The Instigator
InquireTruth
Pro (for)
Winning
43 Points
The Contender
jjmd280
Con (against)
Losing
39 Points

The Law of Parsimony favors Intelligent Design

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Post Voting Period
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after 12 votes the winner is...
InquireTruth
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/23/2008 Category: Science
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,226 times Debate No: 6325
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (21)
Votes (12)

 

InquireTruth

Pro

Resolved: The Law of Parsimony Favors Intelligent Design Over Alternative Theories.

I would like to thank my opponent, JJmd280, for his enthusiasm in regards to debating this topic. For the sake of clarity I will briefly summarize the rule of parsimony and Intelligent Design, and then follow with my numerically listed points.

The Rule of Parsimony: Essentially, the simplest theory wins. That is to say, the theory with the same explanatory power and least amount of assumptions is to be preferred.

Intelligent Design: Observed complexity is best explained by positing intelligence.

1. Certain users on this site – against the notion of intelligent design – are fond of oversimplifying Intelligent Design by simply saying, "God created." If one wishes to take this oversimplified version of ID, then one must admit it to be the most parsimonious explanation – with a whopping one assumption this simple theory garners the same explanatory power as alternative naturalistic theories.

2. The most common alternative theory cited to explain observed complexity is the Multiverse theory. This theory postulates that there are an infinite number of unobserved universes that exist. This would adequately explain the less than 1 in 10 raised to the negative 1,018 probability of life emerging by chance. The problem is they are postulating an infinite number of unobserved (and forever unobservable) entities, while intelligent design posits one unobserved (but potentially observable) entity. The rule of parsimony favors Intelligent Design in this regard.

3. It is has been said that the probability of life arising by chance is "billions of times more remote than the probability of a copy of Oxford Dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing shop (1)." Alternative theories have to explain observed complexity using innumerous assumptions to explain unobserved processes. In Intelligent design we take what we know about how intelligent agents act when designing and are able detect design in our universe. Where the probability of naturalistic processes is so slim as to be impossible, intelligent design takes the trophy.

Conclusion:
My opponent must show an alternative theory to be more parsimonious than the one aforesaid. The alternative theory must have equal explanatory power and fewer assumptions.

I look forward to my opponent's response.

Sources:
(1) http://home.iitk.ac.in...
jjmd280

Con

Hello to my good opponent. I hope you had a great holiday. I did.

Onto the debate.

My opponent misrepresents the Rule of Parsimony - which is derived from Occam's Razor. He seems to believe it means "the simplest explanation". It doesn't. Basically it states plurality should not be assumed without necessity. Or, don't make stuff up. Or if you have to, make up as little as possible.

Suppose I have a cat. One night, I leave out a saucer of milk, and in the morning the milk has gone. No one saw who or what drank the milk. Lets say there are two possibilities:

1. The cat drank it

or

2. The milk fairy drank it

Occam tells us to reject option 2. This is because option 2 requires us to invent an unnecessary entity - the milk fairy. It is an invention because we have no evidence that the milk fairy exists. And it is unnecessary because there is a plausible explanation that does not require a milk fairy - the cat.

Note also that strictly speaking, both solutions are equally simple. The cat hypothesis is only simpler in that you haven't had to invent a new, unnecessary entity. Occam says that if you insist it could be the milk fairy, you have invented an unnecessary entity. And why would you do that?

1. Intelligent design posits a Creator. WHO created the Creator?
-Evidence of a Creator boils down to implied design. That the universe was made for us, not that we evolved to live in the universe. Fine, if Earth was the only place in the universe. But seeing as how 99.9% of the universe in uninhabitable, there is nothing parsimonious about ID. It raises more questions.

2. Potentially observable? How? Hubble? Maybe if it were an alien species that seeded the earth, but seeing as you are stepping out of naturalistic explanations into the realm of supernatural - you are positing an impossibility (at least by the scientific method, which we are ultimately dealing with...). Parsimonious? Hardly.

