Tag: argument

Mad Skillz: Dave on how to argue with me…

I meant to post this yesterday – I think I may have mentioned that Dave Walker was contributing two Mad Skillz. Here’s his second. It’s timely – perhaps – given some of the discussions this week. And I didn’t even bag out U2.

If you have a Mad Skill and would like to contribute I would be happy to keep posting these as long as material keeps coming in – feel free to go for a second bite of the cherry.

Anyway, here’s what Dave has to say. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it – but I’ll let the disagreements slide.

Nathan is one of the best people I know to have an argument with. You cannot argue with Nathan without being forced to think about what you’re saying and to consider fresh, creative, and insightful ideas. But arguing with Nathan can be a bit of an art form! Having been a sparring partner with Nathan in the North for the last four years, here’s my 5 tips for friends ‘down south’ on how to have a good argument with Nathan:

  1. Don’t. At least sometimes. Arguments with Nathan sometimes end with (metaphorical) blood on the floor on both sides, so a level headed assessment of whether it’s sensible to enter the fray is well worthwhile. Nathan will argue for arguing’s sake, so a release valve is important.
  2. Remember that the thinner the basis for Nathan’s position, the more strenuously he will defend it. You might think it’s stupid, but he really likes to do that. It helps him work out whether there’s anything in his position that he wants to hang on to, and whether your criticisms of the idea have any merit to them. Nathan’s whole philosophy is to test ideas to their absolute limits — so rather than be exasperated by that, just enjoy watching him defend the (sometimes) ridiculous. But don’t think that just calling an idea ‘ridiculous’ will somehow cool Nathan’s enthusiasm for it — it will do quite the opposite!
  3. The better the point you make, the less likely Nathan is to acknowledge it out loud. This is related to #2 — he’s not looking to agree with you, he’s looking to test ideas. So when you make a good point, he’ll ignore it and argue his point on different (and sometimes only loosely related) grounds. This can be very frustrating, but don’t bite on the deflection unless you think it’s relevant and call him on it if he needs it.
  4. Tell him to pull his head in every now and then. Nathan needs good friends who can see through his obstreperousness and self-confessed moments of arrogance, and remind him that there are often real people attached to the ideas he’s arguing against.
  5. You can never end an argument with Nathan. He is not interested in finding a position of agreement (see point 3) and he is psychologically incapable of letting you have the last word. So when it’s time to finish, make your point, let him have the last word, and either shrug your shoulders at him or say ‘thank you for highlighting that we don’t agree’!

Slap stick

This made me laugh more than it should have.

Poe’s Law

I love satire. Of most colours. I like it when Christians satirise our own culture, and when non-Christians do it too. Satire is revealing. It is good for teaching. It makes me laugh.

LarkNews is one of my favourite satire sites, I know of a few people who have fallen for its satire in the past…

People reposting satire as real news is pretty funny – like when a couple of mainstream news outlets picked up an Onion piece that reported the moon landing was fake.

Poe’s Law didn’t make the Wikipedia list of eponymous laws I mentioned previously – but you can read it on this page – RationalWiki’s page.

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.

It’s one of those Internet subculture things particular to debates with atheists (along with the No True Scotsman Fallacy) that comes up all the time. It’s a shorthand thing that prevents any real discussion taking place springing from an extreme position. The problem is that sometimes extreme positions may be correct. This is my biggest problem with all the conversational threads I’ve read on the atheist blogs I follow. If it turns out that God exists (as I believe he does) they’re going to look like idiots. This is the problem with Occam’s Razor, and in fact any other eponymous law that becomes common parlance. There are times when there’ll be a complex explanation for something that is true while a more simple explanation with less steps may be wrong. There are times when it’s appropriate to reference Hitler in an argument (Godwin’s Law). There are times when someone will be claiming to be a Scotsman when they’re not (the No True Scotsman Fallacy).

Using these laws in conversations who don’t know about them makes you look like a prat. Especially if you end up quoting them and being wrong.

I’m going to posit my own eponymous law – and I’d like it to catch on. Campbell’s Law. It states:

“As the length of argument on the internet increases the probability of referencing an irrelevant eponymous law or incorrectly identifying a fallacy approaches one.”

I’ll posit a second law.

“Just because someone, somewhere, has described a common phenomena as a “law”, it does not necessarily render the practice a transgression.”

Argument with argument

I have a bone to pick with logic. I am sick to death of putting forward great arguments backed by examples and employing a suitable amount of pathos only to be ignored because I’ve broken one of the codified rules of “logical argument”.

I have news for you Messrs Logic and Reason – nobody cares if you think I’m arguing with a “straw man” or producing some sort of syllogismic fallacy. Nobody cares if you hate analogies so much that the very presence of one as a piece of supporting evidence is enough for you to completely ignore the material at hand and instead dish out a lecture on what are essentially the “Queensbury Rules” of discourse. Nobody likes the Queensbury rules. They’re for losers who can’t fight with all the tools at their disposal.

