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How do you judge debates?

Wylted
Posts: 21,167
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1/20/2014 7:34:30 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I was wondering if anyone had in depth guides or tips on how to properly judge debates specifically when it comes to the - better argument- portion of judging.

The word -better- leaves a lot up for interpretation.

One question I had that's related to the request for tips or guides is:

If someone has the BOP and fails to meet it but their opponent clearly makes some extremely terrible counter arguments, does the failed BOP win due to the opponents horrible arguing or does the horrible arguing win because the better articulated and eloquent debater failed to meet their BOP?
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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1/20/2014 10:26:24 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
The first question is whether Pro (having the BOP) made a prima facie case. If the resolution is "X is true" and Pro says, "I believe X is true, and I don't see how anyone can deny it. It's always been true, and there is no way anybody can prove it false." That is not an argument that can stand on its own, because Pro gave no reasons, facts, or logic proving the resolution. Unless Pro adds valid arguments, Con wins if he says nothing or if if he makes a wildly incorrect or completely irrelevant refutation.

The next step is when Pro has evidence, but it is very weak. I remember a debate about service at fast food chains, where the proponent argued that in his experience the lines were always shorter at one particular chain. The opponent should point out the hasty generalization from Pro's personal experience to the whole chain, but suppose that Con goes off on a tangent ("The food there is so bad, no one would want to wait for it.") and doesn't rebut the argument. This poses the problem of deciding if the weak evidence offered is adequate, even if not directly rebutted.

I don't think there is any way to say for sure. The question is how much prior knowledge of the facts and logic the judge should bring with him. Academic debaters tend to think that everything must be explicitly addressed, on the grounds that "drops are concessions." My view is that a DDO judge should bring some knowledge to the debate, and vote against Pro if he hasn't made a significant case. My reasons for this thinking is that this is the way we operate in the real world: we hear someone argue something, and we either find it plausible or not based upon what we know.

However, if we are familiar with the subject, we cannot make up and apply the arguments that should have been used in rebuttal. What we can demand is what a reasonable person would find convincing. How do we know what a "reasonable person" would find convincing? We don't know for sure, but keep in mind that juries in criminal trials are sometimes charged with finding if self-defense is justified based upon what a reasonable person would have felt in the circumstances. So just do your best to judge.

A single valid counter example can defeat a whole case. It isn't necessary to defeat every argument. Once something is proved untrue, there is no remedy to make it true. Similarly, a logical proof may be conclusive in affirming the burden of proof. Sometimes simple proofs and disproofs are hidden in a cloud of words.
bsh1
Posts: 27,503
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1/20/2014 11:03:41 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I try to leave my personal biases out of it. If an argument isn't responded to, I grant that argument to the other side--evening the argument isn't good, if it's not refuted, it is a clean piece of offense for a side.

Where clash is evident, I pick the more logical argument.

The winner is the person with the most relevant pieces of offense (i.e. The person who is winning the most arguments). Also, debaters must show that they have met their BOP. If no BOP is explicitly stated in the intro, I assume it is shared.
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YYW
Posts: 36,263
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1/20/2014 11:15:41 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/20/2014 7:34:30 AM, Wylted wrote:
I was wondering if anyone had in depth guides or tips on how to properly judge debates specifically when it comes to the - better argument- portion of judging.

The word -better- leaves a lot up for interpretation.

One question I had that's related to the request for tips or guides is:

If someone has the BOP and fails to meet it but their opponent clearly makes some extremely terrible counter arguments, does the failed BOP win due to the opponents horrible arguing or does the horrible arguing win because the better articulated and eloquent debater failed to meet their BOP?

There isn't really a "proper" way to judge debates. I don't know (or care) what other people think about the way I judge, but this is basically the way I do it:

There are a few barrier questions I ask of both sides:

(1) Are there factual errors?
(2) Are there logical errors?
(3) Are there conduct issues?

If the answer is yes to any of these, then the least worst person on balance is going to win. However, if the answer to all three of these questions is a "no" then it becomes a question of which side was most persuasive -and that is a necessarily subjective question, too. What persuades me, for example, might not persuade another -and that's perfectly ok.

A brief word on "bias":

Everyone is biased. We cannot not be biased. We can, and should, try to distance ourselves from our biases, that we might more fairly judge a debate -but there is no such thing as an unbiased vote. Humans just don't work that way.

A brief word on voting:

Debaters need to realize what a vote is. A vote in favor or against them is that voter's indication that they thought one side was more convincing than another -not that one debater is objectively better than another.
Tsar of DDO
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Posts: 5,000
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1/20/2014 11:32:45 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Well I take who I agree with, then I award them 3-5 points while covering my bias with seemingly logical statements.
Nolite Timere
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
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1/20/2014 12:01:49 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Thanks for all the feed back so far. I'm definitely not biased with regard to my position before the debate. I am however worried that I may have a bias to arguments that appear better on the surface, but may lack true substance, or I may expect too much out of the person with the burden of proof.
YYW
Posts: 36,263
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1/20/2014 12:10:34 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/20/2014 12:01:49 PM, Wylted wrote:
Thanks for all the feed back so far. I'm definitely not biased with regard to my position before the debate. I am however worried that I may have a bias to arguments that appear better on the surface, but may lack true substance, or I may expect too much out of the person with the burden of proof.

Being biased isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just read arguments adversarially, demanding -even if you agree with what's being said- all the while that the argument's author convince you of what s/he is trying to say. If you are reasonably convinced (more convinced than doubtful), then I think it's fair to say that a BOP has been met.

There are some cases where arguments, even good ones, are so far out of the realm of normal discourse that it's hard to accept them on their face. More deep thought and reflection may be required in those cases, especially if the argument uses terms that you're not familiar with.
Tsar of DDO