Do Trees Exist?
BlueShirt1: (In what follows, I will take "proof" to mean a conclusive, be-all-and-end-all demonstration; that which compels assent from all reasonable people.)
We don't see too many debate threads in these forums, or any other forums, entitled "Do Trees Exist?" or "Do Rabbits and Rocks Exist?"
Why do you think that might be, boys and girls?
I'd suggest it's because the existence of trees, rabbits and rocks is not in any doubt. No reasonable person doubts their existence. Their existence is proven.
In other words, there's nothing to debate!
Well, what's supposed to happen in a debate then? In theory, something like this:
A topic is chosen which is, at least to some degree, controversial; a topic for which no proof is available to settle the matter once and for all. A suitable topic might be the existence of the Loch Ness monster, say, or alien visitations, or the wisdom of the current administration's economic policy. Both, or all, participants then proceed, in a civilized manner, to present arguments and evidence to support their respective positions, presumably with an aim to persuading skeptics.
So much for theory. What about practice?
Commonsensical though all of the above may appear, it seems to continually elude certain of our regular forum members here. What typically happens here is more like the following:
A suitable topic for debate is selected. This is almost invariably the existence of God or the truth of some scientific theory, at least in the forums which I frequent.
So far so good. These are topics for which no definitive proof exists; ideal subject matter for a good debate.
But then, what almost invariably happens next is this:
"Show me your proof, you idiot!!" - esteemed debator 1
"You have no proof, you lying weasel!!!" - esteemed debator 2
(Edited by BlueShirt1)