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Reasons to refuse to engage in an argument July 22, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in general, rant.

I just thought of some good reasons for never taking up an argument or engaging in a debate with people. If you know of others, please leave a comment.

1. If you cannot quote a source majority of the times and for strongest of your assertions.
Eg : “I heard that…”, “My friend was saying that…”, “I saw somewhere…”
Retort : I generally trust you, but sorry, not now.

2. If you doubt generally credible sources and refuse to list sources that you find credible.
Eg : “How can you trust the Washington Post ….”, “That reporter is biased ….”
Retort : If you cannot trust well-known historical or contemporary sources especially when it does not suit your argument, why should I trust you (especially when it suits your argument !) ?

3. Anecodotal evidence
Eg : “This happened to my friend…”, “My brother is not like that …”
Retort : You friend and and your brother are statistical outliers, they dont matter when we are looking at aggregate patterns.

4. Quoting someone to make a point
Eg : God exists because Einstein said – “Religion without science is lame…”
Retort : Einstein didnt have the last word in ornithology, etymology, paleontology, economics or medieval Indian history. He wont even have one here.

5. Excessive relativism and semantic gymnastics
Eg : “It depends on how you define it”
Retort : No, it doesnt. By the way, we are done with debate. And that doesnt depend on the way you define “debate”

6. Profanities
Millions of examples : You are such an *{expletive}*
Retort : Its a debate no more. Lets close.



1. aquarianalien - July 23, 2006

umm..because you just don’t want to argue?? good points though !

2. Safari Al - July 23, 2006


My name is Vivek and I am in my Final year at NITK(it isnt called KREC anymore…) and in Newswagon. I happened to be googling around for random words including “newswagon” and I landed up at your page and got holf of the issues you guys wrote. Really nice reading them.

P.S: I know all this sounded so corny, but blame it on the time. It’s 3 in the morning here and i am hungry.

3. Anonymous - July 24, 2006

Note that Einstein should not have been viewed as an authority on economics, either; he was an advocate of socialism.

4. Sharath Rao - July 24, 2006

anonymous : ofcourse, i remember reading that he managed the feat of being a left-leaning israel supporter !!

5. Avinash Kaushikhttp://www.kaushik.net/avinash - July 25, 2006

Sharath: I absolutely love this post. I have quoted it already to so many people (and sent it to a big inter company mailing list as something to learn from).

I really appreciated this, thanks so much for putting it together.

Web Insights Blog @ http://www.kaushik.net/avinash

6. Sharath Rao - July 25, 2006

Thanks Kaushik.

Confession time for me :

Most of web analytics blogs in the blogroll appear there thanks to your work on top 15 blogs in the area. 🙂

7. Aswin Cletus D'Souza - July 28, 2006

another good reason:

if the person hasn’t bothered to read up or find out about the other side of the story.

for instance you can never argue with a christian evangelist because he has never read the gita or the quran. the bible is all he knows and all he will crusade for.

never argue with someone who didn’t CHOOSE between two sides to have an opinion …

8. Pedro - August 2, 2006

Two more for you:

1. Inability or unwillingness to distinguish between generalizations and specific cases.

Me: “Women have weaker upper body strength compared to men. We should not lower our military standards in that area to accomodate women.”

Dumbo: “That’s so sexist! My girlfriend is stronger than any man I know!”

2. Inability to distinguish ethical/moral arguments from policy arguments.

Me: “Raising the minimum wage results in a net loss to the groups that it is ostensibly designed to help.”

Dumbo: “I can’t believe you don’t want to help the poor you cold-hearted monster! Not everyone can be rich like you!”

P.S. I’m not rich.

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