What a Debate Is and Is Not: Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham


In American political discourse, there is a failure to distinguish between persuasion and argument that extends to the media coverage of politics and that distorts, sometimes grossly, the public understanding of and response to the issues of the day.

Any student in a composition course that covers persuasion and argument learns that argument is a rather narrow sub-category of persuasion. Whereas persuasion is the attempt to sway an audience’s opinions using any available or necessary means, argument demands that the persuasion be accomplished by establishing and maintaining a reasonable persona and tone and by presenting judiciously selected and credibly framed supporting evidence.

Since in argument one should avoid talking points as one avoids all overused and empty expressions, it should be readily apparent that while almost all of our political discourse is persuasive, almost none of it is actually thoughtful argument.

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