Make Money for Charity Debating Fundamentalists, Part I: The Gamesby Robert A. Yourell, MA | March 7, 2008
Have you been frustrated, friends? Have you tried to talk to a fundamentalist about science? You’re frustrated, because you know that good social policy, violence prevention, social welfare, and our environment depend on ethical application of scientific thought. The stakes are high, but you can’t get through to them. Political and superstitious social policy pertaining to mental health have been disastrous. The drug war, the sorry state of mental health services, and the killing of fifteen year old Lawrence King exemplify this harm.
What can you do?
Allow me to offer two suggestions that will keep you from wasting time on the people who will not engage you in a sincere way, and that might even win over some folks to your way of thinking.
Each of the following is a betting game. Bet enough to make it spicy. If you can, get others to bet as people do in an office pool. This will hold people’s interest. The money won can go to a charity of the winner’s choice. Is $5 too much? Is $100 too little? Have a trusted third party hold the cash.
When you challenge the person to one of these games, if they refuse, then you would have been wasting your time having a discussion. I have never seen anything come of a discussion with a person who fades out when some accountability is introduced into the discussion. Also, if they refuse, it makes a statement about their credibility to anyone present, so make the challenge very publicly.
Game 1. The Debate Challenge
Challenge your friend to a debate game. You each get points based on the ethical rules of debate. I’ll provide them in part two. Treat them just like people do with the rules of scrabble. I’ll keep it simple by sticking to the most important rules.
Why: You may not turn the person into a scientific thinker, but by teaching them to recognize violations of logic in the form of bad rhetoric, they will never quite “hear” the world in the same way again. This could be the beginning of something big!
Game 2. The Devil’s Advocate Challenge
This is the same as the first game, except that you each agree to read a book (or view an article, documentary, or YouTube video, etc.) that the other party provides. Both items are on the same topic, say, on intelligent design vs. evolution, or on the age of the earth, or whether homosexuality is a choice, or whether mental illnesses are demon possession. You must pick an item that is appropriate for this person’s reading and intellectual level.
Each of you debates, using the rules of ethical debate, in favor of the piece that you were given, as if you believed it. You get a point each time the other party breaks an rule of ethical debate. You get a point each time you clearly explain a key point of the item you read or viewed. You don’t have to agree, only be able to state it clearly, showing that you understand it. It requires a little cooperation, because you award each other points for showing this understanding. If there is a disagreement about this, the person is challenged to look the point up and show it to the other party. You can set a time limit, such as a half hour. You can use a timer to take turns, or play it “wild” without a turn taking structure.
Why: If you rack up a lot of points, the other person will begin to realize that he or she didn’t really understand the item that you gave to them. People are innately competitive. This loss will create questions that their subconscious mind will be chewing on for some time. This could be the start of something big! If they win, you get to build character.
Example Book for the Games
Here’s a nice example of a book your debating partner could read, because it is very engaging, and the reading level is not too high: Mysteries of Terra Firma: The Age and Evolution of the Earth.
Be sure to pick a book, article, recording, or video that is engaging, interesting, and very honest. If it appeals to emotion, it will turn off your debating partner and not provide enough that is worthy of debate. It must be at the right educational level for the person.
No future articles scheduled.
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