Effective Debating Techniques

I debate with many groups of people.  Debating takes a lot of practice and a lot of logic.  It is especially important that one knows how to disarm arguments against your position.  This is often done by shifting the burden of proof.  I will provide two examples.  One with respect to abortion and the other with respect to Islam.

In the above clip, Michael Coren tries to defend his pro-choice views with respect to abortion.  He uses the common tactic of bringing out the extremely difficult scenario.  At 6:10 of the above video, Coren states:

There’s a case right now of a ten year old girl in Paraguay, who was raped by her stepfather.  That girl should have an abortion.  It is so horrible and grotesque to think a ten year old gild – a rape victim, should be forced to have that child.  Abortion is illegal in that country unless the life of the mother is in danger.  The doctors have said she’s not in danger, I think that’s not completely genuine.

Physician extraordinaire Michael Coren says that the real doctors are lying.  Very interesting.  Regardless, what he’s doing is quite clever.  Coren isn’t using this example for abortion rights in this specific scenario or similar extreme cases.  Coren wants abortion rights for any woman who asks for one.  Obviously a happily married middle class woman who wants an abortion for purposes of convenience doesn’t really pull on the heartstrings so therefore this extreme example is trotted out in order to make pro-lifers feel ashamed.

Whenever a pro-choicer throws the “rare scenario justifies all” argument at a pro-lifer, this cheap tactic needs to be countered.  As someone who dialogues with pro-choicers quite often, I’ve seen the effectiveness of the tactic I’m about to describe.  First, when they’ve laid out the scenario, the first step is acknowledging the seriousness of the situation.  Once that is made clear, you ask the magic question: “Before we discuss this complex scenario, would you first agree with me that all non pre-pubecient rape abortions are wrong?” They’re obviously going to say no.  At this point you ask why not and then the conversation shifts back to a generic abortion conversation.  No more fringe scenario.  You’re back to debating the real issues.  The only times I talk about rape or other fringe examples is if they agree that all other abortions are wrong.  They’re being honest and consistent so I will answer their question.

This burden shifting tactic has a home in Christian-Islamic apologetics as well.  Naturally Muslims like to bring up the Trinity.  They usually aren’t interested in learning about what the doctrine teaches.  They’re usually interested in scoring apologetics points.  At this point you follow similarly to the abortion example and say:

“This is true.  The Trinity is a highly complex doctrine and I’d be happy to explain it to you.  However, before we discuss that, can you tell me why the Quran completely misunderstands the doctrine and gets it way wrong?  I’m referring specifically to the ending of Surah 5.”

At this point they’re off to defending the Quran.  It helps to know Surah 5, just like it helps in the abortion discussion to know some pro-life apologetics.  It’s good to know especially if they try to maneuver out of it.

These are two of many examples of how God’s enemies use cheap debating tactics in trying to refute the true faith.  The burden needs to be shifted back to them.

Once one has dialogued and studied quite a bit, many more examples will become apparent.  In these cases, we need to be ready to shift the burden of proof back to them.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Effective Debating Techniques

  1. Thank you for that Allan. Although a tactic, it is an honest one and gets to the issue being debated rather getting bogged down in an extreme case.