...this is kind of misleading.  
The way I saw it Thunderf00t didn't just interrupt him and not let him finish his point before he moved on to another question...He interrupted him because he saw where he was going with his long list of examples of objects and in response asked an at least semi-rhetorical question to make a point based on Eric's answer: "so your god works through scientific naturalism [that's what you're saying, or what is at least implied by what you're saying]."

In all, while a summary is nice, and it's great that you included one, I think you can only really get the effect from listening to the actual conversation.

 

I'd agree with John James that there are a few things to be learned from the exchange: patience, sincerity, honesty, politeness, answering questions (not responding with another question; this is something that Eric could work on) and engagement of the arguments made by the opposition. Above all, know what the definition of "assumption."

Yeah, those are more common after-school-special things that I think everyone essentially already knows.  This thread wasn't intended to be one of those pretentious "look at how civil these guys are...we could all learn something from this" things.  To be honest, more often than not, posts like that come off as condescending and do nothing to help any situation.  They mostly serve to stroke the ego of the person saying them, making him feel superior, more rational, more mature, and therefore better than people who are "wasting their time" in "frivolous debates" and "being nasty" to each other.  It's a way of presenting oneself as above the fray, and allows someone seeking validation and attention to inject himself into an argument without actually having to make an argument of his own and defend it.  This way he can't be attacked or proven wrong or made to look foolish, because all he's done is reprimand others not for their ideas, but for their manner of discourse, and essentially just said they could be "nicer".  How do you argue with that?  It's really similar to the whole nonsense of advocating "awareness".

This more or less usually works the way they want it to, as it tends to always appeal to at least some people in the observing audience, plucking their pathos strings and pulling them out of the actual debate and instead getting them to venture into ad hominem territory in which they start to judge the people making the arguments instead of the arguments themselves.  (And of course as a nice little ancillary benefit for the douchebag who started the whole thing, he comes off looking more rational and reasoned than everyone he's just berated. And he didn't even have to put forth an argument!)

 

No, my purpose in putting this up was more for a sort of case example in how debates can go, and what the arguments sound like, and how they are responded to...from an argumentation and logic perspective.

In the first segment I felt it was a great example of part of the reason why atheists don't do well in debates like this.  From the point of view of any observer, Thunderf00t was being evasive, uncooperative, and not really engaging in the conversation.  This made him look weak and scared.  And in large part, it's because he was.  He knows Christians like this can be very crafty, and he didn't want to allow any possible crack that the Christian (Eric) could slip through.  It's basically like Anarcho-libertarian says, he didn't want to even allow for the possiblility of "god", which is absurd.  (I mean he said himself that he even had to assume that the universe exists in the first place.)  My guess is he was so apprehensive about even conceding the possibility because he saw the result of when Richard Dawkins (for all intents and purposes, Thunderf00t's god) kind of did this in his famous interview with Ben Stein.

You'll also see how he tries to avoid any possible traps by not playing along when Eric attempts the Socratic Method to lead Thunderf00t where he wanted him to go.  Eric would ask a question and get a solid answer, or make a statement and attempt to get Thunderf00t to agree with it before he would move on to the next point, which, of course Thunderf00t wasn't born yesterday and understands how the method works, so instead of answering, he ends up saying "just cut to the chase" on multiple occasions.  Again, Thunderf00t is afraid of how Eric might trap him into a contradiction or some other corner which, in Thunderf00t's view would hurt the entire institution of science (not kidding.  Listen to any video where he drones on and on about why he does what he does on Youtube.  Here's one.)

Eventually Thunderf00t is able to turn the tables and work the argument into his favor, as Eric basically has his two or three tactics and can't really see past them, let alone adapt his argument to the particular conversation.  Basically his entire understanding is that without god, there is no such thing as knowledge and we can't know anything...so all he has to do is get an atheist to either agree to the possibility that god exists (in which case he considers his battle basically won), or get him to state that he knows for an absolute certainty that god doesn't exist (which Eric could then claim is a contradiction because "without god, there is no knowledge").

