How Do We Measure Up?

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4 Responses

  1. ja says:

    a better strategy in the courtroom than in real time arguments, whether in person or online. A lot of times an argument can be rebutted, but simply isn’t worth the time. Goodness knows, there are people who will claim that the earth is flat, and won’t believe your claim to the contrary unless you offer a point by point rebuttal complete w/ URLs (if the rebuttal includes non-web-based evidence, it’s not “real” evidence) and when you are all done, all you’ve had done is present “an alternate point of view.”
    Sometimes, it just isn’t worth the time.

  2. Akiva says:

    That assumes expert A is REALLY an expert. Quack science is full of “experts” with Ph.Ds.

    If “Expert A” is a quack, why should expert B spend his time answering his position point by point? It’s faster and easier to just invalidate the whole thing by showing that “expert A” isn’t qualified to make his claim.

  3. Yirmeyahu says:

    Yasher Koach,

    I believe it is important for us to have our opinions be informed, but also realize that we cannot possible experts in every subject which we have opinions on. This is where critical thinking comes into play.

    Regarding real time/online arguments, the situation is not different. An ad hominem attack is an ad hominem attack, not a refutation. If Expert B does not present evidence which addresses the subject of Expert A’s testimony, but makes Expert A the subject, he has not refuted his claim.

    Perhaps if he gives credible evidence, as opposed to simple assertion, of Expert A’s non-expertise then perhaps he has shown that the testimony is essentially an “Appeal to (unqualified) Authority” but this would not refute the testimony per se, merely indicate the opinion isn’t admissible. But if Expert B forgoes his opportunity to present evidence which actually disproves the subject, it seems to me that his proof that Expert A is not an expert is suspect. Insofar as Expert B’s testimony flirts with ad hominem attacks, he has to do a solid job arguing that the testimony is an “Appeal to Authority” before it’s at all credible in absence of actually addressing the issue.

    But then agian, I’m not an expert on such things 🙂

  4. Adam Steiner says:


    This would apply whenever you have two parties discussing an area where you lack knowledge. Watching the argument I don’t know that “A” is a quack. I just know they both have PhD’s, both are professors and both have numerous textbooks to their names. I am relying upon the arguments brought forth by them to decide where I stand.

    Divorce the person from the view and it makes more sense. “A” can be a quack, but if “B” can’t refute the arguments, “A”‘s quackiness doesn’t matter. I’m sure most of us can recall a time when we’ve been asked (or asked) a dead-on question in a field unrelated to our expertise. The question would be just as real if the teacher/expert called us the quack. When you attack the expert the messenger is killed, but the message lives. Especially when you deal with those whom others view as intelligent (example, PhDs). I can call the expert a quack but you’ll walk away saying “He doesn’t like the guy but he hasn’t said anything about the man’s points.”

    Also note that the post has “B” responding by solely attacking the qualifications of “A”. Perhaps an attack which targeted both evidence and qualifications might be more effective (and more difficult to pull off), provided the layperson can walk away understanding that you’ve also rebutted the evidence.

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