You choose the topic
No rules, just don't be a dick.
The topics I have to offer are:
1. Gay marriage should be banned in the United States [my side would be Con]
2. The United States should adopt a ban on abortion [I would be Con]
3. Justice requires the recognition of animal rights [I would be Pro]
Con knew what kind of debate this was coming in. He notes the brevity of the debate at the top of his first round as well as in the comments section to me directly. Marriage equality is law in the US, the only ground for argument is an ethical one or an otherwise thinly veiled political one. Women deserve to have autonomy of their own bodies, the only ground for argument here would be a personal moral one to which anyone's opinion isn't going to be swayed through the course of a 3-round, 3,000 character debate. Legal scholars with far more understanding of these topics than either of us have hashed through these subjects in meticulous detail for centuries, there is no ground we are going to make in a debate this short that hasn't been made already.
Something like is to be expected from time-to-time whenever I give my opponent the opportunity to chose the debate topic while also having final say in the round. What Con does with the his final topic however is what makes me decide to reject a topical debate in favor of a broader framework discussion. You are going to end up voting Pro in this debate, and I will not have to say a single a word about any of the topics Con has presented in order for you to do so. When Con presents two skewed topics that have been beaten to death, I can overlook those and chose whatever third topic he has lined up. But on that third topic, Con suddenly decides that he wants to be pro rather than con. That isn't fair to me, the language of the topics make it so that Pro would have an inherent advantage on that kind of resolution which would be my only ground for an equitable discussion.
I say explicitly in the introductory round that I want to have a fun debate. What I do no want is to regurgitate the same talking points on a polarizing subject that we wouldn't even be able to make any progress on. I get that working through these discussion can be important for people still trying figure out where they stand on the matter, and debate should be a safe place to have those kinds of discussions for the sake of identity formation - but dear god there is a time and a place. Con has already had all of these debate several times. There is at least one instance of each of these topics on the first page of his most recent debates alone. In giving me these topics, Con was neither trying to break new ground or have an identity forming discussion. I don't know what he was trying to do.
For the sake of shaping better debate in the future, it's important to use your vote to make a statement. If we want to have contentious debate, we need to give them the depth they deserve - if we want to have light debates, we need to chose light topics.
Pro's sole reasons for these topics being "skewed" is that legal scholars have decided them. But that's about *constitutionality* of those, not whether they "should" be legal. That's an is/ought fallacy. There are actual arguments against same-sex marriage and abortion; those two might be constitutional, but that's irrelevant. I was actually looking for a framework debate on that. There's no inherent advantage in either of the first two topics--I don't see why that's the case at all. Morality isn't the only ground to oppose abortion -- there's actually other ground [e.g. psychological damage from having abortions, reduced potentiality]. There have been multiple debates on abortion. Similarly, there are actually arguments against gay marriage. There's no "skew," because arguments on constitutionality are is/ought fallacies.
There's a reason I debate - it's fun. I can convince readers of positions. Animal rights, gay marriage and abortion are issues I'm passionate about, and I'm looking for persuasion. The fact that they've been done before changes absolutely nothing. What Pro is doing is essentially saying these are topics Pro doesn't want to talk about. In that case, Pro shouldn't have made this debate. There are topics that are truisms [e.g. "evolution is true" or "sea lions are seals"]. This isn't a truism because it's an opinion topic.
Debate is an exercise in persuasion. I'm able to achieve that. I'm also able to achieve a rigorous intellectual discussion. There are people who oppose gay marriage and abortion, and good debates on them. For example, the user Contradiction has produced multiple good debates on the subject of same-sex marriage; this is one. Philocat has produced good debates on abortion.
As for animal rights, I didn't realize that the side allotted was the only side; I apologize for that. I offer the following topic in place: "United Nations peacekeepers should have the power to engage in offensive operations."
Role of the Ballot:
The role of the ballot isn't "better debate shaping." Vote Con on abuse, if anything, because Pro abuses the resolution completely to shift the focus of discussion from any topic to one on what debate is about. Instead of allowing one to choose a topic - especially when the topics aren't truisms - Pro is picking topics that *they* want to debate. That defeats the purpose of this debate. Pro is deliberately abusing this to gain a victory. Vote them down on that and teach them that that's not the correct thing to do--because if a person is just going to say "you've done that many times, nothing can be achieved and I don't like it, so vote for me," contenders will start running arguments against instigators like that and the purpose of debate is destroyed.
The argument I make up top is that we're not going to break any kind of ground on subjects as polarizing as this one in a debate this short. Con responds by arguing that the opinion of legal scholars, and the constitutionality of a subject do not disqualify them for an equitable debate. The heart of the argument, which Con doesn't respond to, is that these are inherently polarizing issues. The Contradiction's debate is a turn because it actually prove my point pretty well when you read through the RFDs. With the sole exception of RoyLatham everyone votes in line with their prior opinion, no-one's opinion is changed over the course of the debate, and all but two RFDs are about two sentences long. Aside from that, the debate is five rounds at 8,000 characters. That debate and ours are not comparable. These topics are skewed because they're not ones we can have a meaningful debate on under this round's parameters, and even if we did break any ground on the topics voters are likely to just vote on their own biases anyway. Ignoring such a glaring lack of fairness reifies bad debate practices and reduces the standards of out activity.
Framework debates are valid
If we want to continue to have debates that make us excited about this activity, then it is important for us to occasionally interrogate the ways we debate. Whether this happens explicitly as a function of the resolution, or arises as a response to what is perceived as bad conduct in-round is irrelevant, one ought to have the right to have theory and meta-debates as is necessarily required by the content of specific debates.
I am all for having debates where the topic is explicitly geared towards unpacking framework issues, but if we only allow framework discussions to happen when the topic is meta then we do a disservice to the activity. I forego a topical debate in favor of a framework debate because of how Con presents his topics, not because of the topics themselves. The first two are just plain bad, but for the third he hijacks my position leaving me with nothing to do other than debate bad topics are accept abuse. Sure Con gives me a different topic in round two, but the entire point of that is to avoid the framework debate. Con even PMs me about wanting to delete the debate entirely because he doesn't want to debate framework.
The topics are bad
But that isn't my reason for abandoning them in favor of a framework discussion. I do the work up top to explain why we're not going to break any ground on these subjects, and below that on why rejecting topical debate in favor of framework debates is valid.
Here I want to drive-home why these topics being bad is important. I would be willing to argue against a topic that I simply disagreed with, but these topics are polarizing and have been beaten to death. Even a well-written debate such as the one Con linked don't get voted on fairly - why should we replicte that?
1) Any topic can be argued in 3,000 characters in a quality way. Concision is critical to the act of persuasion. There have been multiple good debates that have been done that way. For instance, Envisage defeated lannan13 using 2000-character arguments on the issue of God’s existence- one that is a subject much more in-depth than gay marriage. It was a good debate anyway. [http://bit.ly...]
A) Bias, bad voting, and voting blocs will always exist. If they can exist on national collegiate circuits, they can exist on an anonymous website.
B1) The issue here isn't controversy, it's polarization. I use this word time and time again, but Con consistently recharacterizes it as an issue of conflict. Polarization is an issue of creating false dichotomies when there could really be some middle ground. The problem isn't in exploring controversy, it's in our failings to recognize the nuance of controversy.
B2) This is a pretty blatant moving target. The RFD argument was a response to Con's argument that good debates can still happen on polarizing topics. I note that even on what was a pretty decent debate, people still failed to check their own biases because the topic itself was already polarizing. Also I find Con's attempt to delegitimize the importance of voting and RFDs funny when he later tries to get me voted down for posting a PM we had.
3) Being on the big issue list means jack. That list is basically a snapshot of a 2003 Fox Newscast. It hasn't been updated in years, and it lacks any level of nuance. It's dichotomous, and incomplete. Extend the conflict v. polarization analysis here, it is never responded to. The topics are bad because they're polarizing, not because they're contentious.
4) Voting on theory is valid when topics are polarizing and lack depth. Con never responds to the answers I make towards Contradiction's debate being different from ours. I already call him out on his moving target up top, but I want to do it again here because it's unfair and further justifies voting Pro on theory. When topical debates are polarizing, we ought to call out the framing of the issues themselves for the health of the activity.
5) There is no rule being broken here. If Con didn't want me to post that message then he shouldn't have sent it to me. That kind of private politicking is bad for debate and reifies the notion that rhetoric outside the debate space is different from rhetoric inside of it.
1) Polarization is bad - when topics are polizing to the point that they make all ground false dichotomies, then they don't contribute to good debate. these topics lack nuance and ignore personal autonomy.
2) Framework is good - con even concedes that theory debate is good in the previous round, vote pro to protect critical theory debate.
Reason One to Negate: The topics aren’t bad, so theory debate is irrelevant
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