Definition of sources.
The companies that make Star Trek and Star Wars (Paramount and Lucasfilm respectively) have rules regarding what does and what does not fit into their ficticious universes. For Star Trek, generally only the series (The original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise) and films are canon. However, there are exceptions. The old animated series is not considered canon, but the book "Pathways" is considered to be limited canon, since it refers to events which did happen. Confusing? Yes a little. So where does this leave the two Star Trek technical manuals and the various encylopedias and companion CD-Roms? Well, going strictly by Paramounts statement, they would be non canon. However many people describe them as "official", since they were written by the people who actually make the show and contain data directly extracted from the show (especially true in the case of the CD-Roms). Aslo, in the case of TNG:TM, it was endorsed by Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the whole franchise, and should count for something. Therefore, they are often used in debates, especially where no other evidence is available. However, it must be remembered that they hold little official status, and so any conflict between these sources and the "canon" sources is always resolved in the canon sources favour. There is no debate on that point, the TMs are ALWAYS overridden by the on screen evidence if there is a conflict. However, just because the TM may be wrong on one point, that doesn't mean it is wrong on all point. Therefore, if you find a mistake in the phasers section, that doesn't mean that the torpedoes section is wrong too. As a general rule of thumb, accept the TM, unless it is specifically contradicted by the show.
For Star Wars, the movies are regarded as the ultimate "canon" and cannot be refuted. Books, technical manuals, games etc, are often described as 'official' and are of a lower order. Lucas himself has stated that he does not consider himself bound by anything in the novel or TMs etc (an examination of the problem of the Star Wars expanded universe can be found here.) Therefore, if a book disagrees with a film in any way, the book is wrong, regardless of how many books say the same thing. A good example of this comes from the "Return of the Jedi" novel. At the end of the book, we have a statement that says... "Wedge tore out of the superstructure at barely sublight speed." However, when we watch the movie, we can clearly see that Wedge's X-Wing was not travelling at anything like "barely sublight speed" (i.e about 250,000-300,000 kilometers a second!). If he had really been travelling at that speed, he would have been travelling too fast to see with the naked eye, and would have crashed into Endor and killed himself long before our slow brains could even know that he had left the Death Star! Therefore, the novel is wrong and we simply ignore that statement. However, just because the novel is wrong on that point, it doesn't mean the rest of it is wrong. Therefore we accept the novels, unless they specifically contradict the movies, in which case the movies always win.
So what does this mean to the story and any debate? Well simply this. If something is stated in any of the films or series for either universe, it is considered to be correct, even if conflicts with books, games or even real world science. The key factor to bear in mind is to be reasonable. Fanatics will argue that just because something has never been stated or shown in a canon source, it is not true, regardless of whether it makes sense. That logic would quickly lead us to believe that a Star Destroyer or a Federation starship have no toilets, since they have never been shown in a canon source. It must have been a very long five year mission for Kirk and crew if that were true. Of course they have toilets. Why? Simply because it is sensible, logical and reasonable to assume they do. On the other hand, that doesn't mean that you can start giving ships and character abilities which they have never been shown to possess. You could say that Federation ships are immume to turbolasers. It has never been stated that they are, and there is no logical reason to assume that they should be. Therefore, unless you can prove it, don't expect anyone to believe you. As I said before, be reasonable and your debates will not become too fanatical.
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