IQ2 Debate & Discussion Ideas


I am, perhaps, an anomaly in this world in that I love debate; in fact, I relish it. Granted, there are topics that aren’t up for debate (homosexuals should be allowed to get married; women are people, too; evolution is proven science; etc), but for the topics that are, it can be exciting. So you can imagine that I’m a pretty big fan of Intelligence Squared. They cover quite incredible topics, and the debates are brilliant. I absolutely love the format:

1. Opening Statements
2. Discussion/Debate with each other
3. Audience Q&A
4. Closing Statements

What makes IQ2 most brilliant, though, is who judges the debate: the audience. Before the debate, the audience is asked to vote on whether or not they are for the motion, against the motion, or undecided. At the end of the debate, the audience is asked to vote again. Judging who won is not based on which side got the most votes, but which side changed the most minds. This means that the side with less votes overall can actually win the debate if they managed to change the most minds. I love this.

Probably my favorite IQ2 debate is “The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World”. Those arguing in favor of the motion were Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Ann Widdecombe. Those arguing against the motion were Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. As you may know, Hitchens and Fry won the day, and not only did they win the day, but they clobbered the Archbishop and Anne. The overwhelming majority of those who voted, both before and after the debate, disagreed with the motion. Say what you will about Christopher (and even I’m not a fan), but he was awe-inspiring at this debate, and so was Stephen Fry.

The thing about IQ2 is that it’s a world-wide thing. It started in the UK, and thus the UK is its home. But it’s also in Australia, the Ukraine, Asia, Greece, and the United States. IQ2 US is what this post is focusing on. There are tons of topics I want to see debates and discussions on here in the US. So, below, I’ve made a multi-level list of the things I think IQ2 US should cover. Some of them have been covered by IQ2 in the past, but not IQ2 US. Others have, as far as I know, not been covered by IQ2 at all.

In wording each topic for the Debate section, I tried to make these statements as I would agree with them, so I’m in favor of all the debate motions I put forward here.  I also have ideas for non-debate discussions, though many of them could end up being debates, as well.

So, without further ado, here are my topic ideas for both IQ2 debates and non-debate discussions:

