In any conversation, especially when two people disagree, the minimal goal is for each person to understand the other's position.  In an argument, this is impossible when the two parties do not share sufficient common ground.

By this I mean they do not agree on terms or on concepts.  For example, if two people do not agree with the premise "all wood is hard" they will argue about the lifetime of a wood-frame house.  If they are both unaware they disagree on this foundational concept, they will never come to agreement at all.  However, if they instead address their common ground issue and come to an agreement on that, then they can revisit their original disagreement and argue upon common ground.

In the comment boxes on this blog, it has emerged that those who disagree with some of the content of our posts actually do not share some of the common assumptions we do.

Here are three which I consider "non-negotiable":
  1. The Law of Non-Contradiction (aka the Law of Contradiction)
  2. Something cannot come from nothing
  3. Every effect has a cause

For example, a recent conversation held up quantum physics as disproving axiom 3.  While there is a great deal of confusion here (an event is cited whose effect actually occurs prior in time to its cause seems to disprove this axiom), it seems clear that there exists a cause without which the effect would not occur (would not have occurred).  This article describes a finding where the order of events are in a superposition whereby the order is not known until the collapse of the wave function.  Again, however, it is clear that the event is NOT uncaused.

Quantum physics is also cited in the case of virtual particles where they come into and out of existence from nothing.  This is amusing, since the "nothing" is actually a quantum vacuum of non-zero energy.  This does not qualify as "nothing".  David Albert's quote puts this very well:
The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.

Both Ben and I assume these axioms to be true in our writing and do not believe that arguments that assume one or more to be false will be fruitful.  Please excuse us if we refer you here if we find ourselves in a conversation of that type.