debunking or “but” debating


“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

Sherlock Holmes

<The Bascombe Valley Mystery>


“I realize that if you ask people to account for facts they usually spend more time finding reasons for them than finding out whether they are true.

They skip over facts but carefully deduce inferences.

They normally begin thus: “how does this come about?” but does it so? That is what they ought to be asking.”



Debunk: <definition – urban dictionary>

debunk askhole ask adviceA word used by people unable to see reality from a point of view other than the one they were indoctrinated into from childhood. It represents the be-all and end-all arguments that close the case once-and-for-all on further discussion of the issue and makes tin-foil hat wearing buffoons of anyone who refuses to see the logic of their disinformation.

<: to expose the sham or falseness of >


Ok. My rant today is with regard to the prevalent tactic of what I call ‘but debating.’ ‘But debating’ is the aggravating tactic of saying “but” whenever facts and research and fairly unequivocal ‘truths’ are used. Other people call my ‘but debating’ – debunking.

Now. Debunking can come in good & bad degrees, but all discussion on debunking is centered on the fact that, today, statements no longer go uncontested. Yeah. No statement goes unchallenged. None, zero, nada <it seems like>.

Nowadays a range of bully pundits intensively question, fact-check, parse out word-by-word aspects of some statement and, ultimately, challenge whatever is communicated.

Alas. This means that gone are the days when we simply viewed a communication in totality. Now we assess, analyze and ass-ify each part and ultimately castrate the totality.


To be clear this new, horrible, version of debunking is much different than being smartly unreasonable. That is a very different thing.

Debunking means that rather than simply being artfully unreasonable … it is … well … assholey unreasonable. This version is embraced by many people have made being unreasonable almost a full time job, particularly online, to attack almost any and all point of views <even if the stated point of view is based on opinion bellybuttonsignificant research> to announce, usually with either glee or passionate triumph, a big fat “but.”

I suggest it is a full time job because many of the ‘buts’ are offered in some quite well formed arguments undermining the fact that, oddly, there are some issues with the facts themselves. And therein lies the wretched hollow in between of facts and opinion <or idea>.

An idea is never more important, or truthful, than the facts it is built upon. Facts lead to ideas. Ideas do not lead to facts.

In fact. It seems like ‘accepted’ means a shitload of people immediately shift to ‘not accept’ <and find proof … even if the proof is sketchy at best>. And therein lies the ‘but debate’ <which I could suggest is within the wretched hollow, but it lies in Hell alone>.

In this hell, disagreeing has become a business.


Debunking means we are making shit up at a rate never seen before. But what is worse is that while we not only make shit up the unintended consequence is that people then view facts as, well, actually .. some people see no facts.

What I mean is that we dissect everything to a point where we can disagree in a way <debunk the fact or truth> just to make our own point and in the process actually tear apart Truth into meaningless non-related semi facts.

To be clear.

chaos business string tangledSkill in untangling sometimes sketchy information to uncover error and even simple intellectual debate has value, but we should be very careful that we are not simply creating a universe of thoughtless debunkers <under the guise of being thoughtful>. We need to be careful because constant debunking may actually limit learning in that it makes one ignore, or not absorb, real facts & truths.

Ok. While I am thinking about it let me make a point on science and scientific research. I feel the need to do so because there is an incredible ongoing “but” debate with regard to any and all scientific research.

Generally speaking, being able to publish an accredited piece of scientific research is difficult.

Let me say that again.

Being able to publish an accredited piece of scientific research is difficult.

<despite what you may read online in an effective “but” debunking assswipe attack>

It’s not like writing a blog where I can publish any and all opinion I want <under the guise of ‘fact’>.

Look. No researcher would ever claim that science is never wrong, but “science is usually wrong” is absurd. Accredited research is mostly conducted by extremely credible researchers who are not in the habit of having flawed methodology nor have flawed conclusions. And having some online troll or some on-air opinionated blowhard, non scientist or researcher, pick apart research & conclusions as flawed is absurd.

How absurd?

Oftentimes it seems like people’s intuition or what they call ‘common sense’ <or ‘what I think’> trumps a hundred years of science.

Like I said.


And another absurd method ‘but debaters’ use?

Using an individual study to debunk the totality of research.

debunk mythOn most critical issues several independently working researchers may be addressing the same sets of research questions. It is quite common that several research teams, often dozens of them, may probe the same or similar questions. Unfortunately the prevailing mentality has been to focus on isolated discoveries by single research teams and interpret research experiments in isolation and touting them as ‘proven fact’ to debunk the greater learnings.

We all need to remember: what matters is the totality of the evidence <how the facts relte to each other>.

And with that said. An anomaly is an anomaly.

How do you know when it is no longer an anomaly? When it becomes recurring. Therefore focusing on an anomaly or one study among many, as ‘proof’ is not only silly, but absurd <or foolish>.

Anyway. Debunking and ‘but debating’. Some thoughts on why it happens.

Our inability to avoid paranoia <or conspiracy>.

Our inability to discern truth.