  1. Debates
    1. Theism vs. Atheism; Religion
      1. Evangelical Christian are a Greater Threat to the US than Muslims
      2. Intelligent Design is just Young-Earth Creationism in Disguise.
        1. (A sort of public rehash of the Dover Trial, where the public is the judge)
      3. There is meaning in an atheistic worldview.
        1. (“There is Grandeur in this View of Life” ~Charles Darwin [though he was referring to evolution by natural selection, here])
      4. A topic about “under God” and “In God We Trust”:
        1. “Under God” should be removed from the pledge.
        2. Our motto is “Out of Many, One”, not “In God We Trust”.
      5. “Does God Exist?” is a scientific question.
      6. Science can tell us why we are moral.
      7. A topic about religion and politics:
        1. A candidate’s religious beliefs should be ignored.
        2. Religion cannot have anything to do with politics.
      8. Atheists should not proselytize atheism.
        1. I think this one should feature, on both sides, outspoken atheists who have not been historically respectful of religion, because this shouldn’t be a debate about respecting religion. It should be a debate between people who do not accord any special respect to religion over whether or not we should try to convert people to atheism.
        2. It should be debated in contrast to focusing solely on reaching out to those atheists who continue to keep it a secret for different reasons.
      9. Male circumcision, like female circumcision, has no health benefits and should be outlawed.
      10. Hitler was not an atheist.
        1. I would hope that the side arguing for this motion would talk about how the English translation of “The Table Talks” comes from the French translation, which was shown to include many edits, deletions, and insertions, making it radically different from the original German.
      11. Jesus Christ probably didn’t exist.
      12. The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World.
        1. Yes, this has already been debated, but not in the US. I think it may be time for the US to weigh in on this one.
    2. Politics
      1. Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same corporate-owned coin.
        1. Or: it’s time to give different political parties a chance
      2. Corporate money needs to be removed from politics.
      3. Citizens United needs to be overturned.
        1. “I refuse to believe that corporations are people until Texas executes one.”
      4. The US political system is so far to the right that there is no such thing as “left wing” in US politics.
      5. NASA needs a lot more money.
        1. Or some kind of topic about how little money NASA receives, and why it should get so, so, so much more, because our destiny is in space
        2. We need a colony on the moon
        3. We need to send humans to Mars
        4. We need to explore and settle beyond Mars
        5. (Neil deGrasse Tyson would be a great panelist for the side arguing in favor of this.)
      6. CEOs are not “Job Creators”.
      7. The whole paparazzi industry should be heavily regulated in order to protect the privacy of famous people.
      8. We spend too much money on defense.
      9. You have the right to do whatever you want, as long as you do not violate another person’s right to do whatever they want.
      10. The USSR was not Communist; it was Authoritarian.
    3. Capitalism
      1. It should be “seller beware”, not “buyer beware”.
      2. The food industry should be required to provide complete and accurate nutrition information, ingredients, and preparation details in order to be sold in the US.
        1. Or, otherwise, a motion about how the entire food industry, including restaurants (chains, family-owned, bars, etc), movie theaters, alcohol, soft beverages, gas station food, meat, produce, etc should have to include complete and accurate nutrition information, including all included vitamins and minerals, food scores, ingredients, whether or not it’s GMO, and so on to those who want/need this information in order to be sold in the US.
      3. A topic about Tort Reform, Caps on Damages, and Mandatory Arbitration:
        1. Tort Reform, Caps on Damages, and Mandatory Arbitration are harmful to the average worker.
        2. Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants was not a frivolous lawsuit.
      4. Wal-Mart should not be allowed to get any bigger.
      5. Trying to fight torrenting is a failed endeavor.
    4. Science
      1. Homeopathy is not medicine.
      2. Marijuana has medicinal benefits.
      3. We do not have free will.
    5. Education
      1. The US should adopt Finland’s model of education.
      2. Abstinence-Only education is a complete failure.
        1. Or: Safe-Sex Education should be required for all schools
      3. All colleges should be paid for by the government.
      4. The government should forgive all government student loans, and force the forgiveness of private student loan interest rates.
    6. Other
      1. Fox News is not News.
        1. You have to include Jon Stewart if you do this one… 😀
      2. Neither the government nor ISPs should censor the internet.
      3. Free Speech does not include the freedom to avoid the consequences of that speech.
  2. Non-Debate Discussions (these are not debates, but educational panel discussions)
    1. Theism vs. Atheism; Religion
      1. Women and Atheism
        1. A discussion about atheist women, along with, perhaps, a short lesson on historic women who were atheists/freethinkers, and why women would be better off without religion and gods.
        2. The discussion panel should be made up of all women who are atheists.
      2. Why do 46% of US-Americans think that the world is less than 10,000 years old?
      3. The US is too damn religious. So what should we do about it?
    2. Politics
      1. If we were to legalize marijuana, how would we go about regulating it?
        1. Talk about Growing IDs, marijuana bars/clubs, medicinal use, etc.
        2. Include the governors of Colorado and Washington state.
      2. How many US Jews care about Israel politically, and why?
      3. How would universal healthcare work in the US?
    3. Science
      1. The future of Green Energy.
      2. Can we stop Global Warming, or, at this point, can all we do is just stop speeding it up?
      3. Are we ever going to get flying cars?
        1. Or, more generally, a topic about the future of technology, especially transportation technology (the future of cars, airplanes, trains, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, space rockets etc).
      4. String Theory/M-Theory/Multiple Universes for Everyone
        1. Feature scientists like Brian Cox, Michio Kaku, Lisa Randall, Sean Carroll, Leonard Mlodinow, Eva Silverstein, etc… maybe even Stephen Hawking.
        2. Have a little discussion about what these things could mean for religion and God.
    4. Education
      1. Finland’s Education System for Everyone
        1. A primer about the model Finland uses for education that makes them #3 overall in education in the world.
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About Nathan Hevenstone

I hate straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men. I also play guitar and sing, and I'm an atheist and anti-theist. What now?
This entry was posted in Intelligence Squared and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to IQ2 Debate & Discussion Ideas

  1. Heidi G says:

    Great topics! I would be all over any one of them. That IQ2 debate was one of my favorite of Hitchens’ many fantastic debates. Damn I miss that man!
    I think that Jen Peeples of the Atheist Experience would be a good panelist on the anti-circumcision argument. She voiced her opinion on episode #551 which I actually just listened to 2 days ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZmKnvhgFIc
    Neil DeGrasse Tyson could argue anything and I would watch. James Randi is perfect for the homeopathy one.

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