Straw Man Arguments and the Principle of Charity
I read something yesterday I found important. Let me quote from "Schaum's Logic" by Nolt, Rohatyn, and Varzi:
"Implicit premises or conclusions should be "read into" an argument only if they are required to complete the arguer's though. No statement should be added unless it clearly would be accepted by the arguer, since in analyzing an argument, it is the arguer's thought that we are trying to understand. The primary constraint governing interpolation of premises and conclusions is the -principle of charity-: in formulating implicit statements, give the arguer the benefit of the doubt; try to make the argument as strong as possible while remaining faithful to what you know of the arguer's thought. The point is to minimize misinterpretation, whether deliberate or accidental."
Our goal should be to avoid creating "straw man" arguments by theists that we can easily destroy.
I have found that theists easily pick up on this and pull no punches letting me know. So in order to prevent wasting time and to increase the chances of persuading a theist, Scham's advice is pretty good.
It's good in principle, but I'm guiltier than most of creating straw man theist arguments to refute; both intentionally and unintentionally.
While I encourage criticism of the straw man arguments I refute, I think it is our duty also to "man the watchtowers" when theists make straw man arguments out of the atheist position.
For some other reading, check out
Straw Man definition:
Principle of Charity:
REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM.