Steve Novella, host of the popular Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, demonstrates his usual talent for incisive reasoning and clear communication in his dissection of Michael Egnor’s response to Novella’s earlier discussion of recent feathered dinosaur discoveries.
While pulling no punches in his analysis, he is fair to the source, actually doing a better job of articulating Egnor’s argument than Egnor does himself — and that is precisely the latter’s undoing. The act of entering into someone’s argument, of attempting to understand and express it accurately, allows for a highly effective breakdown of that argument’s strengths and weaknesses. In this case, Novella finds weaknesses aplenty, identifying instances of category errors, cherry picking, straw man argumentation, red herrings, and general confusion regarding concepts and definitions.
The ability to construct a well-supported rational argument obviously goes hand in hand with the ability to analyze the components of another’s argument, but this correlation also manifests in a sensitivity to rhetorical nuances. These mutually reinforcing skills are what make some scientific professionals, like Novella, adept science communicators as well. For the rest of us, a major take-away might be a recognition of the importance of giving even obviously weak arguments serious consideration.