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15May/1111

Parametrics: A response to Isaiah McPeak (part 1)

Some months back I wrote a lengthy post laying out my objections to parametric theory. This past Saturday, the fascinating Isaiah McPeak of Ethos Publications (makers of the Ethos sourcebook) posted a response defending parametric theory and offering some additional advice on topical counterplans. This is my response to his response.

This is an ongoing discussion, so you'll want to read my original parametrics post and Isaiah's response before diving into this post.

Missing the point: The failure of the standard argument

In his response, Isaiah goes to great lengths to explain exactly why affirming the resolution does not require affirming every possible example of the resolution. He concludes by stating:

As you argue later, “All three frameworks discussed so far have been based off of the assumption that voting for the entire resolution endorses every possible plan.” Since I have challenged this assumption, the rest of your arguments kind of fall.

I must admit that I'm somewhat puzzled by this, because he's making the exact same argument I am. In very next paragraph after the one he quoted, I argue that voting for the entire resolution does not endorse every possible plan. In fact, this argument is the reason I reject parametrics: if one example is enough to affirm the resolution, why do we need to narrow it down to the Affirmative plan? Parametrics is simply unnecessary.

I suspect the confusion arises from the structure of my original post. I spend the first half of it explaining the standard (flawed) arguments for parametrics, before turning around and explaining why it's wrong in "What everyone misses: The requirement of the resolution." This structure makes sense from a teaching standpoint, but it can be confusing if you don't read the entire thing.

Occam's razor and the parametric beard

Occam's razor is often stated as "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" (although these exact words do not appear in any of his works.) Basically, explanations shouldn't be more complicated than they need to be. Wikipedia gives a good example:

It is coherent to add the involvement of Leprechauns to any explanation, but Occam's razor would prevent such additions, unless they were necessary.

A similar principle applies to debate theory: Don't go for a complicated paradigm when a simple one works just as well. My personal rule - The Resolutional Bludgeon - states:

If you can resolve a problem with the resolution alone, do it.

In this case, since the resolution alone is enough to explain the proper behavior of teams in the round, we should reject parametrics automatically as an unnecessary layer of complexity.

Why prefer the resolution, though? Occam's razor again. If we go for another paradigm, we have to add in the resolution to explain topicality, et cetera. The resolution alone is much simpler than an alternate paradigm plus the resolution. Preferring it tends towards maximum simplicity.

Parametrics in parliamentary

At this point, it would seem that we are almost in agreement - there's nothing inherently wrong with the standard rezcentrism framework. Isaiah seems to believe that parametrics is necessary anyway. His primary argument for this stems from parliamentary debate:

As an experienced parli debater, I’ve used parametrics quite a few times and seen the application from resolutions like “mute the red phone” where you really need parametrics because every negative counterplan could potentially be construed to “mute the red phone”.

This would be a persuasive argument for the application of parametrics - if "mute the red phone" was, in fact, a policy resolution. It's not.

Earlier, Isaiah makes this point for me:

The phrasing of policy vs. value ... has different logic requirements. A value resolution is usually phrased “x value is greater than y value”. Here the “sum total” must be taken into consideration, so that an aff or neg wins by proving the rez is more true than false or more false than true. The phrasing of a policy resolution “X policy body should be changed” does not require proof that MORE policies should be changed than not, but merely that one should be changed ...

I would contend that "mute the red phone" has different logic requirements as well. While it implies a policy action, the resolution is intentionally vague and subjective. (It's a metaphor, not a specific range of policy options.)

To put this visually, policy resolutions are commonly depicted as a circle containing a range of options. Metaphor resolutions are more like a blob:Some actions (like physically muting an actual red phone) are clearly topical. Other actions (like unilaterally abolishing our nuclear stockpile) are also clearly topical, but in a more vague, metaphorical way (you're not literally "muting" a red phone, just getting rid of it and what it controls.) Still other actions (like abolishing duck hunting) might also be topical, but only under extremely broad interpretations of the resolution.

All this means that, even if parametrics is necessary for vague parliamentary resolutions, that doesn't automatically make it necessary for not-so-vague policy resolutions.

I don't actually believe that parametrics is necessary for metaphor resolutions - you can achieve the same results with straight-up topicality. With any resolution - especially vague ones - there's a fuzzy continuum between "clearly topical" and "clearly nontopical". Where exactly the "topical/nontopical" dividing line falls in that continuum can be hotly contested in the round. The exact same standards and brightlines used to argue that a Government plan is nontopical can be used to argue that a counterplan is nontopical.

To illustrate how this works, suppose the Government team abolishes our nuclear stockpile, and the Opposition reduces it instead. Both the Government and the Opposition could theoretically be construed as "muting the red phone". What now? Argue topicality! For example, the Opposition could present the standard that, to "mute" something, you have to completely eliminate its effectiveness; reductions don't eliminate effectiveness, so the Opp isn't "muting the red telephone." (Cue reasons-to-prefer.) Problem solved, with pure topicality.

All this is to say that metaphor resolutions in parli don't justify parametrics in TP.

Why does this matter?

As I've said before, parametrics isn't about topical counterplans - that's just a side effect. It's the most noticeable side effect, however, and arguably the most important in the real world.

You might notice that I haven't delved into the pragmatic issues surrounding whether topical counterplans are "good" for debate. The short answer is "I don't know" - I can see persuasive arguments on both sides (see Isaiah's post for a good listing.)

Under the resolutional framework, however, running a topical counterplan logically leads to an Aff win, and whether or not topical counterplans are "good" doesn't change that. If topical counterplans were clearly the best thing since sliced bread, it might be worth creating an exception in our framework, but the issue isn't that clear.

Note: I'm using the term "topical counterplan" here, even though I realize that "topical" counterplans aren't technical "topical" under the parametrics framework... don't kill me, HSD.

A side issue...

In my original post, I used "morally-difficult plans like banning abortion" as an example of arguments that were banned simply because they were abusive, not because of a specific logical framework. Isaiah took issue with this:

I hotly disagree with this assumption. ALL positive good on a policy level has at its root a moral premise. The skill of debate is CHARACTERIZED by learning to break seemingly tough problems into respective pieces (i.e. don’t argue “stealing babies is good”, argue “their plan doesn’t fix the problem”). From this perspective, all cases have morality at the root and a debater would be gaining little from Stoa/NCFCA debate if not learning to navigate the complexities of why we do what we do.

I'm not going to argue this, because it's completely beside the point. My original argument was simply that some things are inherently disallowed, even without a complex theoretical framework. (Punching your opponent in the face, as a less controversial example.) Whether or not abortion plans fall into this category is irrelevant to the logic of the point.

Regardless, there is a theoretical framework that works in this case - the resolution. We don't need to declare offtopic DAs "inherently disallowed", or parametricized away, to have a rational debate.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Comments (11) Trackbacks (2)
  1. I posted this on Isaiah’s post, but it just as appropriately belongs here as well.

    “ugh….. I detest this entire discussion.

    First, I think every single debater needs to reassess their understanding of “theory”.

    “Theory” is not the “rules of the game”. “Theory” is not some long standing principle. “Theory” is a person’s opinion.

    The purpose of “theory” is to better the debate. That’s why we have “theory” with regards to Topicality; because we want to make the sides fair.

    When “theory” doesn’t better debate, chuck it. “Theory” for the sake of “theory” is purposeless.

    With that said, how “hurt” or “helped” the debate is should be inherently looked at on a case-by-case basis. Dogmatic, overarching “principles” don’t better debate.

    Second, specifically with regards to Case/Resolution Centrism discussion: There are a couple things that really annoy me about it.

    1. It’s pointless: people have been debating about this stupid topic since the dinosaurs were judging rounds. We haven’t really gotten ANYWHERE. No matter how much everybody chatters (and in some cases bickers) about this topic, it’s not going to matter. There is no clear “right” or “wrong”, and like a bad analogy, the more you analyze it the more confusing it gets.

    2. It missing proper focus: Seriously, before everybody wastes more time that they could spend doing something productive, ask yourselves this question: why are you debating this? To convince the other person? Good luck with that (parametrics is already dogmatic enough….) But looking deeper, why are you try to convince anyone? What does any one have to gain from talking about this? Few people answer this question. If we are going to debate about this, we need to start with whether it’s better or worse for debate first.

    3. Not real: notice I didn’t say “not real world”. I said “not real”. At a friends house, whenever I start talking about music theory, her younger brother says, “what planet are you from?” To some debaters I may ask the same question.
    Guys, blabbing and blabbing and blabbing about the imaginary world of “parametrics” and “theory” and “stuffandnonsense” is not policy discussion. Policy debate is (unlike value debate) is very concrete. All of this pointless fluff isn’t policy discussion. You aren’t becoming better communicators by confusing a judge for no reason at all except for the sake of being right in the most dogmatic sense (which, btw, isn’t a great motive). My favorite debaters are people who, appropriately enough, act like real people, not aliens, in debate. People trust people, not martians.

