Debate of semantics – A fallacious attempt to gain credibility via nitpicking.
How it works: Lets say Person “A” and person “B” are on opposing sides of a debate over dogs dental health. “Person A” interchanges “dog” with “wolf”. From that point on “person B” will spend as much time as possible explaining the differences between a dog and a wolf rather than staying on topic which was dog dental health. “Person B” is attempting to either derail the conversation, attack his character (basically a high level way of calling the other person stupid), or both.
One of the key points about a Debate of semantics in context to this example is “person B” KNOWS both dog’s and wolf’s are both in the canidae family, he knows dogs and wolfs share many similarities, but he hopes to be more technical than “person A” so he does not have to prove his position. The only thing “person A” did was categorize things in a way that differs from main stream science or make a generalization.
Nitpicking the differences between: apes and monkeys (both in the primate family ) or A bat and a bird (They’re the same category in some religious text. ) are some other good examples.
Simply put pointing these types of things out has no significant value in debates in my opinion. I’ve seen/read a good many debates. Every time someone attempted to do this they either could not counter valid points from the opposition or wanted to end the debate without debating at all. Changing the subject is not a valid form of debating.