Ending the Debate on Debate

Debate and discourse are important in a republic such as ours. I’d never want to squelch it.

But on a personal, individual level of argument, I wonder if it ever makes any sense.

Some people enjoy arguing a point for the sake of arguing a point. I used to be that way for some things. Once in a while, I still am. But these days, I ask myself if there is even the slightest chance of impressing upon the other person the need to change their mind about a solidly held belief? Am I really going to unlock a lifetime of experiences and perceptions if I “talk good?”

Almost certainly, the answer is no.

Study after study indicate people rarely change their mind based on an opposing argument from anyone, let alone from someone they meet at a party, or Bob from accounting who always chimes in on foreign policy in the break room.

It holds true on the internet as well. Set aside the rampant presence of trolls, I only say something on a message board, a blog post, a Facebook thread about once out of a hundred times, and even then just to satisfy my desire to see the other side represented. But it’s pointless, and I know it is.

True forensic debate, with rules and a moderator, and even better, a jury of some kind to decide on which side “won” by means of a better presentation of the evidence is just about the only kind of argument I think can be “won” these days. Maybe it was always like that, I don’t know. I do know that when I debate with someone I know is wrong, (and whom objective stats or science proves is wrong as well) there are a million and one ways to move the goal posts, and slip out of any straight jacket for them…because the objective is to hold on to their position, and not to debate well.

Also, to be blunt about it, sometimes I think of an argument about something, even is relative civility reigns, and I say “who cares?” If it’s a public, political issues of some kind, I have my view on it, and not one single thing about reality will shift by my perfect debate, my imperfect debate, or by engaging in insults and buffoonery. What exactly is solved when one “wins” an argument? How is a winner determined anyway?

Plus, if I am to argue at all, I want to make sure I have facts in my corner. I don’t go around starting arguments as so many people do, for the sake of it, and I’m not inclined to take the time and the effort necessary to research an entire topic so as to be able to debate it with intelligence. (Something that other person is almost never willing to do either, though many I’ve talked to would not think they had to.)

Basically, unless you get a chemical rush of some kind from arguing about something, I think debate among those who simply have an opinion, (and no influence on the topic) is a waste of time about 90% of the time. The odds are even worse if it’s a debate about things which can be neither proved nor disproved.

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