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I offer a cash prize of
to the winner of the following contest.
You find five people who are willing to act as referees (I don't choose the referees). You send me your name and picture, as well as those of your referees, so I can display them on my web site.
Then, you and me have an e-mail debate (our e-mails are posted on this web site, and as far as possible on your site and others). When the referees decide there is a winner, the debate stops, and the winner gets the cash prize.
There are already a few categories of participants with their corresponding debate topics, and I'm open to suggestions for other categories:
- Atheists ("If we suppose, for the sake of the argument, that God doesn't exist, can good and evil exist?")
- Pro-choice feminists ("Are all direct abortions abominable crimes?" or "Is it possible to find a pregnant woman who would die if we rigorously applied the official teachings of the Catholic Church in her case?")
- Sodomites ("Is sodomy an act against nature?")
- Protestants, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. ("Is the Catholic Church the only true Church of God?")
- Etc., etc.
Why such a contest? First, because I have the impression that the art of respectful and constructive debates is being lost in Quebec (and perhaps in the whole Western world). In my opinion, it's important to encourage the average Quebecer to strengthen or even acquire "critical thinking" skills.
How can we encourage such "critical thinking"? In my opinion, a debate about a "taboo topic" would be an excellent way. A taboo topic, by definition, is a topic where society considers that the debate is closed, even if this debate has never occured! Taboo topics are therefore excellent practice. It's a bit like a weightlifter: if he can lift 100kg, he will certainly be able to lift 10kg! If we can respectfully and constructively debate about the "heaviest" topics, all other topics will seem "light"!
Moreover, since the first rule of this debate is: "The first one to invoke a religious belief, loses!", participants will have to develop their rational skills.
The second reason, more personal, is that I'm sick of being censored by the leftist media (among others by CBC journalists, who systematically refuse to present any point of view that is non-leftist), as well as by leftist politicians (like those of the Bloc Québécois, of the Québec-Solidaire Party, etc.). I'm also sick of being taunted by some persons (Atheists, pro-abortion feminists, sodomites, Protestants, etc.), who say things like: "All Catholics are unable to have a serious debate, therefore I win!", before I even get a chance to have a debate with them!
(For those who are worried about the monetary prize, I'm sorry for the pathetically low amount. I would have offered a million dollars, but I don't have them! If on the other hand you think philosophical debates should not stoop down to such crass financial considerations, just win, and I'll gladly write a check for the charitable organisation of your choice, as long as it doesn't promote something immoral.)
If you want to improve your chances of success, you can start studying my arguments right now, in order to prepare your rebuttals:
- Atheists: A Reading List For Atheists.
- Pro-choice feminists: A Reading List for Pro-Choicers.
- Sodomites: A Reading List for Persons With Same-Sex Attractions.
- Protestants, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.: Slander Soup.
May the most reasonable person win!
I don't feel like participating in a complicated contest. I therefore try to minimize the rules, but nevertheless we still need a few of them:
6.1.1) Who wins? The winner is the one who "best" defends his thesis, i.e. in the way that is the most rational, scientific, factual, truthful, etc. (Another wording for that rule is: "The first one to invoke a religious belief, loses!") Unless you have a better idea, the following debating method will be used: Concedo, Nego, Distinguo and Who Speaks Truly?
6.1.2) In case of disagreement. I hereby assert I want to be taken to Small Claims Court, if I ever refuse to pay the winner. A cheater doesn't have the right to win the reward, but I hereby assert I'm not the one who decides, in the last instance, who is a cheater. It's the Judge of the Small Claims Court.
6.1.3) Taxes. I have no idea how the Income Tax Act is going to deal with this contest, but I'll certainly give a receipt to the winner. Moreover, for tax purposes, this contest is also a Support program for drafters of pedagogical material. The participants are in fact people who help me write pedagogical material for my Philosophy course, so the "reward" is in fact payment for their work.
6.1.4) Copyright. The participant surrenders all copyrights on the e-mails he sends me. (It's mostly to avoid someone starting a lawsuit just so I'll remove his e-mails from my web site.)
6.1.5) Choice of participants. I reserve the right to choose the most "representative" participant. For examples, if two Atheists show up, but one is unknown, and the other is the Chairman of the International Atheist's Association, I'll choose the Chairman. But if I don't choose you, I'll still put your name here, while indicating that you were quite willing to participate. (This is to avoid the following fraud: I secretly choose the worst incompetents, so as to keep my money while making all Atheists look bad.)
6.1.6) Teamwork. You can enlist the help of as many people as you want, to write your e-mails.
6.1.7) Mistakes. If you say something really stupid, I reserve the right to leave it on my site. But normally, when I'm asked politely, I remove other people's mistakes from my web site ("Do unto others what you would want them to do unto you").
6.1.8) Sexism. Exceptionally, for the "Pro-choice feminist" Category, I prefer that all participants are women. You could say that's sexist, but I think it's just logical, in that case.
6.1.9) Identity check. I won't post anything other than your name and picture, but I reserve the right to verify your identity. (It's to avoid someone sending me the name and picture of somebody else, then saying dumb things in their name, and then cashing the jackpot.)
6.1.10) Participation fees. Nothing. Zero. If you win, you win the jackpot. Otherwise, you lose the time it took you to write your e-mails.
6.1.11) Conflict of interest. (I added this rule several days after having started this contest. I should have thought about it before, sorry.) It seems to me that it would be more fair and interesting if my family and friends could not play.
6.1.12) Formatting of e-mails. Please, I have a lot of work, so you must send me your e-mails without HTML, in raw text, ready to be added to a web page without any additional formatting. (Well, if you know what you're doing, and you can code clean HTML 4.01 Strict, then you can send me some HTML.)
6.1.13) Contact with reality. Some Post-Modernists can be totally spaced-out. If you say dumb things like: "Reality doesn't exist", or "Our words, or our social conventions, create our realities", then this is what I'm going to do. I'll declare you the winner, then I'll go outside in the morning when people are walking their dogs, and I'll ask a passer-by for his little plastic bag containing his dog's still-warm "gift". Then I'll send it to you in a nice box decorated with a big sticker saying: "This box contains really real prize money!"
6.1.14) Turnaround time for responses. You can take as much time you want to answer each one of your e-mails. But I have to answer you within a reasonable time frame. (Let's say two weeks maximum.)
6.1.15) Selection criteria for referees. You must randomly select university professors who teach "hard" sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology). We can negociate accomodations to this rule (for example, hard science teachers, but at the CÉGEP, or again no referees but no prize money either, etc.). This rule's intention is to obtain the most impartial and scientific group of referees possible.
Mr. Guillaume Loignon (French only)
Mr. Guillaume Loignon was at the time of the debate a graduate student in Philosophy, at Montreal University. His referees were Mr. Gildas Haméon, Mr. Denis Labelle and Mr. Jean Ouellette.
Since I would have chosen referees randomly, to be as scientific as possible, I had not imagined that it would be necessary to explicitly mention rule 6.1.15. Mr. Loignon therefore chose judges that were as Atheist and disconnected from reality as himself, with predictable results! (See here for all the details.) And yes, now, rule 6.1.15 is explicit!
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