The Instigator
blazeratman
Con (against)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
bbowhan
Pro (for)
Winning
7 Points

There is no doubt that unicorns never existed.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
bbowhan
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/20/2012 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,402 times Debate No: 23026
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)

 

blazeratman

Con

The debate topic is that there is no doubt that unicorns ever existed. I will be arguing the negative, that is, my opponent is claiming that they can prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that unicorns never existed, and I will attempt to put reasonable doubt in the voters' minds. Another way to put it is that a unicorn never existing is not doubted. The slightly confusing wording in the topic is to put the burden of proof on my opponent, as it would be impossible (baring a miraculous fossil discovery) to prove unicorns past existence.

Definitions: Unicorn-The unicorn is a legendary animal from European folklore that resembles a white horse with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead.

I look forward to an engaging debate.
bbowhan

Pro

Hello blazeratman,and thank you for offering this debate. As it is impossible to prove a negative in an absolute sense, I will demonstrate that it is more probable that the European Unicorn never existed, beyond a reasonable doubt.

To begin, the characteristics of the European unicorn are a combination of a horses body with a few goat features- a beard, a single horn, and sometimes cloven hooves. Not to bad to start with, but the beast is also and always described as being magical in nature as well. Stories about this animal began in ancient Greece, which also created myths about the Olympian gods, cyclops, sirens, and so forth. Like these other myths, the unicorn was from the beginning credited with supernatural powers.

Cestus described a 'wild a$$' (the profanity filter in debate.org seem to have a false positive!) in India in the second century BCE, having a tricolored horn that could ward deadly poisons. Aristotle, among others belived that the unicorn could exist, but denied the curative properties of the horn. Later, in the Middle Ages, the horn was cosidered to be a powerfull ward against evil. Unicorns were claimed to be seen, hunted, even tamed my chaste maidens.
[http://unicorncollector.com...]

However, as with so many magical things, the modern world came along, and actual evidence began to be required- and that evidence was never forthcoming. There was no way a piece of bone could cure all poisons, there are no unicorn skulls or hides, no modern analogs of the unicorn close enough to be an evolutionary reletive. Pieces of horn that were held to be unicorn are now known to be from other source, most famously the narwhal.

[http://www.polarfield.com...]

There are no verified indications that unicorns are, or have ever been real. And without those, the unicorn must be held to be a fiction.
Debate Round No. 1
blazeratman

Con

I appreciate my opponent accepting the debate, and I look forward to the development of our arguments.

Firstly, I will grant a section of my opponent's definition of a unicorn, the addition of "few goat features, a beard...and sometimes cloven hooves." However, I will not need to prove that unicorns possessed magical capabilities as that was not present in the definition I gave at the onset of the debate.

I should further define the word legendary so as there is no confusion later on.
Legendary-of the nature of a nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.
[http://dictionary.reference.com...]

Thus, my opponents arguments seem to work very much in my favor. The great philosopher Aristotle believed in the existence of unicorns as my opponent clearly states.

Not only this, but it is certainly possible due to evolutionary records that a creature with the above physiology is certainly possible. There is a water animal, the Narwhal, with similar anatomy to the described unicorn, but the unicorn would obviously be slightly different, such as the cloven hooves, as it would need land adaptations.
bbowhan

Pro

I am glad that my opponent will grant at least a section of my definition of a unicorn, but I wonder whether he has a problem with the entire description of what is essentially a horned horse? I hasten to clarify that the magical properties of the unicorn are not a necessary part of the definition- there have been plenty of unearthly properties attributed to everyday creatures for that alone to be a qualifier!Aristotle regarded the unicorn as 'possible' even 'plausible', but he did not actually say it was proven. As I mentioned, the unicorn was treated as real by the ancients, but they also held that other, mythical beings existed, and they couldn't seem to agree on the particulars. Pliny the Elders description of unicorns was of a savage creature with a stags head, elephants feet a a large black horn that 'cannot be taken alive'. Marco Poly said the unicorn was as large as an elephant, hair like a buffalo and preferred to wallow in mud. Both of these are likely to be descriptions of rhinoceros, which is the only extant,breeding hoofed animal that actually has a single horn.[http://www.paralumun.com...][http://www.unicorncollector.com...]Whic brings me to the modern era. In the 1980's, Ringling brothers took goat kids, and surgically attached the horn buds into the center of the forhead. The resulting animal was briefly advertised as The Real Live Unicorn, but overwhelming controversy shut the attraction down. This cannot count as an actual, true breeding unicorn, but a bit of showmanship.[http://www.clevelandmagazine.com...]
Debate Round No. 2
blazeratman

Con

I don't have a problem with any of the definition of the horned horse, the part of the definition I was disagreeing with was that the horn had magical healing properties, but since my opponent has agreed that I do not need to provide reasonable doubt for magical properties, I believe we have essentially the same definition.

His point about Aristotle is true, however let me point out, all I'm arguing is that the unicorn is 'possible' or 'plausible', it would be impossible for me to prove it.

