Just Google It

Schermafbeelding 2013-02-13 om 08.59.01This sadly happens more often than I care for during discussions. I engage someone, ask for their basis/source, and they respond with a “Just google it.”

I’m sorry, but that’s not how it works.

This simple sentence can sabotage any attempt for an honest and open exchange of ideas, this is why:

  1. It’s your claim
    Basically it’s this simple; you made the claim, you back it up. Anyone trying to have an open and honest debate will either give their source when making the claim, or immediately give it when you ask for it. Not being willing to share the basis for a claim/statement will raise questions and frustrate opponents.
  2. You’re asking me to make assumptions
    If I ask for a source it means I’m not sure what the basis is for your claim. Any attempt at trying to understand your argument then will mean I need to make assumptions about the details of your statement/claim. Again, not helpful if you’re trying to understand what someone is arguing.
  3. I might get it wrong
    Not telling me what your source is will most likely lead to me misunderstanding what you’re using as a source or basis for your claim. If I then disagree with this I’m unintentionally arguing against a straw man argument. We then need to spend time correcting this before the exchange can continue. Wasting the time and effort of both participants.
  4. You’re wasting my time
    If you make a statement/claim it should mean you have done your homework and you then should be able to tell me your source. It shouldn’t take much effort on your side to give me this, be it a science paper, a news article, blog post, etc. Asking me to find this, with the previous points taken into consideration, means you’re wasting my time trying to figure this out.
  5. If you don’t have a source: admit it
    When you don’t have anything backing a claim at least be honest enough to state it. There’s no shame in saying it is what you think based on what you’ve experienced/learned. We then can have an honest and open exchange about what we both can agree on, and if we disagree, why this is. Not saying this when someone asks for a source will just frustrate everyone and prevent the exchange from moving on.

This is why I always ask the maker of a claim/statement what it’s based on if I don’t understand their position/claim/statement. It doesn’t mean I’m lazy, not willing to learn, nor am I trying to frustrate you. It’s just me wanting to understand your position fully and engaging you on the evidence used, not on what I think you might have used.

Unfortunately a lot of those that are guilty of this do it either because they can’t back up their claims, or at the worst are deliberately trying to derail the exchange in such a way that they can claim victory. This is the behavior of someone who doesn’t want to learn and is completely entrenched in their position.

Because of this I have it listed as a bannable offense on my YouTube channel (it’s listed in the about box). Dissenting voices are allowed, and welcome, but please state what your sources are. If you refuse to do that after repeated warnings I see it as you operating in bad-faith and I remove you as a disruptive element from the discussion.

My friends know I always try to understand my opponent’s position and argue its merits and the evidence it’s based on. It’s how I hone my arguments, learn what the other side is saying, the means by which I take a good look at my position, and is the reason my position changes over time.

A good discussion is a true joy where both parties can walk away from happy, even if they disagree. Something as simple as a willingness to share your sources/evidence help a lot in making a discussion fun and productive.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.