NASA Astrobiology Debate, USA

  1. The University category

  2. The High school category

  3. The Middle school category

  4. The Online speech competition

2016 University Competition

UNIVERSITY EDITION

Judge: Derek Malone France

 

1. Austin Woodruff, James Madison  [MY WINNER]

 

This speech was very well organized and delivered.  The speaker was highly articulate, with clear, concise diction, and projected a very natural manner.

 

This speech clearly won, in my estimation, because this speaker was the only of the three who explicitly considered _every_ element of the resolution.  Moreover, he offered a sharply contoured and nuanced exposition of the logical implications of each element and very strong treatments of the two points he choose for his own negational focus.

 

 

2.  Leigh Moriarty, Wake Forrest

 

This speech was very well delivered.  The speaker was clear and articulate, and also managed to project a very natural manner, despite the necessarily somewhat awkward and formalized nature of the video presentation.

 

The speech was well organized and flowed logically.

 

The speaker did a truly excellent job of defending the first half of the resolution, namely, the ethical obligation, and doing so in terms of both intrinsic and instrumental value for microbial life.  This component of the argument was really artfully put forward.

 

Unfortunately, the speaker essentially ignored the second half of the resolution and failed to defend the mechanism of international law.

 

 

3.  Lexi Anderson, Wake Forrest

 

This speech was well organized, and the speaker was clear and articulate, with strong enunciation.  The delivery was a little bit stiff, but this was not a major weakness.

 

There was a good logical progression to the speech, with a generally clear logical flow from point to point.

 

The speaker did a good job of emphasizing both the imperative of the obligation and the context of international law.

 

However, by focusing almost entirely on the instrumental value of the microbes for our benefit, especially via scientific discovery, the speaker foreclosed other possible avenues of further argumentation on behalf of the resolution.  Moreover, the speaker failed to engage with the most obvious counter to her position, namely, that scientific discovery and study is only possible _through interaction_, and, therefore, any call to limit interaction in the name of science must clearly contextualize itself concretely with regard to what is or is not to be allowed.

 

Judge: Abiodun Ogunbiyi

 

BALLOT SUBMITTED

BY

OGUNBIYI ABIODUN

President/CEO

Aviation Palace International, Nigeria

 

The 3 candidates really did well and their speeches were judged on a scale of 50, using the following criteria:  

(1)    Preparation (10)

 

(2)    Presentation (10)

 

(3)    Argument (20)

 

(4)    Question/Rebuttal (10)

 

POSITION AND EVALUATION

1.       LEXI ANDERSON

 

SCHOOL: WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY

 

Preparation (10)                                              = 10

 

Presentation (10)                                            = 10

 

Argument (20)                                                 =19

 

Question/Rebuttal (10)                                  =08

 

TOTAL                                                                  47

 

Hello Lexi Anderson, it is a privilege to judge your speech for the debate. All I can say is that you have done well, you impressed me and I am convinced you knew what you were preparing for starting from your introduction to your conclusion.

 

In your preparation, I am convinced you really prepared to have researched into those facts you quoted to buttress your points. Moreover, your notes were organized and you actually knew what you were talking about.

 

In your presentation, you did well because you were audible and clear enough, you gained audience attention and you maintained eye contact as if you were talking to me directly, but you were too fast (always remember that some judges might not be patient enough to give time to you, also remember that judges come from diverse backgrounds across the globe). Next time, please remember that not all audience can ‘flow’ with you at that pace. I could see the passion you put into your argument especially when you hit the table.

 

In your argument, you did well and supported your argument with enough facts and figures to help drive home your points. The arguments you raised complement each other, orderly and loaded with relevant contents. But there is still room for improvement in subsequent debates and presentations.

 

In your question section, you raised a lot of questions for future consideration but there is need for improvement.

 

In conclusion, Lexi you have done a very good job. Keep it up.

 

Bravo!!!

 

 

 

2.       AUSTIN WOODRUFF

 

SCHOOL: JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY

 

Preparation (10)                                              =10

 

Presentation (10)                                            =10

 

Argument (20)                                                 =18

 

Question/Rebuttal (10)                                  =07

 

TOTAL                                                                  45

 

Thanks Austin Woodruff for criticizing the topic and opening a great opportunity for a real debate. You have done well. But you should have used some well-established facts and figures to back up your points by conducting more research to see if there is any such work and if none, show how far you personally went with your work/evidences.

 

In your preparation, I could see you were well prepared for the task to have been able to criticize the topic constructively. Moreover, your notes were organized and you actually knew what you were talking about.

 

In your presentation, you did well because you were audible and clear enough, you gained audience attention and you maintained eye contact as if you were talking to me directly.

 

In your argument, you did well but you did not support your argument with enough facts and figures to help drive home your good points. The arguments you raised complement each other, orderly and loaded with relevant contents.

 

In your question section, you raised a lot of questions but there is need for improvement.

 

In summary, Austin you have done a very good job. I would love to see the outcome of your work later.

 

Am looking forward to celebrating you soon!!!

 

 

 

3.       LEIGH MORIARTY

 

SCHOOL: WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY

 

Preparation (10)                                            =10

 

Presentation (10)                                          =10

 

Argument (20)                                               =16

 

Question/Rebuttal (10)                                =06

 

TOTAL                                                                42

 

My dear Leigh Moriarty, I am greatly impressed with you and your presentation. Fasten your belt and prepare for opportunities as you are destined to go places.

 

In your preparation, I could see you were well prepared for the task to have been able to drive home your points but with little facts and passion for your points (your approach and passion matter in convincing judges, remembering that judges are also human beings like you). Moreover, your notes were organized and you actually knew what you were talking about.

 

In your presentation, you did well because you were audible and clear enough, you gained audience attention and you maintained eye contact as if you were talking to me directly.

 

In your argument, you did well but you did not support your argument with enough facts and figures to help drive home your points. The arguments you raised complement each other, orderly and loaded with relevant contents.

 

In your question section, you raised a lot of questions but you can still do better.

 

In summary, Leigh you have done a very good job. I would love to see you at the top soaring high.

 

 Keep up the good work!!!

 

Judge: Stephanie Weldon

 

Rank: 1

Participant: Leigh Moriarty, Wake Forest University

The speaker here makes excellent use of her limited time frame by selecting a few key points and honing them. She does a very solid job of integrating philosophical and pragmatic arguments without losing the listener, and furthermore mixes logical and emotional appeals coherently and persuasively. The only serious problem is the speaker's initial (and final) appeal to “alive-ness” as a key value without supporting her definition beyond an appeal to authority. However, considering the strength of the remainder of the speech and the constraints imposed by the limited time frame, this barely qualifies as a weakness.

 

Rank: 2

Participant: Lexi Anderson, Wake Forest University

The speaker has familiarized herself with recent developments in the search for extraterrestrial life to an impressive extent. She has done an excellent job of integrating recent factual observations into her philosophical points, and her instrumentalist view is broadly persuasive and plausible. The presentation is unfortunately slightly overstuffed and too fast, and the speaker is often reading from notes rather than focusing on her audience. Nonetheless, the quality of the argument is sufficiently solidly constructed from recent scientific developments that the aesthetic weakness is overshadowed.

 

Rank: 3

Participant: Austin Woodruff, James Madison University

Before launching into a critique, I would like to say that I genuinely respect the risk the speaker took by focusing on a nonstandard portion of the challenge. However, while I appreciate that the speaker fairly accurately projected the nature of his opponents, he nonetheless spent too much of his introduction critiquing hypothetical alternative speeches rather than building his own argument. His presentation style and his choice of topic were, respectively, excellent and novel, but the fact that his argument quite deliberately dropped all specificity (space exploration, microbial communities, the utility of either of the preceding, etc.) – without even a brief reference thereto – works against him. While this is a perfectly well-constructed argument, it is one that could easily be applied to any number of topics, with no consideration of the challenge's overarching theme.

 

Judge: Margot Smith

 

RANK 2

Leigh Moriarty (Wake Forest University)

 

Thank you for your submission Leigh. I appreciate your consideration for respect and empathy for all forms of life and this idea of 'how would you like to be treated?' when discovering extraterrestrial life forms. I think respect and empathy are vital to our societal function. When discussing ethical obligations to extraterrestrial microbial life however I wondering if all life forms are equally valuable simply because they are alive. Though I agree life is precious and holds intrinsic value, does some life hold more value than others? We see this in predation and competition for resources in ecology. What value do we assign a plant we consume, compared to an animal we eat, compared to a fungus that rots the plant? In this case the fungus destroys a plant that you may need to eat to survive, but may also contain compounds which can be used to cure disease. Both organisms are alive, and they both may have extrinsic value, but is one more valuable then the other? Even in our own bodies our immune system destroys other life forms considered to be pathogenic in the interest of preventing us from becoming ill. I think it would be great to flush out if there is a hierarchy to valuing simple and complex life forms, how that value changes when considering possible extrinsic value to human life, and where do you think extraterrestrial microbes fall within that value system.

 

RANK 3

Lexi Anderson (Wake Forest University)

 

Thank you for your passionate delivery of your argument Lexi. You covered many of the considerations for protecting extraterrestrial microbial life through new international laws in the short time allowed. You also discuss 'unethical exploration' of extraterrestrial environments and I would like to hear more on how you define this. I agree efforts should be made to protect and preserve extraterrestrial life, but to what extent? Does this mean we should ensure no single extraterrestrial organism is harmed or is it sufficient to save a few representative individuals? Do our current technologies and knowledge of extraterrestrial life allow us to guarantee the desired results? If the desired goal is to ensure no microbial life is put at risk during exploration of extraterrestrial environments we may have to forfeit our ability to investigate and study these environments in the first place. For example, before studying a terrestrial field ecosystem you may consider necessary steps for protecting and preserving the ecosystem such as cleaning your boots to prevent introducing possible contaminating organisms, but when studying the ecosystem you still risk stepping on and destroying a rare plant species. What degree of certainty do you feel is necessary for the ethical exploration of extraterrestrial environments to protect and preserve possible microbial life there?

 

RANK 1

Austin Woodruff (James Madison University)

 

Thank you Austin for your insightful consideration of the semantics of this resolution. I appreciate that you first acknowledge questions surrounding the protection and preservation of extraterrestrial life and ecosystems before pointing out the issues with the phrasing 'overriding ethical obligation' as it pertains to international law. If this phrasing is insufficient for discussing the ethics of exploring extraterrestrial environments, I would like to hear what phrasing you feel would allow for improved clarity on the subject to allow the international community to move forward collectively with space exploration. You mention that the United Nations uses the phrasing 'shall strive to promote' when outlining the shared ethical goals of the international community. If ethical obligation was removed from the resolution do you feel then international law would be a necessary and sufficient approach for ensuring ethical consideration when exploring extraterrestrial life and ecosystems? Secondly, though exploration of extraterrestrial environments may not have explicit ethical imperative, as you suggest when questioning the overriding nature of these ethical obligations, I feel it does require some consideration. If you were to write international laws addressing space exploration and the ethical treatment of extraterrestrial life and ecosystems, how would you phrase it to allow for the protection and preservation of extraterrestrial life while still working within the multicultural nature of the international community?

 

Judge: Maya Gomes

 

1) Leigh Moriarty, Wake Forest University

 

Leigh starts by explaining that as we search for more information about the solar system and beyond, it is possible that we may find life soon and therefore we must adopt a policy for the treatment of extra-terrestrial life before it happens.  She gives three reasons why we need to respect whatever form of life we find.  First, all forms of life have worth. Second, ecosystems are complex and microorganisms may be just as (or more) important than multi-cellular life to the survival of a planetary ecosystem, as is the case with Earth. Third, it is possible that we could be the discovered rather than the discoverers and therefore we should think about how we would want others to treat us.  Although these are compelling arguments, I think it would be hard to get political traction given the challenges with legislating for the protection of other mammalian species on this Earth.  That being said, with well-constructed, clear arguments like those presented by Leigh, we could build the political capital to start the conversation about a policy for the treatment of extra-terrestrial life.

 

2) Austin Woodruff, James Madison University

 

Austin focuses on the underlying assumptions of the debate topic; whether it is necessary to create a code of ethics and if international law is the best way to do so.  He argues that the problem with ethical obligations is that, by focusing on one ethical obligation, you ignore other ethical obligations. Then, he argues that international law is not the right place for this policy because international law only offers recommendations, not mandates. In taking a “devil’s advocate” role, he highlights some important issues with creating a policy for the treatment of extraterrestrial life. However, in doing so, he completely ignores the topic of how humans should think about interactions with extraterrestrial life. This speech could have been about any ethical issue such as environmentalism or human rights. So, while I enjoyed listening to Austin’s arguments and was swayed my some of them, I rank this lower than speeches that focused more on the specific issue of ethics for extraterrestrial life.

 

 

3) Lexi Anderson, Wake Forest University

 

Lexi cites recent discoveries on Mars and NASA’s estimates at the prospect of finding life on other planets to argue that we need to think about establishing a policy for the ethical treatment of extraterrestrial life. She then reads the Oxford dictionary definition of ethics to give context for what this means. She gives two reasons that we need to develop this code: (1) preservation of species is beneficial to scientific endeavors because by learning about extraterrestrial life we may also learn about life on our planet, and (2) if we contaminate or destroy extraterrestrial life, then we will not be able to learn from it. In her opinion, the only way to do this is an international agreement and she cites the Antarctica treaty as a successful example of this. Throughout the speech, she uses quotes from scientists and journalists to support her arguments. Although quotes are a useful rhetorical device, she leans on quotations (and in some cases, multiple quotations) for almost all of her arguments. I think the speech would have been more compelling if she used her own words to support her arguments.  Overall, I think Lexi made an argument that would resonate with policy makers and, if she used her own words, she would present a strong case for creating a policy for the ethical treatment of extraterrestrial life.

 

Judge: Geoff Gilleaudeau

 

After some very tough decisions, here are my rankings for the debate competition:

 

1) Austin Woodruff (James Madison University)

 

Austin certainly chooses the side of the debate that is harder to argue for, but he does so with passion, sound logic, and a solid intellectual framework. His is the only entry that deals with the full ramifications of the question at hand; i.e. should an overriding ethical obligation be incorporated into international law. The question is not just, "is it important to be cognizant of planetary protection during space exploration?" Most everybody, including Austin, can agree that it is important. But should it be written into international law as an overriding ethical obligation? That is an entirely separate question that rests on a proper understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of international law itself. Whether or not you buy the validity of Austin's legal arguments (I actually asked a friend with a Georgetown law degree to look at Austin's video), the fact that he recognizes the full ramifications of the resolution is enough for me to vote him at number one. 

 

2) Leigh Moriarty (Wake Forest University)

 

The strength of Leigh's presentation is in her clear, concise, easy to follow, and passionate presentation style. She uses relatable examples and her presentation is well suited for a general, non scientific audience. She lays out the human interest behind planetary protection with a strong sense of morality, and appeals to the basic "golden rule" that should guide humanity. Her presentation can undoubtedly appeal to all of our sensibilities, yet she doesn't make the argument for why international law is the right means by which to achieve this noble goal. I would have liked to have seen a deeper understanding of international law itself, as well as an argument for why the "golden rule" of planetary protection should override other concerns in all cases.

 

3) Lexi Anderson (Wake Forest University)

 

Lexi's presentation shows a clear passion for the issues at hand, and she (similar to Leigh) makes a strong moral argument in favor of planetary protection. One strength of her presentation is that her arguments in favor of the resolution go beyond morality and touch upon benefits for the advancement of science and technology. Another strength is that she used the example of Antarctica as a previously successful international treaty. Still, I am not entirely convinced. It seems to me (and as stated on the NASA debates topic webpage) that advancement of science and technology might be better off without the resolution; i.e. making planetary protection the overriding obligation of all human space exploration would delay and the increase the cost of future missions. I would have liked to have seen some acknowledgment of this in Lexi's presentation. I also echo my comments on Leigh's speech about international law itself and why it is the best means by which to achieve noble planetary protection goals. Lastly, although Lexi's speech was impassioned, her delivery was a bit hard to follow because she spoke very quickly and without sufficient pauses to allow processing of information.

 

Again, I emphasize that I liked all 3 presentations and that this was a difficult decision. Best of luck!

 

HIGH SCHOOL EDITION

Judge: Ogunbiyi Abiodun Olalekan

President/CEO

Aviation Palace International, Nigeria

 

After careful and thorough examination of the 3 candidates, they all performed up to expectation and their speeches were judged on a scale of 50, using the following criteria:

 

(1) Preparation (10)

(2) Presentation (10)

(3) Argument (20)

(4) Question/Rebuttal (10)

 

POSITION AND EVALUATION

 

1. KRITHIKA SHAMANNA

SCHOOL: WESTWOOD HIGH SCHOOL, USA

Preparation (10)                = 10

Presentation (10)               = 09

Argument (20)                    = 18

Question/Rebuttal (10)   = 09

TOTAL                                     46

 

Hello Dear Krithika Shamanna, it is a privilege to judge your speech for the debate. You have done well, you impressed me and I am convinced you knew what you were preparing for starting from your introduction to your conclusion.

You paid less attention to the screen in front of you and made eyes contact with the judges and your audience, which is a good ethics in presentation. Bravo!!! I wouldn’t mind you being my mentee and work with my media crew in the nearest future.

In your preparation, I am convinced you really prepared to have researched into those facts you quoted to

buttress your points. Moreover, your notes were organized and you actually knew what you were talking about. In your presentation, you did well because you were audible and clear enough, you gained audience attention and you maintained eye contact as if you were talking to me directly.

In your argument, you did well and supported your argument with enough facts to help drive home your points. The arguments you raised complement each other, orderly and loaded with relevant contents. But there is still room for improvement in subsequent debates and presentations.

Keep up the good work dear.

 

2. JEFFREY YIN

SCHOOL: Not Specified

Preparation (10)               =10

Presentation (10)             =08

Argument (20)                  =16

Question/Rebuttal (10)  =08

TOTAL                                   42

 

Thanks Jeffrey Yin for your presentation and opening a great opportunity for a real debate, especially mentioning the fact that microbes also have rights. You have done well.

You violated the ethics of presentations by paying too much attention to your screen throughout your presentation and in the process you ignored your audience and the judges who needed your eye contact the more. Please always make eye contact in subsequent presentations and debates.

I must commend the fact that you used good hand gestures which added values to your presentation; your action speaks a lot about your preparedness and helps a lot. Keep it up.

In your preparation, I could see you were well prepared for the task to have been able to criticize the topic constructively. Moreover, your notes were organized and you actually knew what you were talking about. In your question section, you raised a lot of questions but there is need for improvement. In summary, you have done a very good job. I would love to work with you one day, very soon.

Keep up the good work. Am looking forward to celebrating you soon!!!

 

 

3. ANDREW BINDER

SCHOOL: UNIONVILLE HIGH SCHOOL, USA

Preparation (10)                =10

Presentation (10)               =07

Argument (20)                    =15

Question/Rebuttal (10)   =08

TOTAL                                    40

 

Always ensure eye contact with your audience in subsequent presentations with little or no attention to your display screen. You have good points but you read as if you are reading news on television which is contrary to the ethics of presentation and debate.

My dear Andrew Binder I am greatly impressed with you and your presentation. Fasten your belt and prepare for opportunities as you are destined to go places. I would love to see you at the top soon. Mind you, you violated the ethics of presentations by paying attention to your screen for the major parts of your presentation and in the process ignored your audience and the judge who needed your eye contact the more. Please always make eye contact with your audience and pay less attention to your screen and/or materials, remembering that the screen or your notes are to guide you and not to be read all through your presentation. In your preparation, I could see you were well prepared for the task to have been able to drive home your points and your presentation was audible and clear enough.

In summary, Andrew you have done a very good job and hereby encourage you to keep up the good work!!!

 

 

Judge: Margot Smith

 

Rank 1

 

Krithika Shamanna: https://youtu.be/OxYKt3PuXFo

Great debate Krithika. Thanks for sharing. My first comment is that I would have appreciated if you had slowed down your speech for the video. This is an easy adjustment with some effort, but will greatly impact the clarity of your debate delivery. I enjoyed your discussion of an 'overriding ethical obligation' and the many challenges of international law regarding space exploration including simple demarcation of primary terms like the boundaries of space. It would appear we have a lot of foundational work needed before we can draft the necessary international space laws required to uphold a legal obligation to extraterrestrial microbial life. Part of that thinking are the moral obligations to shared spaces which need to be discussed to formulate good, effective laws in the first place. As you stated, there are a number of multinational corporations entering or currently engaging in space the marketplace, which presses the need for such international space laws. What would you consider/include when creating international space laws? What conditions would you include to protect extraterrestrial microbial life? How realistic is it to expect an international law agency to implement and enforce these laws? Things to consider for the next step. 

 

Rank 2

 

Andrew Binder: https://youtu.be/uWnAXRxzQyE

Thank you Andrew for your debate entry. Your asteroid mining angle is an interesting perspective for debating this resolution. So how much (in dollars) is unknown microbial life worth? This is a tough question, but relevant when you are comparing the monetary value and potential of commercial asteroid mining practices to the value of extraterrestrial microbial life. Do you think there would ever be a time when extraterrestrial microbial life is more valuable than any commercial potential? Does microbial life hold any intrinsic value or is it purely based on commercial value? Is it every in our best interest to make an effort to preserve extraterrestrial microbial life? In regards to your concerns about the actual power of international laws as demonstrated by international climate change laws and nuclear weaponry, what steps do you think can be made to govern shared space? With the commercialization of air space and extraterrestrial bodies like asteroids, fierce competition for these resources may become problematic (to put it lightly). Without effective international space laws, how do you propose we regulate territorial claims in space? Your debate stimulates a lot of really interesting questions which need to be considered before addressing international laws to protect extraterrestrial microbial life.

 

Rank 3

Jeffrey Yin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DO5VR_GdLk

 

Thank you for your submission Jeffrey. You open with a grand statement about the beauty of our universe with 'life brimming in every corner'. I agree that the universe is a magical place that we are still exploring, however, I would challenge the statement that life is brimming in every corner. This may be the case, but at this time we don't have evidence for that. Consider the accuracy of your statements and try to avoid overly poetic comments that may distract from a well supported scientific argument. In the meantime, hold on to the idea that life is out there in abundance because who knows, you may be the person to help provide evidence for life beyond Earth if we all keep looking for it. I appreciated your comments regarding laws to protect endangered life. This raises three questions for me: 1. Do we currently consider microbial life when discussing terrestrial endangered species? 2. Do we have the tools/capabilities to monitor microbial diversity at the level of endangered species? and 3. How effective is current international law at protecting endangered species? I think these are challenging areas, but are necessary to address as part of the resolution discussed here. What do you think?

© 2016 Ola-great Multilinks Nigeria Enterprises

This site was designed with the
.com
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now