Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Don't Debate, Just Bet - And Here's the List

Tired of hearing all the same exact fallacies repeated, and seeing goalposts moved, from dishonest bad-faith trolls? Start betting! I highly recommend it. It's in many ways more effective than argument. The mere offer is enough to send nutcases fleeing for the exits. Syllogisms might not be able to cause cognitive dissonance but a threat to their bank account is a whole different thing.

James Randi is famous for having a million dollars in escrow waiting for psychics to come claim it - and it's still waiting. Amazing! But you don't have to have a million dollars to make a bet. A hundred will do just fine. (Or more, but I'm a student.)

I cover the strategy in more detail here, and it's a fun one. The important point is that in psychology experiments, you can get more reliable answers if you link responses to cash payments. People say any old thing when there's no consequence. Put cash on the line and it's a new ballgame.

So do your own psychology experiments. It's easy as 1-2-3!

a) Locate a delusional schmendrick publicly spouting denialist claptrap. It could be creationism, birthers, truthers, vaccines cause autism, you name it. (Bonus, now you'll actually be happy to run across these people.)

b) Make your offer publicly. Then they can't B.S. later about the language you used.

c) Try to approach it from a more meta-level. Concrete example: when you see someone trumpeting the death of Darwinism for the eightieth time, come to an agreement about exactly what would be a sign of the death of Darwinism. A certain number of biologists publicly defecting? Creationist scientists coming up with more disease cures in 2010 than evolutionists? The nice thing about the bet is you both have to agree.

d) Your target will invariably remember at some point either that they have a moral problem with gambling, or say they don't trust you or the escrow firm. Fine. Make the stakes pride. How about whoever loses has to announce that they were wrong on some public forum, in pre-agreed language. (They can back out of this when they lose so it's not as good as money in escrow, but sometimes it'll have to do, and then you can make noise about their dishonor.)

One problem is that the aforementioned denialist schmendricks often have trouble thinking in concrete terms. For example, at political blog fivethirtyeight.com, Nate Silver started challenging leading anti-gay-marriage crusaders to tell him exactly what concrete consequences there would be in the states where gay marriage has been legalized. They couldn't come up with much. If you want a sign that what you're spending your time ranting about is nonsense, that would be it.

Having said this, these people are able to function in day-to-day life so on some level they seem to know that their claims are not true in the same sense as we normally understand factual claims (this is known as being "false", though some demographics refer to it as "faith"). I say this because in challenging people to bets I've not yet had any takers, even for non-monetary agreements (surprise!) That's still okay, because now you can hammer people for not believing what they say, and they usually disappear or shut up after such an experience. Among the back-out methods are either to disappear (most popular) or to quibble over details of the bet ad nauseam in the hopes that you'll get tired of it and they can say it was you that called it off (don't fall for this). Most important: when they back out of a bet, spare no opportunity to hammer home that when the chips were down and they had the chance to prove themselves right concretely and publicly, they ran like witches fleeing daylight.

Might I re-emphasize, I highly recommend betting. It's quicker and more decisive than debate.

By the way, here are my standing bet offers so far, for which I've had zero takers. That is to say, on the whole internet, there appears not to be a single Scientologist or creationist who's willing to be held accountable for what they're saying. These are standing offers. If you're out there guys, I'm ready. Escrow.com is the escrow firm I would suggest (Go Daddy uses them for large domain name transactions) but if there's another one you'd prefer, name it.

1) The death of Darwinism (target, creationists)

2) The death of psychiatry (target, Scientologists)

Don't everyone jump at once!

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