All other content in this post will remain as it was. <3 Thank you!
 Spurred by a recent rant of mine, here are some pointers I think are pretty useful when it comes to intelligent discourse. Also, so you don't look like an idiot when you express an opinion.
"Everyone has opinions. This is an awesome thing, and a thing you cannot escape. From things as heated as politics, to things as mundane as favorite colors, everyone has an opinion about something. This is something, as most of you know, I love and encourage in my friends. While I find that I typically agree with my closest friends and most things, with my extended friendships there's a wide array of opinions. There's nothing wrong with this; as a matter of fact, I encourage my friends to think this way. That being said, there are some things I think people with opinions (that's all of you!) should keep in mind when expressing them, for your own benefit and the benefit of people who are listening to you.
Please check your facts. Please. This seems pretty obvious to a lot of people, but there are tons of people who just blather and don't actually bother to look at what they're talking about. We all develop opinions on every little thing we hear. That's okay. But if you're going to publicly make opinions about things, make sure you know what you're talking about, that you can back what you're saying with some fact. If you can't, your point is moot. Now, obviously, some theological or ethical debates might not have the same standards of proof as political debates or anything like that, or just expressions of opinion don't require these rigorous standards. But when you are going to, say, forward a random chain e-mail to friends about a political candidate, even if you know everyone agrees with the sentiment of the chain, do them the courtesy of checking your facts to keep from spreading more lies. That doesn't help anyone, it doesn't educate anyone, and it just make things more convoluted. You can make your point without lying about anything, I promise. So please, make sure that what you are saying is actually correct before you go blabbering. It just makes you look like an idiot when someone comes back and corrects you.
If you aren't going to check, or speak from a bias, make it known. There's no shame in that, either, but remember how it effects your stance. You can fact check all you want, but your bias is going to make you interpret facts differently from other people. If you have a family history of domestic violence, or came from poverty, you will feel very different about issues involving domestic shelters or universal healthcare. Just say it. You don't have to detail everything about your childhood, but just say, "I feel very strongly about issue A, just so you know." There's nothing wrong with that, it's wonderful to be empassioned and it's wonderful to feel so strong about things important to you. I'd think it was pretty weird if you didn't have things you cared a lot about, and didn't have opinions on those things. But that's a really important thing for people to know when discussing these issues with you, so they know where you're coming from.
There's no shame in not knowing. If someone asks you a question about something, and you don't know the answer, just say so. You don't have to know everything, and anyone who expects you to is the true idiot. No one knows everything. If you start running at the mouth about something you don't know anything about, it just makes you look more dumb than if you had not opened your mouth at all. As the saying goes, better to be quiet and be thought an idiot, than to open your mouth and prove yourself an idiot.
Maybe it really is best that you not speak like an expert on something you're not an expert on. This seems obvious, but ... especially when dealing with academia, it's an issue you see a lot. If you are not a psychologist, don't pretend to be one. Don't make comments about things you aren't trained on. And remember, your personal experience doesn't make you an expert on something. Maybe you have clincial depression. You are an expert on yourself, and an expert on your specific case, but not an expert on clinical depression and certainly not an expert on psychological disorders at large. When a field has experts, it's probably because that field is very complicated, and requires a lot of study to really understand and master. Respect that by not speaking when you don't know what you're talking about. Ask questions, engage in conversation, but don't start spouting out opinions. As I said earlier, fact checking is important, and an expert has access to more facts than you could ever hope to have, and will shoot you down so fast it's not even funny. That's not to mean you can't discuss issues with experts, because you can. You can ask questions, and voice things you've heard, or things you're wondering about, or things you think, but remember that you are dealing with an expert, and have respect for that. When you're not discussing things with an expert, and are acting like one because, for whatever reason, you feel so entitled, you are really disrespecting their field and yourself. It's just not cool, yo.
Please be courteous to your fellow man. Say someone is acting the expert at you, and you know they don't know what they're talking about. Don't be rude. Be kind, just tell them openly, "you know, maybe you should think more carefully about this." If you disagree with someone, don't shout at them or cut them down; they maybe have accessed all the same facts as you, but have just looked at it differently. Yelling at people for their opinions, being rude, all of that is just way uncalled for and totally ruins any good the conversation could have done. It makes both parties look stupid. Be respectful, and it will come back to you.
Know when you really just shouldn't get involved. All that being said.... sometimes, you just need to know when to shut up. This applies to not knowing what you're talking about, and picking arguments. Sometimes, when a bunch of people who you KNOW are biased and who you KNOW don't know all the facts are discussing something, maybe it's best that you don't get involved in the discussion. Pick your fights, as they say, it's often not worth it to deal with idiocy, and turns out more frustrating than helpful to both parties. Along the same lines, maybe you should know when you are too emotionally involved in a topic to get involved in a discussion about it. Don't upset yourself over something; it's not worth it!"
I hope people find that helpful. :D I haven't read anything on this topic, and I don't have any research about it that proves anything useful, but it's things I've gleaned from seeing bad arguments and from seeing people get ridiculed for simple errors easily avoided.