3. Probability theory is treacherous. For one, you are making a common error - after the fact assessment of probability, which is unreliable without a very careful consideration of all possible alternate contingencies. Math is unique in its ability to bamboozle a lay audience, which helps explain why you find it so appealing. One important and often-confused aspect of this is the difference in Bayesian probability theory between prior and posterior (formally, a priori and a posteriori) probabilities. The prior probability is the probability of an event occurring without taking evidence into account, while the posterior probability is the probability calculated when subsequent evidence is observed and analyzed. For example, it is highly improbable that the winning numbers on a lottery ticket would be 1,2,3,4,5 -- and if it were, people would suspect chicanery on the part of the lottery company. But it is exactly as unlikely that the winning numbers should be 4, 16, 24, 26, and 31. Before the lottery is held, all winning combinations are equally unlikely -- but after the lottery concludes, it is obvious that some unlikely pattern must have been the winning one.

For this reason, we cannot conclude that just because a proposed event that has already happened is unlikely, that the event itself did not occur and the proposed explanation is false. Similarly, in the first example, the fact that the origin of life might be wildly implausible does not in and of itself mean that it never happened. If life had not originated on our planet (through whatever means), no one would be here to discuss it. Therefore improbability by itself cannot refute an explanation of an event that has already happened. As Sherlock Holmes put it, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

Law of parsimony test - invoking a God opens up much larger and more difficult questions to answer, God is enormously complex by definition.

This is the fallacy of presumed design. When you jump to the conclusion that an ordinary object like a house or desk was designed by an intelligence, you are subscribing to a conclusion that provides the simplest and most likely answer. It is all to easy to try and draw analogies of ordinary observation to the biological world (or cosmic, depending on the question you are asking), but you end up creating many more problems than you solve. This is why it is very dangerous to assume that just because something in the natural world has the illusion of design, that the most reasonable explanation is design.

How did the Universe come into being? Let's look at the observably evidence -

* First of all, we are reasonably certain that the universe had a beginning.
* Second, galaxies appear to be moving away from us at speeds proportional to their distance. This is called "Hubble's Law," named after Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) who discovered this phenomenon in 1929. This observation supports the expansion of the universe and suggests that the universe was once compacted.
* Third, if the universe was initially very, very hot as the Big Bang suggests, we should be able to find some remnant of this heat. In 1965, Radioastronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered a 2.725 degree Kelvin (-454.765 degree Fahrenheit, -270.425 degree Celsius) Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) which pervades the observable universe. This is thought to be the remnant which scientists were looking for. Penzias and Wilson shared in the 1978 Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery.
* Finally, the abundance of the "light elements" Hydrogen and Helium found in the observable universe are thought to support the Big Bang model of origins.

Parsimony would suggest the Big Bang.

Thank you.

I will cite references in the last round due to lack of space.
Debate Round No. 1
InquireTruth

Pro

Introduction:

My opponent suggests that I misrepresented the Rule of parsimony by suggesting that it is the simplest explanation. I most certainly did not make anything up (get it?). It is the simplest explanation in terms of assumptions. Assumptions are, of course, things that are "made up" based on observation. The least amount of assumptions is to be considered the most parsimonious explanation. My opponent should not accuse me of misrepresentation based on a poor understanding of what I wrote.

1. Who created the creator?

Yes, this is the tiresome retort of many atheist apologists. But indeed, this is no different than me asking, what created the initial singularity (the precondition to the Big Bang)? Causality necessitates infinite regress unless something was uncaused – on this we can agree. I could posit an uncaused entity; my opponent could posit an oscillating big bang. Both have equal explanatory power and are unobserved assumptions. However, observed complexity is best explained by intelligence.

2. My opponent agrees?

Does my opponent agree that ID is a far more parsimonious explanation than the multiverse theory? It does, in fact, "make up" an infinite amount of unobserved universes, all to explain the mathematical impossibility of this one.

"but seeing as you are stepping out of naturalistic explanations into the realm of supernatural"

Unless my opponent wishes to call intelligence a supernatural explanation, he really has no tools in this shed. I never once posited a supernatural entity. I posited an unobserved, but possibly observable entity.

