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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Intelligence Squared

Friday, August 24, 2007

Intelligence Squared

I’ve never been a fan of NPR for a variety of reasons, but one of the blogs I read on a regular basis, Possummomma (a.k.a. Atheist in a Minivan) turned me onto an Oxford style debate series sponsored by NPR called Intelligence Squared. If you are one who enjoys a good debate but actually wants to hear both sides (meaning the debaters do not shout and talk over each other), then you will enjoy this series.

The debates are held in New York City at the Asia Society. Each debate has a moderator, three panelists who propose a motion in an opening statement, three panelists who oppose the motion who make a counter argument in an opening statement, discussion with questions from the moderator and the audience, and closing statements from each panelist. The audience is polled about the issue before and after the debate to determine which team wins. Every debate has different panelists who are experts on the issue being proposed. Among the panelists are Michael Crichton, Richard Lindzen (MIT professor and global warming skeptic), Christopher Hitchens, and William Kristal (editor of The Weekly Standard). Each debate runs about 1½ hours and podcasts can be listened to here.

After listening to these debates, the political debates sound juvenile. Among the topics for debate: global warming, free speech, religion and government, and whether or not the U.S. should tolerate a nuclear Iran. I enjoyed the free speech debate the most; I also liked the global warming debate but much of the discussion was over my head. If nothing else, it’s a great way to know what the issues are and what each side’s arguments are.


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