The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

It's time for the United States to finally adopt the Metric System

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/25/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,173 times Debate No: 49919
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)




I believe that the United States has postponed the complete adoption of the metric system for too long. Being among the 17 original countries to sign the Convention of the Metre in 1875 [1], the United States have successively refused or failed to introduce the metric system to its society further than through mere official statements and projects. Today, only 3 countries in the world haven't adopted the metric system - Liberia, Myanmar and the USA [2], making the US the only industrialized country where this system isn't used in trade, business, industry and everyday life.Therefore, it's sensible to say that the United States is lagging behind the rest of the world by sticking to an overtly complex, outdated and decadent measurement system.

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I'd like to thank Pro for presenting this debate.

As con my position is the US should not change its current system of measurement.

I would like to define a few things.

The Metric System is a system of measurement started in France during the French Revolution[1]. It is a system designed around base 10 under an argument of "pure" reason. What's more reasonable than measuring things in the same numbering system as your count in? The current metric system is actually the SI, or International System, and was established in 1971[2].

What system the US currently uses isn't cut, and dry. According the the NIST the US is currently in transition to SI units[3]. NASA, and all scientific work, uses SI units. Our schools teach metric in every science, and math class so we are hardly falling behind anyone. However, clearly for everyday use the US the English System is used.

It would be easiest to illustrate how irrational metric is by highlighting some of it's failures. When the French invented metric they also included Decimal Time[4]. As standards go, Decimal Time isn't used much. Some people have even tried to get it to catch on with Beat Time[5]. Why hasn't the world converted to a Metric version of time?

You might be thinking that it's convenience, but it is not. It has to do with something people assume SI units does very well, but in everyday life does very poorly. That thing is basic fractions. If I were to ask you how many minutes were in a half an hour, quarter of an hour, a third of an hour, and a fifth of an hour what would you say? 30, 15, 20, and 5 minutes. Do you notice how the third of an hour came to a whole value of 20 instead of some infinite decimal? This is because English Units, and Time are based off of a base 12 system, and not a base 10 system. In a base 12 system fractions of 2, 3, and 4 are simple to do, and in the case of minutes base 60, which is base 12 times 5, fifths are easy. Those happen to be the most common form of fractions in everyday life. In a base 10 system you get 2, and 5 which is ok, but fifths aren't as useful if you don't also have thirds, and quarters.

Even when it switches at the smaller scales to base 16, like with inchs, it's to make common fractions simpler. When you need smaller than an inch an eighth, quarter, or a half, work great in base 16. You can still end up with those infinite decimals, but they are less common with the common fractions.

For everyday uses, like buying food, cooking, and basic measurements the English system is vastly superior, and the US should stay with it for everyday usage, and continue to use SI in Science.

Debate Round No. 1


I’d like to thank con for accepting my challenge

First I’d like to point that the metric system wasn’t created for “purity” reasons, as con claims, but:

1)To create a measurement system that could be understood universally;

2)Making science and calculation more accessible to the people;

3)Establishing a unified system (fist in France, and then universalized).[1]

Measurement unities were so chaotic in Europe, that each city had different systems. Several people through history have supported the creation of a unified system. [1][2][3]
Con cites the failure of decimal time as an argument against the metric system, however, decimal time have never been officially part of the metric system. It was part of the French Republican Calendar, and was abolished by the same decree that instituted the metric system [4] [5] [6].

Con argues that, since the metric system does not work well with fractions, it is inferior to the US system. Yet, the fact that 95% of human population has lived all their lives without the need to use fractions in measurement is an indicator that decimals are at least as useful as fractions for everyday use. Nevertheless, I’d like to show that decimals aren’t equal, but superior to fractions:[7]

1)Everyone are used with the decimal system, even Americans have to deal with things like percentages and money.

2)Given a set of decimal numbers, you don’t have to make complicated calculations to know which is bigger (which is easier to compare: 5/32; 1/8; and 9/64 or 0.15; 0.12 and 0.14).

3)It’s easier to make addition and subtraction calculations with decimal numbers than with fractions

4)The same number can be written in different fractions forms, including in very obscure ways.

