As with my last post, there are many opposing views on this topic. Many say that debating is simply preaching to the choir. Others say that it only serves to alienate people. Some say that debates get those on the fence to pick a side. And many say that a debate can put the initial spark of doubt in an audience members head. So which is it?
I think that a debate can get people of the fence, but I don’t believe that they are good for putting the spark of doubt in someones mind. I think that a panel discussion, an interview, a book, or even a conversation is more likely to accomplish that goal. I also worry about the alienation aspect of a debate. If I’m trying to convince someone that I am right, then I don’t want them to see me lose my cool or become insulting, which is what happens in a lot of debates. I’m not so worried about the preaching to the choir bit though. There are going to be some people who go in disagreeing with you and others who go to watch because they are interested in the topic and haven’t yet made a decision. I think talks are far worse in that regard, because a talk is likely to only attract people who agree with the speaker.
So are debates useful?