26 December 2007

The great debate.

For a debate to actually prove the truth of something, the following would have to be true.

Both parties must have access to every single fact of the relevant issue at hand. Both parties must have the same exact level of debating skills.

Neither of these will happen in any debate - no two people are equally matched and facts keep on coming in!

For example. I don't have the best presentation skills in the world. Yet at work, my statements are usually taken as dogma because I've demonstrated expertise in my field. At a meeting or out in the field when dealing with someone new, the fact that I can't always articulate my perspective properly means next to nothing. Eventually, people usually see thing my way, so there's no great need for me to enhance my selling or debating skills (But it's a good thing I'm not in sales!). The bottom line is even though I'd lose in debate, it doesn't mean I'm wrong.

I should add that my expertise in my profession, has no bearing on my expertise in other matters, such as theology or science. I'm not trying to insinuate that I'm correct about Judaism because I'm knowledgeable about XYZ. It was just an example.

In reference to skepticism, I think I've heard it all. I know, I know, that's not really true. But it's almost certain that nothing in a debate would sway my mind from my convictions. As a matter of fact, all debating about Chazal, biblical veracity, science, archaeology, theology, etc is all beside the point. Believers need to engage in debate to defend their position. But skeptics don't. Skeptics just point to alleged violations of natural law and say, prove it. The believers' approach is to defend their a-priori position of the Torah being 100% true, except when they are forced to explain things with some exegesis or in some mythological fashion. And they'll have to keep on cobbling together adhoc explanations. I must admit, they're sometimes quite ingenious! But notice how one explanation usually opens up a Pandora's box of issues and questions and is often never even accepted by the many different factions that have developed in Judaism.

To me the only issue is that of the Kuzari Principal. In other words, do we trust verbal history supposedly passed down for 3300 years, or not.

I don't.

Yet, even though debating will not prove anything, I still feel it's worthwhile to gain exposure to perspectives that you haven't come across in the past. And it can help steer you in the direction of further research. It also gives me something to do on slow work days.

What I'd like to see is a real live interactive moderated debate. For anonymity reasons, it can't be truly live, at least not for the frum skeptics. I think the next best thing might be a debate conducted over some "Toll free meeting place facility" such as is commonly used by business.

We'd need good debaters (so count me out!) with good knowledge (again, you can count me out), an 800 number with many ports, (sorry, I can't offer that of my company; that would be stealing) and a scarf to disguise the skeptic's voices.

So cast your vote for a debate here. Maybe if there's enough interest, Hashem will make it happen and the Maaminim will once and for all put the kofrim in their place. :)

Btw, I'm still accepting resumes for the recently vacated position of Godol Hador.

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