Care to argue the case? Careful – there’s a minefield ahead.
There is one thing that is poorly understood about arguing in the public arena. It’s the reason a strong case will often lose its momentum and that a logical conclusion will be missed.
It is one of the reasons our political leaders fail utterly to have a reasoned conversation with the population and with each other.
And it’s why denialists on just about any issue can sidestep rational debate.
It’s called the “point at issue” and it describes what the argument is actually about. If you move away from this simple idea, the argument will be lost in a fog of related but unnecessary issues.
Finding the point
Before we can argue, we must actually agree on something: what we are arguing about. If we can’t do this, and then stick to it, there will be no progress.
Let’s consider the Great Barrier Reef. Some media commentary would have us believe that the fact the reef was not listed means any concerns about its well-being are entirely misplaced.
This misses the point completely. As many articles have pointed out, that the reef has not been listed does not mean any environmental concerns are unjustified.
The point at issue is whether the reef meets the UNESCO criteria for listing as endangered. It is another point entirely to say the reef is not at risk. Conflating the two muddies the waters.
Imagine someone says locking up refugees is psychologically damaging to them. Another person says the policy is much better under the current government than it was under the last.