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Canadian Professor Says ‘Romanticized’ Concept of Debate Breeds Anti-Abortion Activists

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
byTom Ciccotta19 Oct 20170
19 Oc..

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

byTom Ciccotta19 Oct 20170

Professor Ben Tippett of the University of British Columbia argued that the notion of “debate” is over-romanticized in academia in a Twitter thread on Thursday morning.

I see people saying that universities should be places where ideas are freely debated. Can I just… Address our romance with "debate"?

— Ben Tippett (@bnprime) October 19, 2017

“I see people saying that universities should be places where ideas are freely debated,” Tippett’s tweet rant began. “Can I just… Address our romance with ‘debate?'” Tippett, a lecturer in math and physics at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan’s campus, who researches the topics of General Relativity and Zombie Epidemic Modeling.

Tippett goes on

If you want to know the weakness of debate as a means of sussing out the truth listen to cbc's comedy show "the debaters"…

— Ben Tippett (@bnprime) October 19, 2017

“The truth can only be distilled from careful contemplation, years of experience, and oft the sands of time eroding the muck of social bias,” he continued. “Two people talking at a crowd about each other can only prove two things about the truth: jack and shit.”

“This is the arena of rhetoric. This is the arena of popularity contests. This is the arena of preconceived biases tainting the truth,” he added. “I mean, debates are really fun. It’s fun to debate with people, and it’s fun to listen to. But they got nothing to do with determining truth.”

Tippett went on to suggest that over-romanticizing the notion of debate only serves to breed radical beliefs. To Tippett, these radical beliefs systems include fascist and anti-abortion stances.

Romanticizing "debate" just fills our corridors with antiabortion protestors and fascists. Great. Just what a working university needs.

— Ben Tippett (@bnprime) October 19, 2017

Tippett operates on a very narrow definition of debate. He cites the 2016 presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as an example an unproductive intellectual exchange.

However, a debate on a college campus often takes the form of an instructor who objectively lays out both sides of a debate, allowing his or her students to come to their own conclusions. It also occurs when students hear one perspective on a topic from one professor and a differing perspective from another. Debate occurs between students in the hallway between classes, in the student center, and in the library.

Tippett seems to be one of the many professors interested in students hearing (and speaking about) only one side of any issue — the side he approves of.

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