Ok, with two debates down I feel like I can say this and it’s not sour grapes, or an attempt to blame poor performance on the moderator. I don’t like debates, they might be useful to some as a way of zinging your opponent, or giving them a mental smack-down when their memory fails, but as a means of assessing the truth they are pretty useless. Presentation is everything in a debate, the facts behind presentation less so. Thus the trip to the way back machine. Let’s go back to say, the second century A.D. for this one. Clement of Rome being a sensitive soul had many question. Questions about the immortality of the soul, or and if that soul had always existed so forth. Important questions, mind. He worried about it a great deal. He went everywhere he could to find an answer. He spent a lot of time listening to the debates in the philosophy schools concerning the subject. I will quote him:
“There I saw that nought else was done, save that doctrines were asserted and controverted without end, contests were waged, and the arts of syllogisms and the subtleties of conclusions were discussed. If at any time the doctrine of the immortality of the soul prevailed, I was thankful; if at any time it was impugned, I went away sorrowful…
This only I understood, that opinions and definitions of things were accounted true or false, not in accordance with their nature and the truth of the arguments, but in proportion to the talents of those who supported them.”How or where do you go to establish truth? That was the problem Joseph Smith was presented with as I’m sure you remember. I agree with Clement. From my standpoint there is one way of establishing truth and two manners in which manifests itself. That is to experiment with an idea or hypothesis. Truth can manifest itself in the scientific method and the for lack of a better term a metaphysical method. The first deals with physical things, things which can be weighed and measured, the second with things that can only be tested in your heart and mind and can only be proven to an individual never demonstrated to the crowd. Both methods require experimentation, either on the test subject or upon the Word. “try me and see” is the invitation of the Gospel as well as the scientific. I do have friends who wonder how I can be religious at all. They view the world only through their scientific lens. Funny thing is they aren’t scientists at all. I’m confident I know a lot more about science than they do, having a couple degrees in scientific disciplines. Likewise I have Mormon and religious friends who find it hard to believe that I’m religious. Not to be arrogant, but I feel I know more about religion than they do. To both sets of friends, and they really are my friends, I readily declare that I am religious. I really believe that God exists. I’ve tested it. I’ve asked, I’ve done His will, the best I know how to anyway, I know a portion of the truth. I don’t reject either method, they are both useful.
So back to the debates; they are not a scientific or even a rational approach to determining truth. That I’m afraid takes more than an hour of one-liners, zingers and cool or confrontational presentation. They are an exercise in presentation skill and nothing more. They have absolutely nothing to do with the truth of a proposition.
It’s not difficult based on past performance to project the past into the future. That is, by the way the fundamental tenant of Geology, the past is the key to the Present, and the future. Given past performance I think I can project what a Romney Presidency might look like. It’ll probably be moderate with a few fits of conservatism thrown in. I’d rather have Obama but Romney doesn’t make me as nervous as W. did.
It should always be remembered however that politics does not and will not lead us to Zion, change our hearts and minds and make us fit for that society. Only when we learn to be united in our feelings can we establish that. At its best our politics can only drop us off at the doorstep of the Zion.