“From wherever you stood, the opposing side offered respectable, credible views. In today's fractured culture the evening struck a blow for civility.”
- The Huffington Post
April 26, 2015
I have long been a fan of the Intelligence Squared debate series, which I often hear on my local NPR station (and which too often leads me to stay in my car longer than I had intended). I was especially excited when I learned that the series was finally going to focus on the death penalty.
November 16, 2014
During an Intelligence Squared panel in New York City Wednesday evening, debaters argued over what defines “dignity” and what it means, exactly to die with it. Dying with dignity, in Brittany Maynard’s mind, implies that taking control of her situation and dying on her own terms is the best possible solution to her diagnosis. Having control over your own death may not be “natural” per se, but it can be compassionate. Maynard made the choice because life as the way she wanted to experience it should have been full of youth, vigor, beauty, and love — not pain, suffering, and a gradual wasting away of her mind and body. But to the physicians arguing against the law, dignity meant embracing the fact that life's value wasn't only found in beauty, youth, and independence — things our society values so much. Life itself was dignity, they claimed, even if it meant becoming deteriorated, old, and dependent.
November 14, 2014
A group that hosts debates on volatile social, economic and political topics took up the question of physician-assisted suicide after Brittnay Maynard‘s case gave the topic national attention this month. And 45 percent of the audience changed their mind completely, voting either for, against or undecided after listening to just one hour of debate on the topic.
November 14, 2014
Two weeks after the physician-assisted suicide of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, an Intelligence Squared debate in New York explored whether the policy is compatible with the doctor’s healing role. The argument opposing physician-assisted suicide laws was judged the winning one by an audience gathered at the Kaufman Music Center Thursday night.
November 11, 2014
The end of a life is inevitably tragic — but what if an even bigger tragedy could be avoided by hastening it?
That was the eventuality that 29-year-old Brittany Maynard chose to avoid. On Nov. 1, supported by her family and the millions around the world who learned about her choice to end her life before an aggressive brain tumor could leech it from her slowly and painfully, Maynard took a prescribed dose of lethal medication.
To get that prescription, Maynard moved with her family to Oregon, one of only five states with a “Death with Dignity” law that allows for assisted suicide, in which a doctor can provide medication to end the life of a dying patient who’s deemed mentally competent. Whether the option should be available nationwide, or banned entirely, will be the subject of an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate taking place Nov. 13, with passionate advocates on both sides.
February 25, 2014
On Tuesday Feb. 25 and Wednesday Feb. 26, the FDA will consider a controversial cutting-edge fertility procedure otherwise known as “oocyte modification in assisted reproduction for the prevention of transmission of mitochondrial disease or treatment of infertility.” Despite the hype, the mitochondrial transfer procedures being considered are far from the “creation of three-parent babies.”
Instead, the FDA is finally considering whether it should green-light small clinical trials that could one day enable the thousands of women afflicted with mitochondrial disorders to have a shot at having healthy genetic children. Passions tend to run high in this area. Before the alarm bells start ringing on both sides, it might be helpful to have an overview of what is and is not at stake.
You can learn more about the pros and cons of mitochondrial transfer by listening to the Intelligence Squared Debate, in which I participated, here. It was a great debate and really aired a lot of the issues.
December 12, 2013
Last week I posted to Facebook and Twitter about a debate that was happening on IntelligenceSquaredUS.com, a site dedicated on showcasing live debates on various topics. Since then, the results of the debate have been analyzed and I find them very exciting.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the entire debate. It was wonderful to hear how each side agrees on a lot of matters: eat less meat, no factory farming, no GMOs…that’s progress.
December 12, 2013
Earlier this month, The Discerning Brute covered promotions for the debate event “Don’t Eat Anything with a Face.” It got a lot of press traction. Hosted by the U.S. affiliate of Intelligence Squared, the debate featured two two-member teams arguing each side of the motion. For the motion were Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and George Washington University and his debate partner Gene Baur, founder and co-president of Farm Sanctuary. Against the motion were Chris Masterjohn, author of the blog The Daily Lipid (sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation), and his debate partner Joel Salatin, public speaker and director of Polyface Farms.
The debate was composed of three rounds, including a question-and-answer with the audience, and to my delight it maintained an intelligent, robust, and precise examination of the motion, Don’t Eat Anything with a Face.
December 10, 2013
Is it healthier to be a vegetarian? Or an omnivore? And how much of an environmental impact does livestock really have? These questions can spark a lively debate and that’s exactly what happened last week when Intelligence Squared presented Don’t Eat Anything With A Face. Clinical researcher and author Dr. Neal Barnard and Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, both in favor of the motion, faced off against farmer and author Joel Salatin and nutritional sciences researcher and blogger Chris Masterjohn.
It’s possible this debate could soon extend to include meat without a face.
December 08, 2013
Vegetarianism has been a part of human culture since the dawn of civilization, when Greek philosophers debated the morality of killing animals for their flesh. It was Pythagoras, the father of mathematics, who said, "As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower-living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other." (For what it's worth, that is not necessarily true.)
More than 2,000 years later, we're still having that debate. Last week, Intelligence Squared hosted a panel on the rights and wrongs of meat-eating, entitled "Don't Eat Anything With a Face."
December 07, 2013
This past Wednesday I participated in an Intelligence Squared US debate, "Don't Eat Anything With a Face." Dr. Neal Barnard and Gene Baur argued for the motion, while Joel Salatin and I argued against it. If you missed it, you can watch the video here. It was a great experience, from which I learned a lot. I will be publishing a series of reflections on the debate, the first installment of which is below.
December 07, 2013
Wednesday night, the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series took on vegetarianism and animal rights with the motion “should we eat anything with a face?” So who won?
The debate spanned nearly 90 minutes and covered nutrition, environmental concerns, animal welfare and ethics.
One thing that was established early on in the debate is that all of the panelists are against industrial factory farming, so discussion of that industry’s ethics were off the table completely — even though 99 percent of all farmed animals raised and slaughtered in the United States are from factory farms.
What they did discuss was the following...
December 06, 2013
The award-winning debate series, "Intelligence Squared U.S.," concluded its fall season with "Don't Eat Anything with a Face," moderated by ABC News correspondent John Donvan. The debate was centered on physical, psychological, environmental, and moral impacts caused by the American consumption of animal protein.
Not surprisingly, the topic ignited a strong reaction from vegans and omnivores alike.
What made the public feel so strongly about something as basic as food? [The program's chairman, Robert] Rosenkranz speculated that it was because our dietary choices have become a form of branding.
Choosing to buy organic and locally grown foods, or to only consume a plant-based diet, is part of our identity that broadcasts our personal values to the rest of the world. For example, being a vegan implies that you value your own health and the well-being of other species and the environment. However, is it possible to be ecological, ethical, and health-conscious while still consuming meat? The debate's four panelists sought to answer that very question.
December 05, 2013
Now, with the superstar couple blogging and talking about their vegan journey, the debate over whether it’s healthier to eat meat or not is sure to heat up.
So, it couldn’t have been more timely for Healthy Hollywood to attend Intelligence Squared U.S. debates here in New York City last night. The water-cooler topic of the night was [of course] “should we eat anything with a face?”
On the no-meat side sat vegan guru and author Dr. Neal Barnard (a personal favorite) and Gene Bauer, who promotes animal compassion. Their opponents were Joel Salatin, a grass-fed meat farmer and Chris Masterjohn, who is a pro-meat advocate. The two sides lively debated their opinions in front of a live audience. The program is also broadcast on NPR.
It was certainly an intellectual crowd, not the typical the star attractions I am used to. But, it was interesting to hear the pro-plant folks highlight all the health benefits of a no-meat diet, while the meat-eaters argued a plant-based diet leaves you nutritionally deficient and at more risk for mental health issues (say what? to that point!).
December 05, 2013
An impassioned debate from Intelligence Squared U.S.
Is it wrong to eat meat? Anyone who feels strongly one way or the other should check out the latest episode of NPR’s Oxford-style debate series, Intelligence Squared U.S.
