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avoid falling into the trap of a Straw Man fallacy, so of course we will treat the opposing side fairly by using their own actual words and ideas. Once we have established what our opponent believes or is arguing, then we can use a rebuttal. This form of argument takes two forms: 1) refutation and 2) counterargument.
Refutation means the direct attack of a specific part or parts of an opposing argument. It could mean pointing out that some reason, evidence, or conclusion is incorrect, incomplete, or commits a logical fallacy of some kind.
Counterargument focuses less on the weakness of the opposing argument and more on that contrasting strengths of our own argument. It could mean pointing out that while one proposed solution might possibly work, our proposal is better in some way.
In this sense, refutation is essentially a more negative approach, and counterargument is a more positive approach. Both are useful and often both can be used together in our arguments.
Writing Exercise: Refutation and Counterargument
1. The history of science is full of refutations. What popular belief about humanity and the world did Darwin’s 1859 theory of evolution refute? What’s another historical example of a famous refutation? Write a brief summary (1-2 sentences describing it)
2. Now, please consider the following proposal: in order to prevent Uber and Lyft drivers from driving dangerously in San Francisco, we should ban them completely from the city. Instead of attacking this proposal directly, try using counterargument to propose a better plan. Write a brief counter-proposal which explains why your solution to the same problem would be better.
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