I also grant that the Ringling Brothers 'unicorns' do not count either.

However, my opponent has failed to even address my argument on the evolutionary possibility of unicorns, and their potential ancestor the narwhal. (1)

In order for my opponent to show beyond reasonable doubt that unicorns never existed, he must discount the idea that the unicorn could easily have evolved from a narwhal and quickly became extinct afterwards. Indeed, modern times lacking a unicorn is not enough to show they never existed. Elephants are often hunted for their ivory and tusks, and nearly became extinct because of it. It is certainly possible unicorns were hunted as well. Also, the unicorn could have been a kind of intermediary between the elephant and the narwhal.

Indeed, the evolutionary data allows for this intermediary period, the narwhal first emerged approximately 100 million years ago (2), but the elephant only came into being 50 million years ago. (3) Also, the elephant order, the Proboscidea, also includes sea cows, which look similar in structure to the narwhal. (4) Finally there has been, though slightly controversial, fossil evidence of a land animal with a single horn similar to that of the unicorn (5). Even if this is not proven true, the earliest dinosaur fossil was found in 1824 (6) so it is certainly possible one could still be forthcoming.

Due to the fact my opponent has failed thus far to produce an argument to counteract a possible evolutionary development of the unicorn, and even if he does so in his final point, it is not possible to prove that the unicorn never existed as my opponent himself stated in his opening paragraph, and thus due to evolutionary facts, a reasonable doubt should rest in the voter's mind. Just as Aristotle believed a unicorn was 'possible', so too, I believe I have shown the voters it is possible. Unless there exists no reasonable doubt in your mind, please vote Con.

(1) http://animals.nationalgeographic.com...
(2) http://www.sciencedirect.com...
(3) http://elephant.elehost.com...
(4) http://www.sanparks.org...
(5) http://www.unicornlady.net...
(6) http://www.enchantedlearning.com...
bbowhan

Pro

Again I want to thank blazeratman for this debate, and even more for the surprise twist at the end concerning the evolution of unicorns from narwhals. I thought it was a hypothetical type question and did not properly address it before.

Narwhal, like all whales, are descended from ancestral animals whose remains are no found in Pakistan, considered most closely related to hippopotamus and ruminants (cows and so forth). There branch point from the other mammals, including horses, would have occurred maybe 75 million years ago. There are no distant ancestors of whales that had anything like a horn although one, Ambulocetus, had remarkable clown feet.

The narwhal tusk is an outgrown tooth (or tusks in the ~1 out of 500 males that outgrow both incisors) and is apparently used for male dominance display and was very recently evolved- there are no hints of it in other whales. Now evolution is very powerful, but it has some well known and certain limits. It has great difficulty 'rewinding the clock', and it can only work with existing structures. As the narwhal evolved some 500,000 years ago, it would be virtually impossible to evolve: a complete set of grazing teeth, a new shoulder girdle for the front limbs, an entirely new set of hind limbs, and to have the process immediately converge so quickly on a pasturing lifestyle that the result would look identical to horses and goats. How quickly, and why would a horses mane and a goats beard form from this hairless creature, and why a single hoof (cloven or not) instead of three or five?

Most of all, from the narwhal skull, it is obvious that the huge tusk would, on an equine form, project straight down, not a problem for male fighting but otherwise in the way. It would be far more likely to shrink rapidly or be lost entirely rather than migrating up to the forehead- the warping of the skull necessary would be patently absurd.

As this is the end of the debate, and as Con's preferred scenario is demonstrated to be improbable well beyond a reasonable doubt, I request that the voters go with Pros position. Also, could some one go to the comments section and explain why my pictures are not embedding? It is cutting a lot of impact from my presentation, and seems to have killed the formatting for my argument in Round 2.

Thanks again, balzeratman. It was more of a fun debate that I was anticipating, and I wish you could have seen my pictures.

[http://www.squidoo.com...]
[http://www.indiana.edu...]
[http://staff.washington.edu...]
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by XimenBao 4 years ago
XimenBao
Re images: try clicking and dragging them into the textbox. That's how I do mine.
Posted by XimenBao 4 years ago
XimenBao
First, the BoP was tricky on this one.

Pro never took up the issue, and Con bounced back and forth from requring 'beyond a reasonable doubt' the 'beyond the possibility.' Given that, I'll choose what I feel is more reasonable and go with "beyond a reasonable doubt"

Second, Con threw all his eggs in the evolutionary basket in R3. Pro's argumentation dismantled that, although he really should have cited his sources.

Sources to Con. S&G to Con per order of the Paragraph Propagation Patrol. Arguments to Pro.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by JacobHession 4 years ago
JacobHession
blazeratmanbbowhanTied
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: The Pro side was considerably more effective throughout. Also, the con's only legitimate argument, evolution (which had terrible delivery and support), was removed in the final round. The pro had to take this ballot.
Vote Placed by XimenBao 4 years ago
XimenBao
blazeratmanbbowhanTied
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Total points awarded:33 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments