The Instigator
RationalMadman
Con (against)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
InVinoVeritas
Pro (for)
Winning
14 Points

There Exists an Objective Morality

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
InVinoVeritas
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/26/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,606 times Debate No: 25296
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (10)
Votes (5)

 

RationalMadman

Con

First round is posing definition, boundaries of debate and the general case for pro. I expect sources for all definitions and justifications for any boundary.
InVinoVeritas

Pro

Resolution: There exists an objective morality.

This should not be confused with the resolution "All morality is objective." All that I need to do to meet my burden of proof is to prove that morality of an objective nature exists, regardless of the number of cases of such a thing existing.

Definitions:

A definition of "objectivity" we will not use: "A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are met and are "'mind-independent'—that is, existing freely or independently from the thoughts of a conscious entity or subject." [1] The problem with this definition (for the purpose of this debate) is its semantic ambiguity. It is indisputable that morality is derived from the human thought process; it would be absurd to defend the idea that morality is an entity that exists outside of the mind. But, at the same time, thoughts are objective biological functions, and my argument will delve into this matter. Hence, this definition is not suitable, within the context of this debate.

A definition of "objectivity" we will use: "Objective reality is whatever remains true whether you believe in it or not." [2] This definition establishes that objectivity exists regardless of whether beliefs reflect the idea that it exists or not. Furthermore, unlike the last definition, it omits a flawed interpretation: that something that is directly connected with beliefs/thoughts, as morality is, make it non-objective.

Morality: (n) "...the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad (or wrong.)" [3]

---

I will not post my argument, so that my opponent and I have an equal four rounds to argue our cases. Rather than making this into a debate of semantics, post any concerns about definitions and terms of debate in the comments section.

Thank you.

---

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.geek-central.gen.nz...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 1
RationalMadman

Con

The only evidence for the existence of objective moral truth is our so-called moral intuition. However, this intuition is unreliable, and it may be alternatively explained by natural selection. It is unreliable because there is wide disagreement over the actual content of objective moral truth. It may be explained by natural selection by noting that empathy (the basis, in my view, of moral intuition) would likely promote group coherence and cooperation for mutual benefit, thereby enabling those with empathy to survive and reproduce more successfully than those who are non-empathetic. Furthermore, if objective moral truth existed, it would be a strange metaphysical entity indeed , as it would be intrinsically motivating, yet not confirmable by sense-data. By all menas of rationality, one should not posit such a strange entity if the only evidence for it (so-called moral intuition) is unreliable and may be explained instead by a scientific theory (natural selection) that is widely accepted.[1]

Take for instance the Donner Party. This was a group of emigrants who made the fateful decision to take a newfound shortcut through the Sierra Nevada Mountains about 150 years ago. History shows that the party became trapped by the winter snows and 41 of the 87 members died. The ones that survived were accused of resorting to cannibalism.[2]

If someone told you "that man killed someone" I think the majority of people would agree killing is bad and would also agree that it is a universal ethical belief that the man committed a terrible act. However, I you were to change the sentence to say "That man killed someone who was about to kill a woman after raping her. The man stopped it by killing him first", then the issue of killing becomes gray and subjective because the "killer" was protecting someone else from being murdered. Does this scenario hold the same as the first one? Ethical dilemmas are never clear and are rather subjective depending on an individual's perception of an issue. The second statement starts to reveal the subjective nature of morality altogether. As for the values of security and privacy and the debate on which value is "more important". There is no objective answer. We want to remain safe in a world that has threatening aspects to it, but at the same time we want our privacy, as do the people out to hurt us. In the world. there are many volatile issues that are forefront in the political debates (stem cell, abortion, illegal immigration for starters), most of which are rooted within moral issues. Based on the division we have in the world on many issues, this further illustrates that morality is not universal, but subjective. Hitler thought he was doing the right thing based on his model of the world! He didn't think he was being evil, and neither did his people at the time...in fact, they're the ones that put him into power. Morality is subjective. You say he is evil because disagree with what he is doing. You assign "bad" with things you disagree with and "Good" to those things with which you agree. [3]

Descriptive relativism is a family of empirical claims to the effect that certain groups in fact have different modes of thought, standards of reasoning, or the like. Such claims are meant to describe (but not evaluate) the principles and practices of the two groups, and they are compatible with the claims that both groups are right (in their different ways), that only one is, that neither is, or even that (in the case at hand) there is no such thing as getting things right (e.g., there is no ultimate fact of the matter as to which epistemic principles or ethical principles are correct). It is possible to be a descriptive relativist about some things (e.g., ethical principles) but not about others (e.g., logical principles).[4]

The claim that a person's culture, language, or the like influences his modes of thought does not mean that they completely determine how she thinks. Smoking is a causal factor for lung cancer; other things being equal, smokers are more likely to get cancer, and to do so because they smoke. But many other things, from genetic make-up to exposure to asbestos, are causal factors as well. Similarly, a claim that culture or language or some other independent variable affects a particular facet of experience or thought allows for other influences as well, and descriptive versions of relativism come in stronger and weaker forms, depending on the hypothesized strength of an independent variable's influence.

The descriptive relativist's claims about epistemic principles, moral ideals and the like are often countered by arguments that such things are universal, and much of the recent literature on these matters is explicitly concerned with the extent of, and evidence for, cultural or moral or linguistic or human universals.[5]

Sources:
[1] http://groups.able2know.org...
[2] http://www.collegenet.com...
[3] http://newburkeian.blogspot.co.uk...
[4] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org...

For my opponent, I propose the following challenge: How would you motivate a non-empathetic atheist--who is convinced that they will not get caught--to refrain from a harmful action (such as torturing a child for fun)? And if you cannot do so, how can you posit the existence of objective moral truth (objective in the sense that it applies to everyone, and moral truth in the sense that it should provide at least some motivational force)?
InVinoVeritas

Pro

Evolutionary Ethics

It is interesting that the opponent claims that "moral intuition" can be "alternatively explained" [emphasis mine] by natural selection. Evolutionary traits and morality, in many ways, go hand in hand. If we take a neo-Darwinian stance on the issue of morality, I think natural selection forms a convincing case for an objective code of morality.

Evolution and adaptation of biological structures began with simple prokaryotic organisms, which ultimately led to the existence of a wide array of structurally unique organism types, which includes us, humans. We and our biological traits are products of evolutionary development.

Here is my argument for a morality founded on objective principles, through the lens of evolutionary theory:

1. Human thoughts are objective biological functions of the brain
2. The human brain, and therefore its biological functions, have been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development
3. Human thoughts have been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development
4. Morality is a direct product of the human brain's thought function
5. Morality has been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development

...

1. "Human thoughts are objective biological functions of the brain"

Thoughts are biological phenomena that are produced by brain functions; this is the axiom for my syllogism. Thoughts are electrochemical impulses sent by the billions of neurons in our brains through synaptic transmissions. [1] This is the prevalent theory in modern neuroscience about the nature of thoughts.

2. "The human brain, and therefore its biological functions, have been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development"

The following will explain what I mean by "objective standardization." I do not think that the opponent will contest the fact that the human brain has a standard structure, as opposed to the brain of, say, a kangaroo. Genetically, the human brain develops in a structurally unique way that is distinct from those of other species and unique to the human species. This is, of course, a direct result of evolutionary development, specifically speciation. It follows that brain function is also standardized in such a way that is unique to humans.

3. "Human thoughts have been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development"

A function is greatly influenced by the structure that produces it. In the same way, human thought is greatly influence by the structure of the brain. And if the structure is a product of evolutionary development, then it follows that the function (thought) that is founded on the structure is a product of the same.

4. "Morality is a direct product of the human brain's thought function"

The distinction between good and bad does not exist outside the realm of the human mind, and I believe that my opponent would concur with this. It is a product of thought.

5. "Morality has been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development"

Structure has been standardized by evolutionary development. Therefore, function has been standardized by evolutionary development. Therefore, thought has been standardized by evolutionary development. Therefore, morality has been standardized by evolutionary development.

And it follows that morality, then, has an objective basis, founded on traits acquired through evolutionary development. This argument does not claim that all morality is objective; I will not argue against the idea that social construction, among various other factors, contributes to morality. But it is clear that our brains, and therefore our thoughts, face an objective disposition to uphold a specific foundation for our world views. In other words, we are biologically predisposed, even if in some cases the predisposition is slight, to uphold one moral standpoint over another.


Subjectivity

In regards to the opponent's example of "'that man killed someone' vs. 'That man killed someone who was about to kill a woman after raping her. The man stopped it by killing him first.'": Every moral decision involves an infinite number of factors, so, indeed, it is impossible to deem something absolutely moral or absolutely immoral. Moral absolutism is not the matter of contention here.

Morality is, indeed, not completely objective. An individual's moral views, holistically, are probably more subjective than objective. I will not dispute this. However, I will repeat that the human brain is structured similarly when comparing two members of the human community; there is standardized structure and function. We are predisposed to take on a specific world view over others; there is an underlying objective principle behind morality, though it is certainly not absolute.

Moral views differ because of a variety of factors, such as socially construction and differences in biological brain structure. Nonetheless, the structure of the human brain is standardized, and so are its predispositions for taking on specific world views. For example, the standard human brain releases the neurotransmitter chemical dopamine for reward and pleasure centers of the brain [2]; we may view an action to be better than other, due to a difference in potential dopamine release. We do not absolutely choose an action based on this, and we may choose an action that acts in opposition to it; in the end, however, a disposition is present that affects our world view and moral standpoints.

Descriptive relativism

The stand-alone, copy-and-pasted excerpts the opponent exhibits toward the end of his round do not really serve his case, since there are no arguments attached. Nonetheless, I will discuss the matter that the opponent brought up.

As the opponent stated, "The claim that a person's culture, language, or the like influences his modes of thought does not mean that they completely determine how she thinks." [3] Indeed, despite the fact that differences do exist in the world views of members of different cultures, there are other factors that contribute to their world views.

In my argument, I emphasized the roles of the human brain's structure and function in determining one's moral views. The structure and function, furthermore, are standardized, similar enough to constitute a structure that is recognizable and unique to the human species. Our moral views, though dependent on many factors, is influenced by the biological traits that our brains share.

---

In conclusion, morality does have an objective basis. An objective realm of morality does exist, and it can be determined through the empirical study of neuroscience. Morality may be a philosophical topic, but it is grounded in objective truths about the human brain and its functions.

Back to my opponent.

---

[1] http://www.quantummechanicsandreality.com...
[2] http://www.psychologytoday.com...
[3] http://plato.stanford.edu...











Debate Round No. 2
RationalMadman

Con

Before I begin my debate I wish to let my opponent aware that using my own source as your own is just cheap tactics by any debater's standards (The plato one which is number 3 in your round 2 debate).

I would like to focus on the difference between objective morality and objective brain function and why morality is nto the equivalent of brian function, but instead brain function is the equivalent of, or if not the equivalent of, then extremely resembling, subjectivity.

The definition of morality being used in this debate is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad or wrong. This is not the same thing as brain function. Brain function consists of two words so to define it I require to combine two separate definitions and shall do so now.

Brain: The part of the central nervous system enclosed in the cranium of humans and other vertebrates, consisting of a soft, convoluted mass of gray and white matter and serving to control and coordinate the mental and physical actions.[1]

Function: The kind of action or activity proper to a person, thing, or institution; the purpose for which something is designed or exists; role.[2]

Now, to be very frank with my opponent, the elaborate debate put forward for the fact that the purpose for which the part of the central nervous system enclosed in the cranium of humans and other vertebrates is designed or exists being objective does not assist in affirming the existence of an objective differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad or wrong. Thus this renders his entire round two debate relatively ineffective towards its intended purpose, which was to prove the existence of an objective morality.

The fourth point raised intrigues me significantly. My opponent states that morality is a direct product of the human brain's thought function. He then continues and states that the distinction between good and bad does not exist outside the realm of the human mind. He concludes with the word for word statement 'it is a product of thought' and the 'it' was referring to morality. What interests me about this matter is that it does not support the objectivity of morality but rather its subjectivity. I shall define subjectivity now.

Subjectivity: Judgement based on individual personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts.[3]

The fact that morality is a product of thought merely supports that it is subjective as opposed to objective.

My opponent agreed with me that morality is subjective in nature but merely said not all the time, yet failed to give an example whereby morality is objective.

The fact that the human brain's structure and function have a role in determining one's moral views does not make it objective, it makes it subjective to the individual to whom which the brain belongs.

My opponent never explained why the human brain's function being objective means that the way in which we determine morality is not subjective. This is a failure on the pro's end of the debate.

Sources:
[1] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[2] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[3] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...=
THE LINK IS ONE PIECE BUT HAS BEEN SPLIT AT QUESTION MARK FOR INEXPLICABLE TECHNICAL DIFFICUlTY.

My opponent failed to answer this question last time, and I hope he won't fail again, to address my challenge to him at the end of my round 2 debate:

How would you motivate a non-empathetic atheist--who is convinced that they will not get caught--to refrain from a harmful action (such as torturing a child for fun)? And if you cannot do so, how can you posit the existence of objective moral truth (objective in the sense that it applies to everyone, and moral truth in the sense that it should provide at least some motivational force)?
InVinoVeritas

Pro

Evolutionary Ethics

Let me re-state my syllogistic argument:

1. Human thoughts are objective biological functions of the brain
2. The human brain, and therefore its biological functions, have been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development
3. Human thoughts have been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development
4. Morality is a direct product of the human brain's thought function
5. Morality has been objectively standardized as a direct result of evolutionary development

---

I have established that morality is a product of the human mind, which, in turn, is a product of the human brain's function. Therefore, I uphold the definition of morality that was established, but I also affirm that morality is strictly a product of the human brain, a result of cognitive function.

The opponent notes my fourth argument, and he states that this means that morality is subjective. This brings up an important question: Does the fact that morality is generated by thought mean that it is subjective?

Subjectivity: Judgement based on individual personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts. [1, taken from my opponent's argument]

Indeed, subjectivity is derived from one's impressions, feelings, and opinions. But what are impressions, feelings, and opinions derived from? They are simply products of thoughts, objective electrochemical brain functions. Let me explain this further:

When we question the objectivity of morality, we also question the objectivity of thought. The concept of morality is a product of human thought, after all. And, as I have stated, thought has been objectively standardized through evolution. The inherent standard structure of our brain that is shared among all members of the human community has commonalities that restricts one's world view and affect his or her outlook on what is good and what is bad.

The opponent is stating "Killing is wrong" is an objective truth, and I am replying with "John thinks killing is wrong" is an objective truth. And I follow by stating that what John "thinks," the act of thought, is objective and standardized in the human community. In other words, the opponent has not grasped yet that I am recognizing morality in terms of objective thought rather than some of mystical, external entity. Thoughts can vary, but the function of thought is standardized and restricted; such is the point of evolutionary ethics.

This does not mean that all morality is objective; there are certainly other factors that make it partly subjective, such as social construction. I do not claim otherwise, and do not need to in order to meet my burden of proof. But there is an underlying objectivity (in the form of biological restraints) that produces our moral views. In that regard, there is an objective morality, driven by natural structure and function, and my burden of proof, as Pro, is met.


Subjectivity

The opponent drops his argument on this matter. However, he fuses his views of subjectivity with the his prior refutation against evolutionary ethics.

Descriptive relativism

The opponent drops this argument... But it never really was an argument. Just a few blocks of copy-and-pasted text.

---

[1] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...
Debate Round No. 3
RationalMadman

Con

-------------WARNING! GRAPHIC IMAGERY SUGGESTED!-------------------------------------------------------

You can't say that subjectivity is objectivity simply die to the fact that the means by which subjectivity is achieved is objectively observable. That's like saying that a poo is a bodily system because it comes form a bodily system.

Subjectivity is not objective just because human mind is objectively observable like just it's stupid. If my opponent is debating subjectivity not existing altogether he should refer to a debate regarding monism vs dualism. This is just a debate ont hat there is an objective morality but this debate is just stupidly impossible if there exists no such thing as subjectivity.

The fact is that feelings, empathy and compassion is all morality is. How else to knoe if it is good to rape your mother? To molest a baby is objectively alright, especially if not lasting damage is left. I mean to be graphic just shove your fingers willy nilly any hole any time WHY NOT?! Well that is DISGUSTING, YUCK! But objectively we can't truly explain why. Consent doesn't objectively exist. You could go to a five year old girl, beat her up, capture her and imprison her in your basement feed her minimal food and rape her for life and maybe use her as a breeding tool for your own DNA to be passed on genetically, always dumping the children on people's doorsteps and saying OH! LOOK AT ME! I'm not hurting the child, I'm just allowing it to exist. Well that is just horrible and you are a real person if you tink that is OK. Just go be Hitler and what not then, kill people of a certain religion or race, enslave them, whip them, mock them, humiliate them inf act why not eat them alive? Just so horrible and stupid is objective morality that to be honest you are insane to believe in it.

Insane: of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a person who is mentally deranged.[1]

Molesting and raping young girls or even anyone: HORRIBLE AND DISGUSTING!!!!![2]

TO THIS THE PRO MUST DEFINITELY EXPLAIN THEMSELVES! HOW DARE THEY?!

Sources:
[1] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[2] Humanity's caring part of their nature.
InVinoVeritas

Pro


The opponent has pretty much dropped all of the categorized arguments made before... I will just make new categories for the opponent's new refutations. Let it be known that many of my points have gone unrefuted.


Also, let it be known that the opponent's second source in this round is not a real source.


Semantics


From Round 1: A definition of "objectivity" we will use: "Objective reality is whatever remains true whether you believe in it or not." [1]


“To believe” is “to think.” “Moral beliefs” are a type of belief. Thoughts objectively exist. Moral beliefs objectively exist.


Is it true that beliefs exist regardless of whether or not we believe they do? Yes, it is. Moral beliefs exist regardless of whether we believe they do.


And when we take a step further in my syllogism, we take into account the fact that morality has been stratified through the limits of our brain structure, as a result of evolutionary development. Morality has an objective, standardized basis.


---


A Graphic Argument


The opponent asks questions like “Why do we not rape our mothers?”


I cannot say that anything is "objectively right" or "objectively wrong," since I'm not the moral absolutist that the opponent thinks I am. With that in mind, I have no clue why RationalMadman does not rape his mother. Morality is a conglomerate of not only innate biological traits, but also social construction (e.g., upbringing.) Each moral belief is sculpted and changed due to a lot of factors. At the same time, RationalMadman’s views on raping his mother are not very germane to the matter at hand, since it indirectly addresses the argument I have made.


There is no single view on incestual rape, but our brains are biologically set to uphold specific beliefs on the matter. Perhaps the altruistic function of our brain tells us not to, and that puts us at a biological disposition? Perhaps the “family attachment” function we have biologically shifts us away from it?


In the end, though, our moral views are certainly formed on an objective, biological basis, whether we stray away from this basis due to social construction or not.


[1] http://www.debate.org...


Debate Round No. 4
RationalMadman

Con

MY OPPONENT SAYS "I have no clue why RationalMadman does not rape his mother." HE IS AN IDIOT!

THAT IS END OF DISCUSSION!
InVinoVeritas

Pro

The opponent has apparently just given up. This is a relief, since his arguments have only gotten more and more irrelevant and nonsensical. Based on his other debates, this trend is not atypical for him.

