| Thinking hard|
or hardly thinking?
|Major trains of thought|
|The good, the bad|
and the brain fart
|Come to think of it|
“”It is better to debate a question without settling it, than to settle a question without debating it.
A debate, in common parlance, means a discussion of a particular subject in which people express different opinions. A formal debate is a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides, generally ending with a vote or other decision.
Debate and democracy
Debate has been inextricably intertwined with the concept of the open society, as democratic societies depend upon the free and open exchange of ideas, providing a contrast to totalitarian regimes which may impose a limited set of ideas as absolute truths.
Totalitarian societies sometimes allow a certain amount of debate (see, for example, the concept of democratic centralism), but it is not free and open, and being on the "wrong" side of a debate could get you made persona non grata by the winners. Thus, to have an open society it is more important whether debate is unrestricted (i.e., whether there is freedom of speech) than whether debate takes place or not.
Note one can close down debate retrospectively: vigorous and robust debates took place in socialist circles in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, but mass arrests of wrong-thinking Trotskyite, Bukharinist and deviationist losers occurred subsequently in the 1930s.
Debate and creationism
Debates have been greatly abused by young Earth creationists, who use them to push their agenda in the following manner:
- Challenge "evolutionists" to a debate.
- Goad them by yelling, "Evolutionists won't debate us! They know they'll be trounced by the hammer of our irresistible logic!"
- Wait for a scientist to take them up on their challenge.
- When the scientist and creationist are in the debate venue, have the creationist Gish gallop over the scientist — or possibly start declaring things that are not even wrong.
- Declare the creationist the winner.
- Use the debate as further evidence of the claim in step 2.
This is pretty much why people such as Richard Dawkins refuse to debate creationists.
- Origins debate
- William Lane Craig (formal debates are pretty much his only claim to "fame", or, given his debating tactics, infamy)