Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two Easy Ways to Make Someone Mad

Over time, I have found there are two easy ways to make someone mad:

1) Ask someone to demonstrate their argument.

People these days love to make bold claims. "You're wrong! It's this way!" or, "I believe this and that's the way it is!" Many times, this is because we are taught simply to repeat what we are told rather than being able to defend what we are told.

Recently I went into a conversation with someone who, wanting to disprove my argument, accused me of mishandling scripture. I asked him to show how I had done so. He refused to answer, so I pressed him again. He again refused to answer, saying that wasn't the topic (even though that was what he was using to say I was wrong). I pressed him again, and he simply ended the conversation then and there.

I heard a story recently of a Jehovah's Witness woman who gave a biblical scholar a long, memorized speech regarding John 1:1 and why they translate it as "the Word was a god" because of the lack of a definite article. The scholar then handed her a Greek New Testament and asked her to show him what a Greek definite article looked like. The woman didn't even know how to hold the book up straight. She had a memorized argument, but when asked to demonstrate the argument, she fell on her face.

2) Ask someone to back up their argument with sources.

If you ask a person this, they might do one of a few things.
  1. Throw the weight of the evidence upon you. That is, say something like, "Well, you can figure it out," or, "Well, you can do research for yourself." The weight of the evidence falls on the person making the claim. There is a good reason why, in the United States, a charged person is "innocent until proven guilty" - the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused.
  2. Demand you prove a negative. Example: someone claims that their horn scares away burglars, and when asked how they know it does, they reply, "Well, can you prove it doesn't scare away burglars?" This is a cop out because they are: 1) not giving a response; 2) forgetting that by nature you cannot prove a negative.
  3. Get very, very irate with you. I had one person tell me literally: "I DON'T HAVE TO GIVE YOU ANYTHING!" If a person gets emotional, it's a good sign that their argument has no substance.


  1. You've mentioned the fact that when you ask someone to tell you where you are wrong in Scripture to show you, so I would like to add to that by proposing a number 3:

    Ask someone to prove their position from Scripture in context of Scripture

    Of course, we know that most default to number 1, simply repeating what they have been taught. For example, "My high school history teacher told me that." :-D

  2. Well that kinda fits in demonstrating their argument and backing up their argument with sources, such as the gentleman I told you about who said, "My arguments come from scripture, but I don't have time to quote scripture right now!"

  3. I don't believe you! PROVE IT!!!! :-)

  4. Um...uh...well I'm sure you can prove it yourself if you do some research... *zips away!*

  5. One must use caution when using #2 in personal conversation. One could cite evidence from something one read or heard years before and not have the easy access to the original source or even remember where one first came across the evidence. I argue politics with my brother all the time and when I would make a point, he used to respond by demanding right there and then the source of where I got my information. He used it as badgering tool, knowing I could not always remember the original source and then claim to win the arguement. When responding to someone on a blog, I regularly ask for citation as the information should be available online.

  6. That's a good point to make. What I often try to do is refer to where I believe it could be cited, or - if the person is sincerely curious - I'll offer to send them where I got the information later on, like when I get home or when I'm at a place where the information is accessible.

    But you are right that, when dealing with online conversations, a person has ample opportunity to check their sources.