5)With the metric system, you can adapt a number by simply changing the decimal point and the unity. So, even though 1 third of a meter is 0.3333..., you can treat is as 33cm, 333mm or 333,333μm, etc. according to your need for precision.

In fact, there is no US unity smaller than an inch, meaning it’s impossible to use the American system in any science that requires precision. That’s why the metric system is so widespread in science.

Pro also claims that the American system uses base 12. However, the 12 ratio is only used for foot–inches. There is no other unity that uses base 12. [7] The only rule in the American system is to have as inconsistent ratios as possible. Now, I agree that 12 is a better base, but then why not adopt a system entirely based in a ratio of 12, or, for the sake of consistence, an entire duodecimal number system. That sounds great, but to do it, we would need to change the very concept of numbers in the minds of over 7 billion people. That is not realistic, so let’s stick to our flawed 10-base number system and use the measurement system that is the most appropriate to it: Metric.

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I'd like to thank Pro for posting their latest round.

I don't expect my opponent, or the audience to have a full grasp of French history. Any irrefutable proof would be in French, and I don't expect everyone to know French. Perhaps a book from when people were trying to convince the US to go metric that cites "pure reason"[6], but that would be a minor point.

My point about Decimal Time is that it was never accepted. Pro didn't refute my argument, and choose to try and divorce it from their position. However, that leaves my argument intact. If the decimal system was so great why isn't it used to measure time? Why insist that decimal is so great, and easy to use, but not when it comes to time? Pro will either need to address this, or conceed my point.

Pro hasn't yet addressed my point that the US isn't behind because we educate everyone on both the Metric and English systems. Pro hasn't presented any evidence that shows that the US is lagging behind, or any evidence that any perceived lag is due to a lack of adopting metric. I'm sure more than a few mistakes can be traced back to measurement systems, but nothing that wouldn't also be caused by using the 1889 version of the meter instead of the 1986 version of the meter[7]. Which happens when you try to repeat older scientific experiments that used different metric measurements at the time.

The point of using fractions is that it increases your precession, and greatly reduces the effect of rounding errors. If we were to take 1/3 of a meter and dummy it down to 33cm when it comes time to multiply it by 3 you'd end up with 99cm instead of the 1 meter that it should be. Fractions exist to enhance precession, and if using the English System forces people to better understand fractions then it can help push us forward in understanding mathematics. If the inch was the smallest unity it doesn't exclude it from precision. You just have to learn to use fractions. However the pica, and points are smaller than an inch. The English measurement system was used in science for precise work long before metric was even conceived.

I never presented the English System as only a base 12, and Pro is wrong about only feet breaking down into units of 12 inches. There are 12 points per pica, and 12 Troy Ounces to a Troy Pound, and they are a part of the US standard measures. I also presented it as base 12, or base 16 depending on need. I'm not excluding the others either because it's based on everyday need, and precision.

Debate Round No. 2


I thank my opponent for their response.

Con fails to refute the original reasons used to defend the metric system that I have provided. This is not exactly a minor point, since the entire foundation of the metric system stands on them.

As for Decimal Time, there are 2 reasons that explain why it was rejected:
1) Unlike the chaotic state that other unities found themselves in XVIII century Europe, as explained in my previous argument, the sexagesimal division of time was used by most of the world since Ancient Egypt and Babylon [8], people everywhere spoke the same language when talking about time - and that's another reason for the US adopt the metric system: it's an universal language that most Americans don't speak
2) Because calling a tenth of a day (which is about 2,5 sexagesimal hours) an hour created a lot of confusion with the terms [9]
I invite Con to join me in a debate about decimal time in the future, but now we should stick to the metric system

Unlike con arguments, the use of both metric and English unities have caused a series of confusions and problems, including the loss of a $327.6 million space probe [10]. Besides, since American products are set in the English system, while foreign products are in metric, a lot of money is wasted in conversions for both importation and exportation. Pro claims there are different versions of the meter. However his source says that the actual value of the meter has never changed [11]. The same can't be said of English unities [12].

