How to Refute an Argument

You may or may not know that I have been coaching a group of (mostly) new Lincoln Douglas debaters in our newly formed speech & debate club. Side Note– This activity is one of the best you can get your kids involved in. They learn how to research, communicate, recognize good arguments and bad ones, and how to disagree without hating the person they disagree with. Find a club, join it.


One of the things we are working on is refutations. To refute an argument you have to look at its parts and point out the weaknesses. I think this process can be massively helpful in the world.


An argument, if well constructed, will have 3 parts: Claim, warrant and impact.

  1. Claim- It’s a declaration. It frames the rest of the argument, and helps shape the overall discussion. There’s normally an assertion tied to a subject.
  2. Warrant- This is the reason we should accept the claim. It’s evidence, logic, inference. 
  3. Impact- This is why it’s important. 

An argument should have all 3 of these present, though some could be implied.
To refute an argument you must find weaknesses in the parts.


You can attack a claim. Maybe the claim doesn’t apply to the overall discussion. Maybe it’s just a statement by itself, without a warrant. Does the assertion relate to the subject of the claim?


You often find the most meat for refutation when examining the warrant. What is the reasoning, is it sound? If there is evidence- is it solid, is the interpretation sound, is there contradicting evidence? Does the reasoning apply to the claim? 


You can attack the impact. Does the argument outweigh others? How much of a difference does this argument make to the issue? An argument may be true, but outweighed by other factors, which are also true. 


As you are reading things on the internet, listening to media, talking with your friends and neighbors, the more you practice thinking about arguments critically, the more quickly you can discern what’s true and what’s less than true. 

Misinformation on Facebook is Its Own Fault

I originally posted this on my Facebook feed. I understand the irony in posting complaints about FB’s algorithms on a feed that is controlled by that same algorithm.

Facebook has created the misinformation problem it has, but won’t take real steps to fix it.

Facebook helped create the environment that fed into the echo chambers that spread misinformation. Their current attempts to fix this are doomed to failure and could have unintended consequences. And they will not fix the root cause of the issue because it would hurt them financially.

Facebook desperately wants to squash misinformation. Their current method is to flag any post on certain subjects with a warning and link to what Facebook thinks is accurate information. There is no review of the posts which are tagged. Write any post, fact or false, with certain keywords and the warnings come up.

This has the consequence of classifying both true and untrue content together. Every post about these subjects is suspect. But Facebook will make sure to tell us all the truth.

An open platform should not set themselves up as the arbiter of what is true and correct. Aside from the fact they can be wrong, this can end up with two unwanted results.

First, there are those who want FB to be regulated. This move to try to self-regulate content sends a signal that content on these open platforms should be regulated. As objectionable as it is to have FB tell me what is true, imagine some sub committee made of up government employees or, worse, partisans appointed by what ever party happens to be in charge telling you what is true or false.

The second undesired result is that FB becomes a publisher not a platform. The natural next step beyond telling users what is true is to actively stop users from seeing what is false.

FB becomes a publisher, and is liable for what is allowed on its channel. And that goes beyond political speech. All sorts of copyright issues come into play. IP owners may not sue a 20 year old for posting their property without permission, but there’s money to be made in suing the publisher who posts it.

The biggest problem is that these attempts to stop the spread of misinformation and false information attack a symptom of a problem Facebook created and amplified with its own algorithms.

FB created news feeds which “feed” our own confirmation biases and create echo chambers for misinformation. The way to fix that is not for FB to tell me what is fact or fiction, but to change the algorithms to show a wider range of ideas. That addresses a core issue with the platforms in general.

People form common interest ties. They post common interest content. FB sees that you interact with that content and those friends and pages. They show you more of that content. Facebook bragged about this change a few years ago. They are showing us more of what we like and less of what we don’t.

FB would say this makes your experience on the platform better. It also make FB more profitable.

Companies buy exposure on my newsfeed from FB. These companies enjoy a very targeted approach to buying this space on my feed. If Facebook can narrow the types of posts, which represent the sort of interests I have, they can offer a better deal to advertisers. If I see posts and information across 100 interest areas, and interact with a broader range of people and pages, companies have to spend more, across a broader range, to get me to buy their stuff. If FB can lower that range to 75 or 50 areas of interest, their ad placements become more effective. Companies buy more ads and FB makes more money.

They have been doing this for years. Here’s how this practice led to the rapid sharing of what people think is problematic information. The medium inherently causes transmission issues.

Social media’s inherent requirement to distill complex, nuanced content down to simpler ideas comes into play. The “TL: DR” -too long, didn’t read- response was created because reading long and complex information online is hard. (Thanks for read this long and complex content in the internet)FB needs us to keep scrolling, so we can see more ads. So they prioritize images and videos, and downplay text. Any post or comment over a few sentences gets shortened with a “see more” link, so you can quickly scroll past it.

The result is complex issues reduced to memes and emotional entreaties. Now add the FB algorithm.

So person A has their friend group. A political meme gets shared from a page. Several people share it in that group. FB’s computers take note that content from that page was popular in this group of people. Meanwhile, another meme which didn’t fit into the group’s biases was seen and the group did not share it. FB notes that content was not popular.

Now, when that first page posts something, the algorithm doesn’t know whether it’s true or not. It just shows the content to the group. Meanwhile, content showing a contrary opinion from the 2nd source is not shown to them.

This goes on for literally years. Information that the group likes and that affirms their biases is reinforced to FB as what should be in their feed. Contrary information is reduced. Because FB shows us what we like, we eventually end up in an echo chamber. Ideas we welcome get reshared and commented on and liked. Ideas we don’t like, get seen less often.

Now election time comes. FB’s algorithm cannot distinguish fact from fiction. So it shares both true and false information with the group. And since FB has learned that contrary opinions don’t get the attention, they cut them out of the feed.

One day a piece of untrue information is shared. It fits what the group has previously interacted with, so the algorithm shows the group. No contrary information is provided. Person A sees that lots of their friends have shared the info. And since it fits into a preferred bias, and little to no opposing views are shared, person A believes it. And shares it, too.

Cut to today. We’ve got rampant misinformation and questionable sources being shared on Facebook. How do we fix it?

Facebook labels anything in the subject as potentially false and provides links to what FB thinks is true. This is bad policy.

To really fix it, FB has to stop tailoring newsfeeds the way it does. They need to broaden what is shown to users. Any page or person I have shown any interest in, by liking for friending them, should have the same opportunity to show up on my feed as those I regularly like or comment on.

This will impact the advertising dollars FB uses to operate. And that is why we see ham handed bandaids like what is happening now, instead of real change in the root causes of the issue.

Now, this isn’t all FB’s fault. We will still have confirmation bias and a tendency to resist what we don’t agree with. But FB can help by not reinforcing those tendencies. What they are doing now is wrong headed and will end badly.

Christianity Today, Editorials, and Cognitive Dissonance

[I know it’s Christmas Eve, but I was catching up on things and saw this pattern. Merry Christmas. Read this later.]

The dictionary defines cognitive dissonance as the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. As a rule, we cannot maintain cognitive dissonance for long.


When we run into information that contradicts our personally held beliefs we must either refute/discredit the information or change our beliefs. Sometimes instead of discrediting the info, we discredit the source. (That doesn’t make the info false, but allows people to feel OK about ignoring it). Other times we rationalize our positions. (That also doesn’t make the info false, but does allow us to feel we’ve chosen the best position in difficult situations.)


When the new information is challenging issues of core beliefs, we are more likely to defend current opinions more strongly. It’s difficult to move people in their core beliefs.


Case in point- Christianity Today publishes an opinion of one editor. The article makes several points, and compares the current president to President Clinton, morally. CT is a previously trusted source (Many agreed with their criticisms of President Clinton), so Christians take note. But the opinion causes cognitive dissonance. Trump supporting Believers cannot accept the editorial and continue to support Trump. So we see the responses… CT is progressive, etc… (Attacking the source) What’s the alternative, supporting baby-killing Democrats? Lesser of two evils, etc…(Rationalizing)


For the record, I don’t agree with everything in the article. But I find it interesting that the primary criticism of the piece falls into those 2 categories- discrediting source and rationalizing, rather than point by point rebuttal of the points of the article. I’m sure there are some responses that do that, but most I’ve seen are pointing to the source or rationalizing.


People really don’t like it when their core positions are challenged.

What’s our go to response when presented with contradictory info? Do we discredit the source, rationalize our position, or refute the information or change our position?

The Affordable Care Act is Not Affordable and No One Cares

acanotI just came from turning in my insurance forms this this coming year. Once again I cannot afford to add my family to my employer provided coverage.

And, because my employer follows the law and offers coverage, I cannot qualify for subsidies in the ACA exchanges. So we can’t afford to insure our family there. Luckily I don’t make a lot of money, so my kids qualify for the CHIP program here in Texas. And we are Christians so my wife can get covered through one of those Christian Co-Ops. So we won’t get fined/taxed/penalized for not having coverage we simply cannot afford. I had to swallow my pride and take a government hand out so my children could have health coverage, because I simply could not afford it under the Affordable Care Act.