Perhaps my line of reasoning is a straw man – but your job isn’t to point out that this invalidates my argument, it’s to correct my thinking. Perhaps my analogy isn’t perfect. Few are. A perfect analogy is like a rare pearl – hard to find and expensive.

When did the style of a debate become more important than the substance?

Theological Smackdown – is being wrong a sin?

At WCF last week (that’s Westminster Confession of Faith classes) we had a little discussion about oaths. I wrote about it here. It was more than a discussion. It was heated. It was an argument. Binary positions were taken. We “agreed to disagree”. Being the absolutist that I am, I hate agreeing to disagree. It’s a cop out. There’s a right and wrong on all issues. I’d rather find the right than be unsure. And if I think I’m right, I’d rather you be right than wrong.

Some people don’t like that.

The whole discussion got me thinking – especially when the other guy involved said he doesn’t think it’s a sin to be wrong, he just doesn’t do it. There’s a side issue of conscience here – where believing that something is wrong, and doing it, is wrong. But that’s not really my point. Saying that you don’t think someone is sinning when they do something that you think is wrong is a cop out. It is sinning (unless you’re wrong, then you’re sinning). It’s all forgivable though.

Mark Dever wrote a great piece on the issue of wrongness being sinful a while back where he managed to lovingly call his brothers (or himself) sinful on the issue of child baptism – depending on which position turns out to be correct.

He said this in an article in his journal:

“I have many dear paedo-baptists friends from whom I have learned much. Yet I see their practice as a sinful (though sincere) error from which God protects them by allowing for inconsistency in their doctrinal system, just as he graciously protects me from consistency with my own errors.”

That was quite controversial, so he clarified in a further post on his blog.

Some may think that such a "wrong" should not be called a sin.  I understand a sin to be disobedience to God (regardless of intent).  When I read Numbers 15:29-30 and Hebrews 9:7 I certainly see that Scripture presents some sins as being deliberate, and others as being unintentional.  I certainly do not think my paedobaptist brethren are intentionally sinning in this.  In fact, they even think that they are obeying God so, short of them changing their understanding of the Bible’s teaching on this, I can’t expect any "repentance," because they lovingly but firmly disagree with the Baptist understanding of this.

Sin taints everything. Even rightness and wrongness. It is, I think, as silly to expect that you can be purely wrong as it is to expect that you can be wrongly pure.

The question this poses is what to do with those who are wrong – do we respectfully let them stay in “sin”… I don’t know. I tend to think we should seek to lovingly speak the truth. Most objections to arguments are on the basis of conduct rather than intent. The act of speaking the truth is not the problem, it’s that it is not done with appropriate love. Wishy-washy tolerant people want to have their truth, and eat it too, while giving you the freedom to be wrong. Taking a position on a matter on the basis of “right and wrong” rather than personal preference removes subjectivity from the equation. Right and wrong, under God, are absolutes. I’m not talking about questions of taste – I don’t think anybody elevates what you have for breakfast to an absolute position. But once you’re discussing “truth” and providing any form or proof text or evidence from the Bible or elsewhere – you’ve moved into the grounds of “objective” and disagreement with your position is then, by definition, sinful. If my definition is correct.

In conclusion, I think we should be more prepared to call a spade a spade, a wrong a sin, and disagree heartily on things we don’t disagree about – so that we can work together to bring each other out of error, and sin. Oh, and we should repent of being wrong on areas we think we’re right. Agreeing to disagree is just a hollow cop out. Agree or disagree?

Things that brighten my day #1

Arguments about trivial things with a worthy opponent.

Pick your battles

This SolaPanel post comes at a particularly relevant moment what with all my inner-argumentative-angst navel gazing and debates about what issues are worth fighting for.

  1. Fight for what is right. (truth)
  2. Argue for what will work. (tactics)
  3. And keep quiet about everything else. (preference)

Fight for the God-given Biblical principles, argue for how to put them into practice and just leave all the personality or preference issues up to each person to work out for themselves.  I can hesitate on preference, in a meeting I can even back down on my view of tactics, but I must never back down on truth.

Me, I fight on all three, but care about 1 and 2 almost equally (and interchangeably – the media is the message afterall… Or something like that).


I realise that at times I am stubborn, obstinate even, in discussions on this blog. But I really like to argue.

So this is a bind.

There’s at least one person who has exiled themselves from commenting because I’m arrogant.

And that’s convicting.

I do really like to argue – though I have a habit of divorcing myself from the implications of the argument and just enjoying the progressive development of ideas.

I have, as a way of warning prospective commenters, introduced a disclaimer to this site. You should read it. Though it’s annoyingly written in third person…

If you’d like to suggest anything that should be added – do so in the comments… though I may disagree with you…

You should also check out the discussion I’ve been having with Dave about the ACL, government and all that stuff, for an example of an argument where I don’t really believe exactly what I’m arguing, but also disagree with some of the counter-arguments. Feel free to chime in their too…