Thursday, March 29, 2007
Last night I listened to a debate program on NPR that is a copy of a British show, called Intelligence Squared US. Three experts on each side engage in a structured debate on an issue of the day before a live audience. They make opening statements, then face questions from the audience as well as from reporters. The motion under debate last night was "Global warming is not a crisis." I found it interesting and a lot of fun to listen to, but what was absolutely crazy was that after the debate they polled the audience, and many more people believed global warming was not a crisis than had at the beginning of the show. I think this says a lot about the inner logic of debating itself, because in this context, the people who argued global warming is a serious crisis came off as one-note alarmists, while the opposition had the seemingly more moderate and textured arguments. It helped that they chose people who are not flat-out creationist crazies, but people who do acknowledge that the earth is warming, that CO2 causes warming, and that we need to reduce our energy use. One of the people on the anti-crisis side was Michael Crichton! Anyway, despite the odd conclusion, it was wholly captivating. The debates are held live at the Asia Society and Museum, so I would urge all the New York contributors to check them out.