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Proof in a thread debate

  • #1
    Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 9,145 mod Manach


    Please feel free to move if not in right forum
    My query is, when does the need for evidence enter into an online thread - who has the burden of proof and when.
    This is not specific to any topic, but more on the mechanics of boards' debate.
    For instance, if one says X, T, or Z at what stage does this move from beyond the default position of merely a poster's opinion to that of proof needed that X,Y,Z are verifiable facts.
    As well is there a single gold standard for proof or else is there a sliding scale from "a mate told me" to article web links to textbooks?

    So any opinions, proved or unproven are welcomed.


Comments



  • You've got two extremes; one where you must prove everything you say and even claiming that 'the sky is blue' must be backed up, and the other is where you don't bother to put forward proof for anything. Neither is desirable.

    As such I believe it is a judgement call, whereby you may claim, without proof, things that you believe are universally accepted, such as 'the sky is blue', and should supply proof whenever a claim may be challenged. If you feel that what you're claiming is universally accepted, but it is challenged, then the onus is on you to present proof.

    As to what constitutes proof, it probably comes down to the axioms it's built upon. This could mean that it is logically derived from something that is universally accepted (e.g. 'a red sky is abnormal' can be proven by pointing out that we accept that 'the sky is blue' normally) or from credible evidence.

    Whether evidence is credible is also open to challenge (e.g. 'smoking isn't dangerous' because this Web site sponsored by British American Tobacco has a study saying so) and this should also be considered.

    Reminds me of the old Wiseman and Law scam that used to be played in debates at the L&H years ago. You invented a report which supported your argument, a year or two old, and attributed it to two authors, at least one of which had a Jewish name. Doesn't work on the interweb though :cool:




  • Manach wrote: »
    Please feel free to move if not in right forum
    My query is, when does the need for evidence enter into an online thread - who has the burden of proof and when.
    This is not specific to any topic, but more on the mechanics of boards' debate.
    For instance, if one says X, T, or Z at what stage does this move from beyond the default position of merely a poster's opinion to that of proof needed that X,Y,Z are verifiable facts.
    As well is there a single gold standard for proof or else is there a sliding scale from "a mate told me" to article web links to textbooks?

    So any opinions, proved or unproven are welcomed.

    Problem is in too many debates people start lawyering and are more interested in winning than in ascertaining a truth, which is the point of debating in the first place, and that gets boring really fast.

    There is no gold standard as such of proof, it will always depend on how much you need to do to get the opposition to see your point of view. But it's humanities, not science so it has it's own rules, and honestly I don't know why they refer to it as proof, as it's not science, or evidence, as it's not a crime scene either.

    You could take something like the "sky is blue," as the previous poster used and example, and even something as simple as that could take on a life of its own. The sky for example, appears blue, rather than IS blue, and even then it is not always appearing blue, but its appearance will vary according to geography, weather conditions, time of year, etc, sometimes it appears very navy blue [hence the crayola color name "Midnight blue," or twilight blue, etc.... etc.... so to say even something like "the sky is blue" could easily turn into an unstable axiom.

    But it is generally accepted that the burden of proof is on the individual positing the thesis and not on the opposition. This however is also open to debate and could be challenged as a fallacy.




  • If someone makes a solid claim to something, and there is a disagreement between posters on that claim, then the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim - once the poster provides a credible enough source backing up the claim, the burden of proof shifts to the person who disagrees, and he either needs to point out flaws in the sources credibility, and/or provide countering evidence/sources which are more credible.

    There are usually all sorts of backflipping-head-up-arse acrobatics used to try and dodge/flip the burden of proof though, in the types of topics that carry the worst quality of debate (heavy on fallacious argument, straw-men - you can spot the poor quality reliably based on judgment, just by looking out for any kind of frequent condescension - it's usually the hallmark of compensating/distracting from fallacious argument, by getting personal).

    Something that has solid hard evidence, is pretty much indisputable (though sometimes people will try to make hard evidence also seem like just a matter of opinion), but some topics require a weaker basis for evidence (such as the social sciences, because for a lot of topics, hard evidence isn't easy to come by), and you may have to rely a lot more on using judgment to evaluate credibility of sources, and whether they have proven conflicts of interest and the like.


