Sunday, June 7, 2009

We're Back!

Hey everybody, sorry for the long layoff, but Open Mike Nite is back by popular demand (seriously)! You can expect a longer, more traditional blog post in the coming days, but just to get the ball rolling again, here's a quick quote by the Greek philosopher Epicurus to tide you guys over.

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.
Is He able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is He Both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

So what do you think about the validity of these assumptions?

Happy debating! With the varied religious backgrounds of my readers, I expect this one to get pretty heated, so don't disappoint. Who's going to be the first one to comment?

Monday, December 22, 2008


Happy Holidays everybody! In the spirit of the season, I've decided to make this week's topic of debate about charity.

First let's all get on the same page, since charity can be defined in a number of different ways. According to , Charity is:
Okay well for our purposes, let's rule out definition two, since most people would agree that a kindly attitude is almost always to strive for (it would be interesting to see people debate for and against that as well though!). Also, unless you really REALLY want to, we probably shouldn't need to argue about the nomenclature of plants.

So, compiling the other three definitions, the type of charity we are discussing is supplying aid (financially or physically) to large-scale foundations our institutions set up with the express purpose of helping the needy.

The question is, should these charities exist, and is it right or beneficial to donate to them? The people it helps are on the lowest rungs of society, and don't give anything back in the form of social good. Social Darwinists would describe them as "unfit", and argue that by helping the unfit survive, social and technological progress is halted. Helping the "unfit" survive is ensuring that there will be countless more generations of poor citizens with a negative social value to weigh down the "fit". The "race of life" in Capitalism is inherently unfair: Nobody starts out equally, and nobody should expect a fair finish.

Is that correct? Or does every human have enough value to be given aid? Does a crack whore deserve to be on equal footing with the president? Are handouts okay, or should all aid be given to helping to educate people to better themselves? Do people who are well-off have a moral obligation to assist those who are needy? At the end of the day, are people actually helped by charity, or are charities just slapping a big band-aid over a much bigger problem?

You can decide for yourself which institutions to talk about, but make sure you express where the aid is allocated: Straight handouts, education programs, etc. Also, don't feel like you are constrained to only discuss private institutions, welfare and unemployment are certainly types of charity -albeit forced charity- as well!

I hope this thread doesn't make anybody too cynical to enjoy the holidays. (: Have a great break/vacation/relaxing time over the next few days!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Regeneration of Species

According to an article in the New York Times, with the new generation of genome-mapping machines, some scientists now believe they have the capability to resurrect formerly living organisms up to 60,000 years old using DNA samples and genetic coupling (much like in Jurassic Park, except for reals.). The process would cost around 10 million dollars, which means that for 20 million dollars, it is theoretically possible to resurrect and repopulate any extinct species from the past 60,000 years. This has huge ramifications for nearly every field of study, including ecology, evolutionary science, paleontology, geology and biology. It would even be possible to reconstruct a Neanderthal, ending practically every debate in developmental anthropology. The possibilities for this procedure are nearly infinite.

Applications of this procedure have the potential to be one of the greatest breakthroughs ever in the field of genetics. The entire article can be accessed here:

Here is an excerpt which is particularly descriptive: "There is no present way to synthesize a genome-size chunk of mammoth DNA, let alone to develop it into a whole animal. But Dr. Schuster said a shortcut would be to modify the genome of an elephant’s cell at the 400,000 or more sites necessary to make it resemble a mammoth’s genome. The cell could be converted into an embryo and brought to term by an elephant, a project he estimated would cost some $10 million. “This is something that could work, though it will be tedious and expensive,” he said."

What do you think about this process?

Some things to consider:

-Are there ethical violations involved in resurrecting extinct species, including Neanderthal?

-How would a possible re-population effect the current ecosystems, for the better or worse?

-Corporations by nature examine every action based on a cost/benefit analysis. Does the ability to reconstruct extinct species give corporations a clean slate to exploit nature even further, knowing that they can just pay for the reconstruction of what they have destroyed?

-How much emphasis should be placed on funding this project, given the current political and economic climate?

Hopefully this topic catches on more than the last one. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008


I hope everyone had a fun, relaxing, and delicious Thanksgiving. Time to get back to debating!

The topic for today is: Why or why not should Prostitution be legalized? This comes from

As the world’s oldest profession, legal prohibition of prostitution has failed to eradicate the business. There have long been clear religious and ethical objections to the practice of selling sexual services, and indeed to sex outside of the marital union.However, prostitution has also become associated with several modern problems. The sexually transmitted virus HIV poses greater dangers to the health of prostitutes and their clients. Gangs which perpetrate organised crime force prostitutes to work on their behalf and compel them to become involved in the dealing and use of drugs. The UN has recently reported that many young women from Eastern European countries such as Kosovo and Albania are being brought into Germany and Italy as illegal immigrants and forced to work as prostitutes. Nonetheless, many feminists and advocates of individual liberty have recently expressed support for prostitution. As an alternative to ethical concepts, the realist might acknowledge that when the law has so conspicuously failed to preclude prostitution, it may be better to eliminate the problems associated with it, rather than the trade itself. Different solutions to these problems have been proposed, and these can be divided into the options of prohibition, ‘decriminalisation’ and ‘legalisation’. To decriminalise prostitution is to remove laws against it; to legalise it is, in addition, to provide regulations and licences for legally run brothels. In Britain and some German states, the receipt of money in exchange for sex is not illegal, but the action of ‘soliciting’ the business is unlawful. It is also illegal for a prostitute to work in partnership with another, or for a pimp to offer their services. These laws amount to making prostitution prohibited. In the Dutch city of Amsterdam and the state of New South Wales in Australia, the decriminalisation approach has been followed. Although prostitution is not explicitly regarded as being lawful, there are not laws that prohibit it.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Is Terrorism Ever Justified? Can it Succeed?

I'm really excited to debate this topic because I feel it is one of the most pertinent to our time. Ever since the attacks on 9/11, terrorism has been at the forefront of many of the policies of the United States, both foreign and domestic.

Terrorism has been painted in the most negative of lights; an evil attack by a foreigner on a nation's home soil. However, it is defined by the United States Department of Defense as, "the unlawful use of -- or threatened use of -- force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives (FM 100-20, Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict, 5 December 1990; and Joint Pub 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, 12 April 2001, as amended through 9 June 2004)." There is no rhetoric of good vs. evil in the DoD definition; merely lawful vs. unlawful. And as many terroristic actions are directed against a State, of course they are going to be deemed unlawful.

Terrorism is not only of the religious extremist variety, as the DoD definition clearly demonstrates. Think about the Irish Republican Army operating in Great Britain, or the Chechens in Russia. These factions are one page in the history book away from being seen as "freedom fighters" instead of "terrorists". In fact, by the DoD definition, the United States itself was guilty of terrorism during the Revolutionary period- Tarring and Feathering, looting of the homes of British officials and the like. So then, are there circumstances under which terrorism is an acceptable practice? Are there really black and white definitions of what constitutes terrorism as opposed to expression, or revolution?

Next: Can Terrorism ever truly work? If a State caves under terroristic demands, won't that just encourage the terrorists to keep demanding more? A specific example: If a State gives in to the separatist demands of a terrorist faction and gives them independence, doesn't that just open the door for more separatist factions to demand legitimacy? States, it would seem, have much more at stake than just each individual terrorist's demands; one sign of weakness and the floodgates are opened for infinite others. Does that mean that a State can never give in to a single terroristic demand, making terrorism an illegitimate form of negotiation?

Even though I framed the topic from a United States standpoint, I'd love to hear from people who have a global opinion on the issue as well. Specific examples and well-cited facts are encouraged, but not necessarily a requisite for debate...enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy World Philosophy Day!

Today's topic comes from the lovely Christen Brandt, which is cribbed from this article: . In honor of World Philosophy Day, the article presents four philosophical questions with a short description of each. I'm only going to put up the first one, because I think it's the most inflammatory of the four, and will probably generate the most rousing debate. However, leave a comment or email me if you want to discuss any of the others, and I'll make a new thread for it. Happy debating!


Suppose Bill is a healthy man without family or loved ones. Would it be ok painlessly to kill him if his organs would save five people, one of whom needs a heart, another a kidney, and so on? If not, why not?

Consider another case: you and six others are kidnapped, and the kidnapper somehow persuades you that if you shoot dead one of the other hostages, he will set the remaining five free, whereas if you do not, he will shoot all six. (Either way, he'll release you.)

If in this case you should kill one to save five, why not in the previous, organs case? If in this case too you have qualms, consider yet another: you're in the cab of a runaway tram and see five people tied to the track ahead. You have the option of sending the tram on to the track forking off to the left, on which only one person is tied. Surely you should send the tram left, killing one to save five.

But then why not kill Bill?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pop vs. Soda vs. Coke

Soda, Pop, or Coke?

Which is right, and why?

(Even though everybody smart should know that it is called SODA, we'll entertain this topic for debate.)