Vivek Haldar

How to debate

Rationalists believe that the way to convince people of a position is to present them with facts (and implicitly, a few steps of inference) that will then lead them to believe that position. This view is driven by their belief in rational equivalence. This works quite well with technical audiences, and quite poorly with everyone else. I call this the technical method.

The political method, on the other hand, targets believers rather than skeptics. Convincing people to switch is hard, but it is easier to give believers even more reasons to strengthen their belief. Over time, the believers, who are immune to changing their minds, will convert the undecideds.

A recent paper1 modeled precisely this effect, and backs up this tactic. Even a small fraction (as little as 10%) of committed agents immmune to change can rapidly convert the entire population to their position.

Note that the technical and political method differ not in their use of logic – they both present facts and logic (or at least, what they perceive to be facts and logic) – but in whom they target and how they are targeted.