[eDebate] The CSIS Debaters Who Blog

Doyle Srader dsrader
Thu Sep 10 08:39:09 CDT 2009

JP wrote:

"Given almost equally good arguments, expertise or 'authority' does come 
into play. 

But, you can't ignore reality when an academic expert has been beaten, 
whether in 'print' or in an un-evidenced speech delivered by a debater. 

If someone makes an argument with limited warrants, debaters should be 
able to dissect & refute it...especially if the argument is wrong. Who 
cares about the authors qualifications?"

This is on my mind, because I've been watching this same argument play out in another forum. JP, you're wrong. Way wrong.

I remember Josh Branson's long post of reflections, a year or several ago, about adjusting to how people argued in his post-debate life. Many of the arguments he'd constructed were revealed to be comic oversimplifications of the way things really were. I also remember that we used to brag that our debaters could hold their own with law professors on legal topics and with climatologists on climate change issues. I now think that's silly.

When experts in a field argue among themselves, they use a lot of shorthand. They don't go back to square one to argue, step by step, through every bit of settled lore in their field. If they did, you'd need a forklift to move a single journal article. What seems to us like a "limited warrant" may really be someone with twenty years' experience researching and writing for an audience of peer reviewers, not precocious nineteen-year-olds, who is aiming the current writing to the intended audience, not the recently-arrived dilettantes.

I worry, and this is a study waiting to happen, that debaters catch a bad case of the same kind of stubborn, uninformed certainty that was attributed to Limbaugh audiences a few years back. Yes, debaters can spot a bad argument. No, debaters who first started reading the literature in May or June cannot, in October, confidently separate an error from a brief reference in the writings of a career-devoted scholar writing for the consumption of other career-devoted scholars. It's just nonsense to claim otherwise.

Doyle Srader, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Communication
Northwest Christian University

More information about the Mailman mailing list