This is why he clings so strongly to the "but you don't know that" thing (leading to the pretentious "retard count" that Thunderf00t litters the screen with almost the whole time.)  Eric needs to remind everyone (and himself) that no one can be certain that god doesn't exist, because this is obviously central to his argument.  It's hard to tell if he truly doesn't follow the point made by Thunderf00t or not.  I personally think that for the most part, he doesn't.  He seems to me to be so indoctrinated with the idea that "atheists can't maintain their argument without 'abandoning their atheism' and asserting that they know something...which implies that god exists" that he can't see the point being made by Thunderf00t about Eric's own assumptions.

This is another place I think something can be taken from the exchange.  I think they could have saved a lot of time if they weren't so hell-bent on their own argumentation method.  I think Eric is probably at a disadvantage here because his method is really his only tool, as he is the one making an unprovable claim.  However, he could easily avoid this direction of conversation by going about his argument in a different way.  He may learn something from non-atheist scientists such as Francis Collins.  But I'm not sure he's interested in making a sound argument so much as just reassuring himself that he's right.  (Something mentioned here as a reason why creationists love to sponsor these debates..."In a creation/evolution debate, the audience is there to hear their champion".  When you have a foundationless belief  — which you literally base and live your entire life around — about an unprovable notion being "absolutely true", it's really important to constantly immerse yourself in propaganda, lest your natural doubts begin to gather too much steam.)

Thunderf00t on the other hand could have easily at any point just "cut to the chase" himself, and made Eric's argument for him and then picked it apart (because again, the entire basis for Eric's position is "knowing" for an "absolute certainty" something that is unprovable and unknowable).  I'm not completely sure why Thunderf00t didn't do this.  I would have assumed he was familiar enough with Christian argumentation methods and techniques that he would be able to identify the angle Eric was taking and simply proceed accordingly.  It makes me wonder if Thunderf00t's lack of social skills played a role here in contributing to his inability to see where Eric was going and meet him there head on, instead of dancing around like he did for so long.

This is another point I think can be taken from the conversation.  Again I think a lot of time could have been saved and more progress could have been made if Thunderf00t (and I supposed Eric as well) would have paid more attention to what the other was saying, and tried to actually understand the argument they were making.  The way it came off was that each was so afraid of the other trapping him that they both just clung to their own core arguments in their head and instead of really listening to the other and anticipating the path, they both simply kept reverting back to their own planned out argument thoroughfare. 

Of course I think Eric was more guilty of this than Thunderf00t, as later in the conversation Thunderf00t began to relax and started to go along with various things, posing hypotheticals and the like, to which Eric just attempted to characterize as admissions and claim victory.  This is another place I'm not completely clear whether this was just a tactic to take the pressure off himself and his losing position, or if he really believed he was gaining victories.  I lean toward the former, but I'm not certain there's not a bit of both.  Of course it's a pretty effective tactic, as if anyone wasn't really paying attention, they may actually be fooled into thinking a victory had been achieved (because of course no one would just come out and claim their opponent just said something he didn't actually say. I must have just missed it.)

Ultimately I think the exchange is instructive not because it has something to teach us about civil discourse or politeness, but because it is an interesting display of various "techniques" and shortcomings that should be avoided when engaging in debate.

 

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vive la insurrection:
There's random time wasting debates by random people all over YouTube - what do you expect [...]

And here's a perfect example of a similar archetype.  The "I'm better than other people because they waste their time in frivolous debates that don't interest me."  It's related to the type described above, except in this case the offender doesn't engage at all, he just belittles the entire proceeding (whereas the "we should all be nicer" type just belittles the way in which the actors are going about it.)

It kind of goes along with a few of the 5 Dismissive Arguments That You Only Use When You're Wrong.

Thanks for providing that example.  I can only hope it was intentional satire.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Apr 8 2012 12:02 AM

Rhetoric is a neglected art. Thunderf00t was clearly rhetorically inferior, here.

Part of the problem is that most atheists are positivists and so their metaphysics is just as jumbled as theists'. Blind leading the blind or something like that.

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1) I didn't even say what you quoted

2) I wouldn't even call that my main point which would be summed up in my last sentence of the post in:

If you're trying to point out that being a radom activist going up to random college activists in some demonstration with a camera is usually an intellectually vapid tactic and isn't good for debating or convincing- that is a good point .

