If you’ve spent any time debating, you’ve probably heard your share of far-fetched evidence. By far-fetched I mean impacts that are so enormous they are dubious or evidence that makes a claim no other author you have read could come up with. This also includes when your opponents do their own math in order to quantify an impact (that academics in the field had NOT quantified).
It all seems a little suspicious.
But how do you deal with this evidence? How do you convince the judge that the evidence should not be taken seriously?
For one, don’t simply say the evidence is false, wrong, or shouldn’t be believed. Just like any argument, you have to give a warrant for your claim. Here are a few steps to take in order to illustrate evidence flaws during the debate.
1. Call for the evidence after your opponents read it in case. (if read later, call for it ASAP).
- Read it! You won’t know for sure if your doubts are valid unless you check in out. I would read where they pull the citation from (and the paragraph before and paragraph after), review the abstract, and review the final conclusions. Make sure the evidence has been cut in context and that it matches up to the ultimate conclusions of the author.
- If you get the evidence in CX, give it to your partner right away. You need to continue asking questions; let your partner do the analysis.
- If you know for a fact that your opponent is wrong (their author ends up arguing against what they cited, or the evidence is being misused), your CX questions should simply open the door to rebuttal. This means ask enough for your opponent to reveal more about their evidence, but don’t go into a full rebuttal. Your partner should do that in rebuttal. Open the door, don’t walk through it.
- Ask questions that make your opponent explain the math or logic of the argument. You want the judge to plainly see what you, so make your opponent talk.
- Sample questions you can ask to open the door:
- How many steps in the math did you perform yourself?
- How many steps in the math use published math/research?
- How do we observe this impact happening now?
- What does your author conclude? (if you know conclusion already)
- Don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to with evidence challenges. If you are unsure about the evidence’s credibility, wait until the second CX to ask these questions.
- Your Rebuttal should be multi-pronged – give the judge multiple reasons to doubt the evidence. More than anything, you have to be completely confident in your attack for it to work. Don’t throw around claims of misuse or falsification lightly. This is only to be used for true cases of misuse.
- Give an overview. This should explain overall what is the root problem of the evidence, claim, of link chain. This could be their math, the number of links, being too idealistic in the measurements, that the impacts should be visible if true in the status quo, that the probability of the impact occurring is extremely low (this is an outlier piece of evidence).
- Do line by line analysis. This means now go through the exact places in the argument or evidence that are flawed.
- Read the actual evidence back to the judge. If the evidence shows the author concludes differently or the card was taken out of confidence, the most persuasive and easiest attack is to read the opposing piece of evidence from their own card.
- Address the judge. It is your job to illustrate the flaws. The judge will not see the evidence unless he or she calls for it at the end of the round. Make sure you explain things enough and give explicit directions to the judge to not consider the evidence/not let your opponents extend it/ etc.
- Make sure your attacks are not all about misuse. Make sure you attack the evidence/logic/impact at its core.
4. Summary and Final Focus
- Do not give the argument too much time in speeches but remind the judge not to weigh it. If you end up spending a lot of time after rebuttal on the evidence, you are treating it as if it is a problem in the round, rather than a dead argument.
- Do not let your opponent extend the evidence unchallenged. Remind the judge of your previous attacks and their inability to overcome these claims. (If your opponent has illustrated that your claims were truly incorrect, don’t keep going for the argument).
- Do not get bogged down in too many rebuttals- pick a few good ones and go deep. Repeat your best attack in Summary and Final Focus, not all of your attacks.
Confidence when attacking in this way is key. If your opponents volley back with proof that your claims are incorrect, abandon the argument. Only attack evidence incorrectly used if you are SURE it has been misused. Otherwise you look like you’re trying to avoid having to argue the point.