Con hasn't disproved any of the 5 arguments I gave in favor of the superiority of decimal system. Instead, he claims that fractions are better because they are more accurate when you have to divide a number by 3 and then multiply it again by 3. This type of calculation is completely unnecessary, once you'll end up with the same number you had before.

Con is right about the existence of unities smaller than the inch; I've never seen them being used, though, especially in science.

I should rephrase the sentence I used in the previous round, what I meant was that there is no other commonly used 12-base English unity.

In his argument, con presents us with other obscure English unities, the troy pound and ounce. Those are completely different from the regular (or avoirdupois) pound and ounce, yet, have the same name. This highlights the confusion inherent to the English system. Which by the way is the same type of confusion that lead the decimal time to be abolished by the French 200 years ago.

That being said, I believe I have successfully proved the superiority of the metric system, therefore, vote pro.

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I would expect awareness of the change in the meter, and gram, to be common knowledge. After all it was the 0.2 micrometer difference in the platinum bars used in the 1886 standard that prompted the need to create a more definitive standard[8]. At least the meter had a fix by switching to a definition based on light. The gram hasn't been so fortunate, and has been in a state of constant change since it was invented[9].

If Pro's position that a decimal version of time failed because 2 hours and 24 minutes is less confusing than 100 beats in beat time, or 1 hour in decimal time for one tenth of a day. It seems to refute Pro's own argument that decimal is less confusing.

It's good Pro finally brought up some evidence to try and support their claim that the English System has set the US back. For those not familiar the Mars Climate Orbiter failed due to a component outputting pound-seconds instead of Newton-seconds as NASA had requested. As much as it may seem that this was a failure of the dual system this was really a failure quality assurance. Had NASA properly tested the components to ensure they weren't just miss calibrated the problem would have been spotted before the orbiter was even launched. The same issue would have occurred had the component been 10 Newton-seconds off, and if that had happened no one would be blaming the metric system. Poor QA, and nothing more.

Pros first argument that "everyone uses decimal therefore use metric" is little more than an ad populum argument. Arguments 2, 3, and 4 can be summed up as "fractions are hard", and I countered with fractions are a basic fundamental of mathematics, and regular use will push our knowledge further. Argument 5 was counted with the purpose of fractions in mathematics which is to preserve precision were decimal has always had the stigma of rounding errors.

Anyone familiar with Gold knows that the troy ounce is actually very common, and more people use points because it's what fonts are measured in. Both are de facto standards used even by metric followers because typographers are more stubborn than Americans, and no one likes melting down gold just to stamp it with a new weight. The loss in micro grams of gold would far outweigh the cost of doing the simple math to convert to tonne, the metric standard for gold.

Any advantages posed by the metric system are already present in the US dual system. The US isn't at any disadvantage. Everyone learns both systems in school. Mistakes that appear to be caused by the duality were in actuality caused by incompetent QA processes that would have eventually resulted in major losses regardless of the system used. Pro presents no real advantages to change, and presents reduced math skill from fear of fractions.

The status quo should be upheld, and thank you for your time.

[8] Contemporary Physics, vol. 3, issue 6, pp. 415-434
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by joepbr 2 years ago
I apologize for using roman numerals instead of ordinal Arabic to express centuries and a comma instead of a point for the decimal mark in my last argument, contradicting the standard for those notations in the English language. In fact, here is another argument in favor of the metric system: if the notation of centuries and decimal marks was universally standardized, like the metric system is, I wouldn't have committed those mistakes.
Posted by WaterTipper 2 years ago
The metric meter is very close to the customary yard. They could just move the lines a little bit and all will be still good.
Posted by Gordontrek 2 years ago
Hmm... I dunno. I guess football would be a LOT more interesting would it not?
"THE 27.432.....THE 18.288....THE 9.144....TOUCHDOWN!!"
Posted by nato1111 2 years ago
this will be quite a good debate i will be watching this closely i do believe every country should have the metric system it would make everything easier for weight calculations
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Geogeer 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: As some one who actively uses both systems on a daily basis I was interested in this debate. While there were stronger arguments for both sides I find that Con made the better argument.
Vote Placed by Actionsspeak 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Completely subjective, and either form of measurement works fine no points awarded.