---

Thanks. Vote Pro.

Debate Round No. 5
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by HeKS 4 years ago
HeKS
By what standard and in what sense? You could try to say that this so-called objective morality isn't influenced by personal opinions or feelings, but on your model, personal opinions and feelings are also the result of physical determinism, and so a person's morality WOULD be influenced by their personal opinions and feelings. As I think the CON side noted, you're basically just arguing that subjectivity itself doesn't exist. But further, if we think that our thoughts are merely the result of the physical constituents of our brains resulting from an evolutionary process, then any mutations affecting those physical constituents could slightly alter the structure and generate different thoughts and a different view of morality; possibly even an opposite one. And if we extend that process to the human race in general, you could theoretically have an "objective morality" that isn't even shared by numerous people, and yet somehow all of the different and potentially contradictory moral frameworks constitute an "objective morality"? Or is it actually a whole bunch of "objective moralities"? And how is this remotely related to what people generally mean by an objective morality, by which they mean a set of moral imperatives that are true regardless of whether or not anyone believes them? And if our morality and our thoughts in general are entirely reducible to the physical particles of our brain, what reason on earth do we have to trust that they are true?
Posted by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
InVinoVeritas
"Physical determinism," as you call it, is objective in nature.
Posted by HeKS 4 years ago
HeKS
Wow. This was a weird debate. I agree that objective morality exists but I agree with the CON's point that what the PRO describes is NOT objective morality. The model of morality that the PRO side describes is not only not objective ... it's hard to say if it's really even subjective either. It's simply physically deterministic and there's no reason whatsoever to think it or any another thought (within this model of mind and thought) has any value or truth content or is dependable in any way at all. I see that the PRO side won the debate, but I'm trying to figure out how you can win a debate when the position you describe actually runs contrary to the proposition you're defending. At the same time, I couldn't have voted for the CON side either, except for that he accurately pointed out the major problem with the PRO's position.
Posted by ishallannoyyo 4 years ago
ishallannoyyo
Skimmed through this, saw "Why RationalMadman doesn't rape his mother I do not know."

Wait, WHAT???? Why he doesnt, his... mother??

If I could vote, conduct and spelling auto to Pro. Not sure about arguments as I just skimmed, RM seemed to lose his sh*t in R4, that's why I love RM's debates.
Posted by dylancatlow 4 years ago
dylancatlow
invindoveritas, I must admit to my mistake. I left out conduct and spelling points. And I wouldn't consider my reason for voting any less descriptive than everyone else.
Posted by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
InVinoVeritas
The "reason for voting decision" dylancatlow used can be used to justify any vote on pretty much any debate.

DDO. -sigh-
Posted by DontTreadOnMe 4 years ago
DontTreadOnMe
@Zaradi AHAHAHA
Posted by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
InVinoVeritas
He was expressing the "Madman," Zaradi. :D
Posted by Zaradi 4 years ago
Zaradi
Claims to be a "Rational" Madman.
By the end of the debate, acts like a 4 year old.
Seems legit.
Posted by adontimasu 4 years ago
adontimasu
I would take this debate, but I am not entirely sure how to argue for an objective morality without a foundation in the divine.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Stephen_Hawkins 4 years ago
Stephen_Hawkins
RationalMadmanInVinoVeritasTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Yeah... that was a waste of my time.
Vote Placed by TUF 4 years ago
TUF
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Reasons for voting decision: Waste of reading this debate, just to see that con ended up trolling pro.... Wow.
Vote Placed by dylancatlow 4 years ago
dylancatlow
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Reasons for voting decision: Con made many arguments of which Pro failed to rebut successfully. Good debate for both sides. Opps! I totally forgot about conduct and spelling. Changing now.
Vote Placed by Yep 4 years ago
Yep
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Reasons for voting decision: This debate went from good to bad to worse. Conduct to pro... I'll vote on arguments later...
Vote Placed by phantom 4 years ago
phantom
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Reasons for voting decision: <<<<-Not an RFD