    My advice, stop dredging up this relic year after year and focus on what the debate really should be about: debate”

    • Arguing theory is debate.

      Debate is about learning logic and reasoning. Theory battles are some of the most intense battlegrounds of logic, where you live or die by syllogism and analogy. It also teaches communication. When you’re talking about something as high-level as theory, you have to learn how to bring it down to the level of your audience, or you’ll never convince anyone of anything.

      If we neglect the skills of logic and communication of logic, “policy discussion” becomes “political discussion” – a futile exercise consisting purely of endless rhetorical drivel tailored to tickle the ears of biased audiences. Theory argumentation is clearly not the only way to learn “hard logic” – but it’s one of the most powerful. Much like debate itself, it doesn’t accomplish a lot of immediate real-world benefit, but the skills learned are invaluable.

      You say, “When ‘theory’ doesn’t better debate, chuck it.” Let me ask you a question. If a Negative team runs a topical counterplan, is that okay?

      Here’s the problem. You cannot answer that question without using theory. The answer to that question IS theory. Do topical counterplans better debate? I don’t know, that’s a theoretical discussion.

      I would strongly disagree with the idea that this discussion will never convince anyone. I’ve seen plenty of people change their opinion on parametrics. Only a few decades ago, comparative-advantages cases were commonly viewed as illegitimate. What changed? Someone came up with a convincing new argument, debaters changed their minds, those debaters grew up to be coaches, and their students soon made the view mainstream. That “convincing new argument” came from theory debates, and it’s hard to argue the discussion wasn’t worthwhile.

      You say you want to stop arguing theory and go back to debate (and present a detailed theoretical argument in support of this.) Go right ahead – let the theory nerds change the future of debate (and become brilliant logicians) in peace. 😉

  2. First, Red Herring: did I ever say discussion/reasoning/logic/argumentation was bad? No. I said we should debate about this in the context of what is most important: whether the quality of the debate is being improve or hurt by certain stances (like EVERY topicality argument is based off). Your fallacious assumption of “all or nothing” is misleading and simply not true.

    I have nothing against debating theories; but let’s debate theories with a point.

    But also, you prove my point: you’re entire post relates exactly what I feared our league was seeping into. You believe in debating theory for the sake of debating theory. While there is nothing wrong with debating theory, when it produces nothing, it’s simply aimless.

    Let’s take your example of comparative advantage cases. What kept comparative advantage cases from being run? Dogmatic theoretical stances. If we simply looked at the real valuable aspects of debate (bettering debate), then we would have comparative advantage cases. Let me flip the stance, if comparative advantages hurt debate and caused poor competition/education/etc. but somebody had a brilliant theory as to why they were “logically legit”, is it still, in your words, “okay” to run a comp-ad case?

    Next train of thought: every thing else 😉

    “Theory” is merely an explanation by a person of what is. Thus, no “theory” is right. You can argue and debate and bicker all you want, but no matter what, no “theoretical discussion” actually comes to a close. You say your position is logical. Great. So is the person who has the complete opposite view. No one is “right”.

    When a theory (notice I said “a theory” and not just “theory”) and bettering debate come into conflict, that theory should be rejected. If it doesn’t better debate, there is no reason to maintain it other than the sake of having a theory. Because guess what? There will always be another theory to back up the proper (as far as bettering debate goes) action.

    (quoting you) “You say, “When ‘theory’ doesn’t better debate, chuck it.” Let me ask you a question. If a Negative team runs a topical counterplan, is that okay?
    Here’s the problem. You cannot answer that question without using theory. The answer to that question IS theory. Do topical counterplans better debate? I don’t know, that’s a theoretical discussion.”
    This…. is ridiculous. A value question (“is that okay?”) can only be answer by a theoretical discussion? Theory cannot answer this question. Theory can only give an explanation of an action taken on the basis of a value decision (making debate better or not). It’s like trying to prove that life is precious without God, morals, values, or anything else in the picture.

    There is a “theoretical” answer to everything. Thus, trying to use “theory” to answer a question like this is pointless. Just like when I randomly bang on my electronic keyboard, garageband still can identify what chord I play. It sound awful, but it can be explained. Just because you can explain something doesn’t justify it. Obviously we should strive to find the best (most logical) theory. That is, the best theory in support of what is best for bettering debate.

