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Binghamton Speech & Debate

Proposition: Nathan Stouffer (Wood River High School) vs. Opposition: Ronald Cheung (Binghamton University)

Judge: Richard Chen (Cornell University)

Resolution: THBT: An overriding ethical obligation to protect and preserve extraterrestrial microbial life and ecosystems should be incorporated into international law.

  • Nathan Stouffer
    Nathan Stouffer

    Ronald Cheung
    Ronald Cheung
    Click to begin

    Speech Details

    Click on the other tabs to watch watch that speech.

    Posted at April 11, 2016 12:18:44PM EST by Nathan Stouffer



    My case largely relies on logic so I only have one citation. This was for my Subpoint A, but the logic can be applied to my Subpoint B as well. This is in MLA format.

    Futurism. "Interplanetary Contamination: Could Earth Infect the Universe with Life?" Futurism Interplanetary Contamination Could Earth Infect the Universe with Life Comments. Futurism, 29 Mar. 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

    Posted at April 12, 2016 07:37:54PM EST by Ronald Cheung



    None available for this speech.

    Posted at April 13, 2016 09:24:44PM EST by Nathan Stouffer



    No new citations

    Posted at April 14, 2016 05:51:37PM EST by Ronald Cheung



    Hawking: Mankind has 1,000 years to escape Earth

    Third paragraph

    Posted at April 16, 2016 12:50:41AM EST by Nathan Stouffer



    No new citations, but great round!


    This match has been completed. Show the Decision.

    Submitted at April 16, 2016 12:58:07PM EST by Richard Chen

    Category Nathan Stouffer Ronald Cheung
    Use of evidence: 3 3.5
    Delivery skill: 4.5 4
    Coherence of arguments: 3 3.5
    Responsiveness to opponent: 1.5 3
    Identification of key points: 4 4
    Comments: Good things:

    -I like your speaking style; very clear and concise
    -A lot of work done setting up the debate

    Need for improvement:
    -I think for Prop, your framework needs to focus on the specific situations that your ethical obligation is "overriding." That is, in what situations would we find ourselves wanting to invade other planets? And why should we still choose to value extraterrestrial life over those human projects?
    -Try not to use the dropped arguments thing as a crutch, judges know when arguments are dropped and it's a better use of your speaking time to engage with everything your opponent said.
    -One really important point you need to consider for future Prop cases is this question: why is it especially relevant that these are extraterrestrial organisms? (As opposed to organisms on Earth) That might help make the case for ethical obligation easier.
    Good things:

    -I like your slow, moderated speaking
    -Your approach to the rebuttal (case-by-case) was nuanced

    Need for improvement:
    -Like your opponent, avoid definitional battles (especially ones based on definitions)
    -To avoid the "dropped arguments" thing, you should just rebut your opponent line by line (e.g. In Prop's argument 1a he said this and he's wrong because this, then in argument 1b...)

    The decision is for the Opposition: Ronald Cheung

    Reason for Decision:

    Okay so here's the constructive from Prop:

    1. Prop burden is to show that motion saves more lives. We are more likely to save more microbial and human life therefore Prop.

    I think the Opp rightly points out that the motion requires the Prop to prove much more than just net lives saved. For example Prop doesn't address the phrase "overriding ethical obligation." In what situations, if we assume Prop is correct that all life is valuable, would we have to decide between human and extraterrestrial life? Opp at least gives me one scenario (asteroids) in which we might have to sacrifice extraterrestrial life, which negates the "overriding" part of the motion. Prop makes dropped arguments a voting issue, however he himself drops this Opp argument, which to me seems more important than the controversy over whether morality should be net benefits or case by case.

    The only thing left from Prop is that Opp dropped the backward contamination argument. Even if this is true of the Opp opening, he does provide a counter-argument in the rebuttal speech by saying that we are likely to be pretty good at preventing contamination (which I'm inclined to believe because if our tech is so good that we can travel to planets outside our solar system, we probably are pretty good at preventing contaminations, at least better than the example of Columbus provided by Prop). Prop gets the opportunity to address this in the closing speech but doesn't, so I can penalize Prop for lack of engagement.

    Opp's constructive is:

    1. There is no categorical reason why microbial life becomes more valuable than human life just because it's extraterrestrial.

    The Prop rebuttal is to say that having a hierarchy of life is a bad mindset. This was provided in the closing speech so Opp had no chance to engage. However, I think Opp is careful to pre-empt this argument by saying that it's not that human life is necessarily always more valuable, but that there are certain situations of existential danger (aka an asteroid) where it is reasonable for humans to want to move planets to continue the species. It was insufficient for Prop just to rely on backward contamination; he needed to address this specific scenario because that's basically the Opp case.

    I'm mostly voting on based on engagement, since both sides provide little substantial evidence/warrants. Good luck with future debates!

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