Presumption & Burden of Proof in Debating

In debating, it is important to understand the role of presumption and burden of proof and how these terms affect the status quo. This post will attempt to explain these concepts.

Status Quo

The status quo is the way things currently are or the way things are done. The affirmative in a debate is generally pushing change or departure from the status quo. This is in no way easy as people often prefer to keep things the way they are and minimize change.

Presumption

Presumption is the tendency of favoring one side of an argument over another. There are at least two forms of presumption. These two forms or judicial presumption and policy presumption.

Judicial presumption always favors the status quo or keeping things they way they are currently. Small changes can be made but the existing structure is not going to be different. In debates that happen from the judicial perspective it is the affirmative side that has the burden of proof or how must show that the benefit of change outweighs the status quo. A common idiom that summarizes the status quo is “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

The policy form of presumption is used when change is necessary to the status quo. Example would be replacing an employee. The status quo of keeping the worker is impossible and the debate is now focused on who should be the replacement. A debate from a policy perspective is about which of the new approaches is the best to adopt.

In addition, the concept of burden of proof goes from the burden of proof to a burden of proof. This is because either side of the debate must provide must support the argument that they are making.

Burden of Refutation

The burden of refutation is the obligation to respond the opposing arguments. In other words, debaters often need to explain why the other side’s arguments are weak or perhaps even wrong. Failure to do so can make the refuting debater’s position weaker.

This leads to the point that there are no ties in debating. If both sides are equally good the status quo wins, which is normally the negative side. This is because the affirmative side did not bring the burden of proof necessary to warrant change.

Conclusion

Structure of debating requires debaters have a basic understanding of the various concepts in this field. Therefore, understanding such terms as status quo, presumption, and burden of proof  is beneficial if not required in order to participate in debating.

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