    While I agree with nearly all of The Corinthian's post, I will say though, that trying to prove complicated claims axiomatically is a bad idea, because the axioms start getting built upon one another - axioms are basically assumptions, and the larger your chain of assumptions, the larger the likelihood of a fault within them.

    Building stuff up from axioms like that, is a great way to fall into a Fallacy of Composition - a good example, is trying to extend microeconomic principles, to macroeconomics.


    The problem with all Internet debates though, is that it is impossible to moderate straw-men, and many other forms of fallacious argument - and it only takes a handful of people, to muddy a debate this way; burden of proof barely matters at all, when debate turns dirty (and for some topics, it almost always does).

    The key to working your way through that, is to learn as much about critical thinking and logical fallacies as possible (also helps with understanding proof well); the difference between people who debate to learn/find-truth, and those who use dirty tactics, is that the former use lists of logical fallacies as something to watch out for, and the latter use them as a guide to debating :)





  • Something that has solid hard evidence, is pretty much indisputable (though sometimes people will try to make hard evidence also seem like just a matter of opinion), but some topics require a weaker basis for evidence (such as the social sciences, because for a lot of topics, hard evidence isn't easy to come by), and you may have to rely a lot more on using judgment to evaluate credibility of sources, and whether they have proven conflicts of interest and the like.

    Yes and no. Strictly speaking, if you are following the general guidelines of debate you also have to watch out for appealing to authority, when what you ideally should be doing is following the logic and not the person who is laying it out. Same goes for conflict of interest. Let's say you refer to something that is said or posited by someone who is an investor in a tobacco company, strictly speaking you should follow the logic and pointing to the person's personal interests could be claimed as ad hominem....On the other hand, there is an argument for when ad hominem is acceptable. I tend to think it's a slippery slope and if you start with that you are entering a bottomless pit.

    While I agree with nearly all of The Corinthian's post, I will say though, that trying to prove complicated claims axiomatically is a bad idea, because the axioms start getting built upon one another - axioms are basically assumptions, and the larger your chain of assumptions, the larger the likelihood of a fault within them.

    Building stuff up from axioms like that, is a great way to fall into a Fallacy of Composition - a good example, is trying to extend microeconomic principles, to macroeconomics.

    That is why you have to have to have the links in your chain logically impenetrable, but Corinthian is right, this is not geometry where you have accepted truths without proof to build on, destroy the axioms and the chips in the chains start to break.
    The problem with all Internet debates though, is that it is impossible to moderate straw-men, and many other forms of fallacious argument - and it only takes a handful of people, to muddy a debate this way; burden of proof barely matters at all, when debate turns dirty (and for some topics, it almost always does).

    The key to working your way through that, is to learn as much about critical thinking and logical fallacies as possible (also helps with understanding proof well); the difference between people who debate to learn/find-truth, and those who use dirty tactics, is that the former use lists of logical fallacies as something to watch out for, and the latter use them as a guide to debating :)

    That's when you get lawyering rather than actual debating and it gets old really fast. If the moderators were stricter you would have less of it.




  • diveout wrote: »
    Yes and no. Strictly speaking, if you are following the general guidelines of debate you also have to watch out for appealing to authority, when what you ideally should be doing is following the logic and not the person who is laying it out. Same goes for conflict of interest. Let's say you refer to something that is said or posited by someone who is an investor in a tobacco company, strictly speaking you should follow the logic and pointing to the person's personal interests could be claimed as ad hominem....On the other hand, there is an argument for when ad hominem is acceptable. I tend to think it's a slippery slope and if you start with that you are entering a bottomless pit.
    The problem is time/effort. You can't reasonably do this with people who barrage you with too much content for you to process, and propaganda content also is designed to inculcate you through repetition over time - to make you read things you disagree with constantly, until they sink in (everyone is susceptible to influence from this, no matter how smart they think they are at avoiding this).