I don’t blame my employer. They offer very good insurance, and they pay about $6000.00 for my coverage. But if I want to add my wife to that same plan, then I must pay over $500 per month. If I wanted to add my children, the price would inflate to over $900 per month. I don’t know a lot of middle class families that could afford to lose over $10,800 annually.

Years ago, before the ACA was passed, I was self employed, and I had a plan I liked. My family was well covered with supplements and major medical. Then the ACA went into effect, and I got a letter saying that my plan was no longer offered, and I would have to shift to a different plan for a 300% increase in premiums. It had been more economical and effective to have a major medical plan with supplemental plans to cover us for basic services. In the new post-ACA world, I must spend more for less coverage.

That continues to be the case today.

I often see friends complaining online about how much their premiums are going up. I hear on the news about Healthcare Exchanges that are going out of business. Healthcare is not getting better.

I know that something had to be done. There were real issues with the old insurance/healthcare system, things that needed to be addressed. But this ACA is a horrible replacement for what we had before. I don’t know one single person who has better coverage for less money. From what I’ve experienced and heard, if you had insurance before the ACA kicked in, you are less happy with your coverage now.

Occasionally I will hear people saying that since the ACA has been passed, and some people who did not have coverage before now have it, you can’t take it away. Why not? The government took away my coverage and forced me to find an alternate/ worse plan. The current system under the ACA is not working. Exchanges are crashing, and costs are rising on plans that offer less coverage for more Americans. What we have now cannot continue for much longer. Something has to be done, sooner rather than later.

And no one with the power to do anything seems to care. Oh sure, there have been bunches of show votes where Republicans tried to “repeal” the ACA,but that did exactly jack squat for my family, and everyone else adversely effected by the ACA rules. Democrats seem to be afraid to criticize the President’s signature legislation, even though there are obvious problems with it. In many ways middle class Americans are worse off now than before, regarding insurance.

Our elected representatives are more interested in talking about how they care than doing something that actually helps us. This will be a big concern for me in the upcoming elections. I don’t want to hear a Republican say they will repeal the ACA, I want to hear them say what they will do to replace it. I want to know how they will help my family have better coverage for an amount we can afford.

Media Bias in the News: Planned Parenthood, Center for Medical Progress, and Awards

Over the weekend we saw several stories about how Planned Parenthood had hired a firm to do a “forensic” study of a few of the Center for Medical Progress undercover videos. The national media, who had been mostly mute about the subject, suddenly found it newsworthy. I wrote about that on my political blog. Many national news organizations couldn’t wait to trumpet misleading headlines like, “Sting videos of Planned Parenthood were totally manipulated, forensic analysis finds.”

If anyone bothered to read the 10 page report, they could plainly see that headline (just one of many) was a serious overstatement, and implied a level of deceitfulness that was not proven in the report.

Center for Medical Progress released a detailed response. In it they highlighted the fact that even a partisan firm like Fusion GPS (who did the analysis) admitted:

This analysis did not reveal widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation” and that it “shows no evidence of audio manipulation.

And CMP went on to explain every issue the firm found in every video. You can read both sides of the story and form your own opinion.

But you will really have to search for this response by CMP.  Because it’s not on any major news sites.

Even though the news media reported on the Planned Parenthood analysis, they haven’t mention this response. Just like they didn’t report on the largest coordinated protest of Planned Parenthood facilities a few weekends ago. Hundreds of cities, thousands of people, barely made local news reports.If you’re keeping score at home: For most major news organizations, the videos from CMP are not newsworthy. An analysis done by the organization being investigated is newsworthy, a response from the group doing the investigating is not newsworthy.

I’m not the first to point out the blatant bias in the news for Planned Parenthood and against any who criticize them. Sean Davis at the federalist.com wrote a piece about it. Did you know that Planned Parenthood gives out awards for media excellence? Did you know that Journalists not only accept awards from an organization they report on (or should report on) but say they are honored to get them? In all 16 journalists received Maggie Awards for Media Excellence. These awards were started in the late 1970’s to “recognize exceptional contributions by the media and arts and entertainment industries that enhance the public’s understanding of reproductive rights and health care issues, including contraception, sex education, teen pregnancy, abortion, and international family planning.”

Does that strike you as odd?

Imagine a political party giving out awards for Media Excellence. Awards that recognize exceptional contributions by the media and arts and entertainment industries that enhance the public’s understanding of this political parties stance on issues and work in the community.  Would any self respecting journalist accept one?

It’s not a journalists job to help any organization enhance the public’s understanding on anything. They don’t report news in order to help an organization, they report news so that the public is aware of what it should be aware of. News media should report what is in the public interest, not an organization’s interest. What objective journalist would want any organization to even imply that they might have been trying to help an organization instead of fairly reporting things that are newsworthy?

