[eDebate] A plug for the Genetic Engineering Topic

Eli Anders anders8
Mon Apr 9 18:25:40 CDT 2007

I, like Kernoff, strongly support prolif.

First, I don't think these debates are "stale" at all.  Yes, insofar as
people have read prolif impacts to disads before the community has debated
prolif, but that's basically equivalent to saying that we should never
debate legal topics because everyone's debated the courts counterplan
before.  Josh has already gone into all the reasons why there are all sorts
of new and unique developments in the nonprolif literature that can only be
accessed through a prolif topic mechanism rather than the prolif
impactsthat exist on other topics.  Also, for those of us who will be
seniors next
year, we haven't debated a topic about WMDs since our sophomore year in high
school, where all the literature still was fundamentally about the immediate
post cold war period, and really, who knows what they're doing as a
sophomore in high school anyway.  I didn't.

Second, I think hopes that if we pick a science topic we will actually end
up debating about science are wildly misplaced.  Let's face it, you really
think people aren't going to run crazy disads that end up at the same place
with "my nuclear war before your nuclear war?"  The problem is that debaters
(for better or worse) tend to inevitably focus on foreign policy issues and
the biggest impacts we can finagle our way to.   The result is that the more
a topic area tries to avoid those types of debates in favor of some
under-covered subject (like science), the more silly debates become.
Witness the legal topic - I don't feel like very much time at all was spent
actually discussing the legal merits of any of the cases this year - rather,
we spent our time constructing absurd modeling scenarios and minimalism DAs,
with, you guessed it, nuke war impacts.  Similarly, I fear that a nano topic
wouldn't end up being about the actually pertinent issues in the scientific
literature, but again a rush to the most absurd impacts.  I think the best
topics are in areas where the literature maps on to the way the debate
community actually debates about things.  Thats why I've heard such good
things about the treaties topic.  Of the topics available this year, I think
prolif is far and away the best choice in this regard.


On 4/9/07, scottelliott at grandecom.net <scottelliott at grandecom.net> wrote:
> I think that proliferation, the NPT and the Middle East are good areas.
> However,
> there are some drawbacks. Primarily, they have been debated, over and over
> again
> ad nauseum. It seems that every debate has at least one proliferation
> disad or
> middle-east disad that has to be debated. Everybody pretty much knows in
> advance how these debates are going to go down. There may be a few changes
> here
> and there but they are all going to be some version of "my nuclear war
> occurs
> before your nuclear war."
> Genetic engineering and nanotechlogy has not been debated. In fact, no
> substantial debate about science and technology has occurred on the
> college
> circuit in almost 20 years. Think about all of the advances in science and
> technology, yet no focus on it as a topic in 20 years.
> It just seems to me that college policy debate has become stuck in a huge
> rut of
> debating foriegn policy du jour. China, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Africa,
> Russia,
> and now back to the Middle East; all with proliferation sub-debates. This
> focus
> on "relations" and "prolif" seems to have created an easy and predictable
> set of
> debates, but I wonder what real learning is occurring.
> A science and technology topic is not stale, provides for new areas of
> research
> and new areas of argument.
> Scott
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Eli Anders
anders8 at fas.harvard.edu
18 Quincy House Mail Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
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