The benefits of a lecture and instructional video are immense, short, portable and audio visual pieces of information from some of the greatest minds on the planet, yep lectures can do wonders. But the problem with lectures as with having a single flavor of ice cream is, boredom. Thus as an alternative to a single person churning out knowledge, the competitive atmosphere of verbal sparring in a debate is not a bad way to learn a few things and explore new ideas via the pieces of some famous individuals.

The Video above is an interesting depiction of the exchange between Stephen Fry  and Ann Widdecombe  from the Debate : “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world“.  

It was in this spirit that the last post explored a TV show. Today we move to another format, video recorded and webcast. The Intelligence Squared debates originated in the UK moving to various nations of the world. It was when they came across the Atlantic that America did what it does, with the concept and the phenomenon became global. The debates are based on the Oxford Style. That means that the result of the debate is decided by the percentage of the population that is swayed after the debate to the speaker’s cause. Two opinion polls of generally a 1000-2000 strong audience are taken, one before and the other after the debate. With the need to create a balanced atmosphere perhaps the selection of an equally biased audience might be done but still the experience is not an overly orchestrated one.  Each debate has generally 2 speakers for and 2 against the motion whose speeches are followed by audience question and answer rounds. The topics range from Foreign policy, history, science, social policy, art, culture and also the environment. The agency also operates in Israel, Greece, Hong Kong and a few other regions.

Although the outlook to many of the events is a commercial one for tickets are sold online there are a large number of videos of the debates available on the website of Intelligence Squared and also on its Youtube Channel. Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Fry, Tony Blair, Richard Dawkins are a few of the notables to have debated on this platform. The Versus Debates sprung from the partnership of this organization with Google making for even more interesting watching and brain fodder.

The Intelligence Squared Website
The Intelligence Squared Website
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4 thoughts on “I – Squared

  1. By the way, I loved the video above. My sister and I have debates on these lines often. She is an atheist and I call myself Christian. We were both brought up as practising Catholics until we became uncomfortable with many of the things preached and a lot of the things practised by the Catholic church. I still call myself Christian because I wish to follow in the footsteps of that simple carpenter from Gallilee who came to be the `way, the truth and the light’ for me. But I endorse Gandhiji’s opinion that Christ merits respect (in my case even devotion) but not many Christians or the Christian Churches (Catholic or otherwise). I think that must be true of most organized religions. The priests, clerics, etc are the power centers and the churches, temples, mosques, etc pull in the money. How the power and money is used … well a tiny bit of it may go into truly charitable works, but most of it goes to making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Sad but true.

    1. Thanks for the comment, what I find most interesting is the argument for everything Holy seems to be the good they precipitate in human lives. I would like to think that people, even religious ones do good without the urging of the promise of a heaven or the threat of Satan’s fires. People do good for they are good irrespective of their idea of who lives in the skies.

      1. True. People do tend to associate `holiness’ with `goodness’ and that’s not always the case. Jesus says of the `holy men of Israel’ – “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice….. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14″Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation. 15″Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.…” [Mathew 23]
        Most religions preach that people should be good to each other, charity is encouraged, brotherhood espoused…. etc. so if you truly follow the teachings of religious leaders IN SPIRIT and not as is mostly seen BY THE LETTER, then a lot of good can come out of religious practice.

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