Being that you hardly said anything at all in the OP or what to focus on other than "debating and convincing"- All I focused on was thinking about "debating and convincing"  in some type of context with the resource provided. 

Even if I wanted, I couldn't make an argument due to the very nature of the post; as you asked for an impression / opinion about a random "lay person" internet video on an untraditional Mises.org topic - so I gave a reaction to "debating and convincing" that I thought was applicable to most people's lives.

P.S.  I'm too good a person to waste my time on reading trash liked cracked.com - so please don't link anymore cracked articles, if I cared about "top 10" lists of things I would watch VH1

 

 

 

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Conza88 replied on Sun, Apr 8 2012 1:45 AM

Was there any attempt to define "God" and what attributes it possesses? No? LOL... waste of an hour then.

Theological noncognitivism ftw.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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vive la insurrection:
1) I didn't even say what you quoted

  what?  It was copied and pasted.  Where the hell did you think I got it from?

And I wasn't even picking out a specific line of your passage.  I just took the first sentence and used a bracked ellipsis to imply I was responding to your whole post in its entirety, but didn't want to crowd my own post (and therefore the thread) by reproducing the whole thing when someone could easily scroll up and read it from the original.

 

I'm too good a person to waste my time on reading trash liked cracked.com - so please don't link anymore cracked articles, if I cared about "top 10" lists of things I would watch VH1

Again, I honestly can't tell if this is just really good satire or if you're actually one of those people.

 

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hashem replied on Sun, Apr 8 2012 2:35 AM

Rhetoric is a neglected art. Thunderf00t was clearly rhetorically inferior, here.///In the first segment I felt it was a great example of part of the reason why atheists don't do well in debates like this.

I didn't watch the video but listened to it, perhaps that played a bigger role in my different view than I had thought... As someone observing the audio, someone who has never heard of thunderfoot or Eric until now, I thought that from the audience's perspective Thunderf00t had a pretty big lead the entire time.

Everyone seemed to realize pretty much right away that Eric was dishonest and wrong, but that he is very clever and legitimately intelligent. Plus Eric also seemed to have a much more polished (read: predetermined, unadaptable) presentation, so I'm sure they sympathized with Thunderf00t's caution—which to be on topic is pretty valuable if we concede the importance of convincing people, since its probably easier for the unconscious to accept the ideas of someone we sympathize with, particularly in favor of his opponent.

In my opinion, Thunderf00t realized what he was confronted with and argued accordingly. He "could have" done this or that, but he argued properly for Thunderf00t, maybe...that's the impression I got. He wasn't trying to take the upper hand and make Eric look like a douchebag, he was much more interested in letting Eric make himself look like an idiot, to let Eric hang himself with his own rope and therefore Thunderf00t seemed to be OK, though somewhat annoyed at times, with Eric constantly putting words in Thunderf00t's mouth. When the girls in a crowd are cheering, you pretty much have the crowd on your side.

So surely rhetoric is important, particularly in manipulating people who aren't versed in the topic anyways. But in a situation like this I think the unspoken words from Thunderf00t played a bigger role than the rhetoric from Eric. But yes, rhetoric is the forgotten art and an indespensable tool of any sort of public figure.

Also, Thunderf00t earned points for saying (I think he said) "for fuck's sake". Obviously that's not a valid argument, but it was appropriate given how many times Thunderf00t had to repeat himself and that pleased the crowd at the right time

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Clayton replied on Sun, Apr 8 2012 2:45 AM

Rallying crowds is not rhetoric, that's showmanship.

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hashem:
Everyone seemed to realize pretty much right away that Eric was dishonest and wrong

You do have to keep in mind this conversation was taking place at Reason Rally, so this crowd was almost certainly already biased, and not a good representation of a general audience.  (Which is why Eric said "I'll let you get back to your fans"...because of course people like Thunderf00t are "gods" to the atheists who can't make reasoned arguments on their own (and instead just rally behind assholes like Thunderf00t and TheAmazingAtheist and hang on every word they say like drones)...which is something you can see if you go through the Youtube history of those channels and the online back-and-forths they've had between various other prominant youtubers.  For some entertaining ones, see here.)

