Last of the Flo-hicans: the death of tabula rasa judging-Part 2- about the cult of evidence

I don’t know that analytics have ever been particularly prominent in the time that I’ve been involved in debate, but they have definitely moved from the endangered species act to extinct. One of the reasons for this is that many judges don’t seem to be giving weight to reasonable analytics- like say sever perms are a vi…

Just kidding. But this is related to Part 1 about judge intervention because I believe that many judges are inserting themselves into the debate and making the argument “evidence trumps analytics” when that argument is not made by the team on the side of the card. The most common instances I see of this are things like:

-generic K link card vs specific K no link analytic, same with alt solvency

-generic CP solvency card (like states) vs specific analytic no solvency arg

-disad internal link card vs internal link press

So, the thesis of this post is: if you are a tabula rasa judge (which you should be) you should not give particular weight to an argument simply because it is carded in the absence of an argument made by the team that you do so.

Lets think for a second- why do we read cards. I can think of a few reasons (though this list is not exhaustive)

1. Expert testimony- someone smarter than you says something, so you use them to present your case

2. Studies- similar to numebr 1- someone has conducted a study, so instead of redoing the study yourself you present their findings

3. Insider knowledge- this person may not be an expert per se, but they are in a position to have insider knowledge- often used in politics uniqueness evidence

4. Historical/empirical claims- sort of a combination of 1 and 3 but not quite either- usually you read a card about history (instead of just making the argument yourself) in order to give it some more credibility. While you do not need an expert to report history, usually this evidence implies some sort of interpretation for which expert qualification is useful.

I could go on but I think this is sufficient to serve the purpose of the post.

A key distinction I want to draw is that while an analytic (by definition) does not read evidence (in the debate sense) , that does not mean that it does not PRESENT evidence – and in that case by evidence I mean support for an argument, not a “card”. Lets look at an example.

You could have an evidence vs evidence debate about the relationship between the great depression and world war 2. One side could read Mead 92, the other Goldstein 88. Once two pieces of evidence have been presented usually what happens is the judge will read the cards and decide which is “better” (occasionally one side will debate their argument better making this irrelevant obviously).

Or you could have an evidence vs analytic debate. One side could read mead 92, and the other side could make the uncarded argument “The great depression did not cause world war 2- it happened 10 years prior. By the time war started economies were booming again. This proves economic growth is a precondition to war- countries don’t fight when they have pressing domestic concerns.” While certainly not genius level, that analytic is at least equal, if not better, than the ol mead 92 card and its rhetorical questions. So what happens at the end of a debate? It may be an absurd simplification, but I think for many judges they call for the neg card, realize there is no aff card to call for, and give the aff argument zero weight. Obviously not all judges do this, and even the judges who do it don’t do it all the time. But it happens. A lot.

One could give a lot of reasons why this is bad-discourages thought, makes us nothing more than court reporters, why don’t we just submit briefs etc. Or reasons its good- encourages research, punishes the lazy blah blah blah.

But instead I thought I would go over some categories of analytic that I think should be important/argued more often.

1. link threshold– i won’t revisit this but it is a classic

2. False choice/False Dichotomy- This one comes up a LOT in K debates, for both sides. A false choice is basically something like “how does your alternative respond to hitler in 1942- violently or non violently?” Many people also refer to this as a “rigged game”, or the “blackmail of the enlightenment”. I will defer to a quote here

  • We must try to proceed with the analysis of ourselves as beings who are historically determined, to a certain extent, by the Enlightenment. Such an analysis implies a series of historical inquiries that are as precise as possible; and these inquiries will not be oriented retrospectively toward the ‘essential kernel of rationality’ that can be found in the Enlightenment and that would have to be preserved in any event; they will be oriented toward the ‘contemporary limits of the necessary,’ that is, toward what is not or is no longer indispensable for the constitution of ourselves as autonomous subjects.

    This ethos implies, first, the refusal of what I like to call the ‘blackmail’ of the Enlightenment. I think that the Enlightenment, as a set of political, economic, social, institutional, and cultural events on which we still depend in large part, constitutes a privileged domain for analysis. I also think that as an enterprise for linking the progress of truth and the history of liberty in a bond of direct relation, it formulated a philosophical question that remains for us to consider. I think, finally, as I have tried to show with reference to Kant’s text, that it defined a certain manner of philosophizing.

    But that does not mean that one has to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ the Enlightenment. It even means precisely that one has to refuse everything that might present itself in the form of a simplistic and authoritarian alternative: you either accept the Enlightenment and remain within the tradition of its rationalism (this is considered a positive term by some and used by others, on the contrary, as a reproach); or else you criticize the Enlightenment and then try to escape from its principles of rationality (which may be seen once again as good or bad). And w e do not break free of this blackmail by introducing ‘dialectical’ nuances while seeking to determine what good and bad elements there may have been in the Enlightenment.

