Morano Analysis #9: Lessons learned
All right! If there are any readers who have followed along this far, maybe it’s now time to draw some dividends from all the work of closely analysis? Going back over all the posts on the Maslin v. Morano exchange, here are some tips & tricks, in case you end up facing off against an advocate like Marc Morano.
Here’s Rule One: Know your opponent’s case as well as you know your own, if not better. Study his “game tapes,” so you can understand his moves:
- Compile his commonplace arguments (topoi): the particular facts, studies, examples he relies on, the particular “spin” he gives them with his language, and the particular way he responds to commonplace arguments against him.
- Most importantly, look for key concessions–things that he or those associated with him have committed themselves to that can support your views, or times he’s contradicted himself. Save these up, and to the extent possible, use them–and not your own evidence–as starting points for your arguments.
Prepare your own case by identifying some commonplace arguments of your own–especially those that will respond to your opponent’s most likely arguments, or ones that may draw him out in directions that will favor your case. Take every opportunity to use these arguments by practicing them on anyone that will listen. Aim to get these arguments compact, and in language that is as strong as the evidence allows.
During the debate
Listen carefully for your opponent’s attempts to change the issue. Make sure you know what issues you want to argue, and openly resist if your opponent tries to lure you into debating something else.
You are going to be held responsible for whatever you say, so you might as well be assertive. Be an advocate; take a stand. Don’t apologize, and eliminate the “I think”s and “I believe”s that we all use in ordinary conversation.
“Assertive” about your own ideas does not mean “aggressive” towards your opponent. Treat him with civility. There are a lot of ways of accomplishing this:
- Mildly ironic terms of slightly excessive respect, like Morano’s “professor.”
- Bemused friendliness, like Ronald Reagan’s “there you go again.”
- Conspicuous respect, demanding respect back; I think Obama pulls this off.
Find your own personal style, and stick with it.
Finally, try to have some fun, and see if you can laugh once in a while!
Debating global warming
So: what if you’re debating climate science? If you’re defending the existence and seriousness of AGW, I’d suggest caution in using extreme weather events as “proof” of climate change, and caution too in insisting too much on the authority of science. There should be ways to pull these arguments off–but we haven’t seen them yet in this debate between Mark Maslin and Marc Morano.
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