Author Topic: Analogies - a tip for discussion  (Read 335 times)

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Offline screwtape

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Analogies - a tip for discussion
« on: August 08, 2012, 09:45:28 AM »
I read a good short post at the Black Belt Bayesian on analogies.  Don't use them.  I've said this for several years (while not always taking my own advice), but he went the extra mile and came up with a method.

http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/steven/?p=213

Quote
Any argument by analogy can be transformed into an argument not by analogy. If you’re not sure whether you believe A, but you already believe B which someone says is analogous to A, then the procedure is as follows:

  • Figure out all the reasons why you believe B, including the ones you haven’t yet verbalized.
  • Throw out all the reasons that don’t also apply to A.
  • (While you’re at it, throw out all the reasons that are wrong and adjust your belief in B.)
  • List all the reasons that do apply to A, deleting all references to B.
An argument by analogy is not so much an argument as a (sometimes credible) promise of one; it is a mark of homework left undone.

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Offline Zankuu

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2012, 10:48:04 AM »
For those interested in reading screw's thoughts on analogies over the years, I went through his post history and picked them out. Here are the results:

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January 12, 2010: "You know what the problem with analogies is?  They always break down at some point.  And people tend to focus on the ways they break down rather than the point you are trying to make in the first place.  And then the discussion is no longer about your point, but about what a shitty analogy you have come up with and how your point is different than your analogy. And then you have to find a different analogy but the new one is even shittier than the first. Or you start to criticize the shitty analogy your opponents came up with. Ugh. It is exhausting. My advice is if you want to communicate effectively, try to avoid analogies."

June 1, 2010: "Just a word of friendly advice.  Try not to get caught up in analogies, especially really crappy ones.  Try to avoid using them at all if you can.  Analogies are inherently flawed and if you push them far enough, even the best of them fail.  I know sometimes they seem like they will help make a point, but you opponent will always push it too far.  He has to.  Then the argument turns into an argument about the analogy and not the point.  15 posts later you find yourself talking about sheep or transistors or pirates and ninjas and wonder how you got there.  It's like wrestling with a pig..."

September 12, 2010: "I am not sure, but they (analogies) always get stretched too far, don't they?  I once vowed to stop using them because the arguments I used them in invariably became about the analogy and not the point I was trying to make."

January 31, 2012: "Second, it does not matter what god allows you to know.  If he is so abstract and incomprehensible, you aren't going to comprehend.  They best you could do is have an idea of what god is akin to.  Your understanding of god would be a simile, an analogy.  And if there is anything I have learned on this forum, it is that analogies always break down when pushed too far.  And they are always pushed too far."

March 8, 2012: "Analogies are tough. None of them are exactly the same thing as what you are trying to relate them to.  And whomever you are arguing with is going to push them to the breaking point because it serves their purpose.  And then the argument is about the analogy and not the actual point.  I advocate using them sparingly or not at all because they seldom make the point you want to make.  But that is difficult to do because they seem so convenient."

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This short list excludes the shitty analogies he made while breaking his anti-analogy vow, and also excludes posts made by him on the old forum.
Leave nothing to chance. Overlook nothing. Combine contradictory observations. Allow yourself enough time. -Hippocrates of Cos

Offline screwtape

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2012, 10:58:16 AM »
thanks a ton for that.
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Offline Zankuu

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2012, 11:15:09 AM »
I've always enjoyed constructing analogies, and I've always thought they worked because they made sense to me. But now that you mention it, I went back and viewed the thread from the last counter-analogy I created... and you know what? You're absolutely right; it was a complete failure. My analogy wasn't well received/lost in translation, and the main point was skewed and the argument began to revolve around the analogies themselves.
Leave nothing to chance. Overlook nothing. Combine contradictory observations. Allow yourself enough time. -Hippocrates of Cos

Offline free

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2012, 11:34:26 AM »
I try to not use analogies to make an argument, but I'm sure there is some record of that.  Can't always be perfect can we?

However, I believe analogies to be a great tool for explaining a new idea to someone unfamiliar with a subject.  I use them all the time when I'm teaching; students really grasp electricity better using an analogy to water, pipes and pumps.  I would say to be careful using them in an argument, but feel free to explain something.

Offline Nam

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2012, 08:40:38 PM »
No analogy can hold logic without an anal intellect of its own subject.

;)

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A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

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Offline Kimberly

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2012, 09:40:46 PM »
So if an analogy helps you understand the person's point of view or the topic is the newly found understanding also flawed?
Thank you for considering my point of view; however wrong it may be to you.

Offline screwtape

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2012, 07:18:21 AM »
So if an analogy helps you understand the person's point of view or the topic is the newly found understanding also flawed?

possibly but not necessarily.  I think in a discussion where two people are actually interested in mutual understanding, they can be okay, but not great.  I'd still do as the Bayesian Black Belt suggests. 

But when analogies are used in debates, they are unmitigated failures.  I cannot recall one ever doing what it was supposed to do. But I could be wrong.
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Offline HAL

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2012, 07:20:54 AM »
But when analogies are used in debates, they are unmitigated failures.  I cannot recall one ever doing what it was supposed to do. But I could be wrong.

Are you talking about debates with Christians or in general, because most every tactic used against Christians in an unmitigated failure isn't it?

Offline screwtape

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2012, 07:25:30 AM »
Are you talking about debates with Christians or in general, because most every tactic used against Christians in an unmitigated failure isn't it?

In general.  But you are correct. Though, I tend to think debate is a terrible way to try to change minds. 
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Offline Kimberly

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2012, 07:45:47 AM »
So if an analogy helps you understand the person's point of view or the topic is the newly found understanding also flawed?

I think in a discussion where two people are actually interested in mutual understanding, they can be okay, but not great. 

I bolded the key factor. That's one reason I enjoy discussing things with you in particular, you seem to genuinely want to find a way to remove obstacles that prevent people from coming to a mutual understanding.

But you made me wonder, if someone uses a false analogy the person who "learns" from it probably learned nothing at all.
Thank you for considering my point of view; however wrong it may be to you.

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2012, 08:04:53 AM »
So....we're saying that "using an analogy in a debate" is like......?

 ;D :P
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline kin hell

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2012, 12:42:07 AM »
screwtape says analogies are as effective as paul newman discerning red from green
"...but on a lighter note, demons were driven from a pig today in Gloucester."  Bill Bailey

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Offline Karl

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2012, 12:58:19 AM »
... I tend to think debate is a terrible way to try to change minds.
True, but beating the shit out of them doesn't help a lot either. Any other suggestions?

Offline screwtape

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2012, 07:50:08 AM »
True, but beating the shit out of them doesn't help a lot either. Any other suggestions?

Beating the shit out of them is a lot more gratifying.

For other suggestions see "how to hax xians" thread in the atheist corner.  It is a bunch of ideas that need direction and a plan.  Most of them have limited use on an internet forum.
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Analogies - a tip for discussion
« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2012, 08:31:06 AM »
....see "how to hax xians" thread in the atheist corner....

It's a good thread.  Its where I had the idea for The Shelter.....   ;)
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?