Internet Debates

Are internet debates useful beyond their possible entertainment value?

Does anyone ever walk away from an internet debate seeing the world in a significantly new and more accurate light?

18 thoughts on “Internet Debates

  1. Probably not often. I enjoy debates, but mostly for the entertainment value. They aren’t that helpful because the “winner” is usually the more clever debater, not the person presenting the strongest case.

    • As near as I can figure out, many people feel that whoever gets the last word in has won the debate even if the last word is both irrelevant and stupid. I don’t know why so many people think that’s true. It makes no sense.

      I’ve also notice that it is almost invariably the more irrational guy who will persist in finding silly things to say long enough to get the last word in.

      For those and other reasons, I don’t have much faith that internet debates can be won or lost fairly. Therefore, I ignore such considerations as much as possible.

  2. I might have my viewpoint changed by a good debate, one that is argued calmly and logically and not filled with ad hominems. (If they turn into flame wars I quickly lose interest and stop reading.)

  3. Discussions yes debates no.
    I have found discussions online have helped develop my thinking on many issues.
    I find debates online frustrate and entrench me.

  4. Ditto on Stephen’s comment. Debate usually involves entrenchment by both parties and seems unlikely to make a difference, except as Doug B said. Debate can hone your own arguments and show you ways the opposition may present its side, so you are better prepared for the next time (if you are so inclined).

  5. As opposed to what? TV discussions? Discussions in cafes and home? Telephone discussions?
    I don’t see them being inherently different from any of those.

    And I agree that warfare is non-productive, but dialogue is the bread of life.

    • As opposed to nothing. That is, I wasn’t contrasting — just being specific.

      Dialogue is certainly one of the breads of life. I’m all for dialogue, discussion, conversation.

  6. I’m not going to try to make a distinction between debates and discussions. There are some exchanges of ideas on the Internet that make me question what I think I know, and very occasionally one will correct a mistaken view that I have.

    Most are pretty boring and nonsensical, though.

  7. I suspect that any changes in our thinking (except, perhaps, for those caused by particularly traumatic experiences) are so subtle that we’d never really know if a particular debate/discussion changed our views.

    I suspect that repeated exposure to some kinds of discussions, particularly with like-minded people, might have a tendency to change our views.

    • I think you’re quite right, Loren. Some time ago, I read a thread on this topic that was posted on an internet forum. And I recall that a few of the commentators said that discussion and debate had significantly changed their opinions, but only very gradually.

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