 

he was much more interested in letting Eric make himself look like an idiot, to let Eric hang himself with his own rope

Here I'm not so sure.  That was part of my point.  I'm not even sure Thunderf00t was that aware, and has the conversational skill to do something like that.  It seemed to me it was all he could do to try to stay on topic and not get trapped in a corner by the Socratic Method of typical Christian argumentation.

I don't think Thunderf00t possesses the social skill and understanding to be able to manipulate a crowd like that.  He's far too scientific.  I think this is part of what Clayton was getting at.  Notice how it was Eric who utilized the tactic of making announcements to the crowd and trying to sway them by interacting with them and making a display.  While this is of course an admittedly dishonest and a bit unscrupulous tactic, it can be effective and shows an understanding on the part of the offender as to how human beings operate and are appealed to.

 

When the girls in a crowd are cheering, you pretty much have the crowd on your side.

Again, I think they were already on his side before either one of them started talking.

 

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hashem replied on Sun, Apr 8 2012 7:06 AM

Clayton:
Rallying crowds is not rhetoric, that's showmanship.

What? Who said it was? A red herring, and a dishonest display since rhetoric may be used to rally crowds, regardless of whether rallying crowds—or rhetorical discourse for that matter—is showmanship.

John James:
I think this is part of what Clayton was getting at.  Notice how it was Eric who utilized the tactic of making announcements to the crowd and trying to sway them by interacting with them and making a display.  While this is of course an admittedly dishonest and a bit unscrupulous tactic, it can be effective and shows an understanding on the part of the offender as to how human beings operate and are appealed to.

Ya, no, I understand that. I wouldn't underestimate youtubers' capacity for the drive and comprehension of social manipulation, though. From a somewhat virgin perspective—not really knowing much about the youtube scene or either of them as public speakers in general—they both had strong personalities and character and were able to maintain a train of thought. As an uninformed spectator, the show they put on was gripping and exciting, the display of respectable intellectual rigor (truth or falsity of the ideas notwithstanding) was potent and dramatic and blah blah blah. Way the hell better than anything you'd see on TV or in a theater, IMHO.

hashem:
When the girls in a crowd are cheering, you pretty much have the crowd on your side.
Again, I think they were already on his side before either one of them started talking.

They seemed to support him. I didn't know they were at an event "Reason Rally".

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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hashem:
the show they put on was gripping and exciting, the display of respectable intellectual rigor (truth or falsity of the ideas notwithstanding) was potent and dramatic and blah blah blah. Way the hell better than anything you'd see on TV or in a theater, IMHO.

hehe. Glad you enjoyed it.  You might keep an eye on the new debate video thread.

 

They seemed to support him. I didn't know they were at an event "Reason Rally".

Yeah that's what I mean.  They were more than likely all atheists...if not actual Thunderf00t "fans".  The whole event was "celebrating irreligion, nontheism, and secularity".  The Christian was there as part of a small faction of people who showed up to oppose them.  So it's possible there may have been a few Christians there rooting Eric on, but I'm sure the vast majority of the audience was on Thunderf00t's side even if they never said anything and someone just said "who do you like better?  This atheist or this Christian?"

 

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1)  Sorry my fault on this. Clarification:I was responding to this quote:

"I'm better than other people because they waste their time in frivolous debates that don't interest me.

Which is not the message I was trying to convey. The "I'm better" part is implied by you - it was never stated directly by myself.  The closest thing I could think of  tocome away with any implication of that sentiment would be my use of the phrase regarding another person as "yuppie college kid".

 If that is case, it may very well be possible to call what followed the line a kind of satire on the actions of the video - as I was referring to the way these people were acting and setting themselves up for failure in "debating and convincing" but perhaps success in "chest thumping and acting like a peacock" - as evident by calling his opponent an "idiot" , having a conter, and splicing videos to make fun of his position in the middle of the conversation on the video - after the fact of debate.

