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How does one measure debate performance? How should one measure debate performances?

I have been recently reminded of an old story about the evolution debate where Darwin, and a priest where debating the merits of his new theory, and the crowd thought the priest won the debate by asking which side of Darwin's family were the apes on.
While this in principal has very little to do with the substance of the subject of evolution, and expresses a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept, I feel the idea of winning a debate currently is focused on similarly aimed one liners.
Can we change this by changing how we evaluate debate performances, and what criteria should we use?
Modern debate teams have to be able to argue either side of a debate, does this help or hurt the process of having constructive debates that lead to further understanding?
What types of attacks should be allowed inside debate?
Any judges of debate contest what are the criteria of judging given?
Should Ted conversations enable a more interactive debate system?

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    Mar 14 2012: Hi Grant,

    I have to ask what you mean by "winning a debate." In your example of Darwin and the priest, the priest's remark is a straw man (as you point out), yet you feel that such one liners are what sometimes win debates. Why? In my opinion, the winner of a debate is the one who provides the most logically compelling argument. So if A and B are debating and both of their arguments are rife with mistakes in reasoning, s/he who makes the least amount of mistakes/errors (there is a difference between the two) is the victor. As for your second question, a quote from John Stuart Mill is handy:

    “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

    Handling the opposition's case is just as important as arguing for one's own. Lastly, attacks that are logically relevant should be allowed. There were lots of attacks during the Republican debates—ad hominem abusive and circumstantial, and tu quoque, just to name a few—many of which were illegitimate. Attacking the opposition's case by pointing out a formal and/or informal fallacy is great, but so are providing counterexamples and showing that an analogy is inadequate when an analogical argument has been provided.
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    Mar 16 2012: RH: How can you say that the discussions in TED decides nothing? That would be speaking for all, and I can say that discussions here help me firm my understanding of different topics and concepts. It seems to me that competitive debate is not the only way to achieve; investigative debate is a perfectly good tool as well. I guess which one is best would be determined by the goal one was seeking. I'm not looking to "win" anything, I'm just looking to learn.
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    Mar 15 2012: I am not a skilled debater, so don't feel qualified to give an opinion on its technicalities. But I would like to give an opinion on the last question about TED. TED conversations have 3 headings: Ideas, Questions, Debates. If those who prefer the debate format believe there should be reformed and adhered-to rules of engagement, I believe it need only apply to that heading. The other 2 could remain free-form and open to interpretation to all. But I wonder what kind of participation you would get. Debate seems to me to have a purpose of outcome. Something needs to be decided and acted upon. TED is strictly voluntary and ultimately decides nothing. It's more social connectivity than corrective policy. But again, I don't know enough about debate. Thnx.
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    Mar 15 2012: Debate for competition purposes has its place, I suppose. But I like the free exchange of ideas here, unsaddled by rules of engagement. It allows me to read the ideas of others and add my own to them, and perhaps develop a new perspective. What you propose divides people into polar sides, with no real latitude to experiment and modify a position dynamically. Plus, the idea of people observing in a critical capacity would be more likely to stifle conversation as a result of self-consciousness.

    In a different forum, I might like to participate in gladiatorial debate, but in this one I prefer investigatory debate over combative.
    • Mar 15 2012: I fail to see how having some generalized metrics must polarize people. I very much enjoy listening to people prospective but in a debate some people don't post and still agree or disagree with a side. I think leaving the terms they want their debate judged up to the original poster could allow both versions to flourish. With allowing a form of a poll on the thread you could even potentially measure how polarized the issue is, and create a more insightful view on how the Ted community might feel on issue.
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    Mar 14 2012: Do I understand that you don't believe that TED enables interactive debate? I take the opposite side of that question if you do.

    I always thought the point to debate was present two or more schools of thought on a given topic, and not so much about winning. But different people have different ideas on what the word debate means. Political debate appears to merely be a platform for campaign rhetoric, often unrelated to the presented question. Real debate seems to exist more in forums such as this one than in so-called formal debate settings. I also think that apropos one-liners are viable tools in debate when delivered well. Sometimes less is more.
    • Mar 14 2012: My feeling is that TED does enable interactive debates, but that it could enable better ones by allowing some form of scoring. In a debate part of the goal is should be to bring light to the facts. In modern debate as practiced often people bury part of the evidence that does not go along with their view, and this often bias the debates away from the central benefit of coming to a reasonable middle.

      By judging debate performances based on the increased understanding of both sides, rather than a win(they agree with you more after expressing your view) or loss(they agree with your opposition more after expressing view) you end up with a different style of debating.

      So i would suggest maybe measuring the degree of attacks and type of attacks taking place maybe.

      Amount of time directed towards direct answers, would also perhaps be a meaningful metric.

      How easy it is to read the idea or thought being presented might be another metric?

      I was listening to some NPR Intel squared debates, and it seemed simple to game(alter in a bias) the results of the debate. Anybody coming bias should always initially vote against their bias, and then switch to the other side after listening. This in their scoring method yields the options of voting from zero(my initial view was not well represented but i can't vote any further) to point, (shifting to undecided).5 my initial view was fairly well represented but not a ground breaking performance. to 1 my side rocked it. The clear way to game the system. If you vote for your point of view you can basically only vote for your side losing the debate.

      If you are having a debate on here i would like people to vote on which side they feel, as well as how clearly the ideas are being expressed by each side. Maybe also a count of the attacks of no relevance. I thought creating various poll options, might help people express their views better.