[eDebate] more questions about evidence

Richard A. Garner richardgarner
Wed May 13 07:09:15 CDT 2009

This post's context makes much clearer what the nature of the questions
being asked were from the last post, so hopefully my elaboration will be
more satisfactory. We do our best. First let me state a principle or two:

1. Anything can be read as evidence, as long as it is properly cited.
2. Barring that, the veracity/truth-value of the evidence is up for debate.

Only by following the qualification of principle 1 is it possible to fulfill
principle 2.

The problem is, ultimately, that the appeal to authority is a logical
fallacy, as well as bad pedagogy, &c. We cannot simply rely on the fact that
Courtney Brown is a an Associate Professor of Political Science at Emory
University in order for us to accept the veracity of the following claim:
"Moreover, educating our own public about the ETs is the first step toward
establishing reciprocal diplomatic relations" (259;
Then again, some guy who goes by the single name Kos and posts pictures of
his kids on his personal web page is a fairly well-respected political
pundit. Times, they are a changing.

Which is why my answer to the previous post was essentially: yes, you CAN do
it, but that does not mean you SHOULD do it. It's not a question of what's
allowed/legal, but what's possible/debatable. The caveat being: most of the
examples you cite are patently unethical. Citing a commenter on the NYTimes
as the NYTimes is unethical, nor would it be ethical to cite Ornstein from
that Skarb article (though I can see why an inexperienced debater might have
read that not as a debater making an ironic and possibly strategic
commentary on that article, as opposed to the opinion of actual conservative
political prognosticator Norman Ornstein). On translation, if the card says
its translated, then that's fine, but you should be prepared to indict its
veracity/verifiability (handling it as a *critical* argument that attempts
to demonstrate the problematically ethnocentric nature of evidence
production would be a different matter, however). Should there be automatic
penalties, considering that judging between an honest mistake and a cynical
debater can be nigh on impossible? I don't know, but think that it depends
on the case.

So, yes, if you properly cite something you can cite anything. And no, you
probably shouldn't. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news for Halli and
other debaters who find themselves in the same predicament, but yes, you
apparently do have higher standards than a lot of your compatriots, and yes,
it can be a winning strategy. Should you cut such poor evidence? No. Can
such poor evidence win debate rounds? "The resulting great Armageddon will
destroy civilization as we know it, and perhaps most of the biosphere, at
least for many decades" (Bearden, 2000); in other words: it has and will
continue to do so into the forseeable future. Why should you not cut such,
if it wins? Pride, an attempt to hone one's research capabaility, a search
for the truth, all these are good reasons, but that's a choice that each
debater has to make for themselves.

Ultimately, my conclusion is that people need to cultivate the discussion of
evidence qualification and quality as one of their debate skills. Practice
how you make the argument, the warrants for the argument, the efficiency
thereof, appropriate ways to embarass your opponent in CX. There are models
out there; I watched Martin Osborn do this pretty effectively once or twice,
and my understanding is that he did it a whole lot; most judges are probably
hungry for such argumentation (and there are other examples). That doesn't
mean it's not hard, even very hard, to develop a good argument with solid
standards about qualifications, but making good arguments is hard sometimes.

Gordon Mitchell calls for a norm of transparency. I think that's what the
"proper citation" qualification above means to me, though I may not be fully
comprehending what Gordon's standard means. If it means more than that, the
development of such a norm will require more extensive discussion and,
ultimately, in-round argumentation for it to come about. If all it means is
proper citation, then that already a norm, and a pretty good one.


On Wed, May 13, 2009 at 4:36 AM, Halli Tripe <hallitripe at gmail.com> wrote:

> I don?t mean to get up on a high horse or anything?. But I will say
> that I am saddened and frustrated by some of Richard?s responses.  I
> will start by saying that I didn?t really have a coach in high school,
> and thus I was taught how to cut cards by Gerber and Dave Cisneros
> once I entered college.  I remember cutting cards and then asking Dave
> ?how do I cite this??  Often he would say something like ?WTF website
> are you looking at!?  There is no date, no author? you can?t cite this
> because this website is crap!?  Maybe I learned how to cut cards from
> super-uptight people, but I don?t think that?s a bad thing?..
> Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of people/teams don?t seem to have
> the same mentality.  I have seen cards in debate rounds that are
> barely readable/legible (ie. they were written by a 2nd grader or were
> very poorly translated via google-translator) and the cards pass as
> legitimate evidence.  I agree that in an ideal world we would all be
> good enough debaters to call this crap out.  However, some people are
> clever enough in their citations to somehow make the sources seem
> legitimate.  For example, if I cut a card from the comments of an
> article and cite it ?NY times, ?09??.is that legit?  In an example
> from the Skarb article, can I cite the comment ?Ornstein 09??  As a
> debater, I was always under the impression that what Dave and Gerber
> told me was the community norm, but apparently I was wrong.  All along
> it seems that I had a higher evidence standard than a lot of people
> (is this true!?!?).  When I look at it from a pessimistic lens, I
> probably lost a few round because of it.
> I fully acknowledge that the questions I am getting at are NOT ?you
> were unethical? accusations or anything of the like?. but at some
> points it is borderline.
> Inappropriately citing cards is REALLY BAD research/scholarship at
> best, and can be sketchy at worse.  You might ask ?yeah, but why would
> you??  ???. Well, the reason why people MIGHT is that people can post
> stupid stuff (but good debate arguments) in the comments, but then
> cite the evidence as ?qualified publication, ?09? and get away with it
> in debate rounds.
> I realize that all of these questions are borderline, and probably
> context dependent.
> So my question is this?. Should I:
> a)      Stop worrying about such silly distinctions and cut really
> bad/sketchy evidence because everybody else is doing it, and that?s
> what it takes to win?. Or,
> b)      Keep cutting evidence that is reputable and would pass the ?laugh
> test? but risk losing from sketchy evidence from the other team?
> It is really sad that this is what the activity is coming to??but I at
> least want to know what the consensus is so that I can cut terrible
> evidence without feeling guilty.
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