3. Probability theory is treacherous?

My opponent insists that we are using two different types of probability here. He insists that when we use posterior probability we take into account the evidence of things that occurred already. He gives the example of a lottery ticket and how one would suspect chicanery if the winning numbers happened to be 1,2,3,4,5. But this is of course no different than the probability of getting 31, 3, 4, 12, 78.
The problem? As my opponent rightly suggests, one would suspect some tomfoolery with the numbers when it comes to the former 1,2,3,4,5. This is an organized pattern. But there is still a huge problem: It is not analogous.
We observe that the universe had a beginning. The numbers rolled would have to be exactly 1,2,3,4,5…billion…trillion – all sequential – all in one try – or the universe would not be sustainable. This sort complexity and order is the mark of intelligence – therefore observed complexity can be explained by positing an intelligent designer.

Similarly, if I walked in the woods and saw a fully assembled log cabin, I would not insist that the trees happened to fall in such a way as to construct the cabin – I would rightly posit a designer – even if he be unobserved. In order for somebody to explain the log cabin without positing a designer, they would have to posit numerous assumptions and unobserved phenomena. Which is more parsimonious?

"For this reason, we cannot conclude that just because a proposed event that has already happened is unlikely, that the event itself did not occur and the proposed explanation is false."

I never once said that the event did not occur – that is ludicrous. But we can challenge the proposed explanation if it is not parsimonious. The log cabin exists – we know that, but the probability of it naturally falling together is highly improbable and not at all parsimonious.

"Therefore improbability by itself cannot refute an explanation of an event that has already happened."

Yes, but it most certainly can influence the explanation.

"invoking a God opens up much larger and more difficult questions to answer, God is enormously complex by definition."

Even if it were God specifically that I was invoking, this would be wrong. A certain game designer said, "mass quantities of information can easily be produced from much smaller quantities of information. A fractal is perhaps the most obvious example of huge quantities of new information being produced from a very small amount of initial information. For example, thirty-two lines of C++ code suffice to produce a well-known fractal known as the Sierpinski Triangle." So to assume that God must therefore be complex is an unfounded assertion and contra-observation.

"Parsimony would suggest the Big Bang."

False. The initial singularity and things prior to the "observed" effects of the Big Bang are assumptions – that is, things made up. ID posits ONE assumption: intelligence. But in order to make ANY alternative theory work, there has to be NUMEROUS assumptions (things made up) to account for observed complexity and the origins thereof.

Conclusion:
1. My opponent must therefore prove that the Big Bang theory contains absolutely no assumptions.
2. He must prove that the designer must be more complex than its design.
3. He must prove that, if we found a perfectly sustainable log cabin in the woods, that we should assume it naturally fell together. AND that this marvelous phenomenon is more parsimonious than positing a designer.

Source:
Vox Day, The Irrational Atheist, p. 153.
jjmd280

Con

(Internal voice - Why, thank you, JJMD280, I did have a good holiday. And I'm glad you did also.....)

First off, thanks for a thought-provoking argument.

I will begin with addressing my opponent's conclusions -

1. My opponent must therefore prove that the Big Bang theory contains absolutely no assumptions.
No, I mustn't. All I must do is show that ID makes more assumptions than The BB.

2. He must prove that the designer must be more complex than its design.
No, I mustn't. I must show a naturalistic explanation or say "I don't know" - both better than positing an intelligence where it is not needed.

3. He must prove that, if we found a perfectly sustainable log cabin in the woods, that we should assume it naturally fell together. AND that this marvelous phenomenon is more parsimonious than positing a designer.
No, I mustn't. The log cabin, by virtue of being explainable by ID, is a rather poor analogy to the Universe, which gives no evidence of design.

The fatal flaw with this theory is the idea of "observed complexity".
Consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design. How could this be demonstrated? Nature, as we have seen, provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics. (the log cabin) Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects. Evidences of design are those characteristics not found in nature, so it is impossible to produce evidence of design within the context of nature itself. Only if we first step beyond nature, and establish the existence of a supernatural designer, can we conclude that nature is the result of conscious planning. Therefore, you posit God. God being supernatural, is not by any means parsimonious.

