Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When You Have Nothing to Say

A miscellany from February 5, 2014.

In the course of a debate over a controversial issue, whatever it might be, you may occasionally receive a criticism of your own position that you don’t quite know what to do with. If this criticism is one that you routinely encounter, then one simple way to respond is to make the criticism itself seem tired.

So, for example, if you’re an atheist, you might try sighing dramatically the next time you hear yet another Christian point out that a naturalistic worldview has no way to account for objective moral norms. Or, if you’re a leftist, and some Bible thumper challenges your steadfast commitment to marriage equality by pointing out what consistency would require of you, try following up with something like, “Oh, great. Here we go again with that whole ‘gay marriage leads to polygamy’ mantra. Haven’t heard this one before.”

Treating such criticisms in this way is effective for a number of reasons. First off, if you can make the criticism seem overused, then it’ll create the impression that this is really all your opponent has in his arsenal, which will make his position seem hopelessly weak. But even better, it will distract everyone from the fact that you actually have nothing substantial to say in response.

No comments: