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May 22, 2009

Ten Top Audio & Video Debates

cicerodebateblogfeature.jpgListen to ten great debates with these ten free resources on audio & video. For the past many years we've featured hundreds of free audio & video resources as part of our Free Resource of the Day Emails. From these emails, we've carefully chosen a top ten of the best free debates we could find, with timely topics such as gay marriage, the morality of abortion and the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our selection also showcases stimulating debates on religion, evolution, artificial intelligence and how the internet is developing in the 21st century. From the latest hot-button topics that have captured our attention, to heated discussion on humanity's future, the debates we've selected here are sure to give anyone a better understanding of where they stand. You can check them all out by clicking the links below:

1. Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham at the Creation Museum

It's not every week that a public debate video gets over 2 million views on YouTube. Yet Bill Nye's recent debate with Ken Ham over evolution and creationism has gained that many views. Ken Ham is a young-Earth creationist who advocates a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. He is also the president of the Creation Museum where this debate is held. Bill Nye is an American science educator who argues that creationism is not a viable model of origins in light of the evidence for Darwinian evolution. They each have a slide show and demonstration for their case which they each present in 30 minutes and then go back and forth in this 3-hour debate. Watch one of the most popular debates on YouTube.

2. A Public Debate On The Limits of Intelligent Machines

Can we Create conscious machines that are every bit as self-aware as a human being? Ray Kurzweil and David Gelertner debate the feasibility of this question in this downloadable audio released by WGBH. Kurzweil argues that future technology will allow humans to mechanically simulate consciousness, to which Gelertner counters that mere replication doesn't necessarily lead to self- awareness. Listen in on this lively and thought provoking discourse on what makes the human brain unique. This debate is available on streaming audio & video and MP3 download.

3. Is Abortion Morally Justifiable in a Free Society?

Listen to this 90-minute debate offered by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. It's a well-organized debate with interesting arguments for pro-life advocate & philosophy professor Peter Kreeft and pro-choice advocate and author of A Defense of Abortion David Boonin. Boonin argues for the right of a woman to not keep the fetus on "life support" in the womb, while Kreeft that abortion is wrong by moral and religious standards. This debate is available on MP3 download and streaming video.

4. Al Sharpton and Christopher Hitchens Debate

Listen to a stimulating debate between the Reverand Al Sharpton and God Is Not Great author Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens provides many arguments against religion, arguing against religious texts, dogmatic beliefs, and a creator God. Al Sharpton contends that Hitchens cannot prove the non-existence of God and argues that if immoral acts are performed in the name of God that they have no relation to the great character of God. They both reflect on the modern implications of a belief in God, as Hitchens denounces the intrusion of religion into politics and culture (particularly in the Middle East) and Sharpton emphasizes the role of religion in positive social change such as in the American Civil Rights Movement. The whole debate is handled with good humor, even if neither Sharpton nor Hitchens are able to change one another's minds. This debate was held at the New York Public Library and is available on streaming video and MP3 download from FORA.tv.

5. The Millennials

In this debate hosted by Book TV, Mark Bauerlein (author of The Dumbest Generation) and Neil Howe (authors of Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation) argue over what the future may hold for the newest generation of young adults. These "Millennials" as they've come to be called will inherit a world where access to information has accelerated everything, possibly to the detriment of personal development. Bauerlein offers a hard portrait of an under-educated generation numbed by digital input while Howe optimistically counters this assessment by giving examples of how kids have developed a more modulated approach to learning thanks to new technological avenues. This debate is available on streaming video through the BookTV website.

6. Creativity, Commerce, & Culture: Lessig vs. Valenti

If you want to hear an interesting debate over copyright in the digital age, tune into this free online video from the USC Annenberg School for Communication. President of the Motion Picture Association Jack Valenti is hilarious as he stubbornly keep to his position for the entertainment industry's battle to maintain it's intellectual property as long as it wants to. Law professor and author Lawrence Lessig has a sense of humor too, but he is seriously concerned that in our increasingly copyrighted culture the artist's freedom and fair use is being stifled. Decide for yourself and be entertained while doing so.

7. The Future of Nuclear Energy

Get ready for a great debate on the future of nuclear energy in America. Andrew Kadak is an MIT Professor of the Practice of Nuclear Engineering and he argues that in the face of global warming we need to face the "second inconvenient truth" that in order to deal with global warming all non-CO2 emitting energy sources must be used, including nuclear energy. Victor Reis was the Senior Advisor in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Energy and he argues in favor of growing nuclear power with recycling in order to reduce nuclear waste. Allison Macfarlane is a Professor of Environment Science and Policy at George Mason University. While she acknowledges that nuclear power is a safe energy source compared to the perceived dangers it posed 40 years ago, she still feels that there are too many problems with nuclear power including what should be done with the highly toxic nuclear waste and also how to deal with the threat of developing countries attempting to acquire nuclear energy and nuclear weapons since the path to reaching them is basically the same. It's an interesting debate on an important topic in the national quest to curb global warming. It's available on streaming video from MIT World.

8. Gay Marriage Debate

Watch this debate on gay marriage with David Blankenhorn, author of The Future of Marriage, and Evan Wolfson, author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry. This 2 hour debate, along with audience questions, becomes quite heated, but is very informative as to the positions on each side of the gay marriage debate. Blankenhorn expresses his belief of what marriage is and what it means for parents and children if the definition of marriage is changed. Wolfson cites studies by numerous organizations that have shown gay marriage to not be harmful in regards to raising children, and to deny gay couples marriage is discrimination and violates their civil rights. This debate was conducted on C-SPAN and can be viewed on streaming video through FORA.tv.

9. Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go From Here?

Listen to one of the liveliest debate we've ever heard between Noam Chomsky and Alan M. Dershowitz over ways to find peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has been going on for almost a century now. These two prominent intellectuals have been writing on the conflict for a number of decades and it makes for a very engaging debate regardless of where you stand or how much you know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dershowitz argues that the Palestinians should've accepted the terms during the Camp David Summit in 2000, and that now is a critical time for reaching a peace agreement. Chomsky feels that the terms offered the Palestinians at Camp David were unreasonable and that a two-state solution should follow the ideas presented at the Taba Summit in 2001. The debate goes into many other areas surrounding maps, human rights, and terrorism, along with lots of interesting questions asked from the audience. This debate was conducted at Harvard University's Institute of Politics in 2005, and it is available streaming video the C-SPAN website.

10. Jimmy Wales and Andrew Keen Debate Web 2.0

In this debate from the Commonwealth Club of California journalist David Ewing Duncan moderates a debate over Web 2.0 between Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and author Andrew Keen. Keen brings up many interesting objections to Web 2.0 and its user-based sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, and Craigslist. He feels these sites are undermining the ability for creative professionals to make a living because they give everything away for free. He also criticizes Wikipedia because the authors are anonymous and he feels an individual author is required in order to evaluate their writing. Wales feels that Web 2.0 has contributed to a growing creative class and that while the new Internet paradigm has created disruptions in the economy it ultimately leads to a better knowledge-based economy and a better world. This debate is available on streaming video and MP3 download from FORA.tv.

And for more debates on a wide variety of topics you might want to check out: NPR's Intelligence Squared U.S. Podcast.