Our inability to logically think about truth.

Our inability to separate individual choice from greater good.

I came up with those 4 things because while I would like to think everyone truly wants to understand shit I sense we actually more often get lost in the longing for understanding and kind of like not having to truly be sure we understand.

<that was an incredibly depressing thing to write>

“She was lost in her longing to understand. “

Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Ok. Let me explain my thoughts on why it happens.


Inability to avoid Paranoia.

 conspiracy paranoiaParanoia <or seeing conspiracies everywhere we look> is a self-defeating mindset and, in some cases, a dangerous one. Paranoia is different than caution. Paranoia is not based on assessment of facts … it is seeing facts that are not there.

Paranoia destroys truth <and common sense>.

The key to transcending paranoia lies in accepting the very cause of the problem: our inability to know the truth.

Acknowledgment of our fallibility is good, because overconfidence in our own beliefs can lead us to walking straight off a cliff (or, if we believe in a GPS, driving straight off the road).

Credulousness is dangerous; skepticism is healthy. There are all sorts of forces we cannot see or understand that do, indeed, have an effect on the world.

But there is usually no arguing with paranoia. Succumbing to it, even just a little bit – even just when you start to consider something – has a snowball effect. Every so-called “reasonable” counterpoint can be chalked up to corruption and seen as evidence of wider conspiracy.

Do we really know things for sure? Not often. But common sense tells you that not everything is a conspiracy. On the other hand … we people, who love clear cut answers & reasons, struggle to accept the ‘invisible hand of civilization’ taking place. All that said, I admit, there are good crazy debates <debates just for the sake of becoming smarter> and then there are bad crazy debates <ignoring all, or the majority, of evidence and debating from a ‘but …” perspective>.

The bad crazy is typically driven by a lack of trust in accepted proof. And if you don’t trust ‘accepted proof’ that results in some fairly crazy ‘challenging the system’ type activity <let’s call this “conspiracy thinking”>.


Our inability to discern truth.

The blight of this generation is we suck, absolutely fucking suck, at discerning moral drift society truththe truth. We latch on to one piece of information, regardless of whether it is true, good or partially true, and run with it. What exacerbates the issue is the internet is strewn with blogs titled “bla bla bla Truth.”

And by empowering these random blogs and minority-information-supporters we ignore proof and hang our hats on the ‘.05% doubt’ or the potential wiggle room in the data. The whole line of poor truth discernment inevitably circles around because you cannot prove something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Proof is more & more challenging because we seem to be becoming indifferent to decades of reproducible evidence. In other words, many people make up their own “science” even when betrayed by the actual facts.

There is plenty of evidence but my point is that very few people truly understand what exactly constitutes evidence and even fewer have the knowledge of understanding statistics. It’s nearly impossible to debate with them because they fall back in having faith in somebody else’s word or based on some very likely coincidental or random event that they feel as personal experience which trumps any objective fact and figure based analysis in their eyes.

As a corollary to the discerning issue.


Our inability to logically think about truth.

Ok. To be fair, while I am fairly sure when I hear “but” debating I am hearing some fairly illogical reasoning, more often than not … buried within the debunk crap, there is a nugget of a truth.

The difficulty resides in teasing out the essential fraction of fact from which the entire “but” debate resides upon and from which everything falls apart when pulled out. After some research, there is actually a fallacy concept and analysis.

<what follows is some wonky stuff>


Fallacy of the undistributed middle

The fallacy of the undistributed middle is a fallacy that is committed when the middle term in a categorical syllogism is not distributed. It is thus a syllogistic fallacy. More specifically it is also a form of non sequitur. The fallacy of the undistributed middle takes the following form:

1. All Zs are Bs.

2. Y is a B.

3. Therefore, Y is a Z.

It may or may not be the case that “all Zs are Bs”, but in either case it is irrelevant to the conclusion. What is relevant to the conclusion is whether it is true that “all Bs are Zs,” which is ignored in the argument. An example can be given as follows, where B=humans, Y=Mary and Z=men:

1. All men are humans.

2. Mary is human.

3. Therefore, Mary is a man.

Note that if the terms (Z and B) were swapped around in the first co-premise then it would no longer be a fallacy, although it could still be unsound.

debunk handbook

Affirming the consequent

Any argument that takes the following form is a non sequitur

1. If A is true, then B is true.

2. B is true.

3. Therefore, A is true.

Even if the premises and conclusion are all true, the conclusion is not a necessary consequence of the premises. An example of affirming the consequent would be:

1. If Jackson is a human (A) then Jackson is a mammal. (B)

2. Jackson is a mammal. (B)

3. Therefore, Jackson is a human. (A)

While the conclusion may be true, it does not follow from the premises: ‘Jackson’ could be another type of mammal without also being a human. The truth of the conclusion is independent of the truth of its premises – it is a ‘non sequitur’. Affirming the consequent is essentially the same as the fallacy of the undistributed middle, but using propositions rather than set membership.