    Even if this changed peoples minds (which is doubtful seeing how long it’s been going on), would that change be right? In exaggeration, Let us say that parametrical theory is detrimental to debate and would cause enormous educational decay, but it has a brilliant explanation for it. Should we accept it. No.

    Before you argue about the theoretical ideas, figure out whether you are debating for a side worth fighting for. You said you didn’t know whether topical counter plans would better debate or not. That would be a good place to start.

    You have, in your own backwards argumentation, proved my point. You are fighting a blind fight. Sure, have fun becoming a “brilliant logician” on the internet, but I tend to argue for what I believe is right in the moral/ethical sense, not the impossible theoretical sense. Your logic can only prove that it is not enough to answer. In the end, I will be the “right” one.

    • I’m obviously not going to convince you, and since you haven’t really addressed my points, I’ll just say this:

      Whether something is “good for debate” is theory.

      I’ve said this before – abuses are inherent limits. If you can prove that something is sufficiently detrimental to debate (punching your opponent in the face), it can be barred regardless of whether it’s the conclusion of a syllogism. (Take a look at any NFL “theory block”, and you’ll see it filled with points about “ground skew” and “research burden”.)

      So why consider logic at all? Because logic is the foundation of debate. All discussion in debate is, ultimately, a question of whether a given argument is a logically sound reason to vote one way or the other. (Is the fact that Obama is president a reason to reject bear-hunting? No, that’s not a logically sound reason, because there’s no connection between the two. Etc.) Theory arguments are just a part of this – they try to determine whether something is a logically sound reason to vote. (In the case of parametrics: Is this alternate reform a reason to affirm the resolution? No, that’s not a logically sound reason, because the resolution has been narrowed.) In other words, running a theory argument is just like pointing out a (complicated) fallacy.
      ____________________

      You are completely right that I am debating theory for the sake of debating theory. On a blog. On a blog. In-round, theory should ALWAYS have a point. In contrast, this kind of discussion is like the research laboratory in which those “pointable” concepts are uncovered. It’s like you have to “do physics for the sake of physics” for awhile before you combine it all into something that makes a better microwave.

      Fiat power is a good example. Fiat is a theoretical concept build on decades of high-level discussion and argument, just like this. Parametrics debates, ultimately, aim to produce a similar kind of “usable” concept. We haven’t gotten there yet. But we’ll never get there if we don’t have this discussion. Imagine what debates would be like if people had “given up” on fiat discussion before it was ever finished – nobody would know whether “that won’t happen” was a logically valid reason to reject the Affirmative.

      Besides, logic is just fun. 🙂

  3. So, I may or may not be representing Daniel’s position well here. I just wanted to pop in and spill some of the things that came to my mind after reading Jonathan’s last post. It’s midnight right now, and I’m rushing this post, so I’m sorry for any lack of eloquence 😛

    That said, let’s go down Jonathan’s last post…

    1. No, you never said discussion/reasoning/logic/argumentation was bad. And Daniel didn’t say you said it, either. Daniel just showed how theory (specifically theory related to parametrics) facilitates discussion/reasoning/logic/argumentation.

    2. “Dogmatic theoretical stances”.

    Maaaybe. But how do you challenge those? With theory.

    3. “Flip stance”.

    That makes no sense. If they didn’t “better debate”, they would be challenged theoretically. I don’t see how there can be some “theoretical justification” for something that doesn’t better debate, when your implied definition of a “theoretical justification” is that the argument…betters debate : \

    4. “Theoretical discussions never close”.

    Didn’t we just say comp-ad did? Unless I’m misunderstanding you…Anyway, the point is being able to debate it in a round, in which it does come to a close — when the judge votes for the more convincing speaker. Of course nobody is right. It’s all about…ummm…how did you put it? Discussion/reasoning/logic/argumentation. And you think that’s good, right?

    5. “When a theory doesn’t better debate…”

    So, let’s say parametrics is a case-in-point. What do we do? Sit around and be bossed by those who accept it/use it? Or challenge it? I’m really not sure what you’re advocating here, Jonathan.

    6. “This…. is ridiculous. A value question (“is that okay?”) can only be answer by a theoretical discussion? Theory cannot answer this question. Theory can only give an explanation of an action taken on the basis of a value decision (making debate better or not). It’s like trying to prove that life is precious without God, morals, values, or anything else in the picture.”

    Uuuummm…what? Do tell, how do you respond to a CP when it’s abusive?

    7. “Just because you can explain something doesn’t justify it.”

    That’s what…opponents are for. If your explanation didn’t justify your position, that makes it easier for opp to justify their position. That’s what…debate is about.

