15 January, 2006

Debate anyone?

I complain a lot that doctrine stands between us as brothers and sisters, but at the same time I deeply value accurate doctrine. In my opinion, doctrine is like style in tennis. Style does not win tennis matches. Hitting the ball into the court wins tennis matches. Still, the better your style, the more balls you will hit into the court, and the less you will injure yourself. The better your doctrine, the less pain you will cause yourself in trying to survive life.

So, if you would like to try something new, let's debate something!

Now, the blogosphere is infamous for its nasty debates, so I would like to suggest a small format, with definite objectives. This format is based upon formal cross examination debate. Both sides know that the "winner" will not necessarily convert the other side, but know exactly what to do to "win".

Each side will choose a couple of judges. The winner will be determined by the judges, and exactly half of them were picked by your opponent. Everyone knows that you are not trying to convert your opponent, but to sway a judge picked by the other team (without losing the ones you chose!)

Across 6 days, each team will make 2 strong statements, cross examine the opponent's statements, and make one final rebuttal. The non-judging audience will shout encouragement through the comments, and make statements about who won, but the debate will be limited to the competitors and a single proposition. Judges will say nothing during the debate, but on the 6th day will cast their votes for winner of the debate in the comments of the last post.

If these rules seem silly or unnecessary to you, that's cool too. I'll play without them, but it seems a little cleaner to me this way.

Here are my proposed rules.
  • Both sides agree on a subject (like "Stewardship".)
  • A general call goes out for judges. Anyone who wants to judge can say so in the comments of the these posts. Each side will choose the same number of judges, (whether one, two, or three, as long as both sides end up with the same number of judges in their camps.) The judges will have to sit quietly during the debate. People not chosen to judge can holler from the sidelines all they like!
  • One side is determined to be the "radical" position, and the other is the "status quo" position. The radical group will submit a proposition. The status quo will mount an opposition.
  • The radical proposition will be a very specific recommendation for something that can be done in the real world. In a stewardship example, it might look like, "We propose that the church throughout the world require that all members in good standing tithe 10% of their gross income, or not be allowed to vote in any church decision."
  • The radical/proposition group will win if they can convince a majority of judges that this rule addresses a real problem effectively and can be enforced. The status quo wins if it can knock down any one of those parts of the argument.
  • Day 1 - Radical: Submit a "constructive" argument of 1250 words or less.
  • Day 2 - Status Quo: Submit a cross examination of the argument of 300 words or less, and (later) a constructive argument of their own of 1000 words or less.
  • Day 2 - Radical: Answer the cross examination questions in 300 words or less (quoting the questions does not count against the 300 words).
  • Day 3 - Radical: Submit a 300 word cross examination of the Status Quo constructive and a second 1000 word constructive.
  • Day 3 - Status Quo: Answer the cross examination questions in 300 words or less.
  • Day 4 - Status Quo: Submit a second 300 word cross examination, and a second 1000 word constructive.
  • Day 4 - Radical: Answer the cross examination questions in 300 words or less.
  • Day 5 - Radical: Submit a last 300 word cross examination.
  • Both sides submit their final summaries of 500 words or less.
  • Judges render their votes.

Victory is not easy to judge, in my experience, but the status quo has the advantage. The radical team's proposition should only win if it can prove 1) that it is within the theme agreed upon, 2) that there is a real problem that needs solving, 3) that their solution addresses the problem, and 4) that their solution will work. If the status quo team can prove that the idea fails any one of those four standards, the proposition fails.

What makes judging so hard is that both sides make compelling arguments!

So, there it is. Let me know if you'd like to try a game.

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