So much for log cabins.

And the observation of design raises more questions - What about the NASTY things that exist, such as babies born without brains, good people suffering monstrous tortures such as neurofibromatosis, evil people basking in the sun and enjoying power, reputation, etc. Volcanoes erupting, earthquakes rattling the planet, hurricanes and tornadoes blindly wiping out thousands of lives a day? Is this intelligent? BUT - we already have naturalistic explanations for these events - there is no need to add ID to the mix - The Law of Parsimony states not to add more when you already have a viable explanation.

Then you MUST ask - What is this Creator? Where is this Creator? And knowing that ID is just Neo-Creationism in stealth mode to seem scientific, you can't answer these very important questions, and never will be able to. If science stopped today and said ID was the truth, science stops being science. We all know you are not proposing that ET dreamed us up. We have evidence of a BB, we don't have one shred of a creator. ( Please note my opponent did not refute the evidence I provided that demonstrates a BB.)

"But in order to make ANY alternative theory work, there has to be NUMEROUS assumptions (things made up) to account for observed complexity and the origins thereof."
Now, what happened before the BB?
Nonsensical. Nothing happened before the BB, or nothing we can ever observe. Time began in the BB, so asking that question is like asking what is North of North? Now I ask again - what created your Creator? I cannot assume anything happened before the Big Bang.

On probability -
""The problem? As my opponent rightly suggests, one would suspect some tomfoolery with the numbers when it comes to the former 1,2,3,4,5. This is an organized pattern. But there is still a huge problem: It is not analogous.
We observe that the universe had a beginning. The numbers rolled would have to be exactly 1,2,3,4,5…billion…trillion – all sequential – all in one try – or the universe would not be sustainable. This sort complexity and order is the mark of intelligence – therefore observed complexity can be explained by positing an intelligent designer.""

Look at it this way - BEFORE the roll of the die, the probability of any roll is 1:1 (doesn't even matter how many sides the die has) - that is, any result has an equal chance of occurring. It is only AFTER it has rolled that you can assess the post-probability. We do not know what other conditions COULD have resulted in a universe that could support life, we only know the particulars of our own universe, and seeing that we can't as of yet assess anything beyond the light barrier of the universe (another support of the BB) it is more truthful and scientifically parsimonious to not assume that ID can answer this. As we go along and fill in the Gaps in the theory, with observable data and scientific explanation, ID proponents will fall to the wayside. That is, except for the diehards.

The question is: why do design arguments remain so durable if empirical evidence is inferentially ambiguous, the arguments logically controversial, and the conclusions vociferously disputed?

Adding a supernatural to the theory of the beginning of the universe to our current understanding is making a mockery of parsimony, science and rational thought.

I am enjoying this debate, and wish my opponent well in his next round.

Thank You.

http://www.skepticfiles.org...
http://www.iep.utm.edu...
http://skepdic.com...
Debate Round No. 2
InquireTruth

Pro

I sincerely apologize, JJMD280. My holiday was wonderful and I am happy to hear yours went well.

I am happy we got to debate this subject, and as was expected, you are a great opponent.

On with the debate

**********
"No, I mustn't. All I must do is show that ID makes more assumptions than The BB."

And I hope my opponent intends to show this. Indeed he has hitherto done no such thing.

"No, I mustn't. I must show a naturalistic explanation or say "I don't know" - both better than positing an intelligence where it is not needed."

You must then show that intelligence is not natural. Remember, we are talking about parsimony in regards to theory. The theory that assumes more, is the theory to be disregarded.

"No, I mustn't. The log cabin, by virtue of being explainable by ID, is a rather poor analogy to the Universe, which gives no evidence of design."

False, complexity and order are a fundamental tenet of design. I'm sure if design was not

**********

1. The Fatal Flaw?

My opponent suggests that I have a fatal flaw in my argument in regards to observed complexity. He assumes that we cannot infer design in the universe because we judge design in contrast to nature. The problem is that we are talking about intelligence. Design of the log cabin is immediately obvious because the complexity and order is immediately obvious. Design can be inferred using the scientific method of observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion. Design theorists begin with observations of how intelligent agents act when designing to help them recognize and detect design in the natural world.
My opponent goes forward with a complete Red Herring about babies and hurricanes. Who cares? We are talking about design, not morality and ethics. Nor are we talking about anthro-centrism.

"Then you MUST ask - What is this Creator? Where is this Creator?"

No more than you HAVE to ask what is and where was this initial singularity. We both agree that time had a beginning, so it is indeed nonsensical to argue what happened "before" that. Why does my opponent insist on setting fire to straw?

"We do not know what other conditions COULD have resulted in a universe that could
support life, we only know the particulars of our own universe"

My opponent should take note that I am not just talking about the sustainability of life, but the sustainability of our entire universe. All the laws and constants seem fine-tuned for existence. One cannot simply say, "well it could have been different." Scientific theories are not formed by what is not known, but by what IS known. What we know is that our universe could not exist differently given our laws and constants – it is an impossibility. Indeed, saying that it could possibly be different is not parsimonious at all, it is neither observed nor ever observable.

******
1. Assumptions of the Bang

The problem with the Big bang is that it assumes that the universe was created in the same way it operates. But this is neither rational nor necessary. Design proponents understand that things designed are not designed in the way they operate. Is it rational or necessary to assume that the universe was created in the same way it operates? For instance, a flashlight operates by changing electrical energy into light. However, it would be absurd to believe it was created by the conversion of electrical energy into light. The Big Bang theory observes current phenomena – like space expansion – and infers the initial singularity in which neither time, space, nor matter existed outside of. This is an unobservable phenomenon (and forever unobservable). The sustainability of our universe, its laws and constants, the origin of life – all require innumerous amounts of unobserved assumptions.

The theory also posits THREE hypothetical entities that do not have scientific confirmation of existence: The inflation field, non-baryonic (dark) matter and the dark energy field to overcome gross contradictions of theory and observation (1). Indeed, if dark matter did exist, it would contradict the law of conversation of energy and matter. If there is a theory, with the same explanatory power and less assumptions, according to the rule of parsimony, it is to be preferred. Contradictions are a no-no too.

2. Assumptions of Intelligent Design

The ID proponent makes one assumption that is based on observed phenomenon. We observe intelligence and design. By observing the sorts of choices that intelligent agents commonly make when designing systems, a positive case for intelligent design is easily constructed by elucidating predictable and reliable indicators of design. ID is the science that studies intelligence. Just as it takes numerous assumptions to "naturalistically" explain a fully assembled log cabin; it takes numerous assumptions to explain an incredibly fine-tuned universe.

"Adding a supernatural to the theory of the beginning of the universe to our current understanding is making a mockery of parsimony, science and rational thought."

Intelligence is not supernatural.

Conclusion:

My opponent suggests that the Big Bang theory is a more parsimonious explanation yet he fails to give any convincing evidence. The Big Bang theory has more assumptions and posits MORE unconfirmed entities than ID.

(1) http://bigbangneverhappened.org...
http://www.designinference.com...
http://www.evolutionnews.org...
jjmd280

Con

jjmd280 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
21 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by DiablosChaosBroker 8 years ago
DiablosChaosBroker
I like this debate very much. Now I understand how to strengthen my arguments on fine-tuning. Thank, InquireTruth!
Posted by jjmd280 8 years ago
jjmd280
The Hartle-Hawking State
Posted by DiablosChaosBroker 8 years ago
DiablosChaosBroker
If the baryon number remains constant, the total mass and pressure must both increase from cycle to cycle, hence, the maximum radius must increase from cycle to cycle. The multicycle model therefore has an infinite future, but only a finite past.
It also lacked any physical mechanism for why the Universe should start expanding again in the first place. However, the exact same issues of entropy that plagued earlier cyclic models still plagued Steinhardt and Turok's model and that while it was possible for the cyclic model to be eternal into the future, it had to have a definitive beginning in the past.

