AR Philosophy > Debating AR

Formal Debate Proposals

Do you want to declare a formal debate challenge? Are you tired of having folks dance around the gauntlet you have thrown down and keep pointing to? Throw the gauntlet here, where prospective opponents can query your proposal, and discuss the debate parameters. If an opponent agrees, the game is on.

Formal Debates

This is where you come after you and your debating opponent have finalized a topic and parameters of a formal debate from the "Formal Debate Proposals" forum. The administrator or a moderator will start your thread here once the debaters are ready to go.

Kibitzer's Corner

A thread will be established for each formal debate to provide a forum for everyone except the debate participants to comment on the progress of the debate. At least two polls will be available here. A poll before the debate begins asking which side you believe is correct. And a poll at the end of the debate, asking who you think won the debate. After the debate is over, the debate participants may post here, answer questions, gloat, or publicly lick their wounds.


Formal Debates: Rules and Procedures


A) Introduction

The debate of animal rights or animal welfare issues are often complex. Both sides of many AR issues are wrought with hyperbole and misdirection. Finding some outrageous, unreliable data to support your position to pass on to your uninitiated co-workers is done easily in the regular forum environment. However, this environment may not be an adequate place if members are not looking at the extremes of each issue, but prefer locating the center. In the normal forum environment it's difficult to get to the center of an issue with multiple people chiming in with sidebars and observations. Having no interference is an advantage of a formal debate forum. Another advantage is that you will have time to reflect on an answer to an argument while ensured the intended recipient is still following the thread.

B) The Formal Debate Proposals forum

The purpose of the
Formal Debate Proposals forum is to provide a venue for members to declare a challenge for a formal debate, and when answered, to build and clarify its parameters. It is not a forum for the actual debate. Other forum members can contribute relevant comments or suggestions. In many instances, the original proposal will be modified significantly before a challenge is accepted. Any forum member is welcome to issue or respond to a challenge.

In order for the moderators to approve a formal debate, the debate proposal must address the following ten parameters:

1) The topic of the debate.
2) The participants of the debate, and what positions they will argue.
3) The scope of the debate.
4) The length of the debate, in number of rounds.
5) Whether statements will be made concurrently or in turns, and if the latter, who goes first.
6) The maximum length of each statement.
7) The time limit between statements.
8) The extent to which quotes and references from outside sources will be allowed.
9) The starting date of the debate.
10) Any additional rules or a debate format that debate participants must observe.

Below is an elaboration of each of the parameters:

1) The topic of the debate:

    The proposed debate topic must be based on an animal rights or an animal welfare issue (e.g. no formal debates on whether Mars has water, or whether George Bush has a brain). A topic must also avoid the characteristic of having too wide a focus and/or a lack of substance (e.g. no formal debates on subjects like "does god like animals?" or "does meat taste good?").

2) The participants of the debate, and what positions they will argue:

    Usually it is the case that one person will affirm a position and the other will take the negative and oppose. Debates can also be set up where each participant presents both a positive case and defense for their particular position along with a critique of the opposing position.

3) The scope of the debate:

    The scope refers to the area covered by the topic of the debate. Debaters may wish to specify the sub-topics that they want to explore. This can either be general or specific according to the debaters' preferences. For example, if the debate was about animal sentience, the scope can be very general (e.g. biology and animal testin) or very specific (parrots, self-awareness, and how we measure).

4) The length of the debate, in number of rounds:

    Each round in a formal debate consists of a statement from each respective debate participant. The minimum number of rounds permitted is three and the maximum is six. The final round consists of the concluding statements. Occasionally, debate participants have opted to confine their concluding statements to merely a summary of the debate rather than introduce new arguments. At the end of the debate it may be decided that another debate is needed for some of the unresolved issues.

5) Whether statements will be made concurrently or in turns, and if the latter, who goes first:

    In turns is self-explanatory. In succession, switching back and forth, a debate participant will post a statement in response to his/her opponent's previous statement. Concurrent statements mean that posts submitted by each participant will appear simultaneously each round. Neither debater can see each otherís statement until both of them are submitted.

6) The maximum length of each statement:

    Debate participants can set a word limit for their statements up to 5000 words. Quoting an opponent's words is counted. Formal debate statements must also be of an abundance that is reasonably acceptable. For example, statements consisting solely of the words "Why?" or "Who says?" will be declined. Images can also be used as long as the amount and size used is not excessive or a means to get around word limits.

7) The time limit between statements:

    Debate participants are expected to respond within a particular time frame. For example, if the time limit chosen is a week, then a debater is expected to reply within a week of his opponentís last statement. For debates that are concurrent, debaters are expected to submit their statements within the time limit from the date of the last statement of the previous round. Debaters can responde before the time limit, if they wish.

8) The extent to which quotes and references from outside sources will be allowed:

    Formal debate statements can cover a great deal of material. Just like a student writing a term paper, it is often useful to include quotes from other sources to help clarify a concept. It is also helpful to cite arguments or data that provide supporting evidence for a position. Debate participants can place limits on how much quotes and/or references are allowed in their debate if it is mutually desirable. If desired, limits can be generalized simply as "used within reason," leaving it to the moderators' judgment to determine if the amount of quotes/references is too excessive. Please note that supporting data may also take the form of charts, diagrams, and/or images if they are relevant to the debate. Directing to URL links is discouraged (e.g. "Please respond to the article at this website link").

9) The starting date of the debate:

    The starting date is the date that the administrator or moderator will set up the formal debate thread. The person going first is expected to submit his or her statement within the time limit from #7. If the debaters are ready to start the debate immediately and do not require a start date agreed to in advance, then the debate thread will be set up as soon as the moderators are able to do so.