But, then I forget that objective journalism in the USA is dead.

Scott Link Politics: New Political Blog

I have been posting about politics a lot lately. There are things going on that I want to write about. But this is a blog about religious media. I know many of you that follow this blog didn’t sign up for lots of political posts.

So, I have created a new blog where I will write about political subjects.

If you are interested, please follow the link and the follow my posts over there:

Scott Link Politics

Let’s Get Gut-Level Honest About Those Abortion Videos

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“So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.” James 4:17 HCSB

I want to try to explain why I’m writing so much about abortion recently, specifically about the videos from Center for Medical Progress. This is normally a blog about media from a biblical worldview. I talk about indie filmmaking. My controversial posts are normally limited. But not lately.

If I dig down and get gut-level honest about this. I’m not intellectually shocked by anything in those videos. I don’t think this is a new practice. I’ve heard about the possibility of fetal body parts being sold before. I’ve seen still pictures of babies in the womb. And even a couple of images of babies after abortion. They are pretty horrible. But they didn’t get this kind of reaction out of me. I never wrote a blog post, or posted to social media about abortion like this.

The only time I can remember feeling this way before was way back in 2003. I was doing a video for Sanctity of Life Sunday for a church. I found some footage of actual abortions taking place. They were not graphic like the current videos, but the sound of the machine… I was literally weeping as I listened to the sound of a human life being snuffed out, and sucked into a container. I remember crying when I showed the finished product to my pastor. I was heartbroken over what I had seen.

I think that’s why this is so raw for me. These videos ripped that scab off.

These videos pull an emotional reaction out of me. I intellectually understand abortion. But I hadn’t felt anything about it for a long time. It was something that I didn’t like, but It didn’t impact my daily life. These videos, showing the cavalier attitudes of the workers, showing them saying things like “It’s a baby” and “It’s another boy”… coupled with the gruesome pictures… negotiating the price of livers and so on… I couldn’t ignore this anymore.

Right now, these videos cause pain. I hurt when I watch them. But humanity is pretty good about scabbing over, dulling the pain.

When you get right down to it, these videos don’t resonate because of the controversy of potential law breaking. People react to them because they pull the veil back from abortion. Suddenly the gory details are on display. As is the casual, almost playful, tone of the staff as they talk about their grisly work. It’s this, not the legal aspects, that cause the emotional reaction. That’s why “#anotherboy” was trending on twitter. Not because Planned Parenthood may or may not have broken the law, but because another boy was killed and we couldn’t ignore it.

I know, I’ve said it myself. We should’t be so caught up in politics. The best way to change the world is to change hearts. But maybe, changing a heart requires ripping the covering off stuff we’ve buried and forgotten. This really isn’t political for me. I couldn’t care less which party or candidate is for or against abortion or whatever. So I am writing some posts about this right now.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Previous Posts:

Former Planned Parenthood Director Confirms Her Affiliate Profited from Sale of Fetal Body Parts

Court Stops Release of Some Parts of Anti Abortion Videos

Are Americans Already Desensitized to Selling Aborted Babies?

Former Planned Parenthood Director Confirms Her Affiliate Profited from Sale of Fetal Body Parts

On Wednesday July 29, 2015 the Texas senate Committee of Health and Human Services began an investigation into the illegal selling of fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood chose not to attend the hearing.

About 2 and a half hours into the hearing you can hear testimony from Abby Johnson, former Director of the Gulf Shores Planned Parenthood affiliate.

Her testimony supports the videos from the Center for Medical Progress. In particular the portion at 3:18 and following, where she discusses the fees they charged to “recoup” their costs for tissue donation, and what it actually cost to donate specimens for research studies.

This is testimony from the former director. There is at least one Planned Parenthood clinic that charged more for the specimens than it cost. And the extra was, in her words, “sheer profit” for the clinic. She goes on to estimate what a Houston area clinic might make in a given month: $120,000 from the sale of fetal parts to research clinics.

This video is originally from the website of the Texas Senate. You can stream the whole hearing here:
The portion used in this Youtube clip is about 2:30:00 into the hearing.

More about Abby Johnson here.

Previous articles:

Court Stops Release of Some Parts of Anti Abortion Videos

Are Americans Already Desensitized to Selling Aborted Babies?

[I’m going to stop apologizing for posting about this instead of specifically media related topics. I have to write about this right now. I’ll post later about why this is important enough for me to spend so much time on it. But this is something I have to do right now.

Comments are disabled on this post because if you agree with me, great! And if you don’t, the only thing you can say is “she’s lying” so let’s assume that has already been said.]