I was roundly defeated by Bob Murphy in our (initial?) debate. At the opening I had five supporters to Bob’s 130+. By the end, only one was still willing to stand with me.
To make matters worse I’ve been told he was a Hipster Austrian, and only supporting me ironically.
This marks three out of three online debates/bloggingheads in which the other side has declared victory. So, by now I am developing an expertise at losing.
Nonetheless, I see myself as having succeeded in advancing human understanding.
(I’ll let Liz Lemon take care of the eye roll on this one,
so my wife doesn’t have to)
In any case here is my short course on how to lose a debate
- Concede as much ground up front as possible. You don’t want your opponent wasting valuable time explaining why weak points in your argument are weak. If you know they are weak simply concede them and give your opponent ample opportunity to knock down your strong points as well.
- Speak your opponent’s language. There is a lot of confusion that is generated from simple misunderstanding of nomenclature or framing. Adopt your opponent’s frame. Not only will this dispense with lots of rhetoric you could otherwise hide behind but it will give him credit for any consensus you reach.
- If your opponent finds a good line of attack, seize upon it and expand it. A good line of attack often focuses attention on the key differences between you and your opponent. If your opponent does this first, don’t waste time finding your own line of attack. Instead simply accept his articulation of the differences and then elucidate how that line of inquiry gets at the them.
- Admit that you may have to think more on a given point. If your opponent says something that makes sense but still doesn’t seem quite right to you, avoid looking for chinks in his argument. Instead, say that he raises a good point and you will have to think more on it.
- Change your mind in the middle of an argument. If your opponent makes a particularly good point and is genuinely compelling, simply change your mind and adopt his point of view. This is good for an instant defeat.
If you follow these steps diligently and work hard at you can develop the kind of losing streak only a mom would be proud of. If you’re good enough even your mom will vote for the other guy.
Unfortunately you’ll be saddled with a deeper appreciation of your opponent’s point-of-view and if you are truly unlucky better insight into reality. If this keeps happening you’ll find it more and more difficult to lose, but don’t despair. It can be done!