I thoroughly enjoy a good debate. Whether I be observing or participating in the debate is of little consequence, as both offer an excellent opportunity to sharpen one's mind and refine their opinions. In truth, I see very little reason for us to be participating in any debates, at any time, if not to serve as a means of elevating us to new heights of understanding.
However, in observing the current scientific and philosophical debate over the past several months, I've found myself utterly disappointed far too often. It seems that the acquisition of truth or the desire to better one's understanding of important issues is no longer the primary goal when it comes to public debating. No. It appears now that the purpose of a debate is simply to win - or perhaps even more appropriately, to demonstrate how much of a loser one's opponent is.
To demonstrate my point, I challenge you to visit YouTube, search for the word "debate" and select a random page number, followed by a random debate. Then skip half way into the video so all the introductions and etc are done with, and then look and see if whomever is speaking is explaining why their position is the correct one, or if as I suspect you will find, they are simply attacking the position of their opponent.
Debates are no longer about arguing in defense of worthy positions. They are now about exposing any position that is not your own as bollocks. One doesn't win a debate in 2018 by having a coherent and sound opinion that they can articulate in a concise manner. To win a debate in 2018, you needn't even have a sensible opinion. You need only memorize a growing list of logical fallacies and be sure to point them out when your opponent makes one.
This is another massive problem in my opinion. I consider myself an intelligent man, but I do not know half of the names of these logical fallacies. And many out there would tell you that this makes me stupid for lacking the ability to learn them all, or lazy for not having an interest in trying to. But I wholeheartedly disagree.
I refuse to go and memorize every logical fallacy by its proper name when I can just refer to every instance of flawed logic that I observe by the same label; nonsense.
There is 146 fucking fallacies on that list- all with different titles. Why?
If you are debating someone and they say something that doesn't make sense, then you say, "That doesn't make sense. This is why.." By saying, you just made a "Zero Tolerance Fallacy," all you have done is left half your audience with a head scratch as they wonder if they are stupid for not knowing this made up term.
This is not what debating ought to be about. We do not all have time to study every issue of importance in depth. This is why it has always been useful to observe two experts on any given topic debate the issue. But if you cannot explain something in simple enough terms that anyone can understand it, in my opinion, it either means that you yourself do not truly understand it, or you are intentionally trying to confuse rather than enlighten.
If you ever find yourself about to say, "you committed x logical fallacy." Stop for a moment, and ask yourself if it would be more appropriate to simply say, "you are wrong." Being able to identify and expose logical fallacies by their correct names does not make one smart. It makes them pompous, for it is not lost on anyone that most are not willing to spend their time learning such nonsensical ways of interpreting nonsense. This is why above every mouth that every pointed out a logical fallacy by its invented title, is a mind that knows all too well how few people will know what the fuck they are talking about.
Perhaps this is the reason the tactic is used so often today. Perhaps it is merely a symptom of the overshadowing problem with modern debating. They are not as they should be, a position against a position, but rather, a debate is too often a person against a person. And if one party just happens to know some obscure label that explains in far too many words why their opponent is wrong about something, then maybe the audience will recognize just how remarkably clever said debater is for knowing the name of the fallacy.
I intended for that to expose the ludicrous nature of this whole thing, but I realise now that, for most observing the debates, this is very likely how they go about deciding a winner. Whoever appears smarter must have the right opinion. Right?
So to bring this rant to a close; debates are getting shit. We need to start looking at debates as a means for all parties - participators and observers - to enrich their understanding of the world and come to better opinions as a result of it. The observation of a civil and intellectual debate, or especially the participation in one, is one of the best means of learning and of scrutinizing what you have learned in the past. But, for us all to experience this benefit, we need to transcend this newly adopted belief that debates are about winning.
We can ridicule our opponents and their position and leave the debate feeling victorious. Or, we can take the increasingly more peculiar route of actually arguing our own position, and everyone can leave the debate victorious, having learned something useful, rather than believing we have learned what isn't.