    If the quality of a source is bad enough, it's worth demanding a more credible source to back the same facts, rather than wasting your time with it - if it's a topic that is important enough, it shouldn't be hard to find and present a better source anyway.

    Courts of law take these kinds of conflict of interest into account, so I think it's fair to do so online as well.
    diveout wrote: »
    That is why you have to have to have the links in your chain logically impenetrable, but Corinthian is right, this is not geometry where you have accepted truths without proof to build on, destroy the axioms and the chips in the chains start to break.
    The problem though, is arguing purely on logic/axioms, allows a huge amount of obfuscation and deceit, in covering up the faults with the chain of logic :) (most especially, this is usually done by barraging you with large amounts of text)

    As a purely practical matter, a bit of judgment and demanding of minimal reputation standards, in order to take someone seriously, is a good idea.


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  • The problem is time/effort.
    You'll get that no matter what approach you take, TBH, even without having to argue from first principles.
    The problem though, is arguing purely on logic/axioms, allows a huge amount of obfuscation and deceit, in covering up the faults with the chain of logic :) (most especially, this is usually done by barraging you with large amounts of text)
    No approach is immune to such abuse though - soapboxing is the classic example of this.




  • You'll get that no matter what approach you take, TBH, even without having to argue from first principles.

    No approach is immune to such abuse though - soapboxing is the classic example of this.
    Yes, but when you have good reason to believe that your opponent is being dishonest/soapboxing, it pays to hold them to higher standards, of requiring reputational credibility of sources (if they themselves are not honest, they aught to at least provide a source that is credible/honest) - otherwise you just waste your own time.

    When someone is soapboxing, they are playing to a crowd rather than trying to find truth, and you can justifiably dissuade the crowd from taking them seriously, by pointing out the reputational problems, and the hard-to-parse obfuscation, and say "does anyone want to even bother with this, given what we know?".

    It's a fallacy to say this disproves what they say, but it's a justifiable attack on the credibility of what they put forward, if you can prove conflict of interest.


    In theory, you should just judge the argument on its own merit in debate, but simply as a practical matter in reality, you can't afford to allow a dishonest opponent, to set in place double standards where his quality of argument is very low, yet you are held to very high standards, which your opponent can use against you by making you waste impractical/enormous amounts of time.

    Since courts of law take this level of evidence/proof (conflicts of interest) seriously, I think then, that this lends enough credibilty to do so online as well - maybe it would be interesting to see the legal philosophy behind justifying that.




  • The problem is time/effort. You can't reasonably do this with people who barrage you with too much content for you to process, and propaganda content also is designed to inculcate you through repetition over time - to make you read things you disagree with constantly, until they sink in (everyone is susceptible to influence from this, no matter how smart they think they are at avoiding this).

    If the quality of a source is bad enough, it's worth demanding a more credible source to back the same facts, rather than wasting your time with it - if it's a topic that is important enough, it shouldn't be hard to find and present a better source anyway.

    Courts of law take these kinds of conflict of interest into account, so I think it's fair to do so online as well.


    The problem though, is arguing purely on logic/axioms, allows a huge amount of obfuscation and deceit, in covering up the faults with the chain of logic :) (most especially, this is usually done by barraging you with large amounts of text)

    As a purely practical matter, a bit of judgment and demanding of minimal reputation standards, in order to take someone seriously, is a good idea.

    If you want to allow what happens in a court room to happen in a thread debate, then you also have to allow for lawyering, and no thanks to that.

    Courts are often about character assassination and adhominems, and appealing to emotion, and the politics of the jurisdiction. Court is theatre, not logic.




  • In theory, you should just judge the argument on its own merit in debate, but simply as a practical matter in reality, you can't afford to allow a dishonest opponent, to set in place double standards where his quality of argument is very low, yet you are held to very high standards, which your opponent can use against you by making you waste impractical/enormous amounts of time.
    Well you're still attacking their argument, TBH, not the person.

    Actually, I'm not entirely sure where you differ with me. I never suggested a pedantic approach founded from first principles, nor one which introduces axioms liberally.


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