    8. “Let us say that parametrical theory is detrimental to debate and would cause enormous educational decay, but it has a brilliant explanation for it. Should we accept it. No.”

    Exactly. We CHALLENGE it. Like Daniel is doing. Please let him carry on.

    9. “You have, in your own backwards argumentation, proved my point.”
    Way to build up your opponent. But I don’t see where Daniel’s reasoning has been “backward”. Maybe you should explain your position a little better.

  4. I don’t have much time to respond, so some of this might be a little muddled.

    First, let me define “theory”: A supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something.

    There, now that’s out of the way:

    1. Start at the beginning: Every theoretical stance should be backed up by an understanding of what the best course for the debate round should be.
    If you start with theories, you are just fighting for the sake of fighting. People need to get their act together and figure out why they are arguing what they are arguing.
    I wish somebody would answer this. Why are we starting with theory? Why not start with what is best for debate, and then justify that stance theoretically?

    2. “You are completely right that I am debating theory for the sake of debating theory. On a blog. On a blog. In-round, theory should ALWAYS have a point.”
    Then why is this debated in-round without a point? I’m really, really trying to find a point in this discussion (broader discussion). I’m totally cool with discussing theory (I do it). But I’m not cool with discussing theory without any point. It seems like a waste of time.

    3. “Whether something is “good for debate” is theory.”
    Then this is a good place to start. Find out what is good for debate, then explain it. Not the other way around.

    4. “Besides, logic is just fun.”
    I agree. However, I believe in using logic for a reason. You, as you noted, do not know whether parametrics would be good for debate or not. Find out, then start arguing theory. Don’t put the cart before the horse.

    5. Stop putting words in my mouth: Everybody. I am not for ceasing theory debate. I am not for ceasing theory debate on this issue. What I am for is prioritizing debate. Until there is an actual foundation/basis for a theoretical stance, It is not useful. I completely agree that debating theory is beneficial to ones logical prowess. But when it is outside of the debate round, taking a stance just for the sake of taking a stance is not cool. On the interent, you are not debater A and debater B. You are Preston Black and Daniel Gaskall. Thus, debate is what Preston Black and Daniel Gaskall believe is best for this league, and best for debate, and best for everyone. Argue theory, argue logic, argue anything you want, but have a position worth arguing for.

    6. “Way to build up your opponent. But I don’t see where Daniel’s reasoning has been “backward”. Maybe you should explain your position a little better.”
    Meaning his arguments implicitly support my claims (“backwards”). A little redundant, but whatever. 😀

    7. “If they didn’t “better debate”, they would be challenged theoretically. I don’t see how there can be some “theoretical justification” for something that doesn’t better debate, when your implied definition of a “theoretical justification” is that the argument…betters debate : \”
    Preston, you are really confusing me right now….
    This discussion (broader discussion of parametrics) is a case and point for something being challenged theoretically without even putting the welfare of the debate in context. I don’t know where I said that a “theoretical justification” = bettering debate.
    And, yes, there are theoretical justifications for things that do not better debate. For instance, ridiculously broad topicality standards. And Topicality is a great instance of proper debate: people challenge standards theoretically, for the BENEFIT of the debate, NOT just because somebody feels like arguing about Topicality.

    9. “Exactly. We CHALLENGE it. Like Daniel is doing. Please let him carry on.”
    But WHY? Why are you challenging Daniel? Why do you take the position that you do? Are you taking the position because it’s better for debate, or so you will be “right”? There is not “right” or “wrong” theory. There is just as “right” an explanation for a beneficial stance as there is for a detrimental stance.

    10. “Uuuummm…what? Do tell, how do you respond to a CP when it’s abusive?”
    A. identifying the abuse, B. using theory.
    However, until you can identify whether the CP is abusive or not, both of those actions are obsolete.

    You have (admittedly) shown that you do not know whether the theory you are arguing for betters debate or not. I would welcome complex theoretical discussion on this topic, AFTER there has been some reasonable discussion on the value of topical counter plans. Until you know what side is worth fighting for, don’t fight. Sadly, few people actually care what is best for debate in this context.

    • I don’t have the time or inclination to continue this debate much further, but a few points need addressing: (paraphrased)
      _________________

      “Theory is ‘a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something.'”

      Not exactly. Theory is not an explanation for the way things are; it is a logical/pragmatic reason for the way things are. I’ll get into this more in a minute.
      _________________

      “We should look at whether something is good for debate first.”

      Right. Theory does that. And what we’re doing now comes afterwards.

      There are basically two types of theory arguments: Normative and logical. (They’re actually the same thing, but I’ll treat them separately for simplicity.) Normative theory arguments say “Argument X is bad for debate, so you shouldn’t run it.” Logical theory arguments say “Argument X is not a logically valid reason to vote Y.” As I’ve said before, running a (logical) theory argument is exactly the same as pointing out a logical fallacy.

      Here’s a typical fallacy example: (NEG says)

      1 – Obama is president.
      2 – The president oversees duck hunting.
      Conclusion: Therefore we shouldn’t ban duck hunting.

      The AFF responds, “Non sequitur – the conclusion does not follow from the premises, so that’s not a logically valid reason to reject our plan.”

      Now, here’s a theory example: (NEG says)

      1 – This plan won’t happen in the real world.
      2 – (unstated assumed premise) The resolution asks us whether something will happen.
      Conclusion: Therefore you shouldn’t vote for the resolution.

      The AFF responds, “False assumed premise – the resolution is about whether we should do something, so we can presuppose it will be passed. (We call this ‘fiat power’.) That’s not a logically valid reason to reject our plan.”

      Logical theory arguments are simply logical reasons why an argument isn’t sound. What does this mean for your point?

      We obviously need to start off with whether something is good for debate. If we can prove that it’s bad (like punching your opponent in the face), we can just give a normative theory argument (“that’s bad”) and leave it at that. But what happens when we can’t? The argument lives or dies on its logical merits – and logical theory is the only way to argue them.

      Suppose we assume that topical counterplans are entirely goodness-neutral for debate. Are they a logically valid reason to reject the Affirmative plan?

      The only way to find an answer to that question is to go through the exact discussion we’re going through now.

      You say we need to find out if something is abusive before arguing its logic; fine. People have fought over topical counterplans long enough for virtually everyone to agree that it’s not clear if they’re abusive. Maybe someone will eventually come up with a convincing argument one way or the other, but for now, we have to move on to logic.
      _________________

      “We should only be discussing theory that’s important.”

      Right again. But there are a few things to consider:

      1. This debate is taking place in the blogosphere, not in a round. Theory arguments in-round should ALWAYS be important. As I’ve said before, blogosphere discussion is like the laboratory where the raw “science” takes place, that eventually gets turned into something “important”.

      2. This is, functionally, a debate between two alumni. You can’t really tell us to “go do something better”… because we aren’t actually debating anymore. We’re the perfect people to have this sort of discussion.

      3. This is important. What we are doing right now is building, piece by piece, an answer to the question: Are topical counterplans a reason to reject the resolution? The answer to this question is just as important as the answer to the question of fiat power, or comp/ad, or any other major theory argument. In some leagues where parametrics is taken for granted, upwards of 50% of rounds will include a topical counterplan. Coming up with a definitive answer could have a huge effect.

      4. Continuing the scientific research analogy, we don’t always know if something is important until we’ve juggled with it enough. If you’re trying to cure cancer, you can’t decide to “only follow the right leads”, because you don’t know which ones ARE the “right leads.” Logical analysis is often the same way.

      Of course, you shouldn’t be following obvious dead ends, but something with the potential to influence 50% of all debate rounds is certainly no “dead end.”

  5. One quick comment:

    My former student Jonathan wrote:
    =============
    1. It’s pointless: people have been debating about this stupid topic since the dinosaurs were judging rounds.
    =============

    Actually, they haven’t.

    I was debating back when the dinosaurs were judging. Had a fossil for a coach. In fact, I actually debated before parametrics were invented (which was around 1981).

    P theory was invented, it did not evolve naturally from the schematics of policy debate. (We had fiat, stock issues, minor repairs, counterplans, etc.) P theory was artifically invented in order to boost Neg winning percentages back in the days pre-Internet when negs were losing 60% or more of their rounds because we half the time (literally) didn’t have any evidence against cases we were hitting. Someone came up with this theory to justify a way to provide Negs with more ammo, since they were losing too often.

    My underlying bias against P theory probably stems from the fact that I successfully debated (both AFF and NEG) without it through my entire policy debate student career. I won an AFF round in NFL in 1979 by simply pointing out that the Neg’s counterplan was really an AFF plan that upheld the resolution, so no matter who wins you should vote AFF.

    With the internet now universally available, Negs have no excuse to even claim to need this crutch. Non-topical resolution-denying counterplans can be researched much more easily for the rare occasions when counterplans are called for. P theory is a solution in search of a problem.

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