Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Arguing Effectively Requires Passion, Not Bias

What do I mean? you ask. What brought this on?

Letters to the editor. Not entirely—I’ve read blog posts that have irked me and seen stuff on television. They try so hard to convince me of something and fail completely because of faulty sources, loaded wording, and obvious bias. Unfortunately, appealing to someone’s emotions (especially fear) can overwhelm their judgment enough to convince them, which is why He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-At-Least-Not-On-This-Blog has legions of followers. 

But it’s not effective arguing.

Effective arguing—where you actually prove a point—requires sources (real sources), restraint and—what’s it called?—objectivity. If someone acts disdainful of the medical community and then lists a hundred papers confirming vaccines cause autism, I’m going to think they chose an answer they liked and found the sources to back it up. Even more so if they disparage anything that contradicts what they claim. In all fairness, I’d like to say that there are plenty of people saying vaccines don’t cause autism who do the same thing. Guess what? If they can’t do it, neither can you. Use facts to back up your claim, not dismissing others. If you’re really right, it shouldn’t be that hard.

Now for restraint. This is just because I’ve found people are less likely to listen to you if you start yelling at how they are ruining the country/killing millions through ignorance/I don’t know what. I know. It’s crazy. People don’t like being insulted.

My culminating thought is this: be careful what you take as truth and don’t believe anything because you like the way it sounds. And if you want to argue effectively (i.e. so your argument isn’t full of more holes than a sieve), do it calmly, listen to others, and cite you’re sources.


  1. Totally agree with you. I was in a debate club in high school, and now those senses are still there of when someone is BSing.

  2. I applaud this post. I can't stand it when people are so dead-set on their way of thinking, no amount of factual evidence can sway them. Determination is one thing, but that's just hardheaded.

  3. Letters to the editor tend to make me give up all hope for humanity. Almost. I mean, if they can read & write to the editor then at least they're literate and care about something, so that's good, even if I ignore them completely.

    Wow, I have a list of people who shall not be named on the blog. Hee hee... way to leave it open to interpretation.

  4. I loved it so much I took the liberty of tweeting it. I hope you don't mind.

  5. Debate club was definitely worth it. Good point to make.

  6. I'm with you. You can feel free to even share your personal opinion on something and I won't hold it against you . . . so long as you show me that you're willing to admit there are valid points to both sides of the argument.

    Because, unless the statement is that drowning innocent puppies is wrong, there are ALWAYS two sides to every argument.

  7. Myne: I think debate should be taught in school, but I'm sure people won't want kids figuring out when their arguments are BS.

    Kristina: I know. It's dismaying that you can so someone a fact and they'll just call you a liar.

    Su: I think I read letters to the editor to piss myself off.

    Akoss: No, go right ahead.

    William: Thank you!

    Susan: Thank my college Communications teacher. She was great.

    Tracy: Right. Opinion is fine, just as long as you remember opinion isn't fact.

  8. I find so much truth in this post. I agree with you completely. It seems political arguments almost ALWAYS fall into this category.

  9. Well said. I've had arguments with a few people like this in my time!


Please validate me.