“You are such an intolerant bigot!” said the guy as he raised his head proudly above his computer screen. Far too many people think that they are winning arguments without ever realizing that they are actually losing them. There are many ways in which one can lose an argument. Whether online or in person, a person can have convincing visions of his own grandeur and at the same time, be hopelessly lost. We all make mistakes and are wrong on occasion. No one knows everything. The biggest tragedy is not ignorance, but one’s ignorance about one’s ignorance, which leads to some absurdities people consider to be brilliant retorts. Not an exhaustive list in any sense but here are five quick ways in which people unknowingly lose arguments.
Lose an Argument by Calling Someone a Bigot
This failure is simple; the first person who uses the word “bigot” in an argument is automatically disqualified from that discussion. Charging someone with hatred is not only cowardly but has diddly to do with whether their claims are true or false.
Here’s a simple demonstration:
JAIME: Cigarettes are bad for you.
TOM: I always knew you were a bigot and Belief always hated cigarettes.
Your bonus sarcasm:
TOM: You can believe whatever you wish about cigarettes. Just don’t impose your beliefs on others!
Lose an Argument by Imposing Your Beliefs About Not Imposing Beliefs
Have you ever heard people say, “Believe whatever you want; just don’t impose your beliefs on others?” I realize people want to ‘play nice,’ and keep the peace and try to find common ground and keep the conflict to a minimum, but you do realize that truth means the validity of one thing at the exclusion of its counterparts, right? But this is secondary. The most important thing to pay attention to here is that the person who wants to silence people who have something (different) to say, wants you to shut up. The irony is that the same person is conflicting with what you’re trying to say and he won’t shut up.
TOM: Believe whatever you want; just don’t impose your beliefs on others!
JAIME: Should that apply to everyone?
TOM: Yes, of course.
JAIME: Then why don’t you believe whatever you wish and stop imposing your beliefs on me?
Lose an Argument by Claiming There Is No Evidence
You’ll hear this one from the most prominent of atheists out here – ‘there is no evidence for God!’ Hmmm…really? What about the evidence from the Bible? What about the Cosmological Argument? What about the Fine-Tuning Argument? What about the Moral Argument? What about the Argument from Reason? What about… Oh, never mind. The usual retort is that those arguments are no evidence,
TOM: There is no evidence for God!
JAIME: Yes, there is. Have you heard of the Cosmological Argument? What about the Argument from Fine-Tuning? What about…
TOM: Yea, yea, I’ve heard all those, but that’s not evidence.
JAIME: Why not?
TOM: They’re not good arguments.
JAIME: So, they are evidence, but they are not sufficient evidence?
TOM: Yea, ok, I’ll grant you that.
It’s clear that there is evidence. Some skeptics just question the qualitative value of those arguments. Since many people have to come to believe in Theism, particularly Christianity, because of similar arguments, it’s simply foolish to say that there is no evidence. If there were in fact “no evidence,” there’s no way for anyone to have believed in God because of the evidence and this is patently false. It’s entirely okay to say that one does not find particular arguments persuasive provided that there are actual logical reasons for this. Otherwise, not finding the evidence compelling is nothing more than a psychological disposition and has nothing whatever to do with the reality of the external world. What you’d need are good reasons not to believe.
There is evidence and many have found the evidence to be persuasive. While still an agnostic, I personally found the evidence from the Bible, the moral argument and the argument from fine-tuning to be extremely compelling and believed.
Lose an Argument by We Can Only Know Things Through Science
If it’s not immediately clear what’s wrong with this one, repeat the sentence. I’ll wai Ok, here’s what’s wrong: the claim to knowledge of things only through science is not something we can know through science. The claim that we can only know things through science cannot be known through science. If we accept it, then it’s wrong – we can know things outside of science. If we don’t accept it then it’s wrong on the surface.
TOM: We can only know things through science.
JAIME: How do you know that?
TOM: Umm… (not through science)
The fact is that there are many things that we can know without using science. In fact, many of those things are absolutely critical to doing science.
Lose an Argument by Stating, ‘If You Don’t Like It Don’t Do It…’
Have you heard that one? ‘If you don’t like it don’t do it, but don’t take away other people’s rights.’ It usually comes up when people are discussing abortion or other topics of moral significance. It goes something like this: ‘If you don’t like abortions, then don’t have them, but don’t take the rights away from other people!’ Sounds legit, right? Well, not really. Consider this dialog:
TOM: If you find abortion so horrible, then don’t have one. But don’t try to take away the rights of others to have them.
JAIME: Can’t the same be said for all other “rights?” I think we should bring back slavery. I want to own slaves. If you don’t want to own slaves, then you don’t have to. But don’t take away my rights to slave ownership.
Sounds bad, right? Tom is caught in a bit of a bind. Telling people that there should be certain “privileges” for those who want them, and others don’t have to use those “privileges” if they don’t want them is ridiculous. It’s just as ridiculous as saying if you don’t want slaves, then you don’t have to have them, but don’t take away those “privileges” from me.
Of course, people should object to slavery with an uproar. But why don’t those same people scream about the immorality of abortions? Because they want those immoralities to be civil rights that they can utilize. It is a self-serving position to legitimize moral wrongs.
Many More Ways to Lose an Argument
What about you? Have you been part of a discussion in which similar topics were discussed in similar ways? How about something slightly different from those listed here? How did you respond?