    Reading the wiki entry linked above would also be illustrative here. I will say that many people use the false choice as a justification for intrinsicness, and while that position has a certain logic I want to distinguish what I am talking about from that. While intrinsicness does question whether there is an either or relationship established, as I see it the important part of the false choice argument is that there are in fact more than 2 sides. For this reason I prefer to call it the false dichotomy or blackmail of the enlightenment. The point of this argument is not to say “we can do both” it is to say that your characterization is misleading because it artificially reduces us to 2 options when in fact there are many more options you are concealing. This is the rhetoric that is used in what I will call “blinders” k alterantive evidence. These cards take the argumentative approach of saying something like “we are so enthralled by capitalism that we cannot imagine a world outside of it. For this reason revolutionary projects are discredited as being utopian fantasies. The truth is there are practical alternatives, we just can’t see them because of the way we have been conditioned to think.” So basically they are saying that indicts of “utopianism” create a false dichotomy between extending the status quo and alternative worlds that are utopian. I think perhaps most people are probably skimming at this point as this has gone on long, so I will move onto another argument and clarify if need be.

    3. Reverse causality– This basically tackles the problem off does proving a link one way mean that the converse is necessarily true. So, if economic decline causes war, odes that mean that growth prevents war? In many debates a piece of impact evidence will be read that does not perfectly fit the scenario described- it is the best fit the neg could find, but does not accurately describe the chain of events they are arguing. In these instances the affirmative should present an argument as to why we cannot assume reverse causality. The basic premise of most of these arguments is that there are other variables involved that change on the different slopes of causality. So for instance, economic decline may cause the election of nationalist leaders. This may already have occurred by the time growth pics up again for the negs econ recovery DA, so reading the same impact card may not be possible in this instance. A more extreme example I saw was the neg read an impact card that said when the econ declines governments resort to military spending as a stimulus, which promotes militarism and war. However their DA argued that the aff killed military spending, thereby collapsing the economy. A recent politics example is the health care climate impact. Many of these cards say climate cannot pass without healthcare, but do not say it WILL pass with HC. In this instance there is perhaps a blurring between reverse causality and necessary but insufficient, which brings me to our next point

    4. Necessary but not sufficient- this is a classic and needs to be brought back. Many times teams tag internal links to the economy or hegemony or any big impact as “x key to y”. These usually do not say x is the only factor in y and that is often enough to defeat them. Military readiness is a good example of this. Reading a card that says X hurts military readiness and then an impact that says no military readiness causes war is not a complete argument. You have to prove that the plan forces us to cross a certain threshold (see point 1) to win that impact.

    3 thoughts on “Last of the Flo-hicans: the death of tabula rasa judging-Part 2- about the cult of evidence

    1. Josh Gonzalez

      I am super-with-you on this one (also, it proves my point about intervention and makes me think that we actually agree). The greatest examples of what I'm talking about are what I shall call the three horsemen of impact cards, dillon "ontology first," mead "economic decline causes war," and khalilzad "heg solves nuclear war." The VAST (and I mean OVERWHELMING) number of times I hear these read in a round, they are underlined down to complete nonsense. To say that they lack a warrant is an understatement – they lack data, warrant, backing, claim, everything. Yet a very high number of judges vote on them. I think that the notion of non-intervention plays a role in this in three ways.

      First, what you have explained: the idiotic bias of quotation over logic and reasoning. It escapes me how it is that a tired excerpt of a newspaper article that is devoid of warrant or actual evidence overwhelms a well-reasoned argument in any circumstance. I've almost certainly committed this sin as a judge. I still do more often than I should.

      Second, I agree that judges should not insert themselves and reject ARGUMENTS made by debaters out of hand. However, I think that the situation that you've described necessarily requires us to ask "is that really even an argument?" Without going all Toulmin on everybody, perhaps the REAL problem with all of this is a broad misunderstanding of what constitutes an actual argument instead of a sketchy causal chain of assertions, or at least too broad an acceptance of the latter in lieu of the former.

      Third, this is the example of the "thousands of little interventions" that I described in the discussion of your earlier post. I think that reading an abbreviated version of the Khalilzad card essentially functions as short-hand for many judges; it is so ubiquitous that reading the actual argument that accompanies the claim is unnecessary, since everybody knows it. This happens frequently in rounds and is as much an intervention as the outright rejection of an argument for no good reason.

      I'm interested in what you think about the interventionist sin of commission, compared to the interventionist sin of omission.

      Talk to you soon,

      Josh (Gonzo, not the other one)

    2. John Smith

      I think there are a lot of good reasons why reading carded evidence is preferable to analytics, but that assumes-
      a)the card makes a claim, and is highlighted as such, that is superior to what a high school student could think up of in 5 minutes
      b) the argument "we read a card they didn't prefer b/c of x" is actually made in the debate.
      That means if team a reads bad card y, say Mead 92, and highlights it to a point where it takes 5 seconds to read, a smart, analytic argument indicting the "claim" Mead made is probably enough to beat it-judges who are Tabula Rossas, as you said, as they should be, CANNOT just assert that "oh they read a card, the other team didn't", I vote aff." I think this is even more egregious when judges call for cards, Batterman got at this in another post, because Judges will give weight to warrants in cards that were never fully explained or explained at all in debates. That means-team that makes smart analytics has all of their analytics to weigh in argument x, team that reads decent card that is never explained well has whatever was articluated in the 2nr/2ar PLUS warrants in cards that they didn't make-means team b has a huge advantage because the judge will "give" them warrants that they do not deserve by reading through the cards after the rounds.

    3. Jason Wright

      I dig the logical fallacy part of this post and I think you should write more like it that deconstruct common but laughably stupid debate arguments (e.g. lobbies link turns vs. politics DAs, "turns case – war causes poverty", etc).

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