Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is debating and arguing really all that useful?

Recently, I have asked myself this question on a number of occasions.  It seems that right now, with social media giants like Facebook connecting people with wildly different religious, philosophical, and/or political views in addition to US citizens being extremely polarized in their views, debates and arguments have been breaking out left and right on the interwebs.

I am definitely guilty of starting quite a few debates myself, and it is for this reason that I actually started this blog.  I wanted a new forum for debating views, discussing ideas, etc..

But how useful is debating?  After all, some people will never change their minds about what they believe in, no matter how well you present your argument.  For example, Background Dominated is stupidly blind to the fact that theoretical/computational astrophysicists are far superior to X-ray observers.  And as anyone who knows both myself and this moronic, idiotic galoot can tell you, he and I are constantly arguing (both offline as well as online) and debating something, never really reaching any sort of agreement.  Of course, I am always right, but that's beyond the point here...

If people are so set in their ways or have made up their minds, is there really any point in debating so much?

I think the answer is yes, but not because I think one side is always right.  In fact, with the exception of my arguments with abnormally large torso man, I concede that I am not always correct in my point of view.  Or, at the very least, both myself and my opponent make valid points and no one person is clearly right or wrong.

For me, debates serve two useful purposes.  The first is to learn more about the other person or the other point of view.  The more I understand someone and the points that they make, the more I can relate and even empathize with that person.  After the dust settles, I still don't have to agree with them.  For example, I seriously doubt anyone can provide me with a sufficient argument as to why gays should not be allowed to marry (feel free to take your best shot though!).  But, at least I will know how my opponent thinks and feels, and this leads to a sense of compassion.

The second use that I find from debates is that they serve as a sort of mental exercise.  Much like going for a jog provides a sense of physical stimulation, I find that debating can be mentally stimulating.  It keeps my mental juices flowing.  This in itself is rewarding.  But I feel like it also makes me sharper in general - I am essentially practicing my logic and rational thinking skills.

With that, I taunt you again Background Dominated - I look forward to reading your inevitably ridiculous response to this post!


  1. There is another good reason for debate, particularly in public forums: educating and persuading members of the audience.

    Someone who has committed themselves to defending an idea regardless of if it is supported by evidence or not may not be persuaded that they've made a mistake - especially not in a relatively short series of exchanges. But other people viewing such a debate are more likely to be so persuaded.

    Of course, this assumes a debate where at least one debater is provably wrong, a forum where the contents of the debate are archived and made available to everyone, and a certain amount of rhetorical skill on the part of the debaters.

  2. Indeed, this is a good point. I would also add that even if the debate is focused on an area where there is no clear "correct" answer, it can still be informative to those viewing the debate. At the very least, they can be educated in certain facts that may arise during the debate.