Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Neutrality in a debate

  1. Sep 12, 2009 #1
    i was wondering if in a debate you can be neutral between both sides.

    example: the topic is 'red is better than green'

    Is it possible to say that all colours are equal???
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 12, 2009 #2
    Are you taking a debating course? In a debating course, if you are asked to defend the position 'red is better than green', then you must do so even if you think green is better than red, or if yellow is best of all. In fact, you should be able to defend both sides of all the debate topics. I urge everyone to practice on this one: "Jimmy Snyder is better than Albert Einstein".
     
  4. Sep 12, 2009 #3

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I've taken debate courses where the professor decides which side you must debate, so you must be able to argue either side. However, there is no such thing as neutrality in a debate - if you are neutral about an issue, then there is no debate.

    I once debated GM food, on the "pro" side, and before the debate started, my prof said the topic was a pointless one and asked why we were even debating it. My debate partner wasn't very good, so I had to argue the "con" side to my prof before he'd allow us to start the debate - then I switched to the "pro" side!
     
  5. Sep 12, 2009 #4
    This is not a matter of opinion, but is rather than a case of trying to develop an effective argument. What i am asking is if an effective argument is given that all colours are equal, will the adjudicator still accept such a thing?????
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2009
  6. Sep 12, 2009 #5
    I would assume, if we are talking about debate class/team, that if you are given a certain position to defend then you will be expected to defend it rather than try to render the debate meaningless. The term 'moot' is used as it is in common speech for a reason.
     
  7. Sep 12, 2009 #6

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    My daughter was on the debate team in high school and I was a debate judge. As stated, you will be assigned to argue for or against and you should be prepared to argue both sides. In a single day my daughter would have to debate both sides of the same topic. She sometimes wouldn't know which side she was going to argue until shortly before the debate.

    If you are asking if there could be a debate where one side argues that all colors are equal and the other side argues that they are not equal, no, the only serious debate I have observed was over real topics, not matters of personal opinion.
     
  8. Sep 12, 2009 #7
    "Better" is relative. Better in what way? All colors have their purposes. I guess you could name the things each color is better AT. But then you'd have to know what shade of color it is. If it's dark red vs light green, then the red would be "better" at absorbing light and green would be better at reflecting it.
    It's not even a matter of opinion if you have to define why something is better than the other. If I say vodka is better than water, then I'd have to define "better". If I define it as it's better at getting you drunk, that's a fact.
     
  9. Sep 12, 2009 #8

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Actually, if that were the topic of debate, it would be acceptable. There are two sides to that debate, and indeed it's something that could easily show up in a courtroom as well. One side is arguing that two things are equal, while the other side is arguing they are unequal.

    I could even envision a situation where one side is arguing red is better than green, and the other takes the opposing position that red is NOT better than green...not because green is then better than red, but because they are actually equal.

    Of course, this depends on the topic assigned. If you are told you need to debate that green is better than red, while the opposition must debate that red is better than green, you need to make the argument that you are assigned, not another argument you have not been assigned. On the other hand, if the debate is "red is better than green: for or against?" then if you can demonstrate there is no difference whatsoever, then that would be a counter-argument. I'd be very careful with that approach though, because it's REALLY difficult to demonstrate there are NO differences between two things, especially when the other side is prepared to tell you exactly what the differences are...you'd have to be prepared to counter each of their claims of differences by finding some fundamental flaw in those claims that makes them incorrect. If you take the position, instead, that green is better than red, you can allow the other side to make an argument that there are differences, and that some of those favor red being better than green, but that the overall balance of differences weighs more heavily in favor of green.
     
  10. Sep 12, 2009 #9

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I was just limiting it to what they discuss in Interscholastic forensic debate. You are right though in that anything can be debated between people. But since they seemed to be asking if it would be an acceptable debate by an "adjudicator", I assumed that he meant this to be some sort of formal debate team in their "scenario".

    BTW, this thread is due to a thread started in philosophy on "is red better than green" that was closed.
     
  11. Sep 12, 2009 #10

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I've never liked the philosophy I found in debate class.

    The message I get is "it doesn't matter how you feel about your idea or whether you've researched it and searched for the truth. All that matters is that you win the debate."

    It seems counter to the goals of science, I guess...
     
  12. Sep 12, 2009 #11

    Hurkyl

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Some things not to overlook:


    For most topics of debate, there are valid, reasonable arguments for both sides. Just because you find one side more convincing does not mean the other side has an untenable position!

    This point is overlooked by most people -- they seem to think that anyone who presents an argument opposing their beliefs must automatically be dumb, deceived, deluded... anything but reasonable.



    Coming to a reasoned position on a topic requires one to analyze all sides of the topic in good faith -- in particular, this requires knowledge and understanding of the arguments favoring each individual side.

    This is another thing that people tend to overlook. A person might be predisposed to adopting position A. When they go about studying the arguments for position B, they notice flaws or rebuttals to those arguments. Unfortunately, they are inclined to stop there and declare position A convincing, without ever taking the effort to follow-up and make sure that the flaws or rebuttals they noticed can stand up against scrutiny.



    Finally, the model of two sides presenting a case to an arbiter really is used in the "real world". Two examples:

    1. In principle, this is how a trial in the U.S. is supposed to work -- two sides presenting the best cases for the two opposing positions, and the judge or jury evaluating the given evidence to arrive at a conclusion. (Also, note the prosecution is supposed to give the defense any evidence it finds that could help its case. The reverse doesn't happen, but that's in accordance with te principle that it's supposed to be harder to prove someone guilty than to defend someone as innocent)

    2. This process was used by the Roman Catholic Church in the process of sainting people -- the job description of the Devil's advocate was to present an argument why the candidate shouldn't be sainted. (and his opponent, God's advocate, was to present the argument in favor)
     
  13. Sep 12, 2009 #12

    Hurkyl

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    For the record, "all colours are equal" is not a neutral position: it is a third, separate position in conflict both with "red is better than green" and "green is better than red".
     
  14. Sep 12, 2009 #13
    The purpose of the class is not to resolve the issue of red and green. The purpose is to learn how to debate. All that matters is that you learn how to do it. Also, taking the anti- side of an issue on which you are pro- allows you to see the weaknesses in your own stance by searching for its weakest points.
     
  15. Sep 13, 2009 #14
    Agreed. I think it's a really good way to develop the skill of analysing something critically.
     
  16. Sep 13, 2009 #15

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I understand the purist side of debate, and I appreciate it and all, but in my experiences, in practice, it has seldom been very productive because people tend to get emotional (whether they are right OR wrong, so you can't judge their stance by that) and start yelling and then tangent arguments form and soon you're spiraling down a fractal of semantics and details.
     
  17. Sep 13, 2009 #16

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    What debates were these? Scholastic debate is very structured and would never allow what you described.
     
  18. Sep 13, 2009 #17
    What can be really amusing in a scholastic debate is what happens when someone *wants* to give someone who's arrogant or bombastic a good slap, but can't :wink:
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Neutrality in a debate
  1. Debate Strategies (Replies: 11)

  2. The infinite debate (Replies: 12)

  3. The life debate (Replies: 1)

  4. Science and Debate (Replies: 5)

Loading...