[eDebate] Totally Tangential Reply To Branson
Tue Mar 6 11:27:26 CST 2007
Good and interesting points.
I think I would say as a matter of clarification that when I mentioned my
distaste for enforcing quality-control, I meant it along the lines of the
original Harrison post of 'penalizing' teams for reading evidence from
questionable sources like blogs etc. I also meant it to indict Dallas's
rhetoric of needing a 'rule' to disbar evidence from certain sources etc. I
think that for judges to enforce rules such as his is too interventionist
and infinitely regressive, as proven by Scott and my responses to his
Gottlieb etc examples.
Similarly, if somebody reads that Harrison card in front of me, there is 0%
chance I'm going to 'disallow it' or 'penalize it' unless the debaters
themselves bring up the issue of author context/permission and someone wins
that author permission should be considered a gateway question to inclusion
(not necessarily a tough argument even to win, but one that I strongly
believe must be initiated by the debaters).
However, I agree that it is within our purview as judges to make decisions
regarding evidence quality, even if such decisions seem somewhat unfamiliar.
I also think that you are pretty right that ultimately we're on our own when
reading and comparing evidence. But for some reason some of what I'm
thinking about strikes me as too interventionist. Imagine that the aff wins
X% risk of their free trade advantage with Copley nuclear winter as the
impact, and the neg wins a decently higher than X% risk of a DA with a
seemingly credible, scholarly, piece of evidence that says their impact
'severely exacerbates conflict pressures and escalation risks in Y region.'
In the policy community, legal community, or academy, it seems that the neg
wins. In a debate, absent strong impact analysis from the neg, I'd say the
aff gets at least 90% of judges. I know I would probably vote aff. Would I
be comfortable staring down the aff, in the absence of impact defense or
explicit clowning on Copley News Service staff writers' qualifications to
interpret the resultant geostrategic consequences of breakdowns in
international economic cooperation, and saying 'sorry, but this evidence
isn't qualified, even though you have won what is basically a conceded
nuclear winter impact vs. amorphous unspecified increase in conflict
pressures. I vote neg.'? I don?t know, probably not.
Another example (one relevant to how this conversation got started): imagine
the neg goes for the Bush DA using the Harrison card as the link. The aff
responds with some solidly scholastic but also general and abstract evidence
about the mechanics of the Court's relationship to Bush, which, when read
with some inference and spin from the debaters, supports the argument that
the likelihood of an individual Court decision having a sizable impact on
unrelated agenda items is small.
The question is, what do you do as a judge when there is little evidence
comparison, and the neg just keeps appealing to the direct rhetoric of the
Harrison card as their primary warrant, and the aff simply restates the
thesis of their argument and extends their "better" but more theoretical and
less direct evidence? I think it's probably again around a 90% win for the
neg. I'd say that holds true even if the aff says 'their evidence is overly
rhetorical and comes from a blog.' My feeling is that it would take a
substantially higher investment in both explanation and impact of the
'overly rhetorical/blog' claim for it to be determinative in judge's reading
of that evidence. Otherwise, our perceptions of what makes a good card will
be determinative, and the neg wins.
I guess I'm kind of wondering what everybody thinks is the 'right' thing to
do in those circumstances described above? Is it ok to simply make your own
(even contrary to most debate norms) judgment of that evidence quality,
especially in a big debate? I don't know that I would feel comfortable with
that, even though there is little doubt in my mind that a long-term world in
which people shifted away from Harrison cards and Copley News Service cards
and towards 'better' evidence would be on-balance beneficial.
Antonucci says that it wouldn't really be more interventionist than the
current practice, and while I think he's completely right in the abstract,
just the mere fact that such practices 'seem inevitable' to people now
perhaps give them predictability....i.e. I would feel exceedingly
uncomfortable ending somebody's NDT with some newfangled way of evaluating
evidence with which both I myself and the debaters were unfamiliar.
I guess I'll finally bring up two potential DAs to such a shift:
1) Discouraging argument innovation?
Maybe we can go too far with the deification of 'qualified sources' as the
end all be all of evidence. Just because you can't find some credible
scholar making the argument obviously does not mean that it's not
necessarily a good argument. Would this discourage argument innovation?
Probably....unless debaters just got more innovative at spinning the 'good'
evidence they had, instead relying on their own arguments to innovate and
push the application of the evidence they already had in new directions.
I don't know. The direction of this impact is tough for me: at one extreme
you have stagnation, while on the other you have a lot of the god awful
arguments that win exclusively b/c they're new.
2) Risk comparisons become harder.
Obviously of the things we all have to explain to people outside of debate,
usually the next question after 'why do you talk fast' (or at NU, 'are you
guys carrying bananas in those banana boxes?') is 'why does everything end
the world?' I tell people that I think the main reason is that risk
comparisons are easier in extremist frameworks---it is much easier to
discern tangible and simple-to-calculate net benefits when the impact frame
is enormous, because marginal differences in probability etc become much
larger and glaring in such frameworks. If we were to be truly honest about
some DA, lets say the federalism DA, we'd say that even assuming the neg
wins most of the basic principles of the DA, that the net result of the plan
is probably a relatively marginal increase in bloodshed and violence
somewhere down the road. But weighing two impacts such as those is hard.
It's much easier to conceptualize when we're talking about some specific
scenario that escalates to large-scale war. (Same is true of course of
kritiks, which is why so much stuff ends in Holocaust or Hiroshima. It's
easier to weigh).
The more I think about it, I think that this is the fundamental explanation
for why everybody gravitates at the margins towards the worst case. It's
easier to compare things at the extreme ends of the spectrum than it is in
Given that I think the bad evidence ala Harrison allows us to make this jump
to the worst-case much more easily, maybe that's one reason that it serves a
potentially positive purpose, in that these sorts of claims are easier to
conceptually weigh, especially in a time-limited activity like debate.
On the last note, I do realize that most of this stuff only comes into play
in very specific situations and in otherwise close debates, but obviously
these 'close' debates are the ones where good judging is most important, and
a decent chunk of the time that I see split decisions among competent
judges, some version of the above principles is what animates the difference
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