10) Any additional rules or a debate format that debate participants must observe:

    The standard format consists of a select number of rounds with each debater taking turns. There are a variety of additional rules or alternative formats that debate participants can use. Examples include splitting the debate into two parts with each person switching roles taking the affirmative and the opposition, a discussion involving three different views with three different proponents (as opposed to the standard two participants), and setting up statements in the form of a question and answer dialogue.

Each of these parameters is subject to the approval of the administrator or moderator. Once the debate participants have agreed to all of the parameters, and the parameters meet the moderators' approval, the Debate Proposal thread will be closed and a thread will be set up in
Formal Debates & Discussions on the designated start date. Debaters may make a request to the moderators to amend a debate parameter during the course of the debate; the parameter can be amended if all parties agree to the change.

C) The Formal Debates forum

After the debate parameters have been agreed to in Debate Proposal, a formal debate thread will be set up in the
Formal Debates forum. This is where the actual formal debate takes place. Only the debate participants are allowed to post here. When the debate is finished the thread will be closed.

Formal Debate occurs when two participants who hold opposing positions wish to challenge each other's evidence or logic with substantive criticism and defenses.


A Formal Debate is a
fully moderated forum. This means that when a debate participant submits a statement, it is invisible to the forum until validated by a moderator. Only the debaters and the moderators may post to an FDD thread. Complaints to the moderator should be sent via private messages.

1) Extensions:

Formal debates can sometimes span several months. A debater may have a life emergency, vacation, or other matter that can present a minor interference in his or her participation in the formal debate temporarily. Debate participants can make a request to the moderators,
preferably as well in advance as possible, for an extension of reasonable length in those situations. We request that forum members, before committing to a formal debate, take reasonable foresight of his or her future schedule to ensure that other life priorities will not significantly interfere with his or her involvement.

2) Debate Rule and Parameter Infractions:

All of the
Forum Rules are still in effect. A rule or parameter infraction can result in deleted comments (e.g. [flame deleted]), or just a simple private or public warning. If a debate participant withdraws from the debate, then his opponent will be granted the opportunity to make a concluding statement for the last word.

If a debate participant fails to post his or her statement within the agreed time limit, then he or she will be given a
three day grace period. If the grace period expires then he or she forfeits the debate. When a time limit expires, we like to provide some flexibility. Since a day that a statement is due depends on oneís time zone, we would grant 8-12 hours after the precise time that corresponds to when the previous statement was made during the day. For example, if the time limit between statements is one week and if a statement was submitted at 2:00am (MST), May 1, but his or her opponent has not replied by 10:00 am - 2:00pm (MST), May 8, then we would consider it an infraction.

If a debate participant posts greater than the maximum length agreed to in FDP, then there are a variety of responses depending on the excess amount. If the statement exceeds the limit by a mere 1-10 words, then no action will be taken. If the statement is 11-100 words over, then the debate participant will receive a warning. If the statement exceeds the limit by greater than 100 words then it will be declined and must be re-submitted for the debate to continue.

3) The Kibitzer's Corner

Peanut Gallery is a thread that allows the rest of the IIDB users to comment on a formal debate as it progresses. This thread will be set up in a regular forum that relates to the topic being debated. We ask that debate participants refrain from posting in the Peanut Gallery (in respect to their debate) until after the debate is officially over.

D) Final Thoughts

The objective of Formal Debates is similar to the objective of the rest of the ALF fora. We desire to provide an environment for stimulating intellectual discussion and debate in a respectful and supportive atmosphere. The moderators will take a concerted effort to maintain flexibility, respect, and fairness toward debate participants regardless of his or her position or worldview. All forum members are welcome to get involved. We look forward to your participation!


Suggestions for Debate Formats

- Standard format

Each round consists of two statements. One affirming and the other responding. The final round may be in the form of a summary or concluding statement (not introducing new material).

- Double Affirmant Debate

Similar to the standard format, but each debater takes turns affirming a position with the other debater rebutting. For example, two participants agree to debate the age of the earth for 7 rounds. For the first three rounds, the creationist goes first, attempting to present positive evidence for a young earth, while the evolutionist responds in the negative, attempting to rebut the YEC's arguments. For the next three rounds, the evolutionist takes the positive position, presenting arguments for an old earth with the YEC attempting to rebut his/her claims each round. The seventh round will consist of the concluding statements from each debater.

- Three Way Discussion

Each rounds consists of all three proponents arguing for their position and comparing and contrasting their viewpoints with the others (i.e. 3 statements per round). For example, 3 different theistic proponents argue their positions on YEC, OEC, and theistic evolution.

- Interrogative debate/discussion

This is similar to the 'Double Affirmant' debate, but instead of taking a 'claim vs. rebuttal' style, the person going first asks questions, in point form, and the person responding must attempt to answer them all. The debaters do this for a number of rounds and switch as questioner and answerer for an equal number of rounds. A concluding round allows the debaters to sum up their views.

- Concurrent debate

A concurrent debate is just like a standard debate, except that the statements for each round are revealed to the forum at the same time. A debate participant's post will remain invisible until his or her opponent submits his or her post in the same round.

- Role Reversal debate

This debate is somewhat unique in that debaters actually argue for the positions they oppose for a time. For a number of rounds (similar to the standard format), the debaters attempt to defend their positions and offer rebuttals to the very positions they agree with. On the second last round, the debaters switch back to their respective positions (with the debater who went second in the previous rounds going first) and attempt to criticize their own approaches and how his/her opponent approached the issue. The last round will consist of the final statements.

- Presentation and Rebuttal debate

This debate would take place in two parts: the presentation phase and the rebuttal phase. In the presentation phase, the debaters do not interact with each other and instead present their fully developed arguments. In the rebuttal phase, the debate participants would then attempt to refute each other's fully developed argument and defend their own. This kind of debate would best be utilized in the context of a concurrent debate (see above).