The cyclic model has its own share of shortcomings. Consideration of entropy buildup (and also of quantum mechanics) ensures that the cyclic model's cycles could not have gone on forever. Instead, the cycles began at some definite time in the past, and so, as with inflation, we need an explanation of how the first cycle got started.

Therefore, all cyclic models have indeed infinite to the future, they are not infinite in the past. Always they return to the need for an initial singularity and an ultimate beginning.
Posted by DiablosChaosBroker 8 years ago
DiablosChaosBroker
Of course you can refute my idea of infinite regress not being able to create an infinite universe if you post an oscillatory universe. However the oscillatory universe still has scientific issues.

Singularities were a universal feature of cosmologies with a big bang and that no feature of general relativity could prevent them. Since no "memory" of previous cycles would be preserved, the entropy issue was eliminated, but by the same token there was little reason to postulate cycles before or after the present one. Other measurements suggested the universe is not closed.
Posted by DiablosChaosBroker 8 years ago
DiablosChaosBroker
The Big Crunch by defintion is which the metric expansion of space eventually reverses and the universe recollapses, ultimately ending as a black hole singularity. But since a black hole singularity is not a Big Bang singularity, the idea that a infinite regress caused a Big Crunch that made the Big Bang singularity is false.

The Big Bounce by defintion is when the universe collapses it will spawn another universe in an event similar to the Big Bang after a universal singularity is reached.
However, the accumulating evidence shows that our universe is destined for a Big Freeze or heat death rather than a Big Crunch. Big Bounce would reverse entropy by resetting the state of the universe, violating the second law of thermodynamics. Also, the collapse into a singularity would destroy most of the information in the previous universe. So even if the entire universe eventually collapses, it won't be able to collapse to a singularity. Instead, energy densities become so high such that a tremendous repulsive force causes a rebound.
Posted by DiablosChaosBroker 8 years ago
DiablosChaosBroker
The universe did not collapse and form a black hole at the beginning. It is expanding rapidly near the beginning and the rate of expansion is slowing down. Space can be flat while space-time is not. So what's the difference of the Big Bang singularity and a black hole singularity? The big bang singularity lies in the past of all events in the universe, whereas the singularity of a black hole lies in the future. So the big bang singularity is more like a white hole which is the time reversal of a black hole. So according to general relativity white holes should not exist since they cannot be created for the same (time-reversed) reasons that black holes cannot be destroyed. However, white hole singularities are different from the Big Bang too. A white hole has an event horizon which is the reverse of a black hole event horizon. Nothing can pass into this horizon just as nothing can escape from a black hole horizon.
Posted by DiablosChaosBroker 8 years ago
DiablosChaosBroker
If you put matter/energy in a true absolute physical vacuum, then how would it expand without a cause? Assuming that a singularity existed at time=0 makes less sense, since time is needed for inertia. Consider if the singularity is eternal like God. What would make it expand in the first place? Nothing? So if I throw a dice with infinite matter/energy in a vacuum, billions of years later, it will explode into the universe that is 1000 light years long and will keep expanding?
Posted by DiablosChaosBroker 8 years ago
DiablosChaosBroker
The Big Bang wasn't a large explosion. It was a singularity. If the observable universe was eternal, there would be no need for God. But the Big Bang refutes the idea of an eternal universe. According to the Big Bang, the observable universe is about 13.7 billion years old. Why can't we find out what happened before it if the universe was eternal? I would say what happened before the Big Bang. Other people would say nothing happened because that's like saying what happened before time began. There are no natural events that I see that can produce a singularity that contains all matter and energy of the entire universe. A big crunch would make a black hole singularity which is different from the Big Bang singularity.
Posted by InquireTruth 8 years ago
InquireTruth
That is what I meant. Thanks
Posted by DiablosChaosBroker 8 years ago
DiablosChaosBroker
Um... A Big Crunch is collapse of the universe into one giant black hole for the rest of eternity. An oscillating universe needs a Big Bounce.
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