Arguing in favor of the motion, “Don’t eat anything with a face,” are Dr. Neal Barnard of George Washington University and the “meat causes cancer” camp, and Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal rescue organization. Arguing against is Chris Masterjohn, a nutritional sciences researcher whose own experiment with a vegan diet, he claimed, left him physically and mentally ill, along with Joel Salatin, a progressive farmer who’s been featured in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the documentary Food, Inc.
Instead of dwelling on the evils of factory farms, the participants agree that our current system of meat production is far from ideal, then precede to debate the more nuanced moral, environmental and health consequences of a world fed on animals, while attempting to imagine what such a world would look like were we all to abandon the practice. Along the way, both sides make strong points about, among many other things: meat’s similarities to tobacco; mankind’s proper role in nature; and the privileges of modern society that allow us to debate the issue in the first place.
April 04, 2013
“Banning is not a productive way forward,” said Nita Farahany, professor of law, philosophy and genome sciences and policy. “Whether or not [genetic modification] should be allowed is a different discussion.” Farahany, a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, argued against a motion banning the genetic modification of fetuses at the Intelligence Squared U.S. debates on prohibiting genetically engineered babies February. Despite her motion against the ban, Farahany said she does not unequivocally support the procedure.
March 23, 2013
After an announcement last year that a series of experiments in the United States had resulted in the birth of 30 healthy genetically modified babies, genetics experts are now debating whether or not further development of designer offspring should be banned.
Just 16 years ago, the concept of genetic perfection was the stuff of Hollywood movies like "Gattaca." Fast forward to just over a month ago, however, and experts were busy debating over whether genetically engineered babies should be prohibited in a session hosted in New York City by Intelligence Squared U.S.
February 20, 2013
Would you want the option of harnessing the power of genetics to alter the DNA of your unborn child? Would you want this to prevent disease? Select physical characteristics? Or “design” your baby by changing the genetic code?
Such was the topic of an Intelligence Squared debate held in New York City on February 13. Two experts argued that genetic engineering should be banned; two experts argued that it should be supported. The audience – of which I was a part – had a chance to vote both before, and after, the arguments were made.
February 19, 2013
NEW YORK — The increasing power and accessibility of genetic technology may one day give parents the option of modifying their unborn children, in order to spare offspring from disease or, conceivably, make them tall, well muscled, intelligent or otherwise blessed with desirable traits. Would this change mean empowering parents to give their children the best start possible? Or would it mean designer babies who could face unforeseen genetic problems? Experts debated on Wednesday evening (Feb. 13) whether prenatal engineering should be banned in the United States.
February 14, 2013
Could you envision a world without genetic diseases, where parents could control their child’s height, muscle strength, eye color, personality, and even intelligence? Some might consider this a tempting endeavor while others see it as a horrifying science fiction novel turning into reality. The topic of the most recent Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies, sparked a heated discussion on whether or not this science should be banned. Even if the science were perfected, would human genetic enhancement be considered morally wrong?
January 20, 2008
America is pretty schizophrenic when it comes to performance-enhancing substances - we drag jocks who juice before Congress even as we spend a fortune on fountain of youth drugs.
January 19, 2008
It might be the formula for an intriguing cocktail party, or the set-up to a long and elaborate joke. An ethicist, a famous retired ballplayer, a pediatrician, a very loud sportscaster, a libertarian, a former anti-doping czar and one of the more famous faces in American television take the stage in the auditorium of the Asia Society and Museum.
January 18, 2008
The Oxford-style Intelligence Squared debates at the Asia Society are precisely what I hoped to discover moving to New York City last spring: Provocative, unabashedly intellectual, lively. How could anyone who slogs through the pathetic, pandering spectacle of modern American politics not love a debate series with a mission statement that includes a promise to "transcend the toxically emotional and reflexively ideological"?
January 15, 2008
Just hours after baseball assured Congress it's working to address the sport's doping problem, another group debated whether performance-enhancing drugs should even be banned.