Denying the antecedent

Another common non sequitur is this:

1. If A is true, then B is true.

2. A is false.

3. Therefore, B is false.

While B can indeed be false, this cannot be linked to the premise since the statement is a non sequitur. An example of denying the antecedent would be:

1. If I am Japanese, then I am Asian.

2. I am not Japanese.

3. Therefore, I am not Asian.

While the conclusion may be true, it does not follow from the premises. For all the reader knows, the declarant of the statement could be Asian, but for example Chinese, in which case the premises would be true but the conclusion false. This argument is still a fallacy even if the conclusion is true.


Affirming a disjunct

Affirming a disjunct is a fallacy when in the following form:

1. A is true or B is true.

2. B is true.

3. Therefore, A is not true.*

The conclusion does not follow from the premises as it could be the case that A and B are both true. This fallacy stems from the stated definition of or in propositional logic to be inclusive. An example of affirming a disjunct would be:

1. I am at home or I am in the city.

2. I am at home.

3. Therefore, I am not in the city.

While the conclusion may be true, it does not follow from the premises. For all the reader knows, the declarant of the statement very well could be in both the city and their home, in which case the premises would be true but the conclusion false. This argument is still a fallacy even if the conclusion is true.

Note: this is only a logical fallacy when the word “or” is in its inclusive form. If the two possibilities in question are mutually exclusive, this is not a logical fallacy.

For example:

1. I am either at home or I am in the city.

2. I am at home.

3. Therefore, I am not in the city.


Denying a conjunct

Denying a conjunct is a fallacy when in the following form:

1. It is not the case that both A is true and B is true.

2. B is not true.

3. Therefore, A is true.

The conclusion does not follow from the premises as it could be the case that A and B are both false. An example of denying a conjunct would be:

1. I cannot be both at home and in the city.

2. I am not at home.

3. Therefore, I am in the city.

While the conclusion may be true, it does not follow from the premises. For all the reader knows, the declarant of the statement very well could neither be at home nor in the city, in which case the premises would be true but the conclusion false. This argument is still a fallacy even if the conclusion is true.


And then another issue exacerbates the entire issue. future fist we are

Beyond all the fallacy thought analysis there is also a strong underlying thread of “me” versus “we” or what I would suggest is an inability to separate greater good from individual need <desire or entitlement>.

Our inability to separate individual choice from greater good.

Wow. This is a weird aspect of what is going on in the world. Much of ‘but debating’ is simply balking at a larger scope ‘here is what is good for everyone.’

I guess it is a version of rejectionism. But it almost always seems to happen under the guise of “personal freedom,” “personal choice” or “individual liberties.”

It is crazy. The whole thing is crazy.

For god’s sake someone bring back some sanity. We make shit up all the time. We always have, but in today’s world it has become a business. Debunking truth or ‘but debating’ is almost standard operating procedure.


“That’s what you get for telling the truth.

Someone calls you a liar.

Most people will accept a likely lie to an unlikely truth. “

Laurell K. Hamilton


Rhetoric, blame and winning a debate are valued over truth. We need to value evidence over rhetoric if we are to have any hope of ending this whole debunking fiasco.

Look. Debunking is tough especially when it is actually used for truth <instead of crucifying truth>.

The idea that we only use 10% of our brains is flat wrong.

No convincing evidence of a Benghazi conspiracy has ever been unearthed.

Marie Antoinette almost certainly didn’t say “let them eat cake”.

You can’t actually become a world-class expert in anything you like by putting in 10,000 hours of practice. But do you realize that nobody really said that in the first place?


web is problem control room1

Debunking and the internet.

Lots of people have written about debunking becoming an educational mental masturbation daily exercise.


But the real culprit is the internet.

As soon as gobs of people, not just people who have a higher education and have been exposed to critical thinking theory, had access to a discussion, debate and debunk platform the rhetoric shifted. Social media encourages a “talk first, ask questions later or never” mentality combined with an “I am as smart as everyone else” attitude. This typically drags discussion to the lowest common denominator.


“Some scorn research, marketing and homework. They skid about on the slippery surface of irrelevance.”

David Ogilvy


Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason — it encourages communication and interaction not observation and reflection and thoughtful research. Many ‘but debates’ revolve around reposting, or linking to, some fairly dubious sources.

That is not real reflective research.

The problem with real debunking <of conspiracies & such> is, and has always been, that the foundation for reasonable discussion is not there. Without a foundation of facts or knowledge valid logic and facts which could guide the arguments are not available to provide a resolution.

In the end.

While professional debunking or “but debating” drives me a little nuts … more importantly it is wasted energy. It is almost like we have turned logic on its head as “guilty until proven innocent.” I am certainly not suggesting simple naiveté or blindly accepting everything you hear. But we have made debunking the norm and not the exception.

thoughtful rabbit idea quick slow


“Argument is meant to reveal the truth, not to create it.”

Edward de Bono


Argument can be healthy when it is used to reveal truth and not create it.

That said.

Debunking, or “but debating”, rarely reveals truth and never creates it.

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Written by Bruce