As for the rest of the quote I was refrencing (frivolos debates don't interest me):

By me responding to your post, it is self evident that I was interested in some aspect to what was going on.  The whole post is showing how I placed my concern in the context of your OP - which left much room to work in, and was asking for reactions, opinions, and impressions.

so to spell it out:

Being that the subject in the video is a tertiary topic to Mises.org - I really thought you were aiming at a look at practice, methodology, and things of that nature.  I was looking at this as a case study for the practical application for a productive way to either

a) discuss ideas to a third party (the crowd watching the video) 

 b) promote, convince, debat ideas to the physical person one is dealing with (i.e. not the computer crowd, but the guy he had the mic and camera in front of).  

I find these type of interactions common, and overall not good for anyone interested in the issues involved (or at least to any 3rd party listener) - and to me the problem is people take these things far more seriously than they ought.  It is as if people want a "quick fix" on any form of intellectualism, probably to confirm their own "conformation bias".  It is that sentiment and experience I was trying to appeal to in people.  If you don't have that sentiment, experience, or impression - I suppose there is no need to engage in this conversation, as no argument has been made (as none was asked for in the OP)- merely an appeal to ones practice in life.

Debate/ argumentation/ rhetoric is something of a trade, it isn't "random discussion" or a hammering out of ideas (both have their uses) - and one has to know how to use it, when to use it, and how to listen to it, or it does no good.  If something is trying to pass itself off as a "debate" in a casual setting or via guerilla tactics I have no problem telling people they are wasting their time, which will hopefully lead people to the questions "what am I doing, why am I doing it, and how am I doing it?"

So I may or may not be better than whomever you wish to draw a comparison to, that is your affair to decide.  As for the fundamental approach to dealing with people and issues in the  context of "convincing or debating" with what I saw in the video; of course I think my opinion on method and approach is better (or at the very least worth considering), otherwise I would not have stated it.

 

2) Again, I honestly can't tell if this is just really good satire or if you're actually one of those people., 

While I do hate cracked.com  - this particular line was satire.  I wouldn't call it "really good" though, as it probably closer to parody.

 

 

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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jdkdsgn replied on Fri, Apr 13 2012 10:12 AM

I believe that an anarcho-capitalist attitude should be utilized wrt this issue: make use of an arbiter for the discussion! This is the only way that we can avoid the clashing of ideas in cacophony. Rather, we should ask one of our friends, or a stranger who is acquainted with the idea, to moderate a discussion so that whoever is listening may efficiently digest the points discussed. If it is a discussion in which one person wishes to convert the other, there is no discussion, and each person's worldviews just simply clang together, as we saw in the OP.

Anyway, I believe that a debate along the lines of the John Lennox versus Richard Dawkins is more akin to a civilized discussion. Lennox even goes on to say that if we are to be intellectually honest, we must not consider the use of force in the planting of ideas. In short, he supports individualism. If you are interested in more of the discussion, check out: http://fixed-point.org/index.php/video/35-full-length/164-the-dawkins-lennox-debate

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John James replied on Fri, Apr 13 2012 10:23 AM

jdkdsgn:
Rather, we should ask one of our friends, or a stranger who is acquainted with the idea, to moderate a discussion so that whoever is listening may efficiently digest the points discussed.

That sounds all good and well (actually, to be frank, it doesn't really...I see something like that leading to all sorts of problems), but even still, supposing that would work out as harmoniously as you seem to think it would, I don't see any practical way that could implemented in the real world.  Every time you're having a conversation and the subject ventures into a specified realm, you're going to go "wait wait!  I gotta go get Peter!"?

 

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jdkdsgn replied on Fri, Apr 13 2012 10:33 AM

I agree it is inconvenient, and there are probably a whole slew of issues with this scheme, but what kind of reward is there in the type of debate from the OP? I believe that a third party would help to increase the amount of impact a discussion has, especially relative to the thunderfoot video.

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John James replied on Fri, Apr 13 2012 10:50 AM

Maybe...but for one thing these are two guys who essentially dedicate their lives to this...meaning they're fine to stand there for almost an hour and just go round and round.  They probably could or should have gone to a stage somewhere and gotten a moderator (although, I tend to agree with hashem that this is much more interesting. and entertaining.)

Again, it may be a fun idea, but I don't see how this could be applied to regular people, let alone in an everyday real-world setting.

 

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