Thursday, July 19, 2007

The art of debate...

Did anyone catch Michael Shermer on Larry King Live this week? He was in a debate titled UFOs: Are They Out There.

It was fantastic. It was Shermer against a whole laundry list of 'Ufologists', with Larry King being his usual scary-zombie self. They started talking about the Roswell 'cover-up.' Two of the guests were children of military men who worked at the Roswell Air Force base. They kept adding nutburgers until at one point it was 1 Skeptic Shermer against 4 UFO fanatics.

He kicked butt. He was calm, clear, well-spoken and funny as hell. He brought little green men toys that he wound up and ran all over the desk to lighten the mood. He was respectful (probably a lot more than I would have been) but very sharp and clear and concise in his arguments. And, to be fair, ZombieLarry came out sort of on the skeptical side as well so he was not alone.

My favorite bit:

Larry: Are you open to the possibility, Michael?
Michael: Of course. I mean all science is open to that. But just being open to it and what we would like to be true does not make it true.
Larry: Are you open to the possibility, Jesse, that you're wrong?
Jesse: I am... but... uh.. not really.

Also, they had Buzz Aldrin in there, promoted as "WHAT DID BUZZ ALDRIN SEE OUT OF THE LUNAR MODULE ON HIS WAY TO THE MOON?" When he finally talked about it, he was brilliant! He said, in a very detailed way (when Larry wasn't cutting him off for time), that what they saw was a panel from the shuttle. Although they had promoted him as a proponents of alien visitation, he was the exact opposite. Came out strong on the science and skepticism side. And nobody dared to rag on his 'skepticism' like they did with Shermer because, dammit, he's Buzz Aldrin!

But coming back to Shermer, man, I wish I could debate like that. I am pretty good when I'm writing and have time to stop, think, reword and rework. But in real life when I'm talking to someone, I always have a hard time getting my thoughts and arguments organized quickly enough to respond. I guess it just takes practice.

Speaking of which, I'm pretty excited to be hosting the local meetup of the Atlanta Brights this weekend. We're still a small group but I think it will grow quickly. Should be fun - I'll let you know how it goes. Between that and kayaking plans for Saturday, I'